Horror and Romance Can Make an Irresistible Combination

Romance can add an interesting dimension to a horror story—whether it’s a vampire vs. werewolf conflict or a zombie apocalypse. Two characters making an unexpected connection in the middle of chaos offers opportunities to explore classic romantic themes. The familiar themes of sacrifice and crossing a societal or cultural boundary can be explored with horror and the supernatural just as effectively as a more mainstream story: A human develops feelings for a “monster,” two members of rival supernatural species fall in love or an undead immortal longs for love. As the most romantic time of the year approaches, here are some movies that add a little romance to horror in an interesting way.

I woman stands with a look of sorrow as a man approaches from behind her with a concerned expression.
The immortal vampire Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) believes he’s found the reincarnation of his lost love in Mina Harker (Winona Ryder) in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

London lawyer Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is in Transylvania to close a real estate deal with Count Dracula who is purchasing property around London. He sees a picture of Harker’s fiancée, Mina (Winona Ryder), who happens to look like Dracula’s long-deceased wife, Elizabeta. Convinced Mina is the reincarnation of Elizabeta, Dracula holds Harker prisoner and goes to London to find her. After Mina finds out Dracula’s true nature, she feels conflicted between her feelings for Jonathan and her feelings for Dracula. In the end, she must make a difficult choice.

Elizabeta’s death is directly tied to the Count’s vampirism. She commits suicide after she’s told that Dracula died in battle. When he returns and learns of her death, a priest tells him that she’s damned for committing suicide. Dracula renounces God and vows to return from the dead to avenge hers with the powers of darkness.

A man stands and protectively puts his arms around a young woman as they both look at something on the distance.
Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) and Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) stand together against the headless horseman in Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

New York City constable, Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp), arrives in the rural farming community Sleepy Hollow, New York, to investigate a series of grisly murders. There is a killer preying on the community who severs victims’ heads. The locals believe it’s the work of an undead headless horseman. Crane wants to prove them wrong and bring the real killer to justice through the use of forensic science.

Crane is lodging with the Van Tassel family and develops a relationship with their daughter, Katrina (Christina Ricci). Katrina is just as much a believer in magic and the supernatural as the other residents of Sleepy Hollow. Once he sees the undead horseman with his own eyes, he believes that someone is controlling the horseman. Katrina becomes a suspect. For the first time, Crane’s rational scientific mind is conflicted by his heart.

A man and woman look deeply into each other's eyes.
Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branaugh) and fiancée Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) share a moment alone Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994).

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, love—both familial and romantic—is Victor Frankenstein’s (Kenneth Branaugh) motivation behind his experiments with reanimation. After losing his mother, Frankenstein becomes obsessed with death and the preservation of human life. In the meantime, he’s become engaged to the love of his life, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter). Frankenstein goes off to university to study medicine but his obsession consumes him and almost tears him and Elizabeth apart. Frankenstein attains his goal—reanimation of a being made from parts of different cadavers. Frightened of his creation (Robert DeNiro), Frankenstein abandons him.

The creature manages to learn how to speak and read. He reads Frankenstein’s journal and the creature finds him. The creature gives Frankenstein an ultimatum—provide him with a “female,” a mate, or he will return on Frankenstein’s wedding night…

A woman leans over a man who is lying on the ground.
Lizzie Bennett (Lily James) comes to Colonel Darcy’s aid in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

In this alternate universe, 19th Century England is in the middle of a zombie epidemic. Mrs. Bennett (Sally Phillips) concerns herself with her daughters’ relationship status while Mr. Bennett (Charles Dance) concerns himself with them honing their fighting skills. The properly educated young woman must be able to land a suitable husband and know how to fight zombies. Lizzie Bennett (Lily James) and her sisters are quite skilled at fighting zombies and are ready to engage the undead on a moment’s notice.

Lizzie’s intelligence and fighting skills impress Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sam Riley). They spar both physically and verbally throughout the story. Darcy is already engaged to revered zombie hunter, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s (Lena Heady), daughter. There’s also Darcy’s rival, Lieutenant George Wickham (Jack Huston), who leads Lizzie to believe that Darcy isn’t who he seems. It turns out, there’s much more at stake than broken hearts. Regardless of their feelings, Lizzie and Darcy must band together to help save England.

A man and woman stand close in deep, serious conversation.
Zombie R (Nicholas Hoult) feels a connection to the very human Julie (Teresa Palmer) in Warm Bodies (2013).

Warm Bodies (2013)

In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, Julie Grigio (Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend, Perry (Dave Franco), go through an abandoned airport to retrieve medical supplies. They cross paths with a group of zombies. Fighting ensues and a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) kills Perry. When a zombie consumes a victim’s brains, they absorb their memories. After consuming her boyfriend’s mind, R feels a connection to Julie. R rubs zombie blood on her to cover her human scent. R takes Julie to a plane where he lives to hide her. She slowly gains trust in R and he eventually helps her to get back home.

He tells her that he killed Perry and Julie is understandably upset. Once back at the airport, R and the other zombies find that they’re slowly regaining their humanity. They’re becoming human to the extent that they’re becoming prey for “Boney’s”—zombies who have decayed to skeletal remains. R and the other zombies flee to the human enclave. R is reunited with Julie who notices he’s gained more of his humanity and she notices that he’s become more human. The Boney’s are coming for all of them and Julie needs to convince her father, Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich), leader of the human survivors, that R and his group are becoming human again.

These horror romance movies are perfect examples of how romance can add a deeper dimension to a horror story. Romance thickens the plot, increases the stakes, and adds to the drama, and character development. In all of these movies, the characters must face difficult choices because of feelings developed for the other character, forcing them to look at their situations differently, and take a chance they normally wouldn’t.

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Written by MD Bastek

Just a person who loves horror and writes about unusual things

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