I know what you’re thinking. Sex and death—that could be literally any film in the genre. Aaah, yes, but we’re not talking metaphorically or even loosely connected. Sure, the quickest way onto Michael Meyers’s or Jason Voorhees’s kill list is by having sex, but that’s not immediate enough. Let’s disregard the middle man, lose the pause, and go right to the horror films where sex and death are immediately, gorily and irreversibly linked.
Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way!
5. Killer Condom (1996)
A Troma-distributed splatter/horror/comedy, Killer Condom is an enormous amount of fun. This is a German film—German actors delivering lines in German—but it’s set in NYC. You can tell because of the frequent shots of someone opening a New York Times newspaper machine.
Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel) is the grizzled NYC detective who longs for the good old days in Sicily. In German. He’s assigned to a crime scene in a seedy Time Square motel he knows too well, where it appears that women just keep biting off men’s penises.
Or do they?
This film is refreshingly gay, to start with, as nearly every major character in the film is a homosexual. The run-of-the-mill way this is handled is admirable, even when it is used for cheap laughs. (Babette, I’m looking at you).
It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s gory and wrong-headed and entertaining from start to finish. Who’d have guessed?
4. Teeth (2007)
Of all the films built on the hysteria of impending womanhood, few are as specific as Teeth, a film in which a pubescent discovers a sharp set where teeth ought not be. This is a dark comedy and social satire that is uncomfortable to watch no matter your gender, although I imagine it may be a bit rougher on men.
Treading on the dread of coming-of-age and turning male-oriented horror clichés on ear, Teeth uses the metaphor implicit in vagina dentata—a myth originated to bespeak the fear of castration—to craft a parable about the dangers as well as the power of sexual awakening.
Written and directed by artist (and Ohioan!) Roy Lichtenstein’s son Mitchell, Teeth boasts an irreverent if symbol-heavy script with a strong and believable lead performance (Jess Weixler).
Weixler’s evolution from naïveté to shock to guilt to empowerment never ceases to captivate, but the story itself settles for something more conventional and predictable than what the shockingly original first two acts suggest.
3. Trouble Every Day (2001)
Backed by a plaintive, spooky soundtrack by Tindersticks, Clair Denis’s metaphorical erotic horror examines gender roles, sex and hunger. Denis is one of France’s more awarded and appreciated auteurs, so a one-time voyage into horror should not be dismissed.
A newlywed American couple head to Paris, ostensibly to honeymoon, but Shane (Vincent Gallo) is really there to re-establish connection with old colleagues Coré (Béatrice Dalle) and her husband, Léo (Alex Descas). The three scientists once participated in an experiment, and Shane needs to find them.
The film is a startling work of biologic-horror, but its existential riffs on intimacy, dominance and violence—common fare in the genre—are clearer-headed and more disturbing here than in anything else that swims the same murky waters.
2. Raw (2016)
What you’ll find in first-time filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a thoughtful coming-of-age tale. And meat.
A college freshman and vegetarian from a meat-free family, Justine (Garance Marillier) objects to the hazing ritual of eating a piece of raw meat. But once she submits to peer pressure and tastes that taboo, her appetite is awakened and it will take more and more dangerous, self-destructive acts to indulge her blood lust.
The film often feels like a cross between Trouble Every Day and Anatomy. The latter, a German film from 2000, follows a prudish med student dealing with carnage and peer pressure. In the former, France’s Claire Denis directs a troubling parable combining sexual desire and cannibalism.
Ducournau has her cagey way with the same themes that populate any coming-of-age story – pressure to conform, peer pressure generally, societal order and sexual hysteria. Here all take on a sly, macabre humor that’s both refreshing and unsettling.
1. It Follows (2014)
It Follows is yet another coming-of-age tale, one that mines a primal terror. Moments after a sexual encounter with a new boyfriend, Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers that she is cursed. He has passed on some kind of entity – a demonic menace that will follow her until it either kills her or she passes it on to someone else the same way she got it.
Yes, it’s the STD or horror movies, but don’t let that dissuade you. Mitchell understands the anxiety of adolescence and he has not simply crafted yet another cautionary tale about premarital sex.
Mitchell has captured that fleeting yet dragging moment between childhood and adulthood and given the lurking dread of that time of life a powerful image. There is something that lies just beyond the innocence of youth. You feel it in every frame and begin to look out for it, walking toward you at a consistent pace, long before the characters have begun to check the periphery themselves.
Mitchell’s provocatively murky subtext is rich with symbolism but never overwhelmed by it. His capacity to draw an audience into this environment, this horror, is impeccable, and the result is a lingering sense of unease that will have you checking the perimeter for a while to come.