Name: Parker Brennon
Birth Place: Gahanna, OH
Notable films: Haunt Me (2017), Elise’s Nightmare (2017), Below the Trees (2018)
When did you know you were queer? When did you come out?
Parker Brennon: In elementary school, I started hanging out with girls instead of boys. These opposite-sex friendships prompted some boys to call me a fag, long before I had an understanding of my own sexuality. Around age 11, I realized I was gay, and it was extremely difficult to accept. I didn’t want to be the thing I was accused of being. Finally at age 15, I told my sister I was bisexual. It wasn’t true, but it was easier than saying “gay.” I found an online boyfriend living in New York and eventually told my mom about him. She was very kind and hugged me while I cried. That was a turning point. I started coming out to my friends and being more open.
How did you get into filmmaking?
PB: My best friend, my siblings, and I started a series of terrible shorts back in 2007. We would basically pick a noun and add “Can Kill.” Camp Can Kill. Looks Can Kill. Musicals Can Kill. The movie’s title determined its plot. I did all the video recording and editing, and it was ridiculous fun. I wouldn’t willingly share those movies with anyone today, but that’s how I began.
Why do you make horror films?
PB: Every genre has films I enjoy, but to write and direct something myself, I need some ardent energy. Horror is what best fuels my fire. I love an eerie atmosphere. I love a sense of adventure. I love seeing women on screen who are compelling villains or survivors overcoming terrifying obstacles. Stories that contain these elements are easily born in the horror genre.
What films (queer or not) have made a significant impact on you and your work? In what way?
PB: Carnival of Souls (1962) is my number one. I adore Candace Hilligoss’ bizarre performance. Her cold, detached character is so fascinating and weirdly relatable. Best of all, she’s plunged into an eerie, supernatural story. It’s not at all a “perfect” film, but that’s part of its charm. I also love Silent Hill (2006), largely because the video games hold an extremely special place in my heart. The nightmarish world is an ideal horror sandbox and evokes wonderfully dark adventures.
How progressive or welcoming is the industry for queer creators right now?
PB: It’s much better than it was in the past. Although, I spend more time thinking about inequality on screen. I recently watched The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014). I liked it, but I couldn’t help noticing that three hetero couples have sex scenes, and a gay couple is murdered before doing anything. It was a reminder that American culture relishes seeing sexual straight people, but “gay stuff” (especially between men) is always a sore subject. I can almost hear Aunt Sassy shouting “I don’t need to see that!”
Do you believe that your sexuality informs your films? If yes, in what way? If no, is that a conscious decision?
PB: Yes, my sexuality hugely impacts my work. I’ve never written a scene with heterosexual sex or kissing. My life contains an interminable amount of these displays, and if I’m in charge of a story, I’ll leave that out every time. So far, the films I’ve directed have a mix of sexually ambiguous and straight characters, but I’ll include more obviously queer people in my future work.
Do you subscribe to queer readings of your films?
PB: Hell yes! Haunt Me has more gay energy than my other shorts, but I hesitate to recommend it because my directorial skills were weaker then. Although, it was lucky enough to get over 120,000 views on YouTube, so I guess things worked out for that one.
Have you interacted with many queer horror fans of your films? What has that experience been like?
PB: Mostly online, but yes! I love it when queer people write encouraging comments or connect with me on Twitter. It’s great to be part of that community. On Twitter and Letterboxd, I often interact with queer horror fans who would otherwise be absent from my day-to-day life.
You’ve been putting out horror shorts with some regularity over the last few years. Do you plan to make the leap into horror features in the future?
PB: Absolutely. After Winter’s Blood is finished, my next project will be a feature. I wrote a feature-length version of Below the Trees, but it requires more financing than I can provide alone. Rather than dwell on that roadblock, I decided to come up with a lower budget idea. In January, I visited LA and met with a writer/producer I love. I pitched the low budget idea to her, and she’s excited about it. We’re developing that screenplay this year, and hopefully, it’ll end up being my feature directorial debut.
Follow Parker on social media: