Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Bride of Frankenstein could be therapeutic for any guy who’s ever been rejected by the girl of their dreams—in other words, pretty much every man with a pulse. Despite its unhappy ending, director James Whale’s excellent Frankenstein sequel beats with a genuinely romantic heart, turning Boris Karloff’s scary monster into a teddy bear of sorts. Like the rest of us, Frank just wants someone to love—beneath the flesh and limbs of multiple corpses lies a hopeless romantic. And when Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) creates his potential bride (Elsa Lanchester), you’re rooting for the big undead guy. You want them to walk hand-in-hand through a cemetery and into the moonlit darkness. Sadly, though, Frank’s luck mirrors the saddest sack’s Match.com experiences.
Directed by the great William Friedkin, Bug is ridiculously underrated. Originally a stage play by Tracy Letts, it’s a claustrophobic nightmare tinged with an underlying sense of romantic danger. Having locked themselves inside a grungy motel room, Agnes, a lonely, down-and-out, and battered woman (Ashley Judd), and Peter, a paranoid war vet (Michael Shannon, at his manic best) grow more and more infatuated with one another as they gradually lose their minds. He thinks the government is after him, due to the biological tests they performed on him during his military service; she, meanwhile, is scared to death of the abusive ex-husband (Harry Connick, Jr.) who won’t leave her alone. As Bug escalates towards its horrifying and wildly batshit climax, Agnes and Peter evolve—or, rather, devolve—into a kind of Romeo and Juliet for the clinically insane.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
The scariest movie based on Dracula lore is, of course, Nosferatu, but the most warm-hearted? That’d be Francis Ford Coppola’s under-appreciated Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a gorgeous work of cinematic art that both turns its source material into a tragic romance and manages to survive the horribly miscast Keanu Reeves. As played by Gary Oldman, Coppola’s Count Dracula isn’t just a monster that bites necks and sucks blood—he’s a heartbroken lover hell-bent on avenging his wife Elisabeta’s suicide 400 years earlier, which happened when she was wrongfully told he’d been killed.
The Fly (1986)
Forget William Shakespeare and Romeo & Juliet—David Cronenberg’s The Fly is the most tragic love story imaginable. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) fall madly in love with each other, and you’re excited to see their romance blossom—but then you remember you’re watching a Cronenberg horror film. Because of a laboratory screw-up, Seth begins his slow and painful transformation into a human-sized fly, which, understandably, complicates their relationship—if you think long-distance unions are tough to manage, try coping with the fact that your love child could very well emerge from the womb as an infant maggot.
How far would you go for the one you love? If you’re Hellraiser’s Julia Cotton (Claire Higgins), you’ll become a secondhand serial killer. Known more for its sadomasochistic edge and gruesome violence, Clive Barker’s extreme horror classic isn’t an obvious viewing choice for the next date night with your significant other, but think about it—what’s more romantic than keeping your lover alive by luring men to him so he can brutally murder them and use their blood for sustenance? Indeed, Pinhead is essentially Clive Barker’s version of Cupid.
For its first 25-30 minutes, Honeymoon is a sweet and charming little romance. Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) have just gotten married and are spending the weekend in a quaint and secluded cabin. They’re clearly head over heels for each other, and writer-director Leigh Janiak lets you feel that love. So when a mysterious late-night incident in the woods causes Bea to start acting peculiarly distant and increasingly strange, you really want Paul to figure out how to save their merely days-old marriage. The hopeless romantic in you aches, then, as Honeymoon charges toward its inevitably unpleasant conclusion.
King Kong (2005)
Yes, to accept that King Kong is a love story means that you may end up thinking some uncomfortable beastiality thoughts. But that’s because you’re now a potty-minded adult. When you were a kid, King Kong spoke to you on a touchingly romantic level, making you wish that mankind would just leave the humongous gorilla alone and let it hang out with Ann in peace. One particular scene in Peter Jackson’s 2005 take on the classic story exemplifies its big beating heart: Shortly before the beast meets its heartbreaking fate, Kong plays on a frozen pond in Central Park with Ann. For a few minutes, Kong gets to experience the kind of just-the-two-of-us bliss that’s usually reserved for movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Even society’s outcasts want love in their lives. That quiet kid in class, the one who blends into the scenery and endures cruel jokes from his jerky peers? Yes, he, especially goes home wishing he could meet someone who understands him and adores him for who he is, and in Let the Right One In, he has the movie to prove that it’s not a hopeless cause—granted, he can find a gentle, soft-spoken vampire of his own. Beautifully directed by Tomas Alfredson, this Swedish horror masterpiece uses a bullied 12-year-old boy and an immortal 12-year-old-looking bloodsucker to capture the highs, lows, and, in this story’s case, the fatalistic complications that stem from finding your soul mate, against all odds.
