A classic of English literature is getting a trans update in an upcoming horror film. Trans comedian Suzy Eddie Izzard will portray Nina Jekyll/Rachel Hyde in Joe Stephenson’s reimagined Doctor Jekyll—out later this month.
Doctor Jekyll is produced by the iconic Hammer Studios, known for developing many of the Frankenstein, Mummy, and (Christopher Lee’s) Dracula franchises in the 60s. According to the official trailer, the film is rife with gothic atmosphere, moody manor halls, and spooky violins.
“An isolated mansion, a mysterious locked room, creepy corridors, a dusty cellar and a mad doctor…,” the film’s official synopsis teases. “Hammer horror is back with a modern reimagining of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’
“When ex-convict Rob (Scott Chambers) takes the carer position to the infamous Nina Jekyll, little does he know he’s part of an evil master plan devised by her alter ego Rachel Hyde. But to what lengths will Rob go to satisfy his client’s weird wishes and his own ambitions for the daughter he has never even seen?”
A trans actor in a role that famously deals with identity and duality seems bursting with opportunity, but to what degree will trans identity play a role in the plot of the film? Director Stephenson shared some insight on that front in a May interview with Fangoria.
Horror has always been shockingly queer.
“There’ve been over 100 cinematic adaptations of Stevenson’s novella, but there has never been a trans Dr. Jekyll,” he said. “There seem to be some assumptions that because Nina is a trans character, we are somehow going to make it about gender. That is not the case; the themes of our film are true to the original work.”
In other words, like her classic character, Nina is much more than one thing. That could be a good take—or, it could over-correct to the point of erasure. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. “I feel like certain demographics need help seeing past people’s gender identity,” Stephenson explained. “Nina Jekyll’s trans-ness isn’t everything she is, at all!”
In addition to a queer main character, Stephenson teased plenty of camp to look forward to, describing the film as a “mix of dark humor and suspense that spirals into horror. Even in its darkest moments we give a wink to films of a certain era, and flashes of camp within a dark twisted fairytale combine to make a tone I don’t see much of anymore… and wish I did!”
Doctor Jekyll is slated for theatrical release exclusively (for now, hopefully) in the UK on October 27.