[Editorial] Why Are We So Against Romance In Horror? - Bloody Disgusting!

[Editorial] Why Are We So Against Romance In Horror?


Do you believe in destiny? That even the powers of time can be altered for a single purpose? That the luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds… true love?” – Count Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992)

There was a time in horror when romance was an integral part of the story, where love and the actions that characters would take for it were what moved the plot forward. Films such as the aforementioned Bram Stoker’s Dracula spring to mind as do many of the classical Universal monster films, Cronenberg’s The Fly, Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China, and countless more.

With tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, I thought that I would share my thoughts on the topic of romance in horror and why it seems to have faded.

If we look at some of the great horror films for examples, we can see that many of them used romance as the foundation for the story.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula – The moment that Count Dracula sees the picture of Mina that Jonathan Harker carries with him, she becomes his ultimate mission. She is a physical copy of his beloved Elisabeta, his wife who committed suicide after false reports said that he had died in battle. Everything from this point on in the film centers on his belief that she is the reincarnation of his wife.

The Fly – What begins as a story of a journalist shadowing a scientist on what might be the most important invention of modern science turns into the story of two people falling in love. However, as with most films of this nature, something gets in the way and it just so happens to be the fact that Dr. Seth Brundle is turning into a giant fly. Still, throughout the entire transformation as his body literally falls apart and mutates, one things remains unchanged: his love for Veronica Quaife. And in the end as he lays on the ground, an aberration of nature, it is by her hand that he begs for release. Weeping, she grants him his final wish.

Big Trouble In Little China – I can already hear many of you scoffing and picking at this selection. Is it horror? Is it a love story? Let me clear the air by saying that this IS a horror film just as it is a comedy, action, romance, martial arts, fantasy film that is easily one of my favorite films of all time.
But coming at this from the prospective of horror and romance, let’s take into account the depths that both Jack Burton and Wang Chi for their personal romantic interests. Chi, from the beginning of the film, is infatuated with Miao Yin, the woman for whom he has saved every penny for years. Her being kidnapped in front of Chi and Burton is the impetus for the story. Chi’s only mission now is to do whatever it takes to get back Yin, even if it means going through the Hell Of The Upside Down Sinners, facing The Three Storms, and even entering the lair of Lo Pan.
Meanwhile, Burton has TWO love interests in this film: his truck (which is stolen by Wing Kong) and Gracie Law. In the end, the truck wins over Law, but Burton sure does have to go through a hell of a lot to get both of them. But as Jack Burton always says, “It’s all in the reflexes.”

And let’s not forget about the fantastic Shaun Of The Dead, the romantic comedy with zombies in it. The entire purpose of this movie is to show a “Guy who will do anything to show his love for the woman of his dreams,” and it just so happens to be during a zombie apocalypse.

What these movies have is a protagonist (or multiple protagonists) who makes it very clear that love will drive them to do anything, which is honestly somewhat terrifying if you think about it. Throughout literature, cinema, and even history, people have done insane things for love.

But somewhere along the lines, horror lost the element of romance. Instead, vengeance, family, or self-preservation became the focus. If we look at some of the most popular films of the past several years, we see that romance is not what drives the film.

For example, Scream is about a boy whose family disintegrated because of his father’s indiscretions. His vengeance upon Sydney and her family result from his own pain. Saw is about a man frustrated that people do not appreciate the value of the life they have. Cabin In The Woods is simply about saving the human race at the cost of a few souls.

Now, I’m not saying that the mixture of horror and romance isn’t a big box office draw. Just look at the Twilight saga or Warm Bodies, the former of which has drawn in over $3.3 billion dollars in worldwide box office while the latter surprised the industry by coming in number one on opening weekend with $19.5 million.

There is obviously a connection between the ideas of romance and horror but I would be completely wrong if I were to say that the audiences were the same. After all, the standard Twilight fan wouldn’t know the original A Nightmare On Elm St. if Freddy came into their dream and slaughtered them mercilessly.

I can’t say what it was that made love and romance in a horror film so repugnant and vile. Was it simply a fad, much like many of the other fads that horror goes through (such as the current found footage craze we’re in or the “torture porn” era)? Or is it something else, something deeper? Have our ideas of romance changed so dramatically in the 100 years of popular storytelling that film has given us?

