The holiday of chocolate hoarding and smooching is almost upon us, which means we’re sling-shotting into a movie season of date flicks filled with shirtless declarations of love. Sigh.
It’s a tough time to be a genre movie fanatic, but it doesn’t have to be. There are still plenty of movies out there that drop the dreaded “L” word without descending into rom-com silliness. In fact, the not particularly lovey-dovey horror genre has cranked out quite a few classics that are well worth a viewing over Valentine’s Day with your special someone (or alone in a in a puddle of tears and rage like myself). So we thought we’d provide you fine readers with a special selection of five classic Valentine’s Day horror movies to watch on the big day as well as potential double bill partners just in case you want to make it a big ol’ movie night. These are movies that all go for the heart, they just tend to favor removing that organ from your body and displaying it on a plate.
5) Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Ah yes, the film that transformed writer/star Simon Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright from cult British comedians into Comic-Con favorites. A movie that opens like a gentle British comedy of awkwardness about the pains of turning 30 and committing to a relationship, before a hoard of flesh eating zombies come along to rip apart London and bring a few love birds together. Pegg and Wright dubbed their opus a rom-zom-com from the start and delivered all three components of that trifecta with ease. Oh sure, everyone remembers the record-flinging laughs and disemboweling terrors, but what really holds the movie together is the love story. Seriously, all the gags are great, but without a heart to emotionally ground the genre games, it wouldn’t feel that much different than the usual zombie comedy. Thank god Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have enough natural chemistry and bravery to display their honest and open love for each other on screen. Oh, and the love story between Pegg and Kate Ashfield is pretty good too.
Double Bill Partner: Night Of The Creeps (1986) or Dead Alive (1992)
Believe it or not, Pegg/Wright didn’t create the zom-rom-com, they just coined the term. Nope the original flick to cut this mold was Fred ( Monster Squad) Dekker’s hysterical sci-fi/horror/comedy Night Of The Creeps about a boy who loves a girl, but has to kill off a plague of alien slug zombies to prove it. Even better is Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, the masterpiece of his bad taste gore comedy period. It’s just your usual story of a manchild whose overprotective mother refuses to let him date a local gypsy girl and then gets bitten by a rat monkey that turns her into a zombie. Jackson’s flick made it into the Guinness Book Of World Records for using the most fake blood of any movie in history and I find it hard to believe that it will ever be broken.
4) Martin (1977)
No creature does horror movie love quite like a vampire, so it would be ludicrous to leave those bloodsuckers off this list. However, I thought I’d go with an unconventional choice and one of the most perverted and underrated vampire yarns of them all. In between Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead the man, myth, and legend that is George Romero made this strange little cult oddity in dire need of rediscovery. Martin is a vampire…well sort of. He’s a lost 20-something who murders women and drinks their blood while also indulging in what he charmingly refers to as “the sexy stuff.” Sounds like classic vampire activity, the only difference is that Martin has no fangs, fear of sunlight, superpowers, or any other gothic trappings. Oh sure, he claims to be 84 years old despite looking 20, but like everything else that could easily just be the sign of psychosis rather than vampirism. In the end, Martin is just a sad young man in search of love with a bloodsucking hobby that gets in the way. Romero admirably never admits whether Martin’s vampirism is real or imagined, making it one of the most fascinating films of his eclectic career. An unheralded masterpiece for all the lonely hearts out there who have a taste for blood on their solo Valentine’s Day.
Double Bill Partner: Thirst (2009)
Of all the recent spate of vampire movies, Chan-Wook Park’s (Old Boy) Thirst is easily the best. It’s about a priest who accidentally contracts vampirism through an experimental blood transfusion and manages to keep his murderous instincts contained at a hospital until a beautiful young girl comes along to introduce him to the joys of blood sucking and lovemaking. Like any good vampire movie, Thirst is equally heartbreakingly romantic and viciously horrific. Too bad there weren’t more flicks like this made during the post-Twilight vamp craze.
