Trace Thurman and Joe Lipsett might not have initially set out to make such a big mark on the horror podcast landscape, but they’ve done it anyway. Started in January 2019, Horror Queers is the spinoff podcast to their Bloody Disgusting horror column of the same name. Each week, Joe and Trace deep dive into different horror-related films through their unique queer lens, often sifting through coded gay characters, homoerotic innuendo, or outright queerness.
Not only have they covered major franchise films like Scream, IT, and Final Destination, but they also particularly specialize in covering lesser-known films like Ginger Snaps, Tragedy Girls, Phantom of the Paradise, Daughters of Darkness, and Swimfan. A cornerstone of Horror Queers’ objective is to broaden a horror fans’ palette, exposing them to different facets of horror they might have previously written off.
If they do cover a franchise film, it’s not the usual Friday The 13th, but rather Jason X, or the 2006 version of Black Christmas instead of the original 1974 version, or Seed of Chucky instead of Child’s Play. These intentional deviations from covering films most people have already discussed to exhaustion usually leads to far more interesting conversations and better cross-franchise analysis.
Now in its second year, Horror Queers has hit a sweet stride and seems more confident in its place in the horror and queer communities than ever. Joe and Trace are reshaping narratives around previously discredited films, bringing on guests almost weekly that land on other places of the queer spectrum to gain insight and knowledge they don’t have, and they work diligently to uplift and give a platform to other queer voices that might not have the opportunity otherwise. If that’s not revolutionary, what is?
You guys always have a unique lineup week to week. Even if you’re discussing a franchise, you usually pick the outlier of that franchise or the least talked about entry. What goes into the selection of your films you’re going to discuss?
Joe: We try to look at a mix of different kinds of films. We have a master list of movies that we hope to cover on the podcast one day, and Trace has taken the time to organize it into a bunch of different columns. We have old, not well-known, well-known, etc. We’re also programming for anniversaries and specific dates. We also look at the popularity of some of our past episodes as well. More contemporary films do better for us in terms of downloads, but we also don’t always ever want to do slasher films. We want to do episodes that expose people to different kinds of movies.
Trace: We learned a lot in our first year. In April of our first year, we did a month of less popular, newer, and older obscure films, and the downloads reflected that. We had a three-hour meeting last October where we went through our spreadsheet of potential films we wanted to cover and when mapping out 2020 made sure we spread the love.
I’ve always really appreciated that you guys aren’t just covering Halloween. Anyone can do that. You also try to cover these lesser-known films. There are movies you guys have covered like Daughters of Darkness or Ginger Snaps or Swimfan that I had never heard of before you guys covered it.
Trace: That’s why we put off doing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 for so long. Is there a more obvious choice than covering that movie? The biggest compliment we can get is when someone will tell us, “I watched this movie to prepare for your upcoming episode.” That, honestly, means more to me than download numbers because that means we’re influencing people to open themselves up to new horror films. We love the late ’90s. That’s kind of our period. But it is important to branch out beyond your favorite, otherwise you just have that one narrative to go off of. Broaden your horizons, people!
Joe: I also think the podcast also reflects the diversity that horror offers. Trace and I grew up during a period of horror that was dominated by slasher films and that's part of what we connect with in terms of horror. But that does a disservice if you’re not thinking about creature features or Giallos. I think the community benefits when we are exposed to the great diversity of horror.
Agreed. Are there any movies or franchises you guys have decided you will never discuss and are going to stay away from forever?
Trace: There is an answer to that question! Bloody Disgusting has a mandate that they will never cover anything by Victor Salva, the director of the Jeepers Creepers films. [Writer’s Note: Victor Salva was convicted of sexual misconduct with one of the younger actors from his 1989 film Clownhouse and continued to find work even after being released from prison]. Since we are part of the Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network, we fall under that umbrella and we will never cover Jeepers Creepers 1, 2, or 3. We’ve had people request them and there is a discussion to be had there, but if we cover it we would be essentially asking people to pay money to see the film and that’s not something we want to support.
Joe: And on a lighter note, there are certain types of films or franchises that one of us doesn’t love, so we kind of hold off on programming those. Like Trace hates the Phantasm franchise.
Trace: Ugh, I do hate Phantasm. But there have been times where we cover a film I remember not loving, but having a good discussion around it. Maybe I won’t change my mind on it, but maybe I’ll have a new appreciation for it. Like when Joe made us do Hellraiser: Bloodline. After talking about it and its production, I understand it a little bit more now.
Joe: And really, part of the joy of doing the podcast is that we have the opportunity to try and change the other person’s mind or hear a different perspective. I get a lot of satisfaction over the clash that Trace and I have, or when we agree on different things and then we get to involve the listeners in that process as well. We get to hear from people who may have had a completely different read on something.
Trace: We are two cis-gender, white gay men, so that’s why we always try to bring on a guest that doesn’t always fall into our demographic so we get that outside perspective. We try to really do that, especially with films that have a female focus because that is not a point of view that we have.