If so, that’s a damn shame. Because just like how a person would do anything to save their family (such as in The Hills Have Eyes), the things a person would do for love are just as intense and visceral. After all, remember High Tension?

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonathan Barkan? Shoot him a message on Twitter or on Bloody-Disgusting!

  • doomas10

    It’s not that I am against. But most of the times it is presented in such a cheesy and stupid way that makes you wonder how someone in the middle of an out of this world situation – serial killer chasing you, losing your family to zombies, best friend dead by a ghost or whatever impossible scenario you can think of – can think love and tell the individual he/she likes his/her true sentiments and bluh bluh bluh. That would never happen. Since horror movies are putting so much effort to make us believe in the sometimes OTT experiences that the characters are enduring, having this sentiment clearly for the sake of cheap characterization and in order to appeal to a certain demographic of the cinema population. If it is done properly, I have no objection against that – check out Scream/Scream 2 at least in my humble opinion. It doesn’t choke the films neither it is taking large portion of the movie. It is subtle and it actually makes us care even more about the heroine

    • djblack1313

      doomas, i agree w/ your post but i’m confused regarding SCREAM/SCREAM 2. was there romance in that?

      • doomas10

        WEll “romance” you know – sidney’s boyfriend drama – do I go with him or not? It was very very subtle and part of the actual story. Same with scream 2. Is derek a guy who try to protect me or not? Do I trust him or not? He loves me or he wants to slice and dice me because he is a psycho? Hell there was even a song about love in scream 2! That;s what I mean, it feels though – scream franchise by far my favourite – that these were actual characters and yet they did not spend the entire movie romancing like idiots -0 since there was a killer on the loose 🙂

        • djblack1313

          doomas, ok, i gotcha now. 🙂

  • MirkoP80

    You’ve forgotten “Candyman”!
    “Candyman” had a lot of romance and poetry into its story and it’s one of my favourite movies!

    • Mr.Mirage

      Good call.

  • rgold

    I really do enjoy this sites editorials 🙂
    Hollywood’s version of romance is completely f@cked anyways. Hell, movies like “New Years Eve or“Valentines Day” are more scary to me then most of the horror being released today. Those tropes just don’t gel well with what we consider horror and when they do we get something along the lines of the “Twilight” series. There are some Indies out there that do it right tho. They just need to be seeked out

  • Swunky

    I have nothing against Romance in Horror films really.. As long as it comes natural .. Most Romantic plots tend to feel really forced and mostly just ends up holding the film back more than anything else …

    Just look at Silent Hill: Revelation which has the most ridicolous love story in all cinematic history. The consequense of the poorly portraied romance just made viewers feel alienated and made the characters feel unrelatable..

    For me romance and horror can go hand in hand really well as Jonathan Barkan demonstrated really well in this article, becuase speaking from my personal point of view dealing with relationships and risking having your heart broken is nothing short off horrifying. Done right it can really help immerse oneself in the experience and give us a deeper understanding of the characters involved.. I think what most people just feel is that love plots in horror as of late has been overused to the point that directors feel like they need to put in romance plots even when they do not fit instead of focusing on it from the start.

    If my writing is hard to read I apologize my English is extremly rusty, very good article I’m so happy I found a site that has genuine LOVE for horror =)

    • doomas10

      Welcome to the family friend! I agree a lot with SH:R. Extremely poor characterization. This is an example how love stories can actually destroy already holed plots of horror films. They come so pretentious that makes you wonder why bother shoving this element in the first place when what you clearly want to do is … to produce scares? Since it is lacking any emotional impact to the viewer, I would say leave it to quality screenwriters! 🙂

      • Swunky

        Thank you kindly doomas! 😀
        And I couldn’t agree more, It’s kinda baffling to me that so many filmakers that can’t even manage to create a believable main plot keep trying to squeese in these love segments =(

        It’s like noticing that your boat is leaking and instead of trying to make it back to shore you just try to drill even more holes just to balance the ammount of water sinking your ship …

        • djblack1313

          Swunky, i’d also like to say “WELCOME!” to the site and your English/your comment was very well written and i agree w/ it 100%! 🙂

  • twisted

    Selene and Michael in Underworld don’t seem cheesy. Twilight is a full on cheese fest. Underworld passes for a horror movie. Twilight passes for fluffy teen angst love crap. It’s all about presentation.

