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Outcasts of the Outer Caste: In Appreciation of ‘The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula’

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It’s that time of year again. The season when ghouls and ghosties stalk dark alleys and the even darker recesses of your mind. A time when outlandish outfits are the norm and celebrated for all their oddities. A moment for friends to gather around the television while personalities clash, leading to blowout fights through smeared makeup and tears. An unfortunate few are strapped to electric chairs and covered in cockroaches as buckets of blood rain down on the victor. Did you… think I was talking about Halloween? Ugh, that’s so mainstream. No, my Uglies, it’s time for another season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula on Shudder, and this time it’s personal!

As the looming Titans season draws near, which will see some of our favorite and sometimes polarizing Monsters return to claw their way back from the Underworld, we at Horror Press found it a fitting time to reflect on what the show means to us. We’re horror fans, first and foremost. And similar to how Horror Press seeks to be a safe and inclusive space for hot takes and deep dives into today’s representation of the genre, so, too, does The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula seek to do that for alternative drag as an art form.

When the word or idea of drag comes to mind, many imagine gorgeous gowns, comedy queens, and sickening dance performances – less Divine and more Ru Paul. All of that is valid, and the alternative drag scene can often incorporate these popular facets of drag performance and culture, but there is typically more at work. It takes on a version of performance art that often examines internal and external strife, while also allowing underrepresented members of the drag and queer communities their place in the spotlight. It can be shocking and scary, funny and camp, genuinely emotional, or all of the above. And, of course, sometimes it’s simply someone in Final Girl beat who slays their way around a studly Michael Myers on stage. Nevertheless, it’s always presented in a spectacularly ghoulish fashion that celebrates all things horror.

None are more familiar with this subgenre of drag than the Boulet Brothers. Icons in the nightlife scene for many years before the show’s creation, the Boulets have spearheaded a grassroots campaign to raise their demonic baby into something that is now a widely popular reality competition program and a staple of the Shudder platform. Every episode, at the start of critiques for that week’s challenge, the Boulets are careful to remind their Monsters and viewers of the following:

“We are not here to judge your drag. Drag is art, and art is subjective. What we are judging you on is your drag as it relates to this competition.”

This resonates with us at Horror Press because we always try to err on the side of fairness and critical thinking when discussing the genre, despite some efforts leaving a less savory aftertaste. Trashing horror and the tireless work of those who bring it to our screens is not in vogue, and we can appreciate the Boulet Brothers’ sentiment.

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Delving deeper into what makes The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula and alternative drag special, the show breaks itself up into three fundamental tenants: Filth, Horror, and Glamour. These key themes are represented best in the show’s finale episodes, during which each season’s finalists perform their interpretations of the big three in an exquisitely epic floorshow.

Filth
Forever the most uncomfortable and fascinating floorshow, Filth explores taboo. We might witness anything from a 1950s housewife eating from kitty litter, a haunting depiction of autoerotic asphyxiation, or a nun using her bible for less wholesome activities. It’s boundary-pushing and layered, and some of the best horror accomplishes similar feats. At Horror Press, we recently discussed how modern horror has become largely sexless – a far cry from decades of nudity and sexually charged terror that has come before. On The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, however, nothing is off limits, and you’d be hard-pressed to find drag this blasphemous anywhere else.

Horror
Part of what’s gotten The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula a legion of fans is that it’s not a one-off Halloween special. For the Boulets and their Uglies, horror is year-round. We’re treated to cinematic cold opens that play out like short films and floorshows themed around slashers, exorcisms, infamous horror icons, and sci-fi. There are easter eggs and nonstop homage to the genre as a whole, and for those who live horror 365 – as I’m sure you do, dear reader – it’s a playground for the macabre.

Glamour
Looking past the blood and gore, you don’t think the Boulets would forget about the lewks, do you? The third – and gayest – tenant is all about the Glamour, baby. It’s drag, after all, and people still want to see fabulous outfits and bodacious babes. And don’t forget, horror is queer, and The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula is a safe space for LGBTQ+ horror heads. With the show’s popularity reaching new levels of Hell, and a sure-to-be insane season of Titans ready and waiting, we hope to see even more queer lovers of horror find themselves under the Boulets’ spell.