Joe: Yeah, we recognize that there’s a need for diversity not only in the content, but the voices that need to be amplified there. We also try to have primarily queer guests on the podcast as well. I think everyone that guested in the first year identifies as queer in some capacity, which was huge for us.
You guys always have such great guests. I think a great example of that diversity was BJ Colangelo, who guested on the Phantom of the Paradise episode. She had such a great perspective on Jessica Harper’s singing. That was a discussion I listened to twice!
Trace: That episode was a good one, too, because not only was it a queer female perspective, but she also brought a musical theatre perspective. I consider myself well-versed in musical theatre, but she really showed me up! You don’t see a lot of horror fans, queer or otherwise, that are into musical theatre, so that was a really good gift for us. I was really happy with how that turned out.
Joe: We haven’t had an experience where we’ve been disappointed in a guest. There’s been a bad batch in terms of asking someone to come on and the film we gave them wasn’t all that great or they didn’t connect with it as much as we’d maybe hoped, but I think for the most part our guests have been amazing. They’re so giving and generous of their time. We’ve had guests tell us, “I’ve stepped up my research game because I knew you guys were really going to go in on this film.”
Would you say doing the podcast has changed any of your horror opinions on a macro or micro level from discussing and analyzing movies weekly?
Joe: Oh God, yes! I’ll confess, I actively hated the Friday the 13th franchise. But I feel like over the last year having to cover a couple of them, I’ve gained some kind of appreciation. I still don’t love it. It’s not my first choice, but I see the way other people respond to the films and the kind of passion they have for it and in that way, I think the listener response has been really helpful for me to cue me to realize there is an audience for every single film and an impassioned audience who will come out. They will defend it and want to discuss it with you. I sometimes like how we just pretend that the horror community is one big happy family because I don’t think that’s very realistic, but at the end of the day I forget the fact that as a genre we have a lot of people who want to have a dialogue about different types of films and want to represent and stan for their favorites, and that’s really exciting.
Trace: For me, I’m pretty laser-focused on the things that I like. If I care about something I know almost everything about it, and if I don’t care about the thing I just don’t care. But I think the podcast has definitely made me be more open to the media I consume. Sometimes, it’s more difficult than others, but it’s made me be a little more lax with my restrictions.
Joe: I think we both ended up watching films that we would have not given the time or energy. I remember when we did Cemetery Man, Trace. I think we had a really good conversation about that film and I don’t think it’s your new favorite film, but I think you have more respect for what it was trying to achieve as a result. And that’s something we wouldn’t otherwise have, because you’re just not going to put on a movie you don’t want to watch.
You guys have an affinity for a lot of subgenres of horror like aquatic horror, for instance. What do you guys think is an underutilized sub-genre of horror?
Joe: We’re loving that aquatic horror looks like it’s making a comeback, but I would like to see more space horror. They kind of go hand in hand to me. It feels like there was a period of time in the late ’90s where that was becoming a thing. And I get that it’s an expensive endeavor—convincing sets and special effects can be challenging, but at the same time, there’s just so much interesting stuff that can be explored when you’re taking things into space.
Trace: I put space horror in the same bubble I put aquatic horror in because there’s so much unknown about what’s in the sky or what’s below us, which makes it all the more scarier. With subgenres, I think that it kind of goes with what’s popular at the time. In the ’80s, we had the slasher boom. You have your J-horror, torture porn. Walking Dead ruined zombies for everyone. Would I like to go a decade without seeing another zombie horror film? Probably so. With the way things are going now, we’re getting that boom in aquatic horror and with Scream 5 hopefully coming out in the next two years and if that’s good, I think we’ll get a slasher boom again.
Joe: I remember last year when we were waiting for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Crawl to come out, we were apprehensive because we felt like the stakes were so high. If those films didn’t do well, then it might mean the subgenre was going to go back into the closet for a little bit. It’s almost harder to be invested in a subgenre.
What would be your favorite final girl not from a major franchise?
Trace: I would have to say Jess from the original Black Christmas! I think her back and forth with the killer at the end is great and she puts up a real good fight. Not only do you have the film that begins the final girl running from the serial killer, but she’s also dealing with an abortion subplot in 1974. And also fighting against the boyfriend that doesn’t want her to have an abortion. The film mixing slasher elements with sociopolitical commentary makes her an even stronger final girl than some of the more famous ones like Laurie Strode or even Nancy Thompson.
Joe: I’m going to cheat here and pick a final girl who is not in a straightforward slasher, but I think Needy from Jennifer’s Body is a great example. She’s got a great arc and she’s a coded lesbian character, and I also really like it when a more conventionally “good girl” actress isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. I don’t think we give enough appreciation to Amanda Seyfried in that role. Without her, the dynamic of the film doesn’t work.
What are your favorite and least favorite episodes of the series so far?
