Horror Romance is the hidden and unlikely hero of the horror genre. But some of history’s most iconic horror stories are romance-based, and for good reason: these types of stories are special in that they depict themes that are both light and dark – the human. and the monster in us, the blurry line between fear and desire. From “Dracula” (1992), “Crimson Peak” (2015), “The Shape of Water” (2017) and the new “Candyman” coming in August 2021, see how these classic and iconic horror films help to better understand the most mysterious and frightening force of all: ourselves.
A brief history
The heart of romance is what defines horror today.
In the 18th century, the word “romance” was used to designate what today would be called “fantasy”. Romanticism was a historic movement that valued catastrophes, irregularity, emotion, freedom and the supernatural, a response to the classicism movement in the previous century which was concerned with order, symmetry, restraint and worldliness. A story that contained fantasy and supernatural elements was considered a “romance,” and the original Gothic novels were (and are) called “Gothic romances,” arguably the first iteration of horror romance.
What all horror romances have in common is the motif of love as a powerful force, defying barriers of race, class, age, species, and even life itself. . The climax of these horror stories is always the kiss, conveyed in the heart of the moment – to the swell of the orchestral strings, to the stabbing, or as the authorities burst in, ready to deliver fate. .
Dracula: a pioneer of horror romance
Our brave protagonists may find themselves in love with monsters of all kinds, whose monstrosity itself is magnetic. A classic example would be Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, written in 1897, whose monster is as terrifying as it is captivating. The original literature would establish Count Dracula as the quintessential vampire and forever associate images of wealth, bloodlust and seduction with these creatures. The story tells of Dracula’s attempts to move from Transylvania to England to find new blood and spread vampirism, and the ensuing battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by the professor. Abraham Van Helsing.
However, Dracula has gone beyond his original character and become a cultural force in his own right, tackling new social themes with each adaptation. There are as many variants of the villain as there are victims of Dracula, that is to say endless and ever more widespread. But for horror romance in particular, it was the 1992 film version of Dracula that inspired the cultural aesthetic behind our modern vampires such as Edward cullen and Stefan Salvatore. The 1992 version, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, portrayed Count Dracula as a devoted and loving husband who returned from the battles of the Crusades to discover that his wife, Elisabeta, had committed suicide after hearing a false report about her death.
The injustice of his fate leads him to renounce God and turn to vampirism in order to avenge Elisabeta with the powers of darkness. Dracula’s humanity – his undying and deeply felt love for his wife – is as present as his monstrosity, which manifests itself through numerous scenes of murder and terror. In the end, Dracula is redeemed, like Romeo and Juliet: After their heartfelt confession, he asks Mina, the reincarnation of Elisabeta, to stab him in the heart, finally allowing him to ascend to heaven with Elisabeta. It is a story as sympathetic to the human condition as it is frightening.
The Candyman: fear is just another type of desire
They say there is a fine line between love and hate, but the same could be said of fear and desire. Fear fades in the shadow of desire. Terrible and compelling, horror romance is about our deepest and darkest desires, with horror occurring in the actualization of our desires.
“Candy”, Bernard Rose’s 1992 classic, is the story of a villain who was created out of an act of passion – a black man, murdered for his relationship with a rich white woman. The film focuses on modern times, where the Candyman is just a myth (or at least it seems) and the subject of a research thesis by our protagonist, Helen, who bears a striking resemblance to Candyman’s long lost lover. Candyman’s undying love for women is juxtaposed with his thirst for blood and revenge on those who discredit his legend. Helen is also unaffected – her very real fear of Candyman’s wars along with her desire to get the scoop for her dissertation and ultimately her own desire for revenge on her unfaithful professor husband and a society that lacks it. ‘oppressed and silenced her.
There are several sequels after the 1992 version, but the most innovative might be the version written by Jordan Peele and produced by Nia DaCosta, released in August 2021. This spiritual sequel ties in directly to the original, featuring role-playing retaliation and a continuation of racial themes, though Candyman’s origin story is now about an innocent man accused of placing blades. razor in candy that he gave to children and later murdered by the police.
