By Adrianne Calgie
Ah, February. A month that instantly seems brighter purely due to the fact that it’s not January. Whether it’s post-Christmas blues, the aching thud of following off the resolution bandwagon or just the general dour-feeling, most of us are pretty glad when February rolls around: bringing with it that most beloved/dreaded of ‘holidays’- Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day brings certain expectations. If you’re loved up, you’re expected to buy into the cards and flowers consumerism of it all. Single? You’re expected to either partner up ASAP or stay at home so as to not ruin the day for smug couple-types. Whatever your relationship status, there’s always the failsafe option of watching a movie. Rather than go for the usual lame rom-coms, why not impress your date/self with one of my picks of the Top 5 Romantic Movies, guaranteed to secure that elusive second date.*
*not a guarantee.
If you’ve ever been on a first date that went well, then fizzled out, you might just want to watch this before you send that follow-up text. Takashi Miike’s slow burning, visceral Audition makes single sofa Saturdays seem a lot more appealing. Following the death of his beloved wife, Aoyama is encouraged to start dating again. Unwillingly he posts an advert for a fake film audition, which is either the creepiest or sweetest approach I’ve ever heard. For now we’ll go with sweetest… When fragile, engrossing Asami turns up, he’s instantly smitten. The two go for a lovely, romantic dinner, and it seems like they’ve hit it off. So, is it happily ever after? Umm. No. Then it wouldn’t be worth watching, would it? For 2/3 of this film’s running time it’s a deftly handled romantic comedy. For the final act it’s some of the freakiest and most disturbing stuff you will ever watch. And you might want to consider screening your online matches that little bit more carefully.
May is an oddity that I only discovered in the last year. It’s actually quite a sweet film, albeit one which made me terribly uneasy, and on the verge of seriously cringing for most of its duration. Our titular heroine (played by Angela Bettis) is a teeny bit of an oddity: lonely and ostracised as a child, she seeks companionship from anyone who shows her kindness. She doesn’t really differentiate between genders, she just wants a pal. And woe betide anyone