    • djblack1313

      twisted, excellent example (UNDERWORLD) of romance/horror done right!

      • GothicGuido

        What are you guys smoking, and can I have some? They fall in love for no reason. There is no chemistry between them, other than “your hot and I’m hot lets bang”. Underworld infuriates me because it has the potential to be amazing…but its just not(The intro for awakening, is the set up to a great movie). It does have the best werewolves in cinema history, but other than that its pretty lackluster.

        • I don’t know your are watching but the ‘Underworld’ series is one the best horror series out there. I love the chemistry between Micheal and Selene. I do agree with you, they have the best werewolves in cinema but I’ll take Micheal and Selene over Twilight.

        • doomas10

          I take any time that type of romance over twilight @@. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a total badass like Selene?

  • EvilHead1981

    When it’s forced, it tends to be horrid. And when I say “forced” I mean someone actually is told to include a love story just for the sake of having one, so it comes off really bad. Also, when love stories, in horror, take priority over the actual horror elements AND are bad love stories at that(Twilight), that’s just insult to injury!

  • J.-Harker

    I’m not against love in horror, but i do on Dracula films, i don’t know what book the filmmakers read, DRACULA DOES NOT LOVE, He is evil incarnate, brings only death and insanity, not love.

    • menoch

      Well, i don’t know what you were reading but the love angle is a large part of Bram Stokers Dracula.

      • J.-Harker

        Can you please tell me in what part of the book Count Dracula falls in love please?

        • BowArrowApple

          J.-Harker obviously hasn’t read the book. And if he has, he didn’t read it well.

          “Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will.” – Dracula.

          The most frightening aspects of the original characterization of Dracula are the more human and emotional parts of his personality. That is kind of the essence of who he is. A man tortured by his emotions and his immortality.

  • NixEclips

    Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil first popped in my head as having an interesting love story involved. However, I know the wife and I have seen a few, lately that involved good love stories, as well. (Just can’t think of them, at the moment.)

  • BabyJaneHudson

    I agree with @doomas10 and @Swunky – I think the focus on horror in the past few years has been about shock and physical horror – lots of torture and gore without a lot of character development. I think that the attempt to create complex individuals has in some ways been sacrificed to the maximum scares per minute formula. I do think that filmmakers have started pulling away from that a bit and more contemplative, slower burning films have been reappearing (Lovely Molly comes to mind), so maybe we’ll see a return to more meaningful inter-personal relationships as well. Interesting to watch for…!

    • doomas10

      well said!

  • dr.lamb

    I have also no problem with romance in horror. Romance in horror declined in the mid of 90s, just because they were cynical (movie-) times. Nowadays nobody dares to go back, because cheesy horror-light movies and, of course,”Twilight” took that niche, the audiences perception is superficial and no serious horror film maker wants his movies to be accidentally lumped together with these.

  • dirtyghettok

    Article should’ve been titled ‘Why isn’t romance done like it used to in horror?’, or something along those lines. But you’re right in your article and its nice to see all of us agreeing along the same lines on this topic. If they could keep the romance, but not over shadow the story, or horror that would be great. PersonallyI thought ‘Warm Bodies’ did a pretty good job though. Not perfect, but where would the fun be in movies if they all were.

  • 905Justin

    I personal don’t care for romance in horror movies majority of the time it’s done very poorly and the fact that i usually watch a horror movie to be scared not to follow a love story.

  • djblack1313

    i agree with pretty much everyone here. as twisted & NixEclips mentioned UNDERWORLD and TUCKER & DALE both handled the romance gig perfectly. i freely admit that i actually (from time to time…i REALLY have to be in the mood! lol) enjoy the TWILIGHT movies. they are guilty pleasures for me and i think soapy/corny movies like TWILIGHT are valid and fit the “guilty pleasure” slot perfectly. are they good movies? HELL NO. are they mindless,fun/cheesy guilty pleasures? YES!

    (as djblack1313 runs out of the room head hung in shame). 🙂

    • BabyJaneHudson

      Haha djblack1313 – as long as you admit the error of your ways! I think we all know you’re a pretty solid horror fan 🙂

    • doomas10

      Dj you know at least they are guilty pleasures and not masterpieces! Thus, no shame in that! Everyone enjoys their guilty pleasure slots – me I freaking love ANACONDA!

