Monday, February 15, 2016

Eat Your Heart Out: Romance in Horror

I figure since it's the day after Valentine's, it's as good a time as any to discuss romance in horror. Horror is one of the few genres where romance isn't necessary, but that doesn't mean it's never involved. In fact, I realized that comedic horror tales seem to have a higher rate of romance in them than other types of horror. Hm.



Romance is used in different ways throughout horror. For instance, if we go to the slashers first, romance is often the cause of their downfall, spreading the message that premarital sex is bad...mkay? Of course, I'm stretching the definition of romance here, when it's really usually lust. Still, lust is plenty appropriate for the day after V-Day, too, right?

Premarital sex getting a person killed can't be mentioned without bringing up Scream. The final girl is always the virgin...until Scream flipped that on its head. Eventually. Watching anything with Jason, Michael, or Freddy means knowing who will die next. The moment they crawl into bed (or the back of a car, or a sleeping bag, or whatever else), it's go time. WAIT FOR MARRIAGE, KIDS!

Forbidden love isn't uncommon, likely because much of horror reflects real life, amplifying common issues as a coping mechanism and a way to ratchet up the tension. For instance, Candyman is based on a black man seeking revenge after being brutally murdered because he fell in love with a white woman. And what about Let the Right One In? A vampire's feelings for a human boy underlie the story line, even as brutality occurs. A lot of people can identify with falling for the wrong person.


But what about loving a monster? Dracula, Frankenstein, Cat People, and The Fly all involve a Beauty and the Beast sort of premise. In one, a vampire, another a shapeshifter, and in two of them, science experiments gone wrong. Valentine is along these same lives, but he's a psycho, plain and simple, not an actual physical monster. Be careful who you love. You know who else was a psycho? An American Psycho? Patrick Bateman. But he was charming, and he had nice business cards and groovy music choices.

In comedic horror films, the love story may be a major part of it - Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies - and the basis for their mission, or it may just be an underlying character development tool or cause for humor, such as in Tremors, Lake Placid, and Eight-Legged Freaks. It creates an impetus for the main character to rescue the damsel in distress, in many cases. At the very least, it gives the character more conflict, and adds tension to the story. Shaun must find his way across the city to rescue his girlfriend and get her to safety, giving him a reason to leave his house. Conflict = amped.

Love gone wrong is all over Hellraiser in disturbing ways. Need I say more? (By the way, Candyman is also based on a Clive Barker story.) And in Teeth, a young girl being taken advantage of repeatedly, thinking she's maybe with the right guy, discovers the error of her ways. In turn, the boys who wrong her discover the error of THEIR ways, often fatally. Speaking of which, in Jennifer's Body there's a similar story line, only there are no teeth in weird places. Just the normal ones.


And if you consider Anne Rice to be a horror writer (I don't, but she's usually classified that way), romance is oozing out of the pages of her books. Was she the first one to hearken back to Dracula with the attractive and seductive vampire? Probably not, but she sure brought that trope back to the forefront in her vampire novels. And, again, it's more lust in her tales than love or romance, but not always. Wasn't Louie always conflicted about love?

Finally, there are collections of stories combining love and horror. I Shudder at Your Touch and Love in Vein are the two that come to mind. And I've seen calls for horror erotica, though I've yet to read one.

The Stand exhibits the power of love for some of the characters. In fact, it's a strong component on the good side. There's romantic love, but also the love born of friendship and hard times. Their bonds keep them strong in the face of the bad side. If anything, the love and romance shown in this book are the most real of any of the ones I've mentioned above. A story with heart. A perfect read for Valentine's Day.

What's your favorite horror romance? Can you think of one I didn't mention here? Why do you think romance plays a part in some horror stories? Would you like to see it more or less?

May you find your Muse.

Heart by OCAL, clker.com

18 comments:

  1. For another interesting spin on the idea of love and horror, check out BONES AND ALL by Camille DeAngelis. Well-written, weird and totally creepy. :)

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    1. Oo, sounds good! Just went and read the description.

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  2. Dean Koontz seems to have some 'love' of one kind or another in his stories. I laughed when you said how the viewer knows something is going to happen as soon as the lovemaking starts.

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    1. That's true, he does. And always a golden retriever!

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  3. The Buffy/Angel thing is sort of horror/romance.

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  4. All you have to do is mention Anne Rice and my spine goes cold. She cranks out some very special romantic horror.

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    1. She's the master of romantic horror until I find otherwise!

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  5. The bro-mance found in King's DUMA KEY is the thing that keeps me going to re-read it or re-listen to the audio of it again and again.

    I think horror followed by a scene of love (not love-making) makes the horror hit harder. Interesting day after Valentine's post. Remember: chocolate is ON SALE TODAY! :-)

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    1. So much chocolate! I actually went to try to find chocolate covered cherries, but alas, they don't appear to put those on sale. I'm trying to remember Duma Key, but it's been awhile.

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  6. Peoples like the romance! Even if it gets 'em killed.

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  7. I better think that Romance and Horror got together! I just recently released a book of short stories called When Zombies Attack: Tales of Horror & Romance. :)
    Although, I've read some erotic horror - and really wished I hadn't!
    Happy Horrific Valentine!

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    1. I have that on my Kindle waiting to be read! I do wonder about erotic horror. It pays well some places, but I can't combine the two that much.

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  8. Hi Shannon - I don't usually dwell in stories like these .. but I got into 'Perfume' .. by Patrick Suskind .. it's also now a film, though I haven't seen it yet - I shall soon I hope. I loved the descriptions of the scenery and times - though the story line had some 'love elements' .. cheers Hilary

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    1. The movie was okay. I'm curious about the book.

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  9. I think romance works great in horror, especially the stark contrast between the two when in the same story:)

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    1. Both are so intense that the contrast can be extreme.

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