I love you to death!

Laura Macfehin looks at the horror flicks that best fit your every Valentine’s Day mood.

OK, so I’m a little biased in that I truly believe every holiday is made better with a horror film, but I think that a very strong case can be made for horror being the perfect Valentine’s Day match. 

Sure on the surface a Rom-Com might seem more appropriate– but I think we all know that these are by and large a tissue of lies and un-meetable expectations that do nothing for real-life romance except set us up for at best disappointment and at worst the inability to differentiate between romance and disturbing stalker behaviour.

Horror, on the other hand delivers no matter what your Valentine’s needs may be.  For those in a new relationship there is nothing more bonding than sharing a scare or discussing how you would have avoided the slasher’s axe. 

For those jaded with romance or happily dating yourself in a world obsessed with hetero pair bonding, what could be more cathartic than seeing young love literally getting its heart ripped out. 

And for those soft souls in a committed relationship with their beloved only horror provides stories of romance that defy time and space to endure.

Scream if you want to go faster!

If you’re on the new relationship buzz one of the best things you can do is watch a good old fashioned slasher flick.  You’ll be jumping into each others arms in no time! There are obviously plenty to choose from but some that  that might work particularly well are–

Urban Legend (1998)

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Although it’s not specifically Valentine’s Day themed it is one of the best slasher films of the 90s.  Students at a New England university start popping off in ways that suspiciously mirror the eponymous legends. 

It’s got a bit of the meta po-mo self-reflexiveness made popular by the Scream movies but it is also just great slasher flick.  The formula was at its peak here and a good time via a nostalgic trip back to the simpler late 1990s is guaranteed.

If you want to see all those horror tropes in their original incarnations then you have to travel back to the early 80s.  My Bloody Valentine (1981) hasn’t been lauded like other films in the genre–  movies like Friday the 13th (1980) or Halloween (1978) but its a great little picture. 

Twenty years after a Valentines Day dance is turned into a massacre by a traumatised miner the town decides to party again… with deadly consequences! 

Sure it might not be that scary to our 21st century eyes but it is set in Valentines Bluff on Valentines Day so you can’t get more on theme than that.

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Also with an on-the-nose Valentine’s theme is Hospital Massacre (1981) aka X-Ray aka Be My Valentine, Or Else…  In the same ‘killer returns’ mode Hospital Massacre features a woman who in her youth spurns a would-be valentine.  Twenty years later and– you guessed it– he’s back and still wants to claim her heart!

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In a similar vein but as yet un-viewed by me are Lover’s Lane (1999) and Valentine (2001).  The latter stars David Boreanaz of Angel fame and Denise Richards, and both films look trashy as all get out which is a bonus for me– the trashier the slashier in my books.

Love is for losers

In more recent years we’ve had a bevy of horror features with a somewhat more cynical take on romance and dating, so if that’s your current feels there are some fabulous films supporting that mood!

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You’re Next (2011) is still one of my favourite horrors to come out in the past ten years.  Centred around the already fraught ‘meeting the parents’ scenario You’re Next makes the idea that love is a trap literal with stellar turns from aussie Sharni Vinson and horror icon Barbara Crampton.  If you’ve ever shouted at characters not to be so stupid you’ll find this flick a very satisfying watch!

There are more aussies highlighting the dark side of love in The Loved Ones (2009).  When troubled but spunky teen Brent turns down Lola Stone’s invitation to a dance (he already has a girlfriend after all) Lola enlists her dad’s help to make her prom dreams come true– with decidedly twisted results.  It may seem odd to call something so gut-roiling ‘refreshing’ but The Loved Ones really is, and not just because its a gender-flip on the usual spurned-dork-becomes-killer storyline.  They are thrills and gore a-plenty here.

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If you’ve had first hand experience with gaslighting, belittling and other bullshit behaviour then last year’s Midsommar (2019)  is for you.  An American college student tags along with her (obviously the worst) boyfriend and his friends on a trip to a secretive Swedish commune.  Yes there are a couple of shocks along the way but cartharsis is the name of the game here and sometimes you need a good slap in the face.  

See also May (2002), Teeth (2007), Jennifer’s Body (2009), and Get Out (2017) 

Gothic Romance

It’s not all romance gone bad in horror films though– in fact some of the most romantic storylines (in my slightly gothy brain anyway) are contained in horror scripts.  So if you’re a loved up softy then horror is still the greatest genre to with which to celebrate.

I may have been at a somewhat formative stage when Francis Ford Coppola brought out his version of Dracula (1992), but I still think Gary Oldman’s Count is the most romantic to have graced the silver screen.  You couldn’t be an angsty teen in the early 90s and not swoon when he says this to Winona Ryder.

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To be fair by the time Coppola made his gothic period piece my penchant for creepy re-vivified ancient lovers had already been established by Boris Karloff’s role in The Mummy (1932).  Everything in this film is beautiful, from Jack Pierce’s masterful monster makeup to the romantic love that would bring Imhotep back from the dead looking for his re-incarnated princess.