Desire and loathing lurk together
Sometimes the line between lust and loathing isn’t so sharp, and our characters have to struggle with their own compulsions, whether that’s to run away or persevere to the bloody end.
In “Crimson Peak”, the spectator’s subconscious is put to the ultimate test, mixing in turn his desire and his disgust. There is nothing really classic about the romance here. The principal lady, Edith Cushing, is a writer of ghost stories initially opposed to romance in her fiction and reality. Our lead man, Thomas Sharpe, takes a back seat once they’re married, and the real villain, the alluring and psychotic Lucille Sharpe, takes over. Aided by ghosts, Edith discovers the horrific secrets of the relationship she is now trapped in. The house might as well be a symbol of the film; the rotten estate is as sensual as it is strange, the great opulence a stark contrast to the walls oozing red mud, swarms of moths and the bloody specters of their former inhabitants.
Subsequently, the horror of the film is difficult to pin down; brutal violence and twisted secrets are deeply interwoven with sensual excess, and the sweet marriage of Edith and Thomas is made indelible by the incestuous relationship between Thomas and Lucille.
Horror romances are effective because of their conflicting elements
Romance, in the form of a young love, can be used as a tool to advance the plot, create suspense, and contrast with gruesome scenes to horrify us even more. “Leave the one on the right in” is a Swedish vampire film that gives a twist to the trope of a sweet friendship turned into a relationship. In this drama, two teenagers find a sense of belonging in their shared desire for blood: the vampire who needs to kill and the bullied outcast who wants to kill his tormentors.
Or, as in the case of “Honeymoon,” “You are the next” and “Get Out”, the young love is used to destabilize the audience by starting with an idyllic and romantic setting in anticipation of the horror to come. You know it happens, which makes it all the more frightening.
Horror Romance shows us the beautiful in the terrible and the terrible in the beautiful
Beauty and horror are just two sides of the same coin: what can be monstrous at the beginning can quickly become an object of desire.
In the Oscar winner “The shape of the water,“This message seems obvious, almost superficial. A woman overcomes her fear of the strange non-man, ends up desiring him, and helps him flee from evil government authorities.
But director Guillermo del Toro subverts the romantic notion to make it horror, to challenge our sensitivity to what is acceptable, to revel in the overthrow of the cultural order. Del Toro’s aquatic monster doesn’t transform into a human or give up on himself to be loved. Beauty is no longer opposed to horror, and so the beast can be loved for itself.
In an interview with Vulture, del Toro explains that the film “tries to embody the beauty of” the Other “in a direct rejection of the way we are told to” demonize the Other “and to divide the world between” us “and” them “, without distinction of race, religion, sexuality preference or gender.
And in this case, the human could be the monster. “The Shape of Water” highlights how people feel alienated by their differences, as in the case of our silent and lonely protagonist, and how humanity, in the form of the sadistic CIA agent, may be the cruelest monster of all.
For seasoned horror fans, romantic horror movies can feature a new twist and deep unboxing themes that will keep you awake at night for more than just a fear of the dark. For those new to horror or not quite ready to be terrified, horror romances can be a gateway to the genre.
So grab your popcorn and sit down to watch some of the genre’s most iconic movies, with the Horr-o-Meter below – 10 movies ranked from most exciting (10) to most romantic (1) – like guide.
ten. “Return of the Living Dead 3“ – Weak stomachs do not need to apply.
9. “Candy“ – Bees will never leave your mind.
8. “Fly“ – ” Be frightened. Be very afraid.
7. “Get out“ – A reminder of how terrifying American reality can be.
6. “Warm bodies“ – Don’t worry, you have a zombie lover to protect you from other brain-eating corpses!
5. “Leave the one on the right in“ – Sweet, but scary.
4. “Dracula “(1992) – Count Dracula is as grotesque as he is attractive.
3. “The shape of water“ – What is really frightening is humanity’s own fear.
2. “Crimson woodpecker“ – Gothic romance in every sense of the word, but scary? Not really.
1. The Twilight Saga – Bella really should be more afraid than loving vampires.