The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula is a story of underdogs and community, and the devilish duo at its center created the show from nothing but the darkness of their hearts. It gives a platform to black performers who are often outsiders in this subgenre of drag, trans artists, and drag kings alike. We know what it’s like to root for the final girl who doesn’t appear to have a chance in hell, and the Boulet Brothers have given their Monsters a shot at glory. Horror Press is less than a year old, so we know what it’s like to be a fresh face on the scene. We thank The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula for embodying everything we love about the genre and what we hope to highlight through our work. Now, put in your sanguine-colored contacts and let the floorshow…BEGIN!

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All four seasons of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula and the Resurrection special are available to stream on Shudder.

Tune in on October 25th for the two-part premiere of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Titans, and make sure to check back for our coverage!

Art by the incredibly talented Catherine M. Rogers.

Alex Warrick is a film lover and gaymer living the Los Angeles fantasy by way of an East Coast attitude. Interested in all things curious and silly, he was fearless until a fateful viewing of Poltergeist at a young age changed everything. That encounter nurtured a morbid fascination with all things horror that continues today. When not engrossed in a movie, show or game he can usually be found on a rollercoaster, at a drag show, or texting his friends about smurfs.

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Editorials

Revisiting the Incomprehensible Silent Night, Deadly Night Series: Which Is the Best, Which Is the Worst, and Are Any of Them Actually Good?

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Which means we need to bust out some relevant Christmas horror films to watch here. And it also means there will be many listicles that put Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 at the top of their rankings for Christmas horror films by default. But it got me thinking that maybe we need a bit more of a meditation on this series.

Have we really written them all off so quickly because one of them is the most meme-able? I like the first few films in the series as much as the next guy, but The Ricky Chapman Trilogy that kicks us off doesn’t go beyond the pale the way everything after does. 4 & 5 are Apocrypha to the Ricky Bible, but they introduce many weird, out-there concepts that make them enjoyable bad movies.

So today, I’ve taken the liberty of hitching up the man-eating reindeer to the sleigh to take a retrospective ride through the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise and find out…well, you read the title, you can do the math. Starting with…

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

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The one that started it all and got a bunch of people in hot water. It’s funny to think that outrage culture has pretty steadily assaulted our eyes and ears with the dumbest of controversies since time immemorial. Still, it’s even funnier knowing this movie contributed to that outrage. But beyond the controversy, this film is actually…kind of good?

It’s the best shot of all the movies, so big props to Scream Factory for remastering it and restoring it to its fullest. It’s only a little meanspirited, which is good since it doesn’t get too heavy for its absurd concept. On top of that, the kills in the movie are exceptionally creative (antler impalings, Christmas light hangings, and sled decapitations, oh my!). My only problem is that Billy Chapman is no Ricky, he’s more serious and isn’t as much of a goofball.

I would say this ranked high up when I first started my rewatch but may go closer to the bottom of the list. Not for any technical fault of its own—just because it gets much funnier from here in…

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, PART 2

Do I even have to say the line to know it’s the first thing that went through your head as you read the title? GARBAGE DAY!

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Let anybody who told you Art the Clown is the best slasher villain to use a gun see this and watch them change their tune. Watching this is only enriched by not having seen the first movie, which makes it one of those sequels that is better than the first in the worst way possible. If you were unfortunate enough to watch both the first and second films in one sitting, like myself, you’d know that roughly half of the movie is flashbacks to Billy’s rampage. But that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining as all hell.

Ricky Chapman is an all-time great slasher villain and delivers some kills almost as good as the original. Eric Freeman may just be the best-worst actor of all time, which makes this movie one of the best-worst films of all time by proxy. Which makes the following film feel like a fall from grace, given its…

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT!