Trace: I’ll say I have a double feature of favorite episodes—Hostel and Hostel: Part II. I think if you were starting the podcast it’s a really good example of how we’ve evolved. If you listen to Hostel, it’s a really good conversation about toxic masculinity and homophobia in the horror genre and whether or not it’s intentional as a joke or satire by creator Eli Roth. Then almost a year later to the day we did Hostel: Part II and had an even better discussion on homosexuality and queerness in the horror genre.
Joe: I’ll cheat and say that I think we really hit our comedic stride when we did our dip into high weeks of camp. We got a bunch of really great guests who weren’t afraid to really go there, and I think it’s produced some of the most memorable quotes and moments the show has had.
Trace: In terms of a least favorite episode, I think Joe and I share the same one. I’m going to go with our episode on The X Files: I Want To Believe. I think we had a really good conversation, but I get a little… tipsy to say the least during the episode. I learned to not drink during a recording.
What is an element of the podcast you guys would like to improve or expand upon in the next year?
Joe: One of the things Trace and I have had discussions about is whether or not the nature of the podcast is too niche. I think we sometimes worry that there’s a certain audience that would never even give us a listen. We’ve managed to grow the audience a lot. I think it has taken off in directions we hadn’t anticipated, and that’s really exciting, but we’re now like, “Okay, how do we keep this where it continues to grow and get listeners who otherwise might not have given us a chance?” I think some of that is how we market and who we get to guest. We’re confidently looking for ways to make sure we’re not being pigeonholed.
Trace: I remember we posted an article about one of our episodes and one of the comments was from a straight person, who was not a listener and they said, “I thought since this was a queer podcast it was going to be all about gay sex.” That was a serious comment, it wasn’t a jokey one. Have we had sexually explicit conversations on the podcast before? Absolutely. But that’s not the focus. I feel like, not with just us, but with the queer community, there’s this stigma around it where it’s so based on sex. Not sexuality, but sex. And I don’t really know how to overcome that because that is just a perception people have about queer people.
There has been a lot of discussion lately about a queer person’s place in the horror community with a lot of queer people expressing that they don’t always feel that the genre is as open to them as it’s touted. This discussion really amped up when previous comments The Last Drive-In host Joe Bob Briggs made about the queer community were brought back to light. How do you feel about what’s been happening lately?
Trace: I don’t have the same connection to Job Bob that other people do because I didn’t grow up with him, so I was watching all of that break out from a very outside perspective. It does suck because he is someone who is viewed as a leader by many in the horror community. Things you say have an impact no matter what the intention is. When the article he wrote came out, it marginalized a community that is already marginalized. It takes very little time to hurt someone and takes a lot longer to heal.
Joe: Similar to Trace, I don’t have a relationship with Joe Bob. Obviously, he’s important to a lot of people and the footprint of his comment is quite large as a result. I think for me, it kind of confirmed to me that there are a lot of us who look at horror as a passion and something we feel very strongly about, and it’s also, unfortunately, a corporate business. I think it speaks that someone like Joe Bob gets to put on his performance and he gets to say really offensive things and then he gets backed by large companies that control a lot of the discourse that we get to have. I’m happy there are conversations that came out of it. It reinforced the fact, much like the Gaylords of Darkness podcast said, that it should encourage us that we need to make sure smaller outlets, independent outlets, have an opportunity to make that big of an impact as well. More voices is better and more marginalized voices can only be better.
I’ve seen people that have just already gone back to business as usual with Joe Bob and that speaks to a larger issue. These are not discussions we can have on social media and the fleeting nature of it is such that people have already forgiven him and we’ve let it go by and it’s our responsibility as queers and marginalized people that we have to be vigilant in our activism. Promoting each other's voices, making sure to speak up, and not letting the conversation fall by the wayside because he might not want to address it.
What do you think sets Horror Queers apart from not only other queer podcasts, but queer-related horror podcasts?
Trace: When you’re talking about podcasts that have similar concepts, it’s all about the hosts: their perspective, where they’re coming from, and their dynamic. When I’m looking for podcasts, at the end of the day the premise is just step one. You have to connect with the hosts. I’ve listened to podcasts where I love the concept, but not the hosts and I give up. I think it’s us. I think if you like what Joe and I have to say and the opinions we bring to the fold, that’s what sets us apart. It’s not our content because anyone or their mom can do a horror podcast, so what do you add to that? You add yourself. I think the more open and honest you are, in the episodes where I've gotten more personal, I think that’s what’s necessary. You have to bring a certain amount of honesty to your podcast. You can sense when people hold back.
Joe: I think we do some things a little bit differently from some of the other podcasts in terms of content and we approach the analysis of a film. But Trace is right, at the end of the day I’d like to think that it’s us and we’re bringing something to it that is different for people who might have the same kind of approach. And frankly, it’s my Canadian flavor!
To learn more about the Horror Queers podcast, visit:
[Photo Credit: Above photo taken by Jack Plunkett at Fantastic Fest.]