Does the word rom-com send chills down your spine? If you’re a true horror movie aficionado, you’re likely to dread venturing outside of your comfort zone of nightmarish creatures and serial killers out for blood. However, horror and romance don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can enjoy the best of both worlds with romantic horror movies that blend together touching love stories with twisted tales of depravity and death. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here are 17 romantic horror movies that will satisfy fans of the macabre and lovers of romance alike.
Game of Thrones actress Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway of spooky Penny Dreadful fame star in this 2014 science fiction horror film as Bea and Paul. Newly married, the couple travels to an isolated lakeside retreat in the woods of Canada for their honeymoon. However, any plans for peaceful romance are derailed when Paul finds Bea wandering naked and disoriented through the forest in the middle of the night. As Bea’s behavior grows ever more distant and erratic, Paul fears they may be dealing with something far worse than an unsettling case of sleepwalking.
Director and co-writer Leigh Janiak delivers a slow-burning horror set in the gloomy forests of Canada with this frightening flick. The newlyweds and their tender romance are set at odds against the creeping terror that eventually consumes them.
Life After Beth
This film boasts an incredible cast, with stars like Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, and Anna Kendrick. Life After Beth brings a little something extra to horror romance, too, by adding that dash of comedy.
When Zach Orfman’s (DeHaan) girlfriend, Beth Slocum (Plaza), dies on a hike from an unfortunate encounter with a snake, he’s left trying to figure out how to move on with his life without her. But when he discovers that Beth has somehow risen from the dead, his excitement is tempered by the unsettling ways in which his girlfriend came back different. If having an erratic undead girlfriend wasn’t difficult enough, Beth’s monstrous mood swings seem to be spreading through town...
The Shape of Water
The leading man might be an amphibian, but—horror flick or not—The Shape of Water is one of the most stunning and moving romances of all time. Co-written and directed by horror maestro Guillermo del Toro, the film is set in the vibrant world of 1960s Baltimore. When a lonely and mute cleaner, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkwins), discovers a mysterious creature (Doug Jones) hidden in the government laboratory where she works, her isolated life is forever changed. Communicating with the Amphibian Man through sign language and a brown paper bag of hardboiled eggs, Elisa not only feels sympathy for the captive being but a growing connection that blossoms into passion.
With the help of her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), Elisa fights to free her unusual lover from the cruel and oppressive control of Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). This film does a wonderful job at showing oppressive human rule as truly monstrous and highlights the way people feel alienated by their differences.
After the tragic death of his mother, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) lets his life descend into chaos. In an attempt to pull himself together, the young man travels to Italy, where he meets the flirtatious and fascinating Louise (Nadia Hilker). As he spends time with the enigmatic woman, Evan finds himself falling deeply in love with her. Little does he know, Louise possesses a dark and ancient secret.
Blending the intoxicating thrill of first love with grotesque body horror, Spring knows how to leave a lasting impression. The Lovecraftian work is unlike anything else and makes a statement on the transformative nature of love that transcends the horror genre.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
This 2014 film is described as an Iranian vampire Western—an intriguing enough premise even without the added draw of romance. The story centers on two tortured souls—Arash (Arash Marandi) and The Girl (Sheila Vand)—living in the desolate ghost-town of Bad City. Arash is a down on his luck young man, struggling to take care of his drug-addicted father. The Girl is a lonely vampire who stalks the depraved locals at night.
The moody and artistic film runs on emotion and atmosphere, shedding the light of hope across the darkest corners of the Iranian underworld.
Loosely based on the by Whitley Strieber, this 1983 film centers on a dangerously alluring love triangle. An ancient vampire woman—Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve)—takes on lovers and offers them temporary immortality. When her cellist companion from 18th century France, John (David Bowie), starts to rapidly age, he seeks out help from skeptical gerontologist Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon). Even as the grim reality of John’s condition unfolds, Sarah finds herself enthralled by the vampiric beauty.
This South Korean supernatural erotic horror film directed by Park Chan-wook is loosely based on the novel by Émile Zola. Catholic priest Sang-hyun (Kang-ho Song) volunteers to be a part of a medical experiment intended to find the vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus. When the experiment goes wrong, he finds himself infected by a nasty case of vampirism. Upon reuniting with a childhood friend, Kang-woo (Ha-kyun Shin), Sang-hyun slowly grows infatuated with his wife, Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim).
As Sang-hyun wars with himself over his new and insatiable hunger for blood, his desire for Tae-ju consumes him. But Tae-ju is entranced by Sang-hyun’s animalistic ways, igniting an affair that sets them down a bloody path.
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 in 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 deliver incisive and often moving social commentary (think Pan’s Labyrinth or the aforementioned 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 body horror movie classic. 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. 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 surprisingly good American remake of the Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In. Owen is a lonely, bullied 12-year-old boy 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