It’s that special time of year where we all get heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and indulge in one too many glasses of wine, but perhaps you’re not in the mood for Love Actually, or maybe you’ve run the gamut of 90’s Rom-Com’s and want something a little extra and different. One of the most extraordinary things about the horror genre is that it hosts a large number of sub-genres, and as surprising as it may be, horror has room for even love and romance or ripping someone’s heart out. The jury is still out on that.
Here are some of my personal favorite horror movies in line with the holiday; maybe you watch them solo, or you’re lucky enough to have a partner who loves horror and will indulge you. Either way, let’s get on to the picks.
My Bloody Valentine (1981) D. George Mihalka, W. Stephen Miller
My Bloody Valentine (2009) D. Patrick Lussier, W. Stephen Miller
Am I cheating by pairing these two together? Sure. Are both required viewing? Absolutely.
While more or less following the same basic structure of each other and other similarly holiday-themed slasher flicks (Halloween, Friday The 13th, April Fools Day, etc), both films have small nuances to them that separate them from each other, and while the story of a killer decked out in coal miner gear may not be the most inventive in a post-Halloween world; My Bloody Valentine manages to incorporate a somewhat effective mystery element to the movies and keeps people guessing with compelling storytelling, red herrings, and a stunning 3rd act reveal.
Also, the remake features one of my all-time favorite horror movie actors ever, Tom Atkins. Thrill me indeed.
Audition (1999) D. Takashi Miike, W. Ryū Murakami
OK, you audition some women with the hidden objective that you’re secretly looking for a partner and girlfriend. Pretty sleazy, doesn’t age well in a post-Me Too world. Still, what’s exciting and fun is that the film manages to flip the script and put the men in a position of vulnerability, which creates this interesting role reversal and power dynamic. As crazy as some of the violence gets in Audition (piano wire, anyone?), it’s a fascinating dive into what makes us fearful and how we really can’t assume that people are as innocent as they appear to be.
It’s one of the most brutal horror films to watch. Still, interestingly it’s a character harming manipulative and despicable characters, so in some bizarre way, the antagonist is the anti-hero.
For the numerous credits under Takashi Miike‘s name; Audition will always be his best work.
Audition is currently available to stream on Tubi.
The Love Witch (2016) D. Anna Biller, W. Anna Biller
Writer and Director Anna Biller crafts a potent film about a young witch named Elaine, played by an enchanting Samantha Robinson, who uses potions and spells to pick up and seduce men. It’s an exciting tale that works because, in a way, it’s a modern exploitation film that manages to be equal parts feminist and true to its roots.
In fact, this movie is so embedded in the past, that you may not realize it came out in 2016. With a few exceptions, it’s deeply embedded in the world of 70’s Hammer films.
While full of mild scares, the movie is also full of sex appeal and charm. Elaine uses her good looks and charm (along with potions and spells) to win over these men, but it only works because Samantha Robinson is as seductive and charming as humanly possible. Even as terrible fates befall the men she encounters, you almost think it’d be worth it for a date with Elaine.
The Love Witch is currently streaming on various platforms.
The Fly (1986) D. David Cronenberg, W. Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg
There’s a leering sense of tragedy over The Fly. From the moment Seth meets Veronica, you know their relationship is doomed. When they meet there is no swelling orchestral soundtrack, just melancholy and an impending collision (literally) that will adjust their lives forever.
People often mention that the movie is an analog for HIV/AIDS in the ’80s and yes, that is true, but that’s such a cold read on a movie that has much more to say. Over the course of the movie, we see Seth transform into Brundlefly and Veronica struggles to come to terms with what’s happening.
When the movie reaches the conclusion, there’s no satisfaction, just sadness, and disparity. You know that their love could’ve been but never will be and while depressing in a sense, it’s still a poignant tale nonetheless.
The Fly is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence (1992) D. William Lustig (and Joel Soisson), W. Larry Cohen
OK, so how is the third movie in a Bill Lustig trilogy about a killer cop eligible as Valentine’s movie?
Easy. The Maniac Cop falls in love.
It might be a bit of a stretch, but in the final moments of the vastly underappreciated Maniac Cop III, the titular Maniac Cop moves his hand to grab that of his love’s. Despite this being a franchise where a cop runs rampant killing people, it’s a sincere moment of humanity for the gruesome undead cop and a moment where you go “awe” before remembering the body count and remembering that he is indeed still the Maniac Cop.
Maniac Cop III: Badge Of Silence is currently streaming on Shudder.
Near Dark (1987) D. Kathryn Bigelow, W. Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red
While this list is in no particular order, if it were, Near Dark would be my Number 1 pick.
It’s a lot of things; it’s one of Kathryn Bigelow’s first movies. She’s, of course, famous for Point Break, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty. It’s also combining elements of the Western genre with Horror. It’s the late Bill Paxton‘s best performance by a long shot. Above all else, it also is a heartfelt love story. Both in the love Caleb has for his family, but also the love he has for Mae.
There’s a lot of great action and kills; I mean, when you have the director of Point Break behind the helm, this is a given. The film is loaded with many great moments of sincerity and tenderness. Even with all the action and kills, it never loses its heart.
Near Dark is currently not available for streaming.
Let The Right One In (2008) D. Tomas Alfredson, W. John Ajvide Lindqvist
I mean, this is a movie that centers on the bond between a young bullied boy and a young girl he befriends. It just so happens that the girl, Eli, is a vampire. Bad luck on that one, I guess.
Like Near Dark, this movie instills a great sense of heart that it never loses even when the action ramps up, and does it ever. Just one viewing of the ‘pool scene’ will be enough for most people to fall in love with this film.
Let The Right One In is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
What are your favorite horror movies to watch on Valentine’s Day?