A.K.A. “The one with Bill Moseley in it,” because that’s the most remarkable thing about it. He’s not even a killer Santa in this one, but I guess mixing the motifs of “killer with exposed brain pan” and “Santa Claus with murder tools” might muddy the aesthetic waters. The final entry for our boy Ricky is kind of a sad whimper to go out on because this movie’s pacing is painfully slow.

It squanders a very fun concept (psychic girl is hunted by an evil Santa Claus she keeps having visions of) in favor of watching a lobotomized Ricky taking a road trip to his murder victim and killing people off-camera on the way. Worse, it squanders Bill Moseley, who doesn’t get to act outside of lumbering with a slack jaw. It’s the cinematic equivalent of dragging your sled up the hill again: tedious, no momentum, and no fun as you wait for the next weird ass thrill ride in the franchise.

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4: THE INITIATION

And the next weird ass thrill ride in the franchise is here! Why should this even qualify when it looks and feels like Springtime in Los Angeles, and people had just forgotten to take down their Christmas decorations for months? Well, three reasons:

  1. Spontaneous combustions caused by witches.
  2. Monstrously massive bugs everywhere, designed by Screaming Mad George.
  3. Clint Howard as the resident crazy homeless guy who walks in and out of the movie.

While Ricky may be gone and its status as a Christmas movie is dubious, it’s a trip of a film with one particularly hellish sequence involving a lot of slime-covered giant insects. Some complain about its ham-fisted thematic notes of gender inequality, sex, and exploitation…but are you actually going into Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 expecting strong themes? Just enjoy this one for what it is, which is a lot of classic ick-inducing Brian Yuzna filmmaking. If you liked the weird, psychosexual nightmare that was Society, you’ll like this.

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOYMAKER

I was going to do another A.K.A. joke here, but I realized that the twist of this movie is so weird that it outclasses even The Initiation and needs to be seen to be believed. Rewatching this, I had forgotten exactly what the deal was with our mystery killer in the film and was mouth agape when the movie jogged my memory.

The Toymaker gives some very gruesome deaths and puts the Yuletide feeling of the film at center stage with a plot about murderous toys (not Demonic Toys, we swear, please don’t sue us Charles Band!). In fact, I would argue that since the effects in this movie and the violent kills don’t feel like a rehash of Society, it’s actually a major improvement on what 4 had going on. While four is slower-paced as it tells a (somewhat) more tempered story, five is aware of how goofy the plot is, with faster and funnier editing and some truly hilariously bad performances.

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SILENT NIGHT (2012)

The final entry in the series is as plain jane of a slasher as they come but does manage to get the holiday aesthetics down pat, so even though it isn’t as wacky as the others, I’m including it in the ranking.

This film isn’t the one that reinvents the wheel or brings any fire to mankind (outside of the literal flamethrower murders depicted in it), but it is a very solid slasher. It has a cast of fun character actors, particularly Donal Logue and Malcolm McDowell, with our lead Jaime King as a no-nonsense detective hunting down our slasher. I just wish it was as madcap and off the walls as some of its predecessors were.

FINAL RANKINGS

Which is the best, which is the worst, and are there any good films in this series?

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I would argue that all of them (except for 3) are great horror flicks in their own rights, since not a single one of them (except for 3) is boring (3 is getting the worst spot, sorry if I’m being redundant, but it sucks).

If I had to choose a best one, it would probably be our 5th spot on the list as The Toymaker is a diamond in the horror rough that, while lacking the bad acting of Part 2, has a genuinely insane script and all the best special effects of the series. So, from best to worst:

  1. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker
  2. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2
  3. Silent Night, Deadly Night
  4. Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation
  5. Silent Night (2012)
  6. Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!

When you’ve got those cookies baking in the oven, the house smelling of pine tree, and the lights twinkling, let this list from nice to naughty help you make the right decisions on which campy horror movies to watch this holiday season.

From all of us here at Horror Press, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year everyone!

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In Memory of the Video Rental Store

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Cinemas are for those who know where they’re going. But the video store? The video store is for the wanderers who are still looking. Or, were still looking.