  • Canucklehead

    Again the issue seems to be not with the elements of a relationship in a horror movie but rather with the manner in which said relationships are portrayed by most of the current studios and directors. One can only hope that future directors, screenwriters et al can live up to the legacy created by the folks who brought you Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein or The Fly.

  • imhotep

    Grudge didnt even get a mention??? all that killing (thought they jus overdid it in the second part)was just because Kayako obsessively loved Peter and her husband killing her, their son the cat n then committing suicide himself… the kind of creepy love that goes on to haunt everything that comes in contact then on …

    • ThunderDragoon

      The Grudge really doesn’t get much love here, I’ve noticed. I think it just has its dedicated fanbase. There are very few of us here though lol. I for one love the Ju-on franchise, both the original and the remake; the sequels too.

  • xAshleyMariex

    Im not against it, Bram Stokers Dracula is one of my favorite films. I think romance is okay as long as there are strong horror elements and i don’t think having vampires and zombies in a romance film makes it a horror film (the vampires in Twilight and the zombies in Warm Bodies are so deminished and thats why i don’t think they count as horror films).

  • JonathanBarkan

    I only picked a few examples of how romance was done right. Obviously there are other films and you all are picking fantastic ones!

  • Mr.Mirage

    The problem is romance.

    A few years ago, I was attempting to do the Nanowrimo thing, and was doing a little background research, as I was contemplating writing a werewolf story. I started an informal poll, and was shocked to find that the majority of women that responded to the question “What is the most romantic movie ever, in your opinion?” with “Pretty Woman.” Close 2nd: “An Officer And A Gentleman.”

    So… you are a whore then, too weak to break out of the whore business? Or a menial nothing, almost a side character in your own story, waiting for a man in a white suit to carry you away from a factory job?


    Romance, at least in drama, when not shown as a fantasy, is more Gone With The Wind or Casablanca…. the ending is loss, nearly if not totally tragic. When focusing on the lost love, then, watching Gary Oldman lose his shit falling hopelessly in love with a photograph (Laura, anyone? Anyone?) is to me far more romantic than most of the twaddle foisted off on us…

    You know, like… Romeo + Juliet.

    Taking romance into horror requires something that Hollywood in general, and sadly the mass public in particular, doesn’t want to face, that the loss is the essence.

    I think it is because of the old bullshit idea that “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Anyone that thinks that has either never really been in love, or never truly lost someone that they loved.

    Comedy romance is Julia Roberts as a professional cocksucker, dramatic romance is watching someone you love walk away forever.

  • Osc89

    Is it romance that is missing? Or is it just good characterisation? Rather than having a film centred around an horrific event or events, we had films centred on characters, their lives, and then having them thrust into horrific circumstances. Love is a big part of that, as is family. Self-preservation is secondary.

  • ljbad

    It’s interesting to note that in horror movies where romance is present (The Fly, Big Trouble in Little China, Warm Bodies) it’s the protagonist who drives the plot.

    In the the movies you mentioned where there’s really no romance (Scream, Cabin in the Woods, Saw) it’s the antagonist who drives the story and not the protagonist.

    I think that’s really the main difference. We don’t often get romance in horror movies, because they tend to be driven more by the antagonist and it’s a lot harder to give the antagonist a love interest and still keep him/her scary (though it’s still possible as Dracula and Candyman would point out).

    If you’re seeing a trend of less romance in horror movies, I’d say it’s because we have more horrors that are antagonist driven, where the protagonist only reacts and tries to survive against whatever the antagonist does. This is an easy formula to follow, so we get a lot more of these.

    I’m sure there are other reasons too. That’s just one theory.

  • djblack1313

    i just watched WARM BODIES last night (I LOVED IT!!!) and it handles the romance thing perfectly.

  • NixEclips

    Camille. She’s a zombie and doesn’t realize it. What a great film.

  • MadJester

    Because Romance in horror always leads to Jason killing your ass.

  • HorrorFreak21

    I love romance in horror movies. The more blood and gore thats involved the better. I guess Im more for the violence than the romance. But i feel that sex and horror make one hell of a pair!