Will gay horror be plagued by the Babadook meme forever? The sinister-monster-cum-symbol-of-queer-resistance is nowhere to be found in director Erlingur Thoroddsen's upcoming psychological horror flick, Rökkur, but the meme had such a significant reach this summer that I wonder if any new gay horror film can escape Babadook comparisons. Has the Babadook created his own corollary to Godwin's law? As any online discussion of a new gay horror film grows, will the probability of the Babadook being mentioned reach 1?
Rökkur, which translates from Icelandic to Rift, is about Einar and Gunnar, two drama queens who are haunted by their recently ended relationship. Months after their breakup, Einar (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson) retreats to a cabin under a glacier. One night, he drunk dials Gunnar (Björn Stefánsson), secretly hoping to rekindle the relationship they have lost. Gunnar visits Einar at the cabin (which is named Rökkur), and the two spend an ambiguous amount of time crying and moping and lollygagging around Icelandic vistas.
Oh, and then there's a stalker. Or maybe it's a ghost. Or a Grindr hookup with a grudge. Whatever it is, it's definitely horny and violent, and in the absence of the stalker having a clear identity, my internet-addled brain made Rökkur's villain...the Babadook?
Both of the movies are psychological horrors, so maybe that's why my synapses were misfiring. The narratives of the movies certainly aren't similar. The Babadook focuses on a single mother, her son and their monster; Rökkur chronicles two gays who wanna fuck. And while the Babadook is now forever associated with gay Twitter, The Babadook wasn't created as a gay-inclusive film—the movie was out for three years before Tumblr's "Babadiscourse" repurposed the Babadook as a queer figure.
But even if The Babadook similarities are unintentional, Thoroddsen continually (and perhaps accidentally) dabbles with gay iconography throughout Rökkur, from a strangely featured My Little Pony mug to the film's literal rökkur. Einar's actual rift (as opposed to the cloying rift in his heart) is a place he calls the "Disappearance Field," where animals are trapped by predators. The rift is, obviously, the main symbol in Rökkur, and it's a symbol that recalls David Wojnarowicz' iconic buffalo photograph that came to represent the AIDs era under Ronald Reagan. In Wojnarowicz' simple photograph of buffalo driven off a cliff, buffalo are used to represent the gay men of the 1980s (vibrant, communal, and doomed to die), with the cliff being the limit of support that contributed to their demise.
It's hard for me not to see Wojnarowicz in Thoroddsen's rift, just like it's difficult to separate the Australian Babadook (if memes can even have a nationality) from Rökkur's stalker. But rather than being distractions, these similarities help launch Rökkur, and gay Icelandic narratives, into an increasingly international LGBT canon.
See Movie Times for Screening Times and Location of this Most Babadookic Horror.