From a very young age, I, like many people, was in the clutches of a business nobody even knew was doomed to collapse yet. At least, nobody I knew knew, and certainly, you didn’t know. We were children, and children rarely know much about themselves, let alone the intricacies of a market on the brink of an unknowing death at the hands of an unknowable, unfeeling force. A force that would take all the whimsy and love out of picking a film and replacing it with scrolling and idly zoning out as you watched the screen.

I learned quickly to love the video store. I hadn’t yet grown to love the comic books that would line the boxes in my room, or developed the skills to play with others, but I did have a video store on my block. It was a downright frigid spot in the sweltering heat of the summer, and that was all it needed to be.

The fatal weakness the store preyed on was that my eyes and heart were still perfectly big in proportion to my positively diminutive brain. I was enticed by every expertly crafted cover, every famous face I acquainted myself with. I ended up carrying names and voices belonging to the friends and enemies and loves and heroes I’d never meet.

And the terrors I’d never experience first-hand.

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The eyes in paintings follow you sometimes, but the eyes on movie cases always follow you when you walk along the aisles. It’s the horror film cases that always seem to be watching you from between the shelves. Red eyes peering from the darkness. Monstrous eyes that seem particularly human and human eyes that call on the particularly deranged. The only lit spot on a face leering in shadow with wide eyes, wide maniacal stares and bloody hands and bloody weapons, bloody everything–

So scary that it would leave me rambling. And I’m a habitual rambler, always nervous, so you can only imagine how scared I was, even as a child, when my parents were there to assure me it’d be fine.

I can’t wash out how those images evoked a primal disgust and curiosity in me. I remember that the Saw movie covers did it to me quite a bit with their various severed limbs and torn-out teeth hanging by wires; the Texas Chainsaw remake had me standing in shock when I passed it in the store, the face of Thomas Hewitt staring back with void sunken features. Sepia-toned filth that leeched off the poster’s art and into my brain to leave stains so strong I can remember them as clear as day. Growing recognition that would turn into admiration.

And I kept running into these faces, even when I wasn’t in that video store. A man in the neighborhood who sold movies out of the trunk of his car frequented the same block as my grandmother’s apartment. He lured me over to browse the selection once, and there it was. My father took my hand and led me away, but that first glance at the stitched face would terrorize me for most of my childhood.

Cover after cover through flea markets, electronics retailers, and bargain bins in big box stores. Everywhere, that damned face. Good old Charles Lee Ray, Chucky. Killer dolls, which I only got glimpses of, were infinitely more terrifying than the films themselves. God forbid I saw one of the full-sized replica Chucky dolls in a store and froze up to have an asthma attack.

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When I got older, eventually, I did what every idiot in a horror film does. I took the proverbial steps into the darkened basement to find out what was making that noise. I had to find out what I had been seeing glimpses of from the corner of my eye.

Far and away from the first video store that stole my heart, we had a Blockbuster in the town we moved to next. Twelve-year-old me snuck a copy of “Dawn of the Dead” in with some of the films we had rented, covering that pale, bloodstained half-face with a box of old candy off the shelf near the register, taking advantage of the fact that my parents were still browsing while I made my pick. The young cashier, whose face has melted into memory soup all these years later, still had one distinct feature on their face I could see: a smile. It could have been them being nice as usual, but part of me likes to think that they knew what I was doing and just wanted to give a little push to rebel.

I watched it a few days later in my room, nervously dancing around the fact we’d have to return it soon. And though I had to cover my eyes most of the time, and the volume had to be turned down low so that my parents couldn’t hear the carnage from the next room over, I made it through. And I wanted more now.

Now that I’m grown, I wish we had met earlier, horror; I wish I had gotten to know how fun the fear could be. How silly some of these things were. The joys of camp and goriness. The way you could put the laughter in slaughter and the sense of fun in fear. But that was the trajectory I had to be on, to feel equal parts “I’m scared, I want to go home” and “I’m scared, I need to know more.” I’m just glad that I caught those eyes watching between the shelves when I did.

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