The Retreat // A Queer allegory

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Slashers aren’t always mindless fun featuring horrible characters, hot people, and outrageous kills. Of course those can be fun and there is nothing wrong with enjoying horror that doesn’t extend beyond the surface level. Just like there’s nothing wrong with craving slashers that tap into social issues. The Retreat (2021) is an under-appreciated example of that. Despite not being widely acclaimed, it’s still a horror film worth checking out during Pride Month or otherwise. 

The Retreat is a survival slasher film about a lesbian couple who visit a cabin to see their friends. And instead of having a fun weekend, they fight for their lives against extremist homophobes. Normally the threat is a masked killer like Michael, Jason, Ghostface etc. While this time the threat isn’t far-fetched, there are real-life people looking to eradicate the queer community. Does that make the film scary in some way? Yes, it absolutely does. 

The fact that threats like this are natural and not supernatural roots a film in reality. We don’t always seek out real-life, but horror has so much to explore. And with an issue like homophobia already being violent in nature, it’s easy to tap into that for a slasher. If we want to compare The Retreat to another horror film that directly uses a social issue as the scariest aspect, Get Out (2017) is an excellent comparison. The films aren’t the same in tone or events, but they are similar in that their threats aren’t supernatural. And involve social issues driving why the characters suffer. 

The film isn’t entirely smooth, and there are flaws, but the allegory (unintentional or otherwise) surrounding being queer and forced to survive in an unsafe environment isn’t to be ignored. And for queer women to be placed at the forefront is even more interesting. Renee (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and Valerie (Sarah Allen) have wit and desire to survive their circumstances. The extremists live stream themselves killing queer people and profiting off of queer pain. But it doesn’t stop Renee and Valerie from surviving a horrific ordeal.

Valerie and Renee shuck the tropes often placed upon queer people and for once it isn’t a case of “bury your gays” whatsoever. For folks who don’t know what “bury your gays” is, it’s a trope in the media where queer people meet tragic endings. Sometimes the character dies or loses something, sometimes because of straight characters. More often than not, a queer character dies. Instead of dying at the hands of homophobes, they are triumphant in the end. 

A gay couple is brutalized by extremists and their deaths are live streamed for a not so alarmingly large audience. Of course that can be viewed negatively, but it’s a slasher and the film focuses on people who live stream queer people being murdered. So a few horrific deaths are to be expected, but not enjoyable to witness. Aside from the minor issues involving writing, it’s worth mentioning when compiling queer horror films. If you are squeamish about blood and violence, I’m not sure The Retreat will be for you. But if you can handle it then enjoy watching homophobes get their asses handed to them.

Looking for more horror from Vanessa? Check out this one!