Saturday, February 13, 2016

PUMP SOME BLOOD INTO YOUR VALENTINE'S HEARTS WITH THESE HORROR TALES

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and if you haven’t done something this late to commemorate it, perhaps you could add some real blood to the hearty celebrating on Sunday with some appropriate horror movies with a love story angle. Here are ten that might make you cuddle together and scream together too.


THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939)
Let’s start with a really Old School selection. There are many versions of the tale, from silent film to Disney cartoon, but this classic starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer is as touching as it is often frightening. Of course, he’s not the real monster in the story, the church envoy Frollo is. He’s the true villain here, as ugly on the inside as the hunchback is on the outside. Frollo’s lust for Esmeralda, the gypsy girl (Maureen O’Hara), causes all kinds of scares and action set pieces. The love comes from Quasimodo’s unrequited desire for her after she treats him with kindness. He saves her from more harm, and kills Frollo, but alas, he does not get the girl. It’s a bittersweet love story, one that has stood the test of time and a dozen remakes.


CAT PEOPLE (1942)
More unrequited love, this time with a woman who turns into a vicious panther when sexually aroused. You may laugh as you think of the rather obvious cat metaphors at play here, but this one is surprisingly serious and even moving, not unlike the Laughton vehicle. Simone Simon gives one of horror’s greatest female performances as a woman who wants to love but her strange biology won’t allow it. This is horror based more on insinuation and shadow than out and out scares. The possibility of her turning is always what’s scariest, and it adds delicious tension to the romance that the audience roots for and dreads too.


THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1972)
Can a love story be as passionate even with one of the lover’s as dead as a doornail? It can if it stars Vincent Price. He plays the title character here who is still so in love with his deceased wife that he takes to killing off the London medical staff he blames for letting her expire on the surgical table. It’s romantic in its darkly comedic way as he disposes them according to the Egyptian plagues in the Bible. In between the bloodletting, he waxes sentimental over her loss and walks around his lair, brooding over his lost paramour. It’s macabre and morbid, and yet you’ll find yourself rooting for this fiendish fool of the heart the whole time.


THE FLY (1986)
David Cronenberg remade a cheesy 50’s B-horror movie into one of the scariest and yet loving horror movies ever committed to celluloid. Jeff Goldblum plays Seth, an eccentric scientist who wants to win the love of Veronica. He thinks by proving to her how brilliant his latest experiment is will do the trick. It’s a teleportation device, and he bravely puts himself in it, but when he comes out on the other end of it, his DNA has unwittingly been spliced together with a tagalong fly. Soon, he’s metamorphosing into the winged creature and it’s not pretty. Still, his gesture of love attracts her even more, even though there is rapidly becoming less of his human form to love. The last 20 minutes becomes incredibly gross, but the love story trumps the garishness.


HELLRAISER (1987)
For those who only remember Clive Barker’s classic for the introduction of “Pinhead”, the ahem, head of the demonic Cenobites, they forget that this is actually a twisted love story. Bad-boy Frank (Sean Chapman) escapes from the hellish underworld as a skeletal zombie who must feast off the flesh of others to return to human form. His aide in such a heinous quest? His sister-in-law Julia (Clare Higgins) trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage to Frank’s brother. As they find victims for him so they can be lovers, it pushes the limits of love and often taste. The film loves to show ripped flesh, poked and prodded by hooks, and all kinds of other cutting instruments. It’s sharp horror, that's for sure, and a pretty clever love story to boot. Still, it’s not for the faint of heart.


THE VANISHING (1988)
How far would you go for the love of your life? That’s the question in director George Sluizer's Dutch masterpiece. Rex and Saskia are a couple on holiday when she disappears at a gas station stop. The heartbroken Rex dedicates the next three years of his life trying to find her. His obsession becomes news and ends up drawing out her abductor. He starts sending Rex postcards and teasing the information of her whereabouts. The film becomes one terrifying game of cat and mouse, and Rex will go far beyond love to find his lost love. Trust me, if you aren’t clinging madly to your significant other by the end of this truly disturbing movie, nothing can bring you two together!


LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)
Can children be the leads in a love story? They can, and are, in this Swedish horror tale about the friendship between a lonely boy and the vampire girl who moves in next door. Tomas Alfredson’s direction is subtle and eerie as young Oskar (Kare Hedebrandt) realizes that his new friend Eli (Lina Leandersson) is no more normal than he is. He may be a complete nerd but, yikes, she's a Nosferatu! Their bond soon leads to a mutual appreciation for each other’s eccentricities, and her otherworldly powers make for the right ally to have when schoolyard bullies come-a-callin’. The school pool scene in this modern classic is one of the best horror set-pieces ever. See it. Believe it. 


WARM BODIES (2013)
This quirky comedy from director Jonathan Levine boasts a really sweet love story between a zombie in a post-apocalyptic world named R (Nicholas Hoult) who wanders around feeling nothing until one day he discovers a regular girl-next-door-type named Julie (Teresa Palmer). They fall for each other and soon their love starts making him feel more human. The more time together, the more of his former self returns. It’s a wry romance about the power of love, and if it can turn a monster into a leading man, it can probably get any man to give up the remote or take out the garbage.


CRIMSON PEAK (2015)
One of last year’s most unappreciated films has just come out on DVD and various streaming services, and it deserves a look. It’s more Gothic love story than horror film, though there are plenty of ghosts and genre tropes to please those who love frighteners. Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain give knowing performances as the three leads in Guillermo del Toro’s haunted house thriller. There’s something sinister in the house that could give the Usher mansion a run for its money, and there are some creepy vibes between brother and sister here too. The period costumes and art direction should’ve received Oscar nominations, but the Academy ignored this film as well. Don’t make the same mistake this Valentine’s.


PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (2016)
Currently in theaters, this mash-up of horror and Jane Austen is both scary and romantic. Based on the 2009 spoof novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, it imagines Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters fighting walkers roaming the countryside while looking for a few good men left to marry. Lily James is lots of fun as the rebel Elizabeth, though after this and last year’s “Cinderella”, it might be time for her to choose some more contemporary productions. This is all cheeky fun, filled with sumptuous production values and over-the-top violence, although it should've been made years ago while the book was a phenomenon.


If these ten sound too dark and morbid to you, there are always the films in the TWILIGHT series to watch again. While they were never all that scary, there is plenty of romance to go around as Bella (Kristen Stewart) deals with being pursued by two supernatural suitors. Whether you’re “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” hardly matters, because in the end, the participants in that famous love triangle remain friendly, all ends up well, and none of their hearts are broken, literally or figuratively. An intact heart, who could ask for more this Valentine's?

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