Terrifying Love: Chris Alexander’s (Anti) Valentine’s Day Recommendations
Valentine’s Day is almost here, dear readers, and as we all know, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having someone’s heart in your hands… at least until it stops beating. But when roses, chocolates and wine fail to satisfy that special gorehound in your life, what’s a horror fan to do? Lucky for you, Fango wants to help make your Valentine’s a bloody perfect one, so cozy up to your demented darling, queue up these romantic fright films and re-animate your love life!
Valentine’s Day is a scam sculpted by greeting card companies colluding with flower killers and confectioners to guilt men into professing love on the same day all over the globe. I say, if you love—really, really love—someone, you should exhibit that affection every day in every way imaginable, and not rely on pageantry or designated calendar ritual.
So in (dis)honor of the day named after a Saint, here is my list of favorite horror films in which extreme, obsessive and primal love for another rule the day, every day, for better or worse, till undeath do you part.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III (1993, Dir. Brian Yuzna)
Brian Yuzna’s tragic romance deserved a better fate than being tacked on as the third in the ROTLD franchise. In it, Mindy Clarke and J. Trevor Edmond play lovers whose passion is tested by death itself, and worse when Mindy is stained by the noxious Trioxin, turning her into a brain hungry ghoul who self-medicates herself via self-mutilation. As flawed as it is, the film is filled with gore and weirdness, and anchored by an absolutely palpable sense of connection between the two leads. A very moving film once you scrape away the horror ghetto trappings.
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000, Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly are friends who fall in love with heroin in Darren Aronofsky’s still-blistering horror film (the monster is the drug, of course) that batters its audience senseless in its bid to properly adapt Hubert Selby Jr.’s otherwise unfilmable novel. But at its core, outside of the needle punctures, dilating pupils, moving refrigerators, pummeling Clint Mansell electro score and rogues gallery of unsavory characters, REQUIEM is a love story—a doomed love story between Connelly and Leto, and sadly, a love story between junkies and their junk.
ANTICHRIST (2009, Dir. Lars Von Trier)
Leave it to Lars Von Trier to deliver the ultimate anti-romance in this, the blackest of domestic dramas. Charlotte Gainsbourg delivers what might be the best performance in horror history as a woman driven mad by grief and guilt when, while having graphic sex with her husband (Willem Dafoe) her child falls to his death. When husband and wife escape to the woods to have more sex and heal, love and lust take the most extreme of turns. A beautiful, ugly, exciting, sometimes boring and always devastating movie.
NEAR DARK (1987, Dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red’s vampire western is as badass now as it was in 1987 and is steered by its tender, sweet love story, that of lost girl vampire Jenny Wright and cocky cowpoke Adrian Pasdar. Love conquers all in this rough, tough and stylish vamp classic.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981, Dir. John Landis)
Jenny Agutter cares for and falls for lycanthrope ex-pat yank David Naughton in John Landis’ timeless horror/comedy/tragedy. Agutter’s nurse Alex is one of the genre’s most caring femmes, one who both adores and pities her American boy toy and who, in that final frame when she realizes that yes Virginia, he is a werewolf, is totally shattered. Again, a fantastic horror/fantasy yarn grounded by a passionate love story.
LIFEFORCE (1985, Dir. Tobe Hooper)
Operatic, beautiful, out of control and yet elegant, Tobe Hooper’s mad and mega-budgeted adaptation of Colin Wilson’s The Space Vampires is finally getting a renaissance. And though it trades in ample female nudity, strange behavior, elaborate special effects and zombie vampires, LIFEFORCE is really just a powerful, intergalactic love story about two species that belong together in life, death and whatever comes next.
BLUE VELVET (1986, Dir. David Lynch)
Romance, tragedy, sadism and surrealism make up the voodoo that gives David Lynch’s definitive masterpiece its soul. Isabella Rossellini is driven to madness in the name of love and keen sleuth Kyle McLachlan falls into her tender trap, while also evolving a less lurid love affair with girl next door Laura Dern. A sweet American movie hiding in the skin of a horror film.
WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968, Dir. Michael Reeves)
Michael Reeves may have given Vincent Price his best role as the murderous, sanctimonious Matthew Hopkins, but his signature picture WITCHFINDER GENERAL is also a rowdy love story, that of Cromwell soldier Ian Ogilvy and Priest’s niece Hilary Dwyer whose secret, sweet, sensual love is blown apart by the leer of Hopkins sadistic sexual warpath.
PSYCHO III (1986, Dir. Anthony Perkins)
Another film that has finally found its cult and is finally being discussed as the more sophisticated film it is. This Anthony Perkins-directed sequel sees his Norman Bates still looking for a connection and finding it in Diana Scarwid’s emotionally fragile and mentally unbalanced ex-nun. Of course it doesn’t end well, nor should it.
RE-ANIMATOR (1985, Dir. Stuart Gordon)
Like the Yuzna-directed RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III, this mamma-jammma Yuzna-produced, hot and bothered monster mash is really about the things we do for love. In this case, the sinister Dr. Hill (David Gale) goes to great lengths in his obsessive love for Barbara Crampton’s Meg Halsey while her boyfriend Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) ensures—with a little help from the glowing green re-agent—that love never dies.
So there you have it. Happy V-Day folks, all 365 days of it!