Bad Romance? Here’s (My) 13 Quintessential (Highly Questionable) Romantic (umm) Horror Films for Valentine’s Day!

[First off- a disclaimer! My tastes in horror almost always include gore, torture, disturbing themes that probably would upset 99% of people, and dark comedy. Every film on this list comes with parental advisory, and probably check more trigger warnings than exactly exist. If that is not your thing, that is absolutely cool- but as an ultimate FanGhoul I didn’t want anyone to jump into this list without a warning.]

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you have a sweetie to snuggle up with, or just have a quiet night in planned with your cat and a large pizza (me)- here a few recommendations for what to watch! While some of these are genuine, many are tongue and cheek- but I do own every single film on this list, and would watch them on any holiday, but these all feature some aspect of love.

Life After Beth

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Let’s start this list off with the vastly underrated dark comedy Life After Beth. Have you ever had your significant other die tragically? Have you ever tried to get over them but the guilt makes that seem impossible? Have you just wished “I wish they were here again” and then suddenly they rise out of their graves- literally- like the undead- and they want to get back together??? Haven’t we all. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Anna Kendrick, John C. Reilley, and Molly Shannon this movie is packed with the kings and queens of comedy. Life After Beth is directed by Jeff Baena -(unrelated if you have Netflix, you’ll want to check you Horse Girl, also by Baena.)- Check our the trailer here:

The Loved Ones

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Who doesn’t love a fun, nostalgic look back at Prom? It’s a night of romance, flirting, dresses, torture, kidnapping, and a disco ball! Wait, maybe that wasn’t your experience, that’s ok- no judging here. The Loved Ones is an Australian film directed by Sean Byrne that centers around Lola (Robin McLeavy) and her crush Brent (Xavier Samuel). If you love fucked-up extreme horror involving love struck teenagers, drilling holes into peoples heads, & a very codependent Dad- this is the film for you. Grab your Valentine, dress up for the prom, and traumatize them by showing them this movie. Watch the trailer from Paramount Pictures here:

The Voices

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Listen. Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton, Jacki Weaver– plus a talking cat and dog, and a refrigerator with happy severed heads. The severed heads talk too, obviously. This is a MANDATORY watch for horror fans, and Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to watch Ryan Reynolds fall in love. Watch the trailer here, and be aware there so much going on in this film it would be impossible to describe it without major spoilers:

Melancholia

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A wedding. A bride. Family dysfunction. The end of the earth. Melancholia is a beautifully dark film that asks the question, what would you do at the end of the world, and have you mended the relationships you care about? This is probably the one film I recommend for someone who wants an introduction to Lars Von Trier. Valentine’s Day seems like a good holiday to dive into an ultimate bittersweet, and upsetting film, right? Maybe not, but eventually you should give this a try. It’s exquisite, and it features on of Kirsten Dunst’s strongest performances of her career. Trailer:

The Human Centipede II

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The second installment in Tom Six’s iconic masterpiece series is all about being a super fan of something you LOVE- and taking it way way way too far. . Brings a whole new meaning to ‘dancing cheek to cheek!’ If you know, you know. If you don’t. Skip this one. Aren’t sure? Check out the trailer:

Bliss

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Bliss is the ultimate psychedelic trip into an artist’s passion for her work. Directed by the iconic visionary Joe Begos and helmed by superstar Dora Madison, Bliss will take you on a wild ride- it’s literally 150mph the entire time and never lets up, which is part of why it’s so relentlessly engaging. Love doesn’t always have to be between to people, at its core this film centers around an artist’s love for her work and the lengths she will go to combat artist’s block and create some thing up to her vision of perfection. Check out the trailer:

A Serbian Film

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Some people will do anything for the love and stability of their family. When a porn-star ages out and wants to quit the industry, he finds himself on one last job in order to make enough money to provide for his family and quit the business altogether. What follows is probably the most depraved sequence of events to make it one screen without FBI interference. Remember those warnings I mentioned at the beginning of this article? If you can think of a trigger- it is in the movie. Directed by the legendary Srdjan Spasojevic, this film is the only one on the list to boast a NC-17, and the only one to have had its unedited directors cut banned from several countries. For me it’s a fun date night movie, for you? Tread cautiously. Head the warnings and check out the Trailer below:

After Midnight

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Sometimes you break up, you have this perfect relationship, it ends and the you get stalked by a really creepy-ass monster that wants to eat you- and then your ex, your family, friends, and entire town think you’ve probably gone insane. It just be like that sometimes. That’s the case in After Midnight. Directed by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella, this film explores the complexity of human emotion and relationships, plus you know- Cryptids! Besides just being a fantastic genre bending film- After Midnight was released today! So check it out now! Here is the trailer:

