In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting interviews, opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! Expect more posts this month, from interviews to reviews and more!
Here at Queerly Not Straight, we love slasher films. But unfortunately, slasher horror films don’t love us. LGBTQ people are always the first ones to die or are punished because of their sexuality and life choices by the slasher of the film. That’s where The Retreat, written by Alyson Richards, comes in.
It’s a slasher film like none we’ve seen before where the queer couple don’t *spoiler alert* turn on each other or where there is a crazy plot twist that changes all. Instead you have a partnership grounded in love, honesty, and this drive to honor the other by fighting for them, no matter what obstacles they must face.
We got a chance to speak with writer Alyson Richards about The Retreat, what inspired this movie, the chemistry between the leads, and the dreaded bury your gays trope.
Richards: The idea for The Retreat came when my wife and I had rented a cabin in the middle of the nowhere. And we drove up and it was sort of remote and serene and really beautiful and picturesque. Kind of everything we thought we wanted. We never saw our hosts but we had this feeling like we were being watched. And it just had this sort of unsettling feeling to it.
And we would go for hikes and we would come back and there had clearly been people there when we were gone. There might be like fresh towels or like a basket of baked goods that would show up. Which on one hand was very nice. But also seemed kind of potentially really creepy. It’s not like we were leaving and driving away in our car. So we felt like someone was clearly aware of where we are and what we’re doing.
And then I think there’s this idea as women and as queer women where we felt like…we realized that we were quite vulnerable in this scenario that we were. And so…I have an active imagination and started thinking, “Who are these people? What do they want from us?” And then there’s that idea too, like when you’re outside the comfort of the city, you’re like, “Am I safe as a queer person?”
So, that was where the spark of the idea happened.
Queerly Not Straight: Are you a big fan of slasher films?
Richards: Oh yeah, totally. So Pat Mills, the director and I, are also old friends. We actually met in high school. And we would actually skip school and watch movies together. We became really good friends and we both make movies. We watched a ton of horror and thrillers. And I think we loved the genre but we felt like the genre didn’t love us back. You know, there was a lot of years of pretty poor queer representation in genre.
So that was kind of the other thing. We kind of wanted to make a gay horror movie where the characters didn’t turn on each other or where there’s a twist where one of them is the crazy killer.
Queerly Not Straight: How important was it for you to basically go “fuck you” to the bury your gays trope?
Richards: Super important. And I feel like that shouldn’t feel revolutionary. I think there was that season of television where it was just terrible, and it wasn’t even that long ago, so it was super super important.
Queerly Not Straight: It was during that time with Lexa from The 100. It was just one after the other. And I was so sure that someone was going to die in this movie. And then when they didn’t I was like, “Wait…what?”
[insert flashback cringe of that doomed time]
Queerly Not Straight: How was it working with the actors? Were they surprised by the direction that this story was going in? Or where they overjoyed like, “Yes, lets do this!”
Richards: So, Tommie and Sarah were amazing; the two leads. So we cast Tommie first. She’s an out lesbian and we really wanted to get someone from the queer community. We felt like that was really important to the director and I. And we did chemistry casting from there and her and Sarah just had the right…they were just sort of perfect together.
They both push each other in great ways. And they sort of really work as a couple. And they’re such phenomenal actors. So, they brought…there’s moments that I had written, where I felt like it was so clunky. But in their hands they would make it just totally feel real. So I was so appreciative that they brought that. They were really great.
And the one thing that I found that was surprising to me was me going, “It’s going to be so much fun to make a horror movie!” And then I realized that because they’re such great actors they go there. So they were in those moments and I found that was really actually a lot harder than I ever thought.
I don’t want to speak for them but they’re in it. They’re in that space. So it wasn’t necessarily a fun set. Like we had wonderful and fun people but in a very hard environment. And a lot of times we were shooting at night, cuz it’s a dark movie. And we were in small spaces because we shot on location, so that’s a real garage. We were all crammed in there. You just see Tommie in there, but there’s a whole bunch of other people in there with her.
And it was cold. And we mostly shot outside. And one day it started raining and it rained for four days straight. And you just have to work with that. Of course, it’s the East Coast so then it snowed. It’s not like it could all of a sudden turn into a Christmas movie so you have to adjust on the fly.
Richards: I think that I found the most frightening about this was the research. Because you would find…if you have to search about hate groups, you have to actually explore that. So obviously this is an extreme version. But I think that it’s an extreme version of an amalgamation of a bunch of stuff. So again, trying to be grounded.
And it’s the idea of this divisive nature that is happening globally right now. There’s a rise of all types of hate groups. So again, I didn’t want to make it anything too specific. So you’re not seeing specific alt-right iconography but it’s clearly represented as a bunch of people that are in sort of a divisive side of what’s happening right now.
Queerly Not Straight: Given the chance, what genre would you like to conquer next? Or are you already planning your next piece?
Richards: Yeah, I’m working on a zombie movie that’s an allegory for a mid-life crisis. So, yeah. That’s next.
The Retreat is now available on VOD.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)