Pride month may be over, but every month (every week, every day, every minute) is a good time to talk about That Gay Shit™. And today we’re talking about lesbian vampires. A niche subgenre often found at the intersection of horror, exploitation, and arthouse, the lesbian vampire film owes its existence to a little novella called Carmilla. With at least half the titles in the genre’s repertoire based on Le Fanu’s story in some form, many of them definitely follow a similar basic formula, play on similar tropes, and leave you with more Carmillas, Mircallas, and Marcillas than you can count. That isn’t to say you won’t find a variety of different films, ranging from the delightful to the downright awful, and I’m here to present you with seven of my personal favorites.
A brief disclaimer before we begin: it’s no secret that almost every lesbian vampire film in existence is problematic to some degree. They often carry with them the dubious lack of consent present in any sexual vampire narrative and then double down on the monstrous nature of the bloodsucker in question by portraying her queerness as predatory, deviant, and evil. She almost never survives the story, usually brought down by a man (or multiple men) to save the innocent human woman she has seduced and restore things to their rightful heterosexual, patriarchal order. On top of this, the vampire and her victim are often hyper-sexualized and put on display for the male gaze. You’re not going to find gold-tier quality representation in any of these movies.
All of that being said, it’s difficult to simply dismiss these films. They were portraying homosexuality in women during times when most mainstream media wouldn’t dare broach the subject. 1960’s Blood and Roses, a Carmilla adaptation, is one of the earliest instances of queerness in a female character being moved from subtext to the forefront of the narrative. And speaking from personal experience, stumbling upon the lesbian vampire subgenre as a confused young lesbian with almost no exposure to queerness in media of any kind, these films were hugely important for me. For better or worse, they hold a special place in my heart, even if, now that I’m older and (maybe) wiser, I can understand and critique their faults.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the list!