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Ok it may seem like I’m just sticking this last one in here because I like to put Poltergeist (1982) on every list I make, but I genuinely think of this as a very romantic film.  Unlike a lot of horrors in which a family is divided by a paranormal experience, the Freeling’s stick together.  Ultimately it is the strength of their love and in particular Steve’s confidence in his wife that allows her to rescue her daughter and protect their little family and, corny as it sounds, that seems really romantic to me.

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For other genuinely romantic films see also: The Conjuring (2013), and The Lost Boys (1987),

So what do think?  Is horror the perfect accompaniment to Valentine’s Day?  What will you be watching?

Scary Sisters: New horror directed by women

Laura looks at the current batch of lady horror filmmakers and the terrifying films they are bringing fans!

Genre films have always had a little more wriggle room for creators otherwise excluded from the mainstream… which is maybe one of the reasons women have a slightly higher representation as directors here than they have in big studio projects. 

In recent years directors like Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) and Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night ) have put women horror directors in the news in a way they have never been before.  So who are the new horror ladies on the scene I am most excited about?

Roxanne Benjamin

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Roxanne Benjamin is definitely a director on my ‘ones to keep an eye on’ list.  After producing and co-producing films like the V.H.S. series and Devil’s Candy, she made her directorial debut by contributing to the intriguing sort-of anthology movie Southbound (2015). 

She was then one of the five women who contributed to the horror anthology XX (2017) .  Her segment ‘Don’t Fall‘ involved curses and camping grounds and definitely delivered the scares.  XX is very solid anthology that delivers some spooky storytelling in delightfully different settings. 

Benjamin’s latest film, Body at Brighton Rock is currently in production and is set to provide more out-of-the-way scares as it features a park ranger guarding what could be a crime scene on a remote mountain trail.  I can’t wait!

XX can be found on Netflix,  The V.H.S. series of films and The Devil’s Candy are available on iTunes.

Julia Ducournau

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Julia Ducournau made her feature directorial debut with Raw (2016), which won her the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes Film Festival and garnered her plenty of attention as a perspective on the horror scene. 

The film follows the sheltered and decidedly vegetarian Justine as she enters into the chaotic and sensorialy overloaded environment of veterinarian school orientation, something which involves some decidedly carnivorous hazing rites, and something with which her older sister seems surprisingly au fait.

Raw is available on iTunes.

Leigh Janiak

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Leigh Janiak’s first feature film Honeymoon (2014) is a salutary lesson in what can be achieved with a good idea and a good eye even if the budget is not on the large side.  It asks the creepy questions “what if you don’t know the person you’re in love with?” and “what if that person is a monster?”.

The film proved her directing mettle so satisfactorily that she is now super busy developing projects for Sony and 20th Century Fox including a sequel to the 1996 witchy classic The Craft (oh my god I know– I am so excited too!!) and three, count them three adaptations of the R. L. Stine Fear Street books.  Did I mention how excited I am about The Craft sequel?

Honeymoon is available on Netflix.

Karyn Kusama

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Karyn Kusama is responsible for one of my favourite creepy films of recent years–  The Invitation (2015).  If the social dynamics of new partners, old friends, at a dinner hosted by your ex in your old home isn’t frightening enough throw in some California-style religious recruitment and a slow ratcheting of the creep factor and you will soon be deliciously unnerved by this beautiful and disturbing film. 

Her segment in XXHer Only Living Son‘ (2017) is similarly spooky tale of motherhood.  Also check out the (in my opinion underrated) Jennifer’s Body from 2009 which features Megan Fox as a demon possessed succubus working her way through the males of her high school.  

Jennifer’s Body and The Invitation are both available on Netflix.

Agnieszka Smoczynska

Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska is on this list even though I have not seen any of her films because the clips I have seen have been disgustingly enticing and because the woman made a goddamn musical-comedy-horror-mermaid film.  The Lure (2015), as far as I can tell, is about some mermaid sisters who become sort of cabaret/club singers, but jeopardise their careers by continuing to do what mermaids do– which is kill men. 

 She also has a segment in the upcoming The Field Guide to Evil (2018) which recently screened at SXSW and looks super-fantastic.

If anybody knows how I can watch this film and would like to tell me I would very much appreciate it!

Jovanka Vuckovic

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Jovanka Vuckovic made three short films before providing the anthology film XX (2017) with her segment ‘The Box‘.  Based on the Jack Ketchum story of the same name it is for me the stand out piece of the anthology– a terrifying story where nothing is seen or even suggested but which will haunt you long after.   

She has a feature film of her own– Riot Girls— in post-production which is a post-apocalyptic thriller set in an alternate 1995, and which I am seriously hyped for.

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Veronika Franz

In Goodnight Mommy (2014) twin boys move to a new house with their mother, whose face is covered after undergoing surgery.  The only thing is– the boys aren’t sure they recognise the woman  under the bandages. 

Goodnight Mommy is that rare film– both thoughtful and visceral (yes– some viewers did faint in screenings).  Veronika Franz is one half of a creative partnership with Severin Fiala and their blending of high and low brow filmmaking norms make for an intensely satisfying horror experience.  They also have a ‘chapter’ in A Field Guide to Evil (2018), and another feature film, The Lodge,  in post-production.

See a clip from A Field Guide To Evil here

Goodnight Mommy is available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Tell me, what lady-led horror are you most excited about?  What have you seen? What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!