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Halloween: How the Boulet Brothers' Dragula blends drag and horror

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat reporter

Published
image copyrightScotty Kirby
image captionDrag. Horror. Filth. Glamour: The Boulet Brothers are Swanthula and Dracmorda

Everyone has that early memory of something terrifying them at Halloween: a monster, a ghost or - in my case - a ventriloquist's dummy.

But for others, horror movies and monsters are the equivalent of a warm comfort blanket.

At four years old, Dracmorda Boulet remembers being in her grandparents' "creepy old house" watching one of the most iconic versions of Dracula, with Christopher Lee.

She felt "right at home" with the genre that sparked a life-long obsession with horror and Halloween.

It was the same for partner Swanthula Boulet, whose Halloween costumes were "always evil". She "thrived on the drama, fear, excitement and theatre" of dressing up.

It's no wonder Halloween is sometimes referred to as Gay Christmas.

Together, Drac and Swan are the brains behind the Boulet Brothers' Dragula, a reality competition show which perfectly blends their two passions: horror and drag.

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"I was a mummy. I was Dracula. I was a devil. I was a demon.

"I never really went as a witch but - as a little queer boy - I probably secretly wanted to."

Swanthula Boulet on Halloween costumes as a kid

Dragula is described as "unapologetic queer artistry" that will "make you laugh, make you cry and make you sick to the stomach".

There have been three seasons so far, in which horror-obsessed drag queens and kings compete to be the world's "next drag supermonster".

It's a similar format to shows such as RuPaul's Drag Race and America's Next Top Model with weekly look challenges and eliminations.

However, you need a strong stomach for some episodes as the bottom two contestants face extermination challenges, such as jumping from a plane or eating plates of raw meat.

Drac's keen to add that "despite the fact it's based entirely around horror, there's a message of hope that runs throughout the entire thing".

image copyrightScotty Kirby
image captionVictoria Elizabeth Black, SAINT and Dahli are all contestants on Dragula: Resurrection

The show is proud to embrace inclusivity. Previous contestants have included drag kings, those who identify as non-binary and trans people.

"Queer people resonate with horror, because we see ourselves and these monsters or witches presented as outcasts of society," Drac tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"They're misunderstood and they're judged unfavourably by the normal world around them."

The Boulets remind us of the connection between many of cinema's early monster movies and the suppression of any overt LGBTQ+ representation on screen.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBride of Frankenstein, starring Else Lanchester and Boris Karloff, was released in 1935

In the 1930s, the Hays Code was introduced. It effectively banned scenes of nudity, sex and dancing of a sexual nature.

Also, a kiss couldn't last for more than seven metres of film.

"It effectively banned creators from putting homosexual content into the movies," says Drac. "But they found ways to get queer content into their movies without being overt about it."

They highlight James Whale, the gay Hollywood director who made classics including Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein.

"When you watch Frankenstein, you feel and see this misunderstood warmth towards the character, and that was intentional. To me that was a clear sign to queer people that they were being told 'this is your experience'."

image copyrightScotty Kirby

The Boulet Brothers have been blending drag and horror for years, and like to have a hand in everything they do: "We draw from fantasy, from horror movies, from iconic comic book villains and cartoon villains. We always had a clear vision of what we wanted."

The Dragula TV show has evolved over its three seasons, with the production values increasing dramatically and having bigger budgets to work with.

In 2016, it started out purely online but is now available across major worldwide streaming services.

"We've had to prove ourselves and claw our way to where we are," says Drac. "It's taken chunks of our soul to get to where we are and you can't imagine how many doors we've had slammed in our faces."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPinhead was the villain in Hellraiser, pictured here with director Clive Barker

As for their favourite horror movies, Drac recently discovered a 1936 monster movie called Dracula's Daughter. "I had never seen it but as soon as I watched it I was seeing my own drag character. It was so interesting."

For Swan, 1987's Hellraiser stands out: "Something happened to me when I watched that puzzle box open and the Cenobites came out of the wall."

If that sounds too horrific, then she also adores Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn's 1992 fantasy comedy Death Becomes Her.

"Drac and I are like the stars of that movie. Our relationship is the same.

"We're always helping each other to try to live for eternity... but we're fighting it the whole way."

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Related Topics

  • Horror
  • Film
  • Drag queens
  • LGBT
  • Television
  • RuPaul's Drag Race

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