The Mummy (1932)
The biggest secret about Boris Karloff’s Imhotep in classic Universal movie The Mummy: he’s really a lover, not a monster. Brought back to life after an overzealous fool reads an old Egyptian scroll aloud, Imhotep wants nothing more to be reunited with his one true love, the princess Ankh-es-en-amon. She’s the reason he was mummified alive in the first place, the result of his frowned-upon efforts to resurrect her corpse back in his Ancient Egyptian times. As a bandaged zombie, he’s still in love with the Princess and desperately wants to be with a beautiful woman who looks a hell of a lot like his beloved Ankh-es-en-amon. Sure, Imhotep kills a few people in the process, but, hey, real love always requires a sacrifice.
Red, White & Blue (2010)
Be warned: You really shouldn’t watch Red, White & Blue with your girlfriend or boyfriend if he or she isn’t fond of movies that’ll crush their viewers’ souls. Ferociously bleak and often hard to watch, British provocateur Simon Rumley’s underrated 2010 powerhouse of a film shows what happens when an unstable Iraq War veteran (Noah Taylor) goes on a warpath after some deviants kill the woman he loves. Red, White & Blue is that rare cinematic romance where one man’s love manifests itself while he’s skinning another man alive with a hunting knife.
Return of the Living Dead III (1993)
If you’re looking for a traditional zombie movie, steer clear of this, the second sequel to Dan O’Bannon’s punk-minded 1985 classic Return of the Living Dead. But if you’re willing to embrace its lack of reanimated corpses, Return of the Living Dead III is actually a refreshing change of pace for zombie cinema, putting more emphasis on its star-crossed lovers plot than any George A. Romero influence. A motorcycle accident kills the beautiful Julie (Melinda Clarke), leading her boyfriend, Curt (J. Trevor Edmond), to use a military-engineered gas to bring her back to life—as a flesh-eater, of course. No matter how many brains Julie eats, though, Curt remains smitten by her. It gives the phrase “undying love” the sickest meaning possible.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Billed as a “zom-rom-com,” Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead sets the bar high for all men determined to patch up broken relationships. It takes a special kind of guy to win back his pissed-off girlfriend during a zombie apocalypse, but that’s exactly what Shaun (Simon Pegg) is—thanks to the living dead outbreak, the once-aimless rube morphs into a surprisingly badass rube, slaying ghouls and leading his ragtag group of survivors all so he can prove to his girl, Liz (Kate Ashfield), that he’s worth her time and romantic energy. Makes those flowers you brought in CVS for your unhappy missus seem extra lame, doesn’t it?
The Signal (2007)
With three directors (David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry) and endless tonal shifts, The Signal is difficult to categorize. Separated into three segments, or “transmissions,” the film meshes slasher tropes, black comedy, and psychological horror into its nightmarish set-up, in which a technological virus that turns people into homicidal maniacs. But there’s one constant through-line that keeps The Signal grounded in romance: the story of Ben (Justin Welborn) heroically trying to find his lover, Mya (Anessa Ramsey), while fending off her murderous lunatic of a husband, Lewis (A.J. Bowen).
The Vanishing (1988)
Put a heavy emphasis on “hopeless” here. A downer on par with Requiem for a Dream, Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer’s The Vanishing is cinema at its most uncompromising and punishing. The main character, Rex (Gene Bervoets), is obsessed with finding his love, Saskia, who’s been missing since she walked into a gas station and never walked back out; Rex doesn’t know that she’s been abducted by a sociopathic family man named Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), and when Rex befriends Raymond, he doesn’t realize that it’s the beginning of the end for his search. Rex is a sucker for love, a guy who’s so passionate about his girlfriend that he’s willing to head right into the abyss to save her. Which is admirable, yes, but also damning in this devastating piece of first-rate psychological horror.
Who wouldn’t want a ride-or-die boyfriend or girlfriend? You know, someone who’ll do anything for his or her main squeeze, even if that thing is going on a murder spree? That’s the bottom line in Belgian filmmaker Fabrice du Welz’s wickedly visceral and strangely poignant Alleluia, the latest film to pull direct inspiration from real-life serial killer couple Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, a.k.a. the Honeymoon Killers. Currently awaiting its 2015 U.S. release date, via Music Box Films, Alleluia looks like a fever dream, penetrates with its shockingly realistic violence, and thrives on the same demented type of love that makes Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers so unsettlingly romantic.