Morbidly Beautiful

Your Home for Horror


This month, we celebrate what makes us different and special — sharing our favorite horror films about the ones who stand out and apart from the crowd.

Each month, our staff picks a cinematic theme and recommends our favorite horror films related to that theme. This month, in honor of Pride Month, we honor anyone who has ever felt like they don’t fit in or made to feel like they were somehow unacceptably different or strange. Unfortunately, that applies to so many of us horror fans. But fortunately, we have a treasure trove of films that give voice to the outcasts and outsiders, films that make heroes out of monsters and monsters out of the masses. So let’s celebrate just a few of those incredible films here.

And let’s all remember, as a member of the horror community, you are never alone. 

1. FREAKS (1932)

Recommended by Todd Reed

Outcasts are one of the most common tropes in horror, and it has always been so. But even the lonely outcast may find a family among other outcasts. And that is the story of 1932’s Freaks, directed by Tod Browning.

Sideshows were a common form of entertainment. People paid to gawk at those who were different, deformed in some way. Freaks looks at that subculture and what happens when one of their own is hurt.

Cleopatra is a beautiful trapeze star whose manipulation of Hans, a little person in the sideshow, becomes more sinister when she discovers he actually has a huge inheritance. Conspiring with Hercules, the circus strongman, she marries Hans with the intention of killing him for his money. In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, the freaks welcome Cleopatra as one of their own in a ceremony at their wedding night (One of us, one of us. Gooba-gobble, gooba-gobble).

Cleopatra is horrified at the idea and treats them all cruelly. Hans is appalled by her behavior, but before he can reject her completely, he is poisoned by Cleopatra and left in a weakened state.

Not fooled by her “caretaking of him”, he pretends to continue taking the poison while plotting revenge with the other freaks. Hans and three other freaks confront her, and she is chased into the woods. Meanwhile, Hercules is also confronted. We later learn Cleopatra’s fate. Her punishment: to become that which she despised. We learn that the once beautiful trapeze artist has been transformed into a hideous duck-like creature.

The movie in its original incarnation was ninety minutes long, but the film was considered so horrifying that it was cut to just over an hour long. None of that footage survives today. Part of what made the film so disturbing was that Browning used real carnival performers who had real deformities as the freaks. This included conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, Johnny Eck (The Amazing Half-Boy), Schlitzie (born with microcephaly), and Prince Randian (the Human Torso), among others.

While the theme of the story is mostly about the “code of the freaks” (offend one and offend all), one of the most powerful elements of the film is when the camera simply follows the “freaks” as they move about their daily lives. Watching how they have adapted to their disabilities is powerful to watch.

And while it would have been easy for Browning to make this film feel exploitive or to paint them as victims or caracutures, it is a testament to his talent that he lets us learn from them and feel empathy, but not pity.

While the freaks may be outcasts from society, it does not mean they are not a society unto themselves. And this film shows the importance and power that creating a family group can have.


Recommended by Jackie Ruth

The third installment in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Dream Warriors, was a return to some of the familiar aspects of the original film. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) returns, of course. But it also tells the story of a group of teenagers who are all being tormented by the same man in their nightmares: Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

Instead of a clique of friends and significant others who attend the same high school, these kids are brought together by the one other thing they have in common: suicide attempts.

Kristen (Patricia Arquette), Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), Will (Ira Heiden) and Joey (Rodney Eastman) are the five main characters. Along with Nancy, they’re the titular dream warriors. It’s a kind of cruel joke that these kids have nothing in common but their tormentor. You can tell they were already outcasts, and they don’t talk about friends or family members outside of the psychiatric ward they share.

We see that loneliness reflected in their dream selve