A Bloody Good Time 02.14.13: Top 10 Horror Movie Romances
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
So tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) is Valentine’s Day. Personal feelings about the inanity of the holiday aside, I thought I’d do something to mark the occasion.
Horror can be a weird genre. Even our romances are weird. There aren’t many horror movies with a straight up love story in them because this genre isn’t about that. A horror love story can end in obsession and be completely one-sided. It can be between a creature and a human being. It can be a completely sadistic relationship not based on love at all. Sometimes, rarely, a horror movie has a solid couple in love that survives until the end.
You’re not watching a horror movie to be romanced. You’re watching to get scared. Sometimes this works if they build up the couple and make your scared for their fate. Most of the times it just means the romance is going to end in macabre fashion for someone.
I’ve done this before in the top 5 way back when, but I’ve decided to give a reboot of sorts and expand it for my own column. Plus I’ve thought about the order since then and think it could use some series changes. If you have read it, then all five will make this list as well.
As you can see by reading the title, this is for horror movies. So don’t expect any inclusions from the Buffyverse or anything like that.
#10: May (Angela Bettis) and anyone – May (2002)
If you could get over her weird little quirks, you would have a friend for life in May. When I watched this movie I really sympathized with her situation and while what she eventually does is horrific, I understand her motivation for doing it. She’s incredibly lonely and everyone who she thought cared ended up turning on her because she was socially awkward and didn’t understand basic human interaction. That’s not really her fault, it’s her upbringing.
At first she thinks she may have found love in Adam (Jeremy Sisto), as she really admires his hands. But he can’t handle the fact that she’s weird and eventually dumps her. She’s not picky, she even will hook up with a woman just to be with someone, as she does with Polly (Anna Faris). But she’s only in it for the sex and this sends May off the deep end. So she just takes the parts she likes from various people and makes her own friend. It’s very disturbing and very sad at the same time.
#9: Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Liz (Kate Ashfield) – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
They say that a traumatic incident brings two people closer together. That is very true for Shaun and Liz, who actually break up at the start of the film but are back together thanks to surviving the zombie apocalypse after. You get the feeling early on that Shaun really does love her, he’s just a slacker and a screw-up and it’s hard to be with someone who lacks ambition. I think that’s why they end up together. He shows he can take charge of his life, even if it takes a terrible situation to do it.
I think that’s one of the reasons this movie works in addition to the zombies and comedy. If you’re going to advertise yourself as a romantic comedy (even one with zombies), you have to really build up your characters and make the audience root for them. Shaun isn’t just your typical slacker, that’s what Ed is for. He’s capable of growing and does so. It just so happens he has to kill a few zombies and lose members of his family for that to happen.
#8: Eli (Lina Leandersson) and Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) – Let The Right One In (2008)
I loved the performances from Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Let Me In, but prefer this version of the story overall. There’s a lot of innocence to the romance between Eli and Oskar, so much so that some may not even call it a romance. It’s not in the traditional sense; there’s no obligatory love scenes or anything like that. But you can tell that these two clearly love each other at the end of the film, even if you can quickly figure out what Oskar’s destiny will be for loving Eli.
There’s a reason why a movie and story like this is a lot better than something like Twilight. It doesn’t romanticize its vampire. Eli is eternally young, sure, but she is eternally a child. She has to suffer through anyone she loves dying and has to kill other people, which is something she doesn’t seem to want to do. It’s a depressing life knowing you have to feed on others to survive, people who did nothing to you. Through Oskar, and likely through the servants she’s had in her past, she’s found someone to share the journey with for the briefest of moments.
#7: Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) and Paul Sheldon (James Caan) – Misery (1990)
At no point in Misery do you ever get the impression that Paul Sheldon cares about Annie Wilkes. It’s established pretty early that something isn’t right with her, and all Paul wants to do is call some help and get taken care of properly. But Annie won’t let him. The roads are too bad, she claims. He can’t go anywhere with that injury, so why not let his #1 fan take care of him? This is because his #1 fan is absolutely insane and will kill him with the slightest provocation.
I really think that Annie Wilkes loves Paul, or at the very least, I believe she thinks she loves Paul. She’s mentally unstable, and she’s developed an unhealthy obsession with the author of her favorite literary character. This is what I meant before about a one-sided romance. She loves him and he’s terrified of her. There’s no way this can end well for either one of them, and it makes for a very tense movie. Some people just weren’t meant to be.
#6: Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) – The Fly (1986)
I have a feeling that Veronica would take her wedding vows very seriously, especially the “in sickness and in health” part. She has several opportunities to wash her hands of Seth Brundle and live her own life, but she sticks by him. Even in the moments when she is absolutely scared to death of the man (or fly), she remains in his life and attempts to get him whatever kind of help she thinks she can.