Honeymoon

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Ah. First comes love, then comes marriage, then come the honeymoon in a romantic cabin in the woods, and then finding you wife wandering around the woods in the middle of the night leading to a bizarre and terrifying possible body snatches scenario. Also… aliens? Directed by the incredible Leigh Janiak, Honeymoon is guaranteed to make you second guess your partner and probably everyone around you, also yourself. Here is the trailer:

My Bloody Valentine 3D

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Yes… this is a reboot. Based on the 1981 classic, My Bloody Valentine follows the similar plot- it’s pretty simple, a tragic coal mining accident kills six people and lands one in a coma. Legend has it when the miner in the coma wakes up on Valentine’s Day, he immediatly murders 22 people. Now it’s years later, and his angry murderous ghost is back, and killing again. So why put this on the list? Hear me out. Jensen Ackles. J e n s e n A c k l e s. Not convinced? Check out the trailer:

Revenge

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A romantic getaway turns into a women’s worst nightmare when she is brutally assaulted and must fight for her life. In doing so she decides to take back her body and her autonomy- becoming the ultimate assassin. This is not a romantic movie. Not at all. I added it to the list because Coralie Fargeat has created this gorgeous revenge film that is unlike any others I’ve seen before. Starring an absolute superwoman, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, this movie is all about empowerment and not letting anyone define you by what happens to you. It’s self-love. Extreme self-love. But absolutely worth watching with someone you care about. Trailer:

CLIMAX

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To round out this list of recommendations, let me introduce you to Gaspar Noé. To put it very simply, Climax, is less about love and all about carnal, feral attraction and lust. Remember in the 80’s broadway show A Chorus Line when one of the dancers asks, “if you couldn’t dance anymore, what would you do?” Well in Climax we meet a modern ballroom/vogue company in France at the end of a rehearsal. Next add in psychedelic fruit punch and what we get is 2 hours of increasingly disturbing, confusing, gorgeous, neon, sexual, and dark content. This is my recommendation for you if your Valentine’s night includes edibles. Here is the trailer:

Parasite

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This is the ultimate film about family loyalty and love. When I first saw this South Korean masterpiece in the theater I went into it completely blank, I hadn’t read the synopsis. I recommend you do the same. There is a reason Parasite has earned historic and prestigious acclaim, including an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Direction by Bong Joon-Ho. I will link the trailer but I challenge you to just take the dive and see the film without watching:

If you have made it through this list of films and I haven’t totally scared you off, I applaud you, now we are best friends. Let me know if YOUR favorite ‘romantic’ horror movies. Tweet Me!

Childhood Trauma ruins the day again! A Review of ‘The Dare’ (No Spoilers)

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Move over Pennywise! When it comes to Millennium FilmsThe Dare, directed by Giles Alderson and written by Jonny Grant– it becomes evident fairly quickly that kids are the absolute worst and bring terror to anything the touch. (Okay, not ALL kids. But definitely THESE kids.) The Dare follows Jay (Bart Edwards) as he wakes up a-la SAW chained and beaten in a basement with three strangers.

What follows next is the unique origin story of Dominic (Robert Maaser) and his brutal rise to sociopathy. The Dare is a fantastic horror film, full of anxiety and gore- but it also serves as a commentary about intense childhood trauma and the cruelty of middle school kids. No spoilers here, but trauma is complex and The Dare might be one of the only films where morality is absolutely questioned in every scene and every plot development.

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Horror films are often reflective of the world we live in, but gives the viewers a way to access complex emotions and actions in a heightened environment that becomes less personal and easier to engage in. Themes of childhood abuse by a parental figure are very difficult to present in a way that doesn’t cheapen the reality of trauma. Alderson and Grant have beautifully executed putting these jarring themes into The Dare without glorifying it or making trauma an excuse for violence. Adolescence is frightening, and this film has done an excellent job at using the genre as a parallel to growing up while making the viewer (re)consider the concept of ‘nature vs nurture.’

The incredible cast of The Dare includes horror powerhouse Richard Brake, alongside the brilliant Kat Evans Richard Short, and Harry Jarvis as young Dominic. If you are looking for a film that combines psychological torture, bugs, physical torture, bugs, terrifying adults, terrifying children, and bugs- THIS IS THE FILM FOR YOU!

The Dare is set for release and VOD on March 3rd, 2020.

When a childhood prank goes wrong, four strangers are forced to relive a cruel game at the hands of a masked psychopath.

The Scariest Stories, are the ones we tell ourselves: A Review of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’

‘Stories heal, stories hurt.’ To put it simply- melding the bridge between truth and fiction is the overarching theme of Guillermo Del Toro’s newest masterpiece, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Based on the iconic horror classics by Alvin Schwartz, Del Toro (Pan’s Labrynth, The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak) along with André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Trollhunter) at the helm as director have brought Scary Stories and all of our childhood nightmares onto the big screen in a mix of terrifying realism and good old fashioned nostalgia.

