Does the word rom-com send chills down your spine? If you’re a true horror flick aficionado, you’re likely to dread venturing outside of your comfort zone of zombies and psychopaths. However, horror and romance don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can enjoy the best of both worlds with a romantic horror movie that seamlessly weaves touching love stories into your favorite gory films. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here are 10 romantic horror movies that will satisfy fans of the macabre and lovers of romance alike.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Based on Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, this film is the thrilling and terrifying story of a man’s descent into madness. Johnny Depp stars as Sweeney Todd, a murderous barber with a tragic past who returns unrecognized to London after years of exile. Originally conspiring to get revenge on the judge who tore apart his family, Todd soon changes course, deciding that all of humanity deserves to feel his wrath. He teams up with a doting baker (Helena Bonham Carter), and the partners in crime concoct a devilishly practical plan: to murder unsuspecting townspeople and bake the corpses into meat pies. Meanwhile, Todd’s daughter seeks to escape a dire situation and marry her true love. Directed by Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd has powerful emotional moments that balance out all the cannibalism. The ghoulishly gory musical is sure to please all lovers, regardless of their genre preference.
Picture Romeo and Juliet. That’s the basic premise of this movie, except it’s set in the post-apocalyptic U.S., and the star-crossed lovers aren’t from warring families. Rather, R is a flesh-eating zombie, and Julie is a human girl with a protective father (John Malkovich) hellbent on eradicating zombies. R can’t remember his past (or even his full name) and has a general apathy toward human life. But when he meets Julie, he begins to feel a flicker of life once again. This movie is notable for its twist on the classic zombie flick, giving the audience access to the point of view of the undead, rather than the terrorized living. You won’t look at zombie movies the same way again after watching this delightful blend of romance and bloodshed.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the 19th-century Gothic novel won three Academy Awards for its sumptuous and sexual take on the classic vampire story. Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder star opposite each other as Count Dracula and Mina Murray. When Dracula comes to believe that Mina, fiancée to Keanu Reeves’s Jonathan Harker, is his long lost love reincarnated, the immortal being pursues his dearly departed. Chaos ensues as the jealous and bloodthirsty vampire will do anything to win back his lover. Coppola employs masterful visuals to make each scene ooze with Gothic dread, and his interpretation of Dracula is a spellbinding figure as fascinating as he is terrifying. Despite rather questionable English accents from Reeves and Ryder, this film continues to seduce viewers.
Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is no newcomer to the horror scene, having combined horror and fantasy elements in many of his previous movies to create trenchant and often moving social commentary (think Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water). A Gothic romance brimming with danger and feminine rebellion, Crimson Peak is no exception. Mia Wasikowska plays Edith, an ambitious heiress with dreams of becoming an author. Against her father’s wishes, Edith marries the man she’s fallen in love with (played by the debonair Tom Hiddleston) and moves in with her new husband and sister-in-law. But as she becomes afflicted with a mysterious illness, the very house in which they all live seems to be warning Edith to escape before it’s too late. Trading on the many tropes of Gothicism and romance, Crimson Peak is filled with tension, romance, terror, and chills.
The quote “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” is deeply ingrained in our popular culture. Sadly, most people don’t know that it originated from this 1986 gem of a film. Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth, a kooky scientist who invents a machine that can teleport matter. He convinces Ronnie (Geena Davis), a beautiful and intelligent journalist, to publish an article about his invention, and their business and personal lives collide in an intense, ill-fated romance.
The trouble begins when Seth attempts to demonstrate the machine on a human being for the first time and unwittingly fuses his DNA with a rogue fly at the molecular level. The slow transformation of Seth’s body into a man-fly hybrid is horrifying in every sense of the word, and this film rightfully won an Academy Award for Best Makeup. Though you may be intensely queasy, you’ll still be able to appreciate the amazing chemistry between Goldblum and Davis, which makes Seth’s loss of humanity heart-wrenching to witness.
Let Me In
A young Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee deliver surprisingly mature performances in this American remake of the Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In. Owen is a lonely, bullied 12-year old who finds himself intrigued by his new neighbor, Abby. The two kindle an unconventional friendship (and later romance), but Abby has a secret: she needs to drink human blood to survive. As she becomes more desperate to feed, she murders townspeople and places herself and Owen in danger of discovery. This is a dark, unique take on the vampire myth, with a vulnerable, relatable young girl playing the so-called monster.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
The title says it all: Jane Austen’s classic meets the undead. Set in nineteenth century England, the five Bennet sisters have dedicated their young lives to slaying the zombies that have risen from a black plague mutation and overrun the country. Elizabeth thinks men are just a distraction from her duties as a warrior; that is, until she meets Darcy. Produced by Natalie Portman, this movie is surprisingly faithful to the plot of Pride and Prejudice—though there is plentiful gore, it never overshadows the budding romance and complex social relationships. For a more lighthearted Valentine’s Day horror movie, you can’t go wrong with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The film may be deeply silly, but its charms make it worth a watch.
Lauded as a "slow-burning but ultimately devastating horror pic" by Sight and Sound, the climax of this Japanese film is truly shocking. It starts out innocently enough, with widower Shigeharu Aoyama deciding to date again at the urging of his son. He and a film producer friend hatch a plan to hold a casting audition in which women will believe they are auditioning for a movie part, but are actually being evaluated for their suitability as Shigeharu’s new partner. He is immediately smitten with Asami Yamazaki, a sweet and beautiful former ballerina. Despite Shigeharu’s initial deceit, they begin dating. It’s going exceptionally well, despite the fact that Asami seems to be hiding a dark past. In the final scenes of the film, the budding romance disintegrates into a horrifying reveal of the evil hidden within. Not for the faint of heart, Audition will charm you with its love story before abruptly transforming into something much more sinister.
Clive Barker’s directorial debut brings intelligence to gore, creating a 1980s cult classic that pushed the envelope of sex and violence. The film opens with Frank Cotton, a sexual deviant who buys a puzzle box that promises to offer exciting new carnal pleasures. When he solves it, sadomasochistic creatures from hell called Cenobites appear. The Cenobites then mutilate and kill him for their pleasure. Later, Frank’s sister-in-law Julia stumbles upon his skinless corpse, which has been resurrected with blood. Still in love with Frank, with whom she had an affair before marrying his brother, Julia agrees to pick up unsuspecting men and bring them back to Frank for him to feed on and grow stronger. If you’re in the mood for a Valentine’s Day horror movie with a twisted, sordid love affair, Hellraiser’s got you covered.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston mesmerize in this offbeat vampire film. Adam is a musician living in Detroit who laments the state of the modern world and tries to ward off fans from discovering his secret. Meanwhile, his wife, Eve, resides in Morocco with their trusted friend, author Christopher Marlowe, who faked his own death in 1593. Eve returns to Detroit to dissuade Adam from killing himself and rekindle their relationship. A sensual, elegant interpretation of the vampire myth, Only Lovers Left Alive combines romance and horror elements with a thought-provoking criticism of life in the twenty-first century.
Featured still from 'Let Me In' via Overture Films