Love and Horror
For the uninitiated, the combination of love and horror makes about as much sense as using bleach and ammonia together – not smart, and certainly deadly. But for those of us who’ve lived in the horror space since we were wee babes understand that love and horror go together like chocolate and cayenne, Ripley and Hicks, that annoying Karen screaming for the manager and the back of a security officer’s hand.
Now many might think I mean sex. And don’t get me wrong. Sex is a fun trope in horror. But I’m talking about the emotion; the psychological bond between people that influences their actions and drives their motivations. With spring fast approaching, that time of year where all creatures become twitterpated in one form or another, why not explore some examples of romantic love and horror in movie form?
(WARNING: Spoilers Ahead)
Bram Stokers Dracula (1992)
Despite the flaws of this 1992 film (miserable inconsistent accents, terrible acting), the deeper exploration of the romantic vein (ha, see what I did there?) makes for a beautiful arc. Everything Dracula did, from his mortal days to his supernatural centuries to his true death, was motivated by love of Elizabeta/Mina. Once he realizes Mina is an exact copy of his former wife, he immediately goes to her. I think turning Lucy was not just a vampiric urge but perhaps a way to plant the seed of the idea that his way of ‘life’ was something that could be desired and the best way for them to spend eternity together.
Once he realizes how cursed he truly is, Dracula initially refuses to turn Mina because he “loves her too much to condemn her.” And when it comes to accepting his final death, he knows it’s the right thing to do in order to free Mina from their physical and psychic link.
Excuse me, I’ve got something in my eye…
Warm Bodies (2013)
Uber fans of the zombie genre went absolutely APESHIT with hate over this flick. Okay, Evan, you’re a hard-core “real” fan of the walking dead. We get it. It’s okay if you don’t like a little romance with your rotting flesh. Just walk away and let other people enjoy things.
I think this movie injected long overdue revitalization into this horror subgenre. I’ve loved zombies for a long time, too, but let’s face it. Things get stale after a while. Gotta shake it up a bit, you know? Seeing Nicholas Holt’s “R” bring some warmth, emotion, and love into the world of rotting flesh in 2013 was refreshing. Once he meets Julie, his actions are only for her. He protects her; he shambles into the lion’s den (the human camp) to warn her of impending danger. And the idea that the dead can relearn their humanity through connection and understanding was a nice twist on this age-old tale of the undead.
You might think I’m making a case for love to give horror some beauty and gentleness. Hang on to your tits, dear reader. Because everything that happens in this 1980 freak fest from Lamberto Bava is anything but beautiful. If you haven’t seen it but enjoy that flavor of Italian horror you just can’t get anywhere else, stop what you’re doing right now and go find a copy. Bernice Stegers plays Jane, an unstable woman who is devastated by the death of her lover. He was her entire world, so what’s a gal to do? Preserve her lover’s head in her refrigerator and make love to it all the time. Obvi.
Aside from having to hide her activities from the landlord and other renters in the apartment building, Jane is motivated only by the love she had and still has for her dead boyfriend. Granted, her light is on and no one’s home, but that doesn’t make her any less deserving of love from a corpse, does it? DOES IT?
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
I can hear you all screaming that if love is a struggle to bind with horror then CERTAINLY musicals push the credulity beyond the limit, amirite? To that I’d respond, obviously you’ve never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But where that movie is more about sexuality and sex and aliens, Repo presents us a much darker side. While love is a great reason to do what’s right, it’s also something that pushes us to make all the WRONG choices, whether we realize it or not.
Nathan lives for the memory of his love for his late wife, Marni, and shelters their daughter, Shilo, in place in order to protect her from harm (also a good example of familial love right there). Rotti does everything he can to destroy Nathan in every way because, despite Rotti’s love for Marni, she still rejected him for Nathan. Obviously greed and vanity run rampant, however, our main players do everything for love, even if it means the total destruction of those they care about the most.
The Mummy (1999)
Karloff, Schmarloff. For this example, I’m talking about the 1999 gem starring Brendan Fraser, Arnold Vosloo, and Rachel Weisz. When we begin, Imhotep is deeply in love with Anck Su Namun. They even kill her husband so they can be together. Too bad they get caught and die. Once resurrected, Imhotep is STILL in love with Anck Su Namun and destroys everything and everyone that gets in his way to resurrect her.
As the story progresses, Rick and Evie fall in love and do everything they can to protect one another and all they hold dear.
Sure, this is a bit lighter fare than the others I’ve discussed. It never gets super heavy with philosophy or ethics. But it’s a fun entertaining ride to see just how far people will go in the name of love.
While it may not be an obvious bond, love and horror belong together. Love brings personal connection to horror – if we don’t care about what happens to those in terrible circumstances, then what’s the point? And horror brings a little fire to love – whispering sweet nothings to your lover is wonderful but don’t we need our lives threatened just a little in order to understand what makes love worth fighting for?