The Greatest Horror Romances of All Time, Part Two

The horror genre is about more than just jump scares and masked maniacs. It's a way to find the uncomfortable and fearful side of live. 

And what makes us lose control than love? What causes more pain, makes us act crazier, or leaves more lasting scars than love gone wrong? And finally, what can comfort us more in dark times than love? 

Well, Valentine's Day is coming up and we have love on the brain. We listed a bunch of classic horror films with love stories in our last post and we've thought to update the list with some other great examples. 

Check out these great horror romances and fall in love all over again. 

Ana and Michael from Dawn of the Dead (2004)  

There are three major relationships in Dawn of the Dead. One is between a guy and his infected pregnant wife, but that's about his fixation to bring something better than himself into the world. The other is between two stupid pie-eyed teenagers. The last is between Ana and Michael. It never quite blossoms into what it was meant to be, but there is such tenderness in the tension between them.

Michael is a genuinely good guy. He's smart, compassionate, sensible, and a born leader. While certainly capable, he never has the bluster or bravado of the other characters. Ana is very much his equal, as intelligent and capable as he is. While they're both practical people and the situation demands that they never let their guard down, we feel the intensity between them. We get the sense that, if the world were to once again stabilize, they could be very happy together.

Their relationship is cut short in one of the most heartbreaking ways I've ever seen in a horror film, but Michael even goes to his death with the kind of quiet brave dignity that is to be admired. In an era where most male heroes are rogues and brutes, Michael is the kind of guy worth being called a hero. 

Candyman and Helen in Candyman

Wait a sec. Another overly romantic movie about a supernatural creature romancing a human?

Well, yeah, but unlike Bram Stoker's Dracula, the love isn't reciprocated. Candyman is essentially the story of a supernatural stalker. Sure, he's intensely charismatic and romantic, but he's also evil to the bone, and he completely destroys Helen's life in the pursuit of her. Like Dracula, he also invites Helen to be like him, but the process involves a death so horrible it would become legend. The course of true love never did run smooth.

Stephen and Francine from Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Stephen and Francine didn't hold up too well.

I always got the sense that Stephen and Francine would have eventually broken up if the zombies didn't take over. As it stands, there's a lot of unspoken anger between them, and Francine in particular seems often resentful that they've been thrown together. Even though Francine is pregnant, there's no sense of joy or togetherness about it. They seem to treat it as just another problem in a hellish world.

There's something vaguely sexist to Stephen's behavior. He gets irritated when Francine voices a contrary opinion, dislikes the idea of her flying the helicopter, and nearly gets her killed when he leaves her alone to have a manly adventure with the SWAT team boys. Even their lone romantic moment ends unhappily. One of my favorite shots in the movie takes place after the two of them have made love. Francine sits up, smoking a cigarette, looking past us. Stephen lies awake next to her, staring up at the ceiling. They no longer have anything to say to one another.

The most nightmarish image in the movie is when Stephen, now a zombie, goes after their safehouse. The movie often points out that zombies are compelled by unconscious desires, specifically to return to the mall. What if Stephen's unconscious desire is to hurt Francine?

Either way, it doesn't work out.

Marie and Alexa from High Tension

Oh, I'm gonna have to tread carefully with this one.

I've heard some people say this movie carries strong homophobic undertones. Final Girl covered that subject better than I could and I'm inclined to agree with what she says on the subject. Here's my take:

I liked the twist ending. Sure, maybe it was a gimmick and maybe it doesn't really add anything more to the story, but I like kicking around the idea of an obsession so intense that it manifests itself in such horrific delusions. If the disgusting pig of a truck driver is how Marie sees her attraction to Alex, that speaks of a poisonous self-hate. I would like to see a remake done where we are aware of the split from the beginning. There's a really, really good horror movie here.

Shaun and Liz from Shaun of the Dead

I have a soft spot for stories about about losers who find their inner hero when crisis hits. I like to think I have a little Shaun in me.

Anyway, there's a bunch of stuff I really like about Shaun of the Dead. The romance is authentic. Shaun is a likable guy and you can see why Liz stays with him as long as he does. When they do break up you can see it's because the little things finally wore her down. Even then, there's still enough good memories to make the break up difficult. Finally, I liked the skeevy friend who constantly undermined Shaun and Liz's relationship so he could have a shot at her. I've known that guy. Once I was that guy. Either way, it was a nice touch.

The one thing that always threw me about the movie was the ending. After the zombie threat is brought under control, we see Shaun and Liz back on Shaun's couch. She now seems happy that they're doing all the stuff she hated doing before. Why the sudden change of heart? Does she now appreciate his habits more, or is she now simply grateful to be alive. Whatchoo think?

Oskar and Eli from Let The Right One In

Young love can be incredibly messed up, especially when you're in love with a violent blood junkie.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't think Oskar and Eli are going to last in the long term. Sooner or later Oskar will get old and Eli will be as brutal and dismissive as "she" was to poor Hakan. There is something fundamentally stunted about Eli and the sort of affair they would have is truly doomed in the "One day I will have to be a serial killer to please you" sort of way.

T.J., Axel, and Sarah from My Bloody Valentine (1981) 

My Bloody Valentine was somewhat atypical for slasher films of that generation. Most of the cast were adults as opposed to clueless teenagers, there's a strong blue-collar vibe to the small mining town where the story takes place, and the directions and performances were generally of higher quality than similar films released at the time. One of my favorite aspects of this film is the relationship between T.J., the man who left town and has been forced to return; Sarah, the girl he left behind who still loves him; and Axel, the man Sarah settled for. 

If it wasn't for the fact that T.J. is set up as the hero, he comes off as a jerk who steamrolls back into town and demands that the girl he left behind becomes her lover again. This sets up a love triangle between three people trapped by the past and by the endless pull of the mine that anchors the town. It's a very thoughtful and melancholy love story, even without the psycho in the mining garb. 

Evan and Louise from Spring 

One of the most sumptuous and lovely horror films I've ever seen, watching Spring is like taking a tour of a beautiful Italian town. The story follows Evan, an American tourist trying to get over his past, who meets a mysterious girl named Louise with a very strange secret. They fall for each other hard, even after Louise reveals the kind of monster she hides buried under her skin. 

I adore this movie because of how beautiful everything is, though I am aware that the idea of  of something alien and eternal giving up its gifts for love doesn't always feel like a fair trade for a lot of people. It's still a strange and fascinating little love story. 

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Doing a quick look over this list, I see a lot of doomed romance. Love doesn't tend to do well in horror, mostly because people tend not to do well in horror. Horror is often about things falling apart, usually by worst-case scenario. Still, the grand passions are what gives us our humanity. They pull us out of the darkness and draw us close together. They warm us like campfires as the dark slowly circles us, drawing us in...