by A.E. Santana
It Came from the Closet published by The Feminist Press and edited by Joe Valles guide readers through a collection of essays that highlights the intense and intimate way in which the horror genre has infiltrated and impacted the lives of those in the queer community. Most importantly, the essays do so without exploiting or sensationalizing the trauma of the writer, as the author is in control of how much and what they are willing to share. These essays are their stories, unique and powerful and honest. Elegantly crafted with raw emotion and deft storytelling, the twenty-five essays in It Came from the Closet offer a variety of answers to the question all horror fans get at some point: Why horror? Each essay corresponds with a film, framing the personal experience of the writer, giving them room, cushion, crutch, and freedom to express themselves and connect with readers through a film.
Broken into five parts, the essays fall into classic horror and film categories: exorcisms, monsters, fatal attractions, nightmares, and final cuts. Channeled through these sections, the authors present a mini memoir by way of selected horror film. Carmen Maria Machado gives visibility to her bisexuality through the film Jennifer’s Body. Tosha R. Taylor describes her strained relationship with her father through the lens of The Wolf Man. In the essay, “Loving Annie Hayworth,” Laura Maw divulges the fraught experience of unresolved same-sex attraction through The Birds. Spence Williams connects with The Blair Witch Project on the self and hidden self. In “The Healed Body,” Jude Ellison S. Doyle offers a personal encounter of feeling disconnected from the body through In My Skin.
While an overarching theme in the collection may be seen as “I identify with the monster,” the deeper meaning for many of these is often “I identify with being scared.” Universal fears of being cast out, found out, living with my wants and desires. The fear of being hurt or hurt again.
But despite their connection to their section and each other, these topics and themes aren’t speaking for all experiences, they are not poster children for each of their sections or identity. Each essay is an individual account; they only speak for themselves, giving space to the other voices in the collection. There is not one experience. Intersectionality has a prominent role in It Came from the Closet. Just as being queer isn’t a sole identity, neither are disabilities, race, class, or a person’s mental health. Yet, for these authors, horror has become a bridge to connect them with a community of people who have felt isolated or othered for one reason or another.
It Came from the Closet is an empathetic account of those who have been touched, saved, found, and hijacked by the horror genre. Traveling through iconic and indie horror films, the authors offer up a slice of their personal history to connect with themselves and readers. Each piece is written with a sophisticated hand and emotional intelligence that carries through these different experiences like a thread through fabric. Finely woven, It Came from the Closet is warm and inviting and sincere about why a particular horror film connected with the writer. For fans of horror who have ever felt solace in the fear, triumph, and thrill of the genre, the essays perfectly showcase that understanding, bringing together a community of fans, enthusiasts, and supporters of queer folk and horror lovers.
A.E. Santana (she/her) is a Southern California native who grew up in a farming community surrounded by the Sonoran Desert. A lover of horror and fantasy, her works can be found in Latinx Screams, Demonic Carnival III, and other horror anthologies. She is the managing editor for Kelp Journal & Books and is the moderator for the horror book club, The Thing in the Labyrinth. A.E. Santana is a member of the Horror Writers Association, the Denver Horror Collective, and has participated in several horror panels, including "No Longer the Scream Queen: Women’s Roles in Horror." She received her MFA in fiction from the University of California, Riverside's low-residency program. Her perfect day consists of a cup of black tea and her cat, Flynn Kermit.