10 Essential Horror Films for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as a day of heteronormative displays of affection mass-produced by a corporate giant, is upon us. If you side with the anti-Valentine camp, eschew the Hallmark holiday sentiment by watching these horror films featuring bad romances, bloody sexcapades, and twisted love stories.

My Bloody Valentine

Valentine’s Day probably didn’t happen unless you watch this essential Canadian slasher, featuring a stalking lunatic in mining gear with a pickaxe. A favorite film of Quentin Tarantino, the moody My Bloody Valentine was shot in a real mine, which creates a fantastic shadowy, claustrophobic setting.

Nekromantik 2

After making a scene with his 1987 horror opus Nekromantik, director Jörg Buttgereit returned to upset the masses with Nekromantik 2 — this time placing a female necrophiliac named Monika in the lead role. “The thing that people find offensive about Nekromantik 2 is that it doesn’t accuse Monika,” the filmmaker said of the movie after it was confiscated by the Munich police. “It was very important to me that the audience is on Monika’s side, even with her doing these terrible things.” Those terrible things include cuddling with a corpse, hiding a corpse’s genitals in her refrigerator, and having sex with a corpse. From writer Linnie Blake about Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2:

Buttgereit was keen to expose the highly manipulative nature of the film medium—specifically in the second film’s depiction of heterosexual pornography and the first’s re-creation of the slasher horror genre. Buttgereit not only produced stylistically inventive and conceptually sophisticated works of modern horror cinema but also offered a new model of German subjectivity for a post-reunification age. It is a considerable achievement for one whose films have been widely banned, critically neglected and commonly viewed as low-budget shockers of little artistic and intellectual merit. Such attitudes, needless to say, are entirely predictable responses from a still wounded, still traumatised national culture unable yet to engage with Buttgereit’s unflinchingly radical stance.

Audition

A lonely widower hosts an audition to look for a new wife, but the woman he falls for has sadistic intentions. Director Takashi Miike’s choice of torture is akin to cringeworthy performance art, and the psychosexual rage of his seemingly passive antagonist is startling to behold.

Videodrome

David Cronenberg’s 1983 film Videodrome is what happens when you fall in love with your TV, literally. An underground snuff television station draws a sensationalist programmer into a web of sleazy, hallucinatory tech WTF-ness that finds him locking lips with a throbbing TV set. Stars Debbie Harry and James Woods were the ultimate bad film romance of the early ‘80s.

Otto; or, Up with Dead People

The New York Times on queer cinema icon Bruce LaBruce’s 2008 film:

Once more straddling the line between art and smut, the underground and the indie scene, his latest, “Otto; Or, Up With Dead People,” unfolds in and around the radical gay zombie culture of Berlin. Having developed a modicum of reason, the living dead are wearily accepted in society at large, despite the growing “plague” of homosexual undead, whose twin tastes for cannibalism and sodomy lend Mr. LaBruce a characteristically irreverent means of riffing on AIDS and the fear of gay recruitment.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Clare Higgins’ Julia is a man-eating bitch-corpse from hell who resumes human form by feeding on the blood of those she lures to bed. She also seduces an obsessive doctor to take on her morbid cause. The sequel to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, based on a story by Barker (who also produced the film), takes place between two worlds — ours and the realm of the Cenobites, who exist to tear human souls apart.

Teeth

A rape-revenge tale about an innocent high school student who discovers that her body possesses a unique advantage when it comes to the callous and abusive men around her — vagina dentata. Teeth is a hilariously subversive, feminist twist on horror cinema’s gender tropes.

[REC] 3: Genesis

Threequels don’t usually fare well in the horror universe (or any universe, for that matter), and [REC] 3: Genesis was subject to a lot of negative criticism for its black humor approach. But the film’s camp factor, using a couple’s wedding as the location of a horrific outbreak that wipes out the entire guest list, has its pitch-perfect frightful moments. Woman in a wedding dress with a chainsaw alert.

Spring

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring imagines a romance between a mysterious European woman and an American man in the vein of Richard Linklater and H.P. Lovecraft. From critic Justine Smith:

With their debut film Resolution, Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson piled together their resources and created a startling genre-breaking horror film that surprised audiences with its meta-textual exploration of urban legends. The film broke down the conventions we most often associate with the horror genre before reconstructing them in a fresh and original way. The film was also set apart by its unique and abrupt dialogue, which teased tastelessness but won you over with its brash charm.

The Vampire Lovers

Using J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla as an inspiration, Hammer Films’ The Vampire Lovers is the first movie in the studio’s Karnstein Trilogy — about the beautiful Carmilla Karnstein. The Vampire Lovers finds Carmilla (played by a riveting Ingrid Pitt) seducing the young woman of a wealthy family. When the unsuspecting girl starts to have dreams of a cat suffocating her in her sleep, euphemism-savvy audiences got the hint. The lesbian subtext was a bold move for the studio and helped boost Hammer’s rep for stylish films featuring beautiful, bosomy women in barely-there nightgowns.