By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Horror and queerness have always been cozy bedfellows, and fewer things exemplify this as glamorously as THE BOULET BROTHERS’ DRAGULA. The reality competition series is about to enter its fourth season, crowning one of a selection of “uglies” (as the Boulets affectionately call their performers) as the next drag supermonster. But first, they’ve just released a one-off special on Shudder thematically titled RESURRECTION. Filmed safely and creatively in our current socially-distant world, RESURRECTION brings back seven contestants from previous seasons for a chance to win a spot in season 4. We spoke to hosts Dracmorda and Swanthula Boulet about the history of horror, Borat, and the fear of emails.
For THE BOULET BROTHERS: DRAGULA RESURRECTION, what made you want to bring back a past competitor for Season 4?
DB: That’s something we’ve wanted to do since Season 1. We are fans of the people we cast on the show, and we don’t cast anybody to go home. We don’t fill our competitors. Everybody we bring onto the show has the potential to win. It is heartbreaking when we see people go home early and they don’t get a chance to show everyone who they really are. We have always wanted to be able to bring them back and show everyone who they actually are. This idea has been floating around but we didn’t think we would have the time to actually do it. It takes so many months to step out of our normal life to do this. Only because of this pandemic were we able to do that.
Would this have happened if it weren’t for COVID?
SB: I think it would have been a different iteration if it weren’t for COVID. But we’ve become masters of using very little to make a lot. We challenged ourselves to make this content, and people are going to need something around Halloween. This was an idea to tap that vein. COVID created a different set of challenges, and we rose to meet them.
Are there any taboos that you won’t showcase on DRAGULA?
DB: I don’t really think we see it like that. We have our own moral compass about what we feel is appropriate to present to people and what is not. The idea is not, “What can we think of that will shock people the most?” It really is just what makes sense at that time. It makes sense to show them getting pierced because it was a Hellraiser challenge. It makes sense for them to jump out of a plane because it is a superhero challenge. It comes up in the moment.
It makes sense to reframe horror like that. The new Borat film scares me more than anything I’ve seen in a horror film recently…
DB: I haven’t watched it yet, and I’m not a huge fan. I think there is an exploitative nature to how people view Middle America. Yes, there are ignorant people in certain parts of the country and it is easy for people to make fun of them. But these are people that have been left behind. They live in industrialized cities and the industries moved overseas, and they were left with nothing. These are people who are impoverished and do not have resources or education and I think it is kind of cruel to make fun of them.
Speaking of different locations in America, in RESURRECTION you go to each performer’s hometown. Is that something you’ve always wanted to show?
SB: It is like a portrait of the artist. Dahli lives in the desert and draws inspiration from isolated locations and desolation. A lot of the work she uses is zapped of color and reflects her environment. It was an interesting opportunity not only to see the environments they have grown and thrived in, but also to see how that might affect their art.
Why is there such a strong connection between horror and drag?
DB: I think that there is such an obvious connection between queer people and horror and monsters. If you look at the history of horror, it is often misunderstood monsters or antagonizers who are not trusted by the society around them. They are getting chased around with torches and everyone hates them. It is so obvious that queer people are going to see themselves in those monsters. At the time the content creators were Universal Monsters, the Hays Code kicked in banning homosexual content from being included in movies. James Whale made a lot of those movies and was an openly gay man. He found a way to tell queer stories without being overtly queer. You can see Frankenstein and see he is misunderstood. It is just so clear that the connection is there. Then there is the flip side of that. There are content creators who exploited that fear. People were afraid of crossdressers. They are scary, they are weird, they are going to get you. There is a consistent theme throughout the history of horror where the killer is trans or the killer is in drag.
SB: There are an endless amount of references.
DB: Starting back to Glen or Glenda or …
SB: Dressed to Kill, Terror Train, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There are so many more that you could call up.
DB: Dressing in drag is very scary for big, straight guys I guess.
And there is the masculine “final girl.” There has always been something about gender representation and queerness in horror.
DB: I think that might be you seeing the influences of that genre being dominated by heterosexual male creators.
SB: Everything in this country is sexualized. So the sexualization of everything gets reflected in movies like that.
“…it is often misunderstood monsters or antagonizers who are not trusted by the society around them. It is so obvious that queer people are going to see themselves in those monsters.”
Along those lines, do you have any recent favorite horror films directed by women?
DB: I don’t know as much about that as what I do want to say. You can tell from watching Season 3 that it was very important for us to include female creators on our show. There are so many women from horror in our season because we feel like they don’t get equal opportunity. These are the people that inspire us. Our heroes are females and we draw inspiration from the female characters in these movies. People like Bonnie Aarons, Rachel True, and Danielle Harris, we have so many! Also, behind the scenes, we had a lot of females working on the show. We had female camera ops which you would usually never see. It was important for us when we had this opportunity to diversify those lenses. That’s more where our interests lie.
Is this level of diversity and inclusion on the show reflective of current drag culture or is it aspirational? Is it what you see or what you want to see?
SB: I think it is reflective, but no one else is reflecting it. People at large have been programmed to think that drag is one thing and it should be seen through this lens. It is very heteronormative, and it is very pretty and family-friendly, and it makes me want to vomit. It really has nothing to do with the queer experience and what is going on in the queer community. In horror, you can look back at The Old Dark House and there is a drag king as the patriarch in that movie. When I saw that I couldn’t believe my eyes. We were nightlife producers before we were TV producers, and in all of the parties that we did, we always sang the song of the unsung. We celebrate diversity. All of our events were super pansexual. We celebrated everyone and invited everyone to mix. Drag kings and AFAB performers have always been there. When we started DRAGULA in 2014 as a party, the very first night’s pageant had AFAB performers, gender non-conforming drag kings, drag queens, trans people. For us, those boundaries don’t exist. We tried to imbue the show with as much of that as possible.
DB: To add to that, I don’t think the show is necessarily reflective of drag today. I think the success of other drag shows has heavily influenced what drag is today, and maybe not in the best ways. Back in the day, drag was open to everyone. You had tons of trans performers in drag. I think that those people were not respected with the success of drag becoming more mainstream. It left them behind. So I think the show is aspirational in that we would like to return it to its origins.
What scares you?
DB: Swan thinks this is so stupid, but emails and lawyer things, and stuff with the production side of the show terrifies me. We are artists and producers, and our interest is in the content. That shit just drives me crazy and gets on my nerves. Emails are the scariest thing to me that exist on the face of the earth.
SB: That’s funny.
DB: Most recently, Resident Evil the video game. It is actually scary! I don’t get scared by movies or haunted houses at all. I love them, and I love the content and I love the emotional response, but I don’t get that fear about them. But I started playing that video game and it legitimately scared me in a way I haven’t been since I was a kid.
SB: On the flip side, I am the yin to your yang and everything scares me. Movies scare me. I squirm. But to match Drac in something that is silly but accurate, low blood sugar scares me. When I have to work a ton and I can’t eat, it scares the shit out of me because I turn into a fucking monster.
DB: That scares me, I don’t know why it scares you. I’m the one that has to deal with that. Scratch my answer, that’s what I’m afraid of!
THE BOULET BROTHERS’ DRAGULA: RESURRECTION is streaming now, exclusively on Shudder.