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The film opens in the small town of Mill Valley on (fittingly) Halloween, during the year of Nixon’s election. We follow Stella (Zoe Colletti), an aspiring teen writer and her high school friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush), Chuck (Austin Zajur), and Ramón (Michael Garza)- a mysterious just-rode-into-town stranger- as they navigate away from high school bully Tommy (Austin Abrams) and into to the dark hallways of Mill Valley’s resident haunted house. Legend has it the house sits absorbed after the Bellow’s family left town after the tragic death of youngest daughter Sarah Bellows whose ghost still lingers waiting in the basement. No major spoilers- but the tension filled atmosphere created by Øvredal paired with the genuine performances by the cast, will transport you into a world that feels exciting, familiar, and terrifying all at once. After a little hide and seek- Stella comes across a book written by Sarah Bellows herself filled with- yes, scary stories. The viewer is transported quickly into a cat and mouse game of escaping each scary story, or becoming that story. 

Here is where we start to get into the (toe)meat of the film, and what everyone who grew up going to Scholastic Book Fairs and devouring classic Nickelodeon shows like All That is waiting to hear about: THE MONSTERS. From the Jangly Man to the Pale Lady- Stephen Gammell’s monsters have come to life and are unnervingly lifelike. The undeniably horrifying creatures that haunted us from Schwartz’s books do not disappoint. In an age where CGI and horror often go hand in claw- Scary Stories instead utilizes incredibly crafted prothstetics on world class actors with unique talents like contortion in lieu of animation to bring breath into the deadly.

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If you are only looking for a bunch of jump scares or lots of gore- this is definitely not the film for you. Scary Stories is an atmospheric mind meld with a deserved PG-13 rating, but keep in mind the 147 minutes is in no way a light children’s movie- despite being entirely adapted off of books we (probably shouldn’t have?) read as nine year olds. Scary Stories is a fantastic gateway film for viewers wanting to experience a strong, linear horror flick- but might not be up for two hours of Ari Aster or into the the endlessly disturbing visuals of Lars Von Trier. One other thing to note about Scary Stories is the beautifully subtle, but well done commentary on today’s American society, and how some things haven’t changed all that much from 1968.

Overall, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark is a solid and easily rewatchable, dark, nostalgic, and gorgeous dive into what scares us and why. Part of what makes this film so powerful is the lesson that lingers when you leave the theatre. ”You don’t read the book. The book reads you,” is an epiphany Stella has while trying to figure out how to survive the stories that are written to kill her. As humans we are capable of creating narratives that either do good, or do evil. Does there come a time when we no longer control our own narratives? Are we destined to follow only one path, or can we start over? Is there a way to make reparations for our past, without erasing it? Who will tell the truthful tales of what happened to us once we are gone? All of these questions are asked of the viewer throughout the film, and that- is what is most effective and haunting about both Del Toro and Øvredal’s work. Phone a middle school pal, get a slushee, put on your favorite 90’s band t-shirt, and g watch Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Go for the monsters, leave with introspection. (Well… and monsters. You’ll probably leave with those as well, they are all really, really cool.)

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A Killer Industry: A Review of ‘Greenlight’ (No Spoilers)

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What could possibly be more terrifying than zombies, prom queens with telekinesis, clowns, and serial killers combined? The film industry. Greenlight directed by Graham Denman and starring Chase Williamson is a meta look into the struggle of breaking into the mainstream film industry, with several high quality horror troupe twists.

Greenlight follows Jack (Williamson) on his journey to becoming a ‘serious director’ on his first feature film. Before he can step on a set Jack must battle his own demons of insecurity, his girlfriend’s in-laws, and an industry standard that isn’t kind to independent creators. The film brings up the real fears every artist’s parent- “AN ARTIST???? YOU WILL BE HOMELESS” and the fears of every artist, that they will get sat down at a family dinner just to hear “AN ARTIST???? YOU WILL BE HOMELESS.” We see Jack on jobs he considers important for his resume and experience, but not working on projects that satisfy his desire to create the art he wants to make.

Without giving up major spoilers- a dream opportunity comes to Jack in the form of Bob Moseby (Chris Browning) and a script called The Sleep Experiment that needs a worthy director. For Jack, who is desperate for validation as a legitimate filmmaker, this is the ultimate way to break into mainstream filmmaking. It shouldn’t be a shock that he jumps at the opportunity despite red flags waving a banner saying ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.’

Once filming begins, the atmosphere on set of The Sleep Experiment becomes increasingly hostile, heading with the ultimate betrayal: BLACKMAIL. Jack finds himself the director of Moseby’s very own snuff film. You will have to watch for yourself to find out what happens next, but there is a reason why Greenlight has already won several awards including ‘Best Thriller Feature Film’ at Shriekfest Horror Film Festival. Helmed with an extremely talented cast including queen of horror Caroline Williams combined with a refreshing and innovative plot horror fans will not want to miss this film. Luckily you won’t have to wait long to see this meta beast for yourself. Greenlight is set for release on February 25, 2020 from The Horror Collective.

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