Valentine’s Day came and went, but we are still in a romantic mood. Why not celebrate those great, doomed romances so often found in horror? Surely, The Bride of Frankenstein may be the all-time best, but we wanted to share some of our lesser-appreciated favorites, beginning with one of the very best horror films of the last decade.
The Loved Ones (2009)
Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.
The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker Sean Byrne’s sly handling of subject matter. It’s a wild, violent, depraved to spend 84 minutes. You should do so now.
Leave it to the great Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) to think of turning the Postman Always Rings Twice storyline into a vampire tale. Thirst would be a weird movie regardless, but the steamy/guilty romantic entanglements with an ailing friend’s young wife take on a peculiar tone when the other man is not just a vampire, but a former priest to boot.
Father Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) volunteers for a medical experiment, but instead of a cure the procedure creates vampirism. The poor guy’s barely wrapped his head around his new drinking problem before he falls for his buddy’s scheming wife. Park’s visuals are a sumptuous wonder, and his romantic bloodletting is as curiously humorous as it is creepy.
Few horror films are as touching, funny, heartbreaking or bloody as May. Lucky McKee’s 2002 breakout is a showcase for his own talent as both writer and director, as well as his gift for casting. As the title character, Angela Bettis inhabits this painfully gawky, socially awkward wallflower with utter perfection. McKee’s screenplay is as darkly funny as it is genuinely touching, and we’re given the opportunity to care about all the characters: fragile May, laid back love interest Adam (a faultless Jeremy Sisto), hot and horny Polly (a wonderful Anna Faris).
McKee’s film pulls no punches, mining awkward moments until they’re almost unendurable and spilling plenty of blood when the time is right. He deftly leads us from the sunny “anything could happen” first act through a darker, edgier coming of age middle, and finally to a carnage laden climax that feels sad, satisfying and somehow inevitable.
The Signal (2007)
A transmission – a hypnotic frequency – broadcasting over TV, cell and landline telephones has driven the good folks of the city of Terminus crazy. David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry created a film in three segments, or transmissions. Transmission 1 introduces our lover heroes as well as the chaos. Can Mya and Ben remain sane, reunite and outrun the insanity? Transmission 2 takes a deeply, darkly funny turn as we pick up on the illogical logic of a houseful of folks believing themselves not to have “the crazy.” The final transmission brings us full circle.
The movie capitalizes on the audience’s inability to know for certain who’s OK and who’s dangerous. Here’s what we do know, thanks to THE SIGNAL: duct tape is a powerful tool, bug spray is lethal, and crazy people can sure take a beating.
Here’s an alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. Clive Barker’s feature directing debut worked not only as a grisly splatterfest, but also as a welcome shift from the rash of teen slasher movies that followed the success of Halloween. Barker was exploring more adult, decidedly kinkier fare, and Hellraiser is steeped in themes of S&M and the relationship between pleasure and pain.
Hedonist Frank Cotton solves an ancient puzzle box, which summons the fearsome Cenobites, who literally tear Frank apart and leave his remains rotting in the floorboards of an old house. A gash on brother Larry’s leg spills blood on the floor, which awakens the remains of Frank, who then requires more blood to complete his escape from the underworld. Larry’s wife (and Frank’s lover) Julia, both repulsed and aroused by her old flame’s half-alive form, agrees to make sure more blood is soon spilled.
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