3) The Fly (1986)
Broken down to its most basic plot elements, David Cronenberg’s masterful remake of the Vincent Price classic The Fly is a love story. It’s about a man and woman who fall deeply in love, only for the man to contract a disgusting and potentially lethal disease that will test the limits of their relationship. This being a Cronenberg movie, the man is a semi-mad scientist and the “disease” is a genetic mutation that slowly and disgustingly transforms him into a fly. Like I said, you’ve got to really break it down to get there and it’s certainly the images of vomit-based external digestion and Jeff Goldblum’s increasingly elaborate/slimy fly prosthetics that tend to stick out in viewer’s memories. However, the horror film with one of the most famous taglines in history (“Be afraid, be very afraid”) is also an incredibly gut-wrenching romantic tragedy that ends on a note that ensures there won’t be a dry eye or empty vomit bag in the house. A perfect date movie for that special couple out there who aren’t easily squeamish.
Double Bill Partner: Shivers (1975)
For a filmmaker known for being cold, intellectual, and clinical, David Cronenberg has actually made a series of bizarre love stories that would be perfect for a blood-soaked Valentines night in. However, if I have to pick just one more of his horrific love stories, it would be Shiviers. Rarely seen and hard to find, Cronenberg’s feature directorial debut can best be summed up in two words: “sex zombies.” Yep, it’s a classic zombie set up that pre-dates Dawn Of The Dead and turns zombism into an STD spread through disgusting parasites that enter humans through every office and turn them into randy monsters. Yep, Shivers is just as frightening, entertaining, disgusting, and campy as it sounds. A must see if you can find it.
2) My Bloody Valentine (1981)
After John Carpenter’s Halloween unexpectedly became the most successful independent film of its time, the slasher movie craze was born and every conceivable holiday was turned into an excuse for a madman in an elaborate costume to run around chopping up horny teenagers. Unexpectedly, the finest Valentine’s Day entry in the trend came from Canada in My Bloody Valentine. George Mihalka’s film takes place in Valentine Bluffs, Nova Scotia where years ago a terrible mining accident occurred because the security men responsible were at a Valentine’s Day party. A note was left stipulating that if another Valentine’s Day party was ever held, there would be trouble. The town does it anyway and there are murders, lots of them. It’s all pretty standard slasher stuff, but executed remarkably well with some absolutely brilliant elaborate kills involving a pickaxe. If you like slasher movies, this is an underrated gem that needs to have more gore-loving eyes upon it. There’s no better time of year to discover the Canuksploitation classic than right now.
Double Bill Partner: My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
Generally speaking, I despise most of the current crop of horror movie remakes. However, I’ve got a soft spot for this one which is totally idiotic and not as good as the original, but also quite fun. Director Patrick Lussier (who also made the wonderfully trashy Drive Angry 3D) knows how to make gloriously gimmicky 3D magic and this movie has some laughably eye-popping set pieces that you need to see if you have one of those fancy pants TVs that can play it. Plus there’s a scene involving a midget, a naked woman, and a pickaxe-wielding madman that needs to be seen to be believed. Perfect for the 3D-loving couple who enjoy chuckling at genre garbage.
- The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
As strange as it may sound, the only horror movie to ever claim top honors at the Oscars was released on Valentine’s Day. Actually, when you think about it, it’s not really that strange at all. The movie is in a way based around a series of twisted love stories. First there’s female victim savior Agent Clarence Starling’s bizarre love affair with the brilliant and cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lector and then there’s also the strange love stories between the lady-skinning Buffalo Bill and his victims. Ok, so maybe the second one is a stretch, but Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs is a legitimate genre masterpiece forever tied to Valentine’s Day with one of the strangest central male/female relationships in the history of cinema. It’s also a great date movie with serious scare moments that will force you to curl up together and enough substance to fuel some nice date night discussions once it’s all over. This is what they call a classic folks…a classic.
Double Bill Partner: May (2002)
And just in case you thought that human skinning sexual obsession was limited to boy psychopaths, there’s also Lucky McKee’s May. It’s about an odd n’ lonely young woman so desperate for companionship that she decides to build the perfect partner out of the bits and pieces she loves best of the people around her. Yep, it’s a wild ride and a great lovelorn horror flick. McKee also offered the flip side of this sexual coin last year inThe Woman which examined/satirized the horrors misogyny. But that’s also a prime contender for “worst date movie of all time,” so stick to May if you want a Lucky McKee Valentine’s Day.