Love is scary. If you’re not a fan of romantic comedies — or romance in general — you’re probably not really thinking about what romantic movies you can watch this Valentine’s Day. But if you’re open to letting a little bit of cinematic romance into your life, there are tons of great romantic horror movies out there, ranging from gross-out body horror, to romantic thrillers. Or maybe you want to watch some good horror about romance gone wrong? I’m not hugely into romantic movies myself, but I thought this year, why not get into it? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some Valentine’s Day-appropriate films for horror fans.
These Horror Movies Will Definitely Make You Feel Something on Valentine’s Day
Bones and All (2022)
Bones and All is a little bit different from the rest of the movies I’m recommending today, in that I really didn’t like it the first time I watched it — but it absolutely belongs on this list. I wasn’t a big fan of the film for a few reasons, but my expectations of a cannibalistic horror film definitely had something to do with it. It’s a romantic film before it is a horror film.
While I felt critical of the film’s somewhat lazy allegory (cannibalism as a metaphor for mental illness, or addiction, or maybe queerness), it is a good romantic road trip story. Young Maren (Taylor Russell) sets off on her own after being abandoned by her father, and eventually she crosses paths with Lee (Timothée Chalamet).
Bones and All meanders slowly across the country as Lee and Maren fall in love with each other and contend with what it means to be a cannibal. They do their best first to survive and then to live as “normal” of a life as they can. It’s a gorgeously shot film, as one would expect from Luca Guadagnino. It’s slow, it’s wandering, and it’s very light on plot. If you’re looking for a horror film that sets more of a romantic mood, Bones and All might be the right pick. Maren and Lee’s relationship is held together by the same sort of desperate codependency of many a teenage love story, which leads up to a gut-wrenching ending.
Park Chan-wook’s Thirst is my least favorite of the Korean director’s repertoire, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good — it’s actually great. In the selfless hope of finding a cure for a deadly virus, a priest named Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) volunteers himself to be infected with the illness. Seemingly having recovered from the virus after a complete blood transfusion, Sang-hyun discovers he now has an insatiable thirst for blood — and sex. Crises of identity and faith ensue as Sang-hyun tries to find a way to balance his love for his religion with his newfound desire.
Thirst has a sense of humor at play alongside the grotesque. No expense was spared on sound design, so if licking and slurping sounds are too much for you, you might want to skip this one (skip Bones and All, too). Look past that, though, and moral conflict is the crux of the matter here; not only is our priest dealing with bloodlust, but he is also in love with his friend’s wife.
Like all of Park’s work, Thirst is stylish, full of symbolism, and blends genres masterfully. If Thirst makes you want to watch more of Park Chan-wook’s films, I have to also recommend The Handmaiden. More of a thriller than a horror film, The Handmaiden tells a story of romance and betrayal; also, like all of Park’s films, it’s best to go in knowing as few plot details as possible.
Titane was one of my favorite films of 2021, and it might just make it into my top films of the decade. Grappling with ideas of sexuality and gender identity, Titane does nothing to present itself as a romantic film, but it is at its core a truly sweet story. Julia Ducournau’s film about a female serial killer is incredibly directed, visceral and spectacular. The intentionality of each shot and the performances are fascinating — you might be cringing or grimacing, but you won’t be able to look away.
Titane is one of the weirder films to come to the attention of mainstream audiences in recent years. (You can stream it on Hulu right now.) There’s the obvious sexuality of the plot itself — the main character, Adrien/Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is impregnated by a car. Adrien/Alexia is traumatized, as well as ashamed and confused by her sexual desires, but she also wants a family and wants her baby. Adrien/Alexa forms an unexpected bond with Vincent (Vincent Lindon), a firefighter who struggles with his own issues of body image and acceptance.
The heart of Titane is in finding family and accepting ourselves no matter how monstrous we’ve been made to feel about ourselves and who we are — and this is where the romance lies. Both Vincent and Adrien/Alexia are people who have been scorned and who do not accept themselves, but they can accept each other. Titane is Julia Ducournau’s love letter to freaks and to anyone who ever felt like they weren’t at home in their own body, and it’s brilliant. Just don’t snuggle up and expect this to be “Netflix and chill” fare.
This Shudder Original about a dybbuk possession arrived on the streaming service on February 9, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Two women, a British student and a Danish former actress who now pays the bills by dressing up as an elf princess for children, meet in a library and quickly fall in love. Despite their differences in age and culture, Leah (Ellie Kendrick) and Maja (Josephine Park) can’t stay away from each other. It’s all the expected stuff of romantic comedies — the meet-cute, montages, and making each other breakfast. You can easily forget that you’re watching a horror movie, until Leah suddenly falls ill.
When Leah’s condition begins to worsen, Maja decides to move to Northern London with her, where Leah lives with her mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl). Chana is not only overbearing and clingy, but she’s also superstitious and secretive. Maja, unfamiliar with the Jewish culture she’s suddenly immersed in, tries to learn more about Chana’s superstitions and the mysticism she’s surrounded by. The film takes a dark turn as Leah continues to worsen, but writer / director Gabriel Bier Gislason keeps tight pacing and a smooth blend of comedy and romance throughout in his feature-length debut.
I normally find possession films to be a bit difficult to invest any belief in, but Ellie Kendrick’s performance as Leah keeps this possession story grounded. It’s refreshing to see a subversion of the usual Catholic exorcist scenes we’re all used to, if only just for a different take on the subject matter. And you know what? This one is a cozy-up kind of romantic comedy horror film.
Much like Attachment, the premise for Spring is not so different from your standard romantic film. Following the loss of his mother, American Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) travels to Italy to clear his head. After partying with some British guys and beginning work on a farm, Evan runs into Louise (Nadia Hilker). The two have a flirtation; Louise first rejects Evan, but eventually they have sex. While the relationship should end there, Evan doesn’t know yet that Louise is harboring a dangerous secret.
Spring evolves from this brief romance into body horror as we find out more about Louise’s “condition.” If you’re not familiar with Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s works, the two filmmakers are masters of contemporary cosmic horror, and this mysterious story is surreal, atmospheric, and unique.
So many of these romantic horror films take ideas from classic horror / monster films and instead make stories about acceptance and being loved for who you are — it’s actually a really quite wholesome concept. If you’re looking for something less wholesome, this last one on the list will be perfect.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
A romantic getaway goes entirely off the rails in this adaptation of Stephen King’s book of the same name. Directed by Mike Flanagan and starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as Jessie and Gerald, Gerald’s Game is one of the better Netflix Originals in recent memory, as well as a tense, quick ride.
Gerald and Jessie go away to an isolated lake house for what should be a romantic getaway; they’re hoping to spice things up and rekindle some of the heat in their marriage. Gerald has some fantasies that Jessie’s not quite comfortable with, which involve handcuffing her to the bed. And then Gerald dies of a heart attack. It’s a nightmarish “what if” scenario that plays out as Jessie fights hallucinations and memories, trying to figure a way out of her predicament. As Jessie fights her inner demons, she’s fighting to prove to herself that she’s worth saving. Gerald’s Game isn’t romantic in any traditional sense, but Jessie’s relationship with herself is incredible to watch throughout this situation. Absolutely the scariest movie on this list, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.
Whether you’re trying to impress a new sweetie with your ability to withstand horror films, or you’re just in the mood for some romance that you won’t find on the Hallmark channel, this list of movies for Valentine’s Day should have you covered. Surely there are other greats out there, but these are some of my favorites of the past decade. Each a little weird, some a little (or a lot) gross. Just like real-life romance.