Horror as a genre isn’t necessarily the first place you’d look for love and representations of it. Yet with Valentine’s Day creeping ever closer like Michael Myers on Halloween, there needs to be something – anything – to combat the sickly sweetness of the occasion.
Enter horror movies, stage left. So if you like your romance with a smattering of gore and the occasional blood splatter, here’s a handy list of flicks to get you through this Hallmark holiday.
The Fly (1986)
There are plenty of films where you get to see real-life love blossom on screen and David Cronenberg’s The Fly is one of them. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum – who were married for a few years after this flick came out – are the human hook to this body horror which follows a scientist’s experiment that goes horribly wrong and begins to turn him into a human-fly-slime hybrid.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Few films are as darkly romantic and there’s a reason why this is the first of two Tom Hiddleston vehicles on this list: the British thespian has built a dedicated fanbase through his portrayal of brooding, misunderstood charmers with barely street-legal cheekbones (Loki, anyone?). Jim Jarmusch’s emo vampire tale rests and succeeds on the strength and conviction of its two leads: Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. While the rest of the world crumbles around them – from people to the city of Detroit – this tale of the enduring love between two immortals is a beautiful one.
When Animals Dream (2015)
Everyone wants to be loved for who they are and in spite of their flaws – sometimes even because of them. This Danish drama manages to portray the loveliness of that as it follows two teens who fall in love in the face of some beastly developments. European af, there hasn’t been a supernatural/horror teen romance handled quite this well.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
A juxtaposition of genres – horror, comedy, romance, action – Edgar Wright’s breakthrough is wonderful for the lightness it manages to bring despite the Apocalypse and the multiple stories of love it manages to tell: from Shaun and Liz, Barbara and Phillip to even Shaun and Ed. After all, what communicates love better than continuing to look after your best mate long after he has become a member of the walking dead?
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
There’s a Death Cab For Cutie lyric “love is watching someone die” which was penned decades after this movie came out, yet feels like the perfect sentiment when it comes to the conflict faced by two lovers at the centre of John Landis’ werewolf classic. Can love conquer lycanthropy? It’s called a curse for a reason, but the journey to resolution is what makes this so endlessly watchable – that and everything else about it.
Warm Bodies (2013)
A zombie rom-com? Shaun of the Dead kinda did it first, and better, but there’s a sweetness to Warm Bodies that’s balanced nicely by the amount of people that get eaten alive. Like Only Lovers Left Alive, Warm Bodies relies on the charm of its stars Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult who beautifully communicate the goofiness and magic of young love.
Bride of Chucky (1998)
The couple that kills together… Tipping heavily over on to the side of extreme kitsch, Bride of Chucky is a fun and ridiculous ride in what is a fun and ridiculous franchise. Chucky and Tiffany forever.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
There’s something that has made vampirism – maybe more than any other form of mythical monster – inherently romantic over the years, with pop culture only strengthening that notion through flicks like The Hunger and Twilight and shows like Buffy and The Vampire Diaries. This flips the script, with Ana Lily Amirpour being able to direct more tension and attraction in a scene than other filmmakers manage in an entire movie. Cute, chaste and charming – despite the rising body count – it serves as a love letter to the connection that can be sparked between two people.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Guillermo del Toro has a knack for crafting twisted love stories outside of the box. Cronos – his first flick – was a gorgeous tale about the love between a child and her grandfather (even after he turned into a vampire). Love and its power in the face of darkness was riddled throughout Pan’s Labyrinth, and the chemistry between Liz and Hellboy as they tried to carve a normal relationship despite being anything but normal themselves was the grounding element to that franchise. With Crimson Peak, he ups the ante. Taking the classic Gothic romance and adding some even darker touches, the period piece is as much a romance as it is a tragedy.
Maria Lewis is a journalist and author who can be seen on The Feed, weeknights on SBS Viceland. She’s the presenter and producer of the Eff Yeah Film & Feminism podcast. Her debut novel Who’s Afraid? was released in 2016 with the sequel – Who’s Afraid Too? – out now. You can find her on Twitter @MovieMazz.