This film shows Brundle go from man to man/fly hybrid to disgusting monster. She stays with him through every moment, even as he falls apart and begins losing pieces of himself to add to his own museum of natural history. She sticks with him no matter what happens. If he looks like he had acid poured on his face, if he climbs on walls, it doesn’t matter. As horrifying as the entire movie of The Fly is, Geena Davis’ reaction to having to put Seth out of his misery (a mix of terror and grief) is kind of heartbreaking.
#5: Erik the Phantom (Lon Chaney), Christine Daae (Mary Philbin) and Vicomte Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry) – Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Yes, this list even contains a love triangle! This is part of the same type of tale as Misery as Erik, the Phantom is obsessed with Christine and falls in love her over time. He just happens to be disfigured and insane and will kill anyone he can to be with her. Christine already happens to be in a relationship with Raoul. In some versions of this story, the Phantom is a more sympathetic character. In some he is pure evil. This is a little bit of both as he seems to care for Christine, but he’s way too far gone to do anything but kill people who get in the way.
He does show a moment of compassion when Christine begs him to save Raoul, and even promises to be his wife if he does. This is all he needs to hear and so he spares her lover. In an alternate ending, he actually let them both go and died of a broken heart. In the version most people saw, he is killed by a mob and Christine is saved. The hopeless romantic in me prefers the alternate ending, and the horror fan prefers the standard version. It’s up to you which works better.
#4: Julia (Claire Higgins) and Frank Cotton (Oliver Smith, Andrew Robinson and Sean Chapman) – Hellraiser (1987)
Frank doesn’t care for Julia. He sees her as an object to be used for his own gain, whether that happens to be pleasure or his own resurrection. It’s Julia that loves Frank. She must. I don’t think someone as averse to death as she seems to be at the start of the movie would kill innocent men just to get some of the best sex she’s ever had. Surely she could just find another man if that were the case.
Julia does a lot to prove her love to Frank. She kills other people, she helps him go form a skinless skeleton to a man wearing her husbands skin. She hears of his plans to escape masochistic demons and is ready to run away with him. She even helps murder her own husband, who actually does love her, just to give Frank some skin. It’s demented and perverse, but it’s got to be love. I would assume even evil, reprehensible people are capable of it in their own depraved way.
#3: Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) and Mae (Jenny Wright) – Near Dark (1987)
When Caleb first met Mae, he probably just figured she would be a nice one night stand before he went back home to work. However that’s when she bites him and turns him into a vampire, changing his life completely. This causes him to join the roaming vampire family just to survive, and then fighting that same family to save his own when he has a falling out with them. All through the film his connection with Mae grows and he eventually does fall for her.
This is a different kind of vampire love story because it’s not really about vampires. This love story is about two people, and one of them happens to be a vampire. This could easily have been a good tale if they were just a wandering band of psychopaths and not supernatural in any way. The reason it works is that Caleb really is a good person and sees that she is as well. He even saves her life at the end to hopefully live happily ever after. It’s one of the rare horror romances that ends that way.
#2: Kong and Ann Darrow (Fay Wray, Jessica Lange and Naomi Watts) – King Kong (1933, 1976, 2005)
There are three different versions of King Kong and that means three different versions of the relationship between the giant ape Kong and Ann Darrow. In the 1933 version, she’s absolutely terrified of the ape and just wants to be free of him. In the 2005 version, she grows to care for him (even if it’s not romantically, more like a pet). The 1976 version is somewhere in the middle.
In all versions, Kong is mostly the same. He’s a misunderstood creature who wants companionship. She’s not just some toy to him, as he’s willing to fight off dinosaurs to save her life. He gets her out of the way of the planes and fights them off, thinking he’s back on Skull Island. Kong dies for Ann, and if he didn’t love her in some way he might never have worried about leaving his home. Beauty killed the beast.
#1: The Monster (Boris Karloff) and his Bride (Elsa Lanchester) – The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The worst kind of love is probably unrequited love. In horror films, there’s no story more sad in the genre than the Monster who wanted a bride and was then rejected by her. Think about that. She was made specifically for the Monster, and she still couldn’t stand the sight of him. She screamed and ran way like anyone else. That’s enough for him to realize they both belong dead and kill everyone in the room, except for his creator.
This list wraps around nicely with the inclusions of May and Boris Karloff’s take on the Frankenstein monster. Neither are really evil. Both do terrible things, but neither are evil. They’re misunderstood and rejected by the world around them when all they want is a friend or some type of acknowledgement that they are a living being with emotions and feelings. They’re both incredibly tragic in their own ways. I think that fits, because horror can be a very tragic genre.
That’s it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week we go back to the Buffyverse after I counted down the top ten episodes of Buffy and Angel last year. I’m going to rank my favorite characters in both shows combined. Whedon fans, be back here next week!
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