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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 5 No. 2 (2024): Narrative, Environment, Social Justice

In Search for Alternatives: Queer Theorizing, Affect, and the Horror Film

March 20, 2024


This article argues that queer theories of affect not only offer an alternative approach to analyzing the horror film in the twenty-first century, but also that a new wave of horror media negotiates its social criticism in newly queer ways. Analyzing Ari Aster's 2018 film Hereditary, it becomes clear that its horrifying effect stems from queer affects within its narrative that both its character and audience share. In this, Hereditary goes beyond traditional forms of criticism regarding its deconstruction of normative family structures, present in horror films as early as 1974's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as it not only points to potential horrors within the traditional family but instead lays open the inherent, inescapable affective horrors of these normative structures and narratives of belonging, necessitating the need for alternative forms of self-determination and community. Doing so, the film utilizes the established forms of the genre but plays both within and outside of its conventions, affecting its audience beyond mere shock. In applying queer theories of affect and negativity to the film, this article demonstrates a critique of the horrors of real-life institutions and systems that plague (queer) existence in our neoliberal society: normative family structures, sexual and romantic normativities, and complex feelings of (not) belonging. In this reading, Hereditary serves as a powerful counternarrative to the cruelly optimistic narratives of everyday life.


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