Historically, horror films don’t have the greatest reputation in terms of representation of people identifying with a diverse SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity/expression). Often the butt of a joke or the rationale for the actions of a maniac killer, transgender and non-binary (NB or Enby for short) people are frequently without positive representation, if there is any representation at all.
Last year’s slasher film Hell Fest didn’t feature a trans or enby character, but did star the rising talent, Bex Taylor-Klaus, as “Taylor.” Audiences responded well to Taylor’s hard-femme yet somehow androgynous look, and plenty of Tumblr blogs popped up dedicated entirely to her character.
For Bex Taylor-Klaus, an openly gay and enby actor, tackling the role of Taylor was something that definitely intrigued them. “I’ve always wanted to prove that I can be and do anything, so the idea of playing the wild, straight girl in a horror film was really, really fun for me,” they told Bloody-Disgusting. “By the time I had got on set, they had decided that the aesthetics of the character were going to be a little bit different than how I’d auditioned in terms of clothing but the idea of playing of the cis, at least, heteronormative character was really fun.”
As an industry, we’re constantly giving out awards for cisgender portrayals of transgender characters, but Taylor-Klaus doesn’t feel limited by their enby identification.
“I wanna be able to do everything,” they say.
The problematic roots of horror’s transgender reputation are unfortunately iconic, thanks to films like Sleepaway Camp, The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and even Insidious: Chapter 2. Taylor-Klaus is fully aware of this unfortunate truth, but they also recognize the positive impact their casting in a wide-release horror feature brings to the community.
“I mean it feels cool!” they say. “My intention with horror has always been to have fun and make people uncomfortable so if I can do that in real life by being non-binary that’s just a bonus for my work.”
We talked with the infamous Tony Todd earlier this week, and Bex Taylor-Klaus has the closest and most frequent interactions with his character on screen. While Taylor-Klaus has been acting for much of their life, having the opportunity to work alongside a living icon was definitely memorable.
As Taylor-Klaus tells us, “Tony is an absolute, legendary professional. We would run that scene so many times before we actually shot it. Anytime we were in the same space together we were running those lines and he’d always have fun, new, fresh takes on it.” They continue, “It was an absolute pleasure to work with him. He’s such a gentle giant and I very much appreciate the way he works and the way he sees the world.”
Now that Hell Fest is available on Blu-Ray and VOD platforms, the film has the opportunity to reach the widest available audience possible. “I hope that the fans of old school teen slashers get a chance to see this movie,” says Taylor-Klaus. “It’s really a love letter to the old school, taking place in the new world, so I hope people really have fun with it.”