I know what you’re thinking: horror movies on a day that notoriously concerns itself with massive conventional displays of affection is exactly the opposite of how you would traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day. But the truth is, how romantic can a love story be if you’re not warding off demons together or partaking in a bloody sexcapade with your husband's’ dead brother? I urge you all to take an alternative approach to your Valentine’s Day celebrations this year and watch some of my favorite love stories in horror. After all, it’ll serve as a testimony that though real love can be a little scary sometimes, it pales in comparison to what you’re about to see.
The Loved Ones (2009, dir. Sean Byrne)
Now, I don't want to reveal too much but this is when the real romantic fun starts: torture by way of intravenous bleach injections, impaling Brent’s feet to the ground using steak knives, using silverware to carve her initials into his chest, using power tools to drill a hole into his head prefacing his lobotomy. Lola even forces Brent to participate in incredibly uncomfortable acts of eroticism, like sensually sucking her finger while her dad watches. A really questionable and uncomfortable relationship between Lola and her father begins to unfold and soon we realize Brent is only one of the few who have denied Lola’s romantic advances and faced the same fate. I wish I could say that’s the worst of what happens to our poor protagonist, but this is definitely a case in which everything gets worse just when you think it can’t. This movie is an instant Valentine’s Day classic for me because it’s a perfect sum of three of my favorite things: corny John Hughes movies, Carrie, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. And plus, it’s a nice reminder that while being alone on Valentine’s Day or on prom night may be shitty, at least we’re not being lobotomized, right?
Let the Right One In (2008, dir. Tomas Alfredson)
Hellraiser (1987, dir. Clive Barker)
I barely know where to start with Hellraiser, as I feel any fan of horror would have seen it by now but let’s start here: creepy man (Frank Cotton, played by Sean Chapman) buys creepy sex box from a creepy dealer in North Africa. I call it a sex box because Frank utilizes it to “unleash his pleasures,” but rather unintentionally opens the portal to Hell. I hate it when that happens! Needless to say, this means nothing good for Frank, as he is ripped apart by hooks pulling at his flesh. Ultimately, demons (they’re called Cenobites here) appear and take the box and Frank's remains. Frank’s home is abandoned and his brother, Larry, moves in with his second wife Julia, who unbeknownst to Larry had been engaging in a sexual affair with his brother. Larry also has a daughter named Kristy, who chooses not to live with them because she doesn't quite trust Julia, and rightfully so. Eventually Julia uncovers that Frank is not really dead but is instead a grotesquely mutilated monster and needs human blood to regenerate himself into his human physical form. Because she loves Frank (I would call it more of a lustful sexcapade, really), Julia agrees to do anything for him. Even if "anything" constitutes seducing men into Frank's attic under the guise of having sex with them, but instead brutally murdering them so that Frank is able to further restore himself. The Cenobites have a real problem with Frank doing this and must hunt him down. Now, I don't know how romantic killing innocent men for the sake of your lover is, but ultimately Julia is killed and the Cenobites send Frank back to Hell for breaking their agreement. This movie serves as an impeccable mix of an erotic romantic drama and a sadomasochistic gore fest, which is also (at least in my opinion) the perfect equation for the perfect Valentine's Day.
The Conjuring 2 (2016, dir. James Wan)
The Conjuring 2 allows us to continue following the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga), a married couple that also both happen to be paranormal investigators. In 1977, they visit London to investigate the case of Peggy Hodson and her family, as Peggy believes that their home is plagued by something evil and that her daughter Janet may be possessed. It is important to note that around this time, people had become skeptical of previous cases being hoaxes and did not believe in Lorraine’s paranormal abilities. Because of this and a vision she had depicting the death of her beloved husband, Lorraine is hesitant to investigate this case but ultimately does so anyway. Once the Warrens meet the family, they begin to witness supernatural phenomena that convinces them that Janet is indeed possessed. After a series of terrifying paranormal activities, Lorraine and Ed are given reason to believe that the case may be a hoax and decide it isn’t safe for them to further investigate. They are almost leaving London when Lorraine has a vision that proves the authenticity of the case and the Warrens decide to return, but find that the demon has manifested and endangers Ed (just as Lorraine had predicted at the beginning).Through an incredible act of bravery and love for her husband, Lorraine faces the demon and condemns it back to Hell before it is able to kill Ed and the Hodson family. While The Conjuring 2 isn’t a romantic movie at first glance by any means, there are still so many heartwarming instances to take note of. They really do a great job of making the audience care about the relationship between these characters, especially for a horror movie. In a scene where Janet is horrified about her possession, Lorraine tells her a comforting story about how she used to be scared of being cast out and alone as a result of her clairvoyance. She tells Janet that she found someone who understood her and loved her unconditionally through that fear, and she married him. Later, Ed tells Janet the same story from his perspective. In another scene (and possibly my very favorite from the movie), Ed comforts the family by singing Elvis Presley’s "Can’t Help Falling In Love" in dedication to his wife and the evident love the Hodson family has for each other despite what they have been plagued with. The Conjuring 2 is rather heartwarming for a horror movie and at its core is about how love is able to transcend even the most frightening times.
Holidays (2016, dir. Sarah Adina Smith, Kevin Smith et. al.)
The first segment covers none other than Valentine’s Day. Now, while this segment runs not much longer than 20 minutes before they move on to other holidays, it was so good that I had to put this movie on the list. Maxine (Madeleine Coghlan) is the target of bullying from the popular girl at school, Heidi (Savannah Kendrick). Because Maxine is a little awkward and rarely stands up for herself, her swimming coach, coach Rockwell (Rick Peters), takes up the role and defends her when he can. This leads Maxine to develop an intense crush on Coach Rockwell, which the other girls quickly notice and use to taunt Maxine. The coach overhears the girls mock Maxine about her crush on him, and in efforts to perform an innocent gesture of kindness, ultimately decides to leave her a Valentine's Day card in her dressing room locker. As you would imagine, upon finding the note from Coach Rockwell, Maxine is overjoyed: finally her days of getting mocked were over because coach Rockwell had noticed her and not the other girls. She just has to return the gesture, so naturally Maxine follows Heidi into the woods after school and rips her heart out straight from her chest...with her bare hands. I mean, what better gift to give Coach Rockwell than the beating heart of her swim team mate? The segment ends with Maxine offering Coach Rockwell the heart, and though we (very unfortunately) don’t find out what happens to Maxine or the coach, Holidays continues to up the gory ante with each passing segment. Holidays is a great exploration of the darkness that often comes with our most beloved days of the year and will definitely alter the definition of giving someone your heart this Valentine’s Day.