The Daily Stream: So Vam Paints A Bloody Picture Of The Future Of Queer And Trans Horror

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: So Vam

Where You Can Stream It: Shudder

The Pitch: In this micro-budget ode to LGBTQ+ identity, Kurt (Xai) is a young man in a small Australian town that feels trapped in its conservative politics, instead wanting to move to the city to follow his passion of becoming a drag queen. Unfortunately, he ends up getting kidnapped and bitten by Landon (Chris Asimos), a vampire who preys upon younger men. Before Kurt succumbs to the bite, he is saved by a pair of vampire vigilantes, Harley (Ethan McErlean) and April (Grace Hyland), who swiftly let him join their ranks. Although he feels like his true self after embracing his vampirism, Kurt, his friends, and his new boyfriend Andy (Tumelo Nthupi) must take revenge against Landon so he can finally be free. 

Why it's essential viewing

Horror is inherently queer. It is something that has been discussed and analyzed at length by researchers and theorists, and the evidence that these studies provide is pretty damn convincing. After all, think about the prominent themes present throughout most horror movies: alienation, isolation, and transformation, among others. These are ideas that are intrinsically tied with the LGBTQ+ experience, so it shouldn't be surprising that a lot of people who identify as such gravitate so much towards the genre.

This gravitation is why we are also seeing more examples of queer-centric horror movies being released. These have admittedly been a mixed bag in terms of quality; for every "Titane," there is a "They/Them." While it can't be denied that the majority of movies shot from the perspective of the LGBTQ+ community often have the best intentions, they can sometimes feel too sanitized or pandering to straight, cisgender audiences.

"So Vam," on the other hand, is entirely meant for the community it features. Mackay isn't afraid to depict the difficult aspects of queer identity; the snide comments, the disgusted stares, and especially the acts of physical violence. At the same time, though, her framing of the joys of queerness, both big and small, balances these more disturbing scenes out. It is this nuanced depiction of being queer, where it feels both good and bad to be attracted to others in a way that defies the status quo, that has been rarely felt in mainstream LGBTQ+ film.

Being a vampire is f***ing awesome

The vampiric subgenre takes the idea of horror as queerness to a whole new level. It goes far beyond the idea of blood-sucking as a romantic act. As April tells Kurt in a pivotal scene, vampires were used as avatars for any sort of so-called "evil" of a time period. While the xenophobia of classics such as "Dracula" can't be denied, it is also hard to deny that the lustful, pleasure-seeking vampires we've grown accustomed to aren't also symbols for queer people who have embraced their identities.

In the same vein, it is also difficult to ignore how vampirism, specifically the type shown in "So Vam," is intrinsically connected to transgender euphoria. After Kurt becomes a vampire, April reveals to him that she ran away as a human after coming out as trans. It's clear that becoming a vampire was the best thing to ever happen to her, as she is able to live the life she wants while also seeking revenge on people who abuse and traumatize others for being who they are.

Kurt experiences a similar arc throughout the film. While a shy outcast before his transformation, he becomes more confident and assertive after becoming a vampire. He even gets his very own slow-motion hallway strut, along with a killer end-of-movie drag routine that lives up to the hype. "So Vam" is ultimately about the joys of transforming into the best version of yourself, a powerful and important affirmation of the importance of allowing trans and gender-nonconforming people to exist freely.

Plenty of bloodsuckers in Hollywood

If the queer horror subgenre is to remain as iconoclastic as it is, it shouldn't conform to the standards of mainstream cinema. Sure, queer-centric horror films should be given wide releases and appropriate funding by major studios, but they should never tone down their queerness to appease the most general audiences possible. Instead, queer horror needs to be unapologetically so. It should embrace the idea of being the Other rather than being afraid of it. It should find joy in the idea of transformation and of finding fulfillment in being yourself, even if your true self is a vampire with bites that melt your victims' skin.

That mantra is at the core of "So Vam," and it is a mantra that is needed now more than ever before. With the idea of gay and trans rights being stripped away becoming a very real possibility, finding unity in being loudly and unapologetically ourselves is imperative. With "So Vam," Mackay proves that horror should be a safe haven for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, as it harbors a safe space for the weirdos, the outcasts, and those either learning to be or are comfortable in our skin.

"So Vam" is now streaming on Shudder.