Shudder’s ‘Queer For Fear’: An Interview With Executive Producer, Steak House

by Rachel Bellwoar

It’s not just that horror films have had queer themes or that queer creators are responsible for some of the biggest titles and franchises in the genre. Horror wouldn’t exist without queer people and that’s exactly what Shudder’s Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror attests,  Executive produced by Steak House and Bryan Fuller, the four-part docuseries covers everything from James Whale to Psycho, and it was wonderful to get to talk to Steak House over email about the “Dangerous Women” episode and the importance of addressing lesbian invisibility.

Pictured: Mayhem Miller

Rachel Bellwoar: When did you first get involved with Queer for Fear and what attracted you the most to this project?

Steak House: I joined Queer for Fear to facilitate turning the documentary into a series. I’ve always loved pushing boundaries, and I come to filmmaking as an outsider. This felt like a project where we could really explore queer representation and outsider-ness. I had no idea the queer community was intertwined with horror so strongly, so it was fascinating to explore this. As queers, our rights are always being challenged. We gain rights, and then there’s a backlash and we lose rights. Look at “Don’t Say Gay” and the anti-trans movements that are currently happening. If we can get the word out to anyone struggling with being queer, this is the perfect time to see something like this. Imagine having this show when you were young! It would have been incredible just to know there were other people like me. Like Frankenstein, we all just want to be loved!!

Bellwoar: The title “executive producer” can cover a wide plethora of jobs. What is one thing you’re most proud of having contributed to this series?

House: Diversity is important to me. As a butch dyke, I’ve always struggled to see myself in on-screen and mainstream representations. Because of this, I’ve always championed diverse projects and crews. Executive Producing put me in the position to really make space for diverse voices to be heard on-screen and for diverse faces to be seen working on set.

Adding the “Dangerous Women” episode to the show was my proudest accomplishment. It was important to me to explore how queer women are seen on screen and be able to discuss lesbian invisibility. Since most of the primary writers and directors for that episode were men, I found myself more actively engaged in shaping that episode’s content to make sure that we weren’t contributing to the lesbian invisibility that already exists. I wanted to give other queers like me the opportunity to see themselves on-screen, and Executive Producing Queer for Fear really gave me the chance to do just that.

Bellwoar: On Steakhaus’ website it mentions that Bauhaus helped inspire the name for your production company, but why “House of Steak?”

House: My name comes from my queer youth. In the ’90s, you’d find me protesting in response to AIDS and Homophobia at Queer Nation and Act-up actions, getting a Dyke tattoo on my neck (Catherine Opie’s portrait of this still hangs in the Guggenheim), performing with the legendary Ron Athey, tour managing, and non-binary go-go dancing for Ethyl Meatplow and the LA queer clubs: Trade, Sit ‘n’ Spin, Club Fuck and Sin-a-matic. It all culminated in promoting a San Francisco phenomenon – a wild weekly nightclub called Jesus, equal parts AIDS-fueled anger and unbridled fabulousness. At the time, all the butch dykes had gender-free nicknames like Fish, PigPen and Chicken. I was a strict vegetarian who was a “piece of meat” as a go-go boy, and ultimately became Steak. In a twist of fate, my ex-partner’s last name was House, and the rest is history.

Steakhaus Productions is a play on my name, Steak House and the Bauhaus movement. I’m a design nerd and have always been surrounded by a multitude of artists. Like the Bauhaus founders who helped inspire my company’s name, Steakhaus Productions firmly believes there is a vital connection between usefulness and beauty. Our filmmakers have a strong personal connection to their material, resulting in brave, tender, hilarious and sometimes twisted cinematic visions.

Bellwoar: In what ways do you think the docuseries format was a better fit for Queer for Fear than a feature length documentary (a la Xavier Burgin’s Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror)?

House: A feature documentary didn’t allow enough space to explore the intersection of queers and horror. We’ve made four episodes and still have enough material for six more episodes!! Queerness and horror intersect on so many levels, we’d merely scratch the surface in a 90 minute documentary. With our definition of horror leaning quite broad, the more we researched, the more we found. Queer creators, actors, crew and characters can be found in hundreds of films and series. Queers have been involved in horror “since the beginning” to quote Lea DeLaria! Speaking of Horror docs, I’d love to see Horror Noire expanded into a series.

RB: Instead of organizing each episode by monster, I really appreciated that Queer for Fear made the focus be on real, queer figures who worked in the horror industry. How important do you think it is to make sure people are aware of how many of horror’s biggest icons, like Mary Shelley, were queer?

House: As outsiders, queers tend to examine the world differently —  so much so that three queer gothic writers, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, invented the horror genre with literary masterpieces FrankensteinThe Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula. Knowing queers have been around forever, and that we literally invented the genre, gives us carte blanche to examine horror thoroughly from the beginning.

Bellwoar: Was there anyone you were especially excited to see agree to be interviewed for this project?

House: Sid Kroffts shows shaped my childhood, especially H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea MonstersThe Bugaloos and Land of the Lost!! Scream revealed in its secret queerness, and its bad-ass final girl, Sydney, brought me so much joy. Thank you, Kevin Williamson. As an ex-soccer dyke, Yellowjackets is the shit! Enter Tawny Cypress, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Liv Hewson and Sammi Hanratty.

Bellwoar: Now that the series is complete, is there any horror film you’re especially looking forward to revisiting and did you have a favorite scary movie growing up?

House: I’ve been listening to my pal Harry Dodges book, My Meteorite, which is activating an upcoming artificial intelligence and robot rabbit hole. My watch list will include, at minimum, Bladerunner, 2001, Her, Ex-Machina, the Alien series and some books that could be expensive movies: Snow Crash, Pretty, Uglies, Specials and Extras. I’m game to see what queerness reveals itself in AI and Robots as this is something Bryan’s been talking about for months!​

Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Steak House!

Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror premieres Friday, September 30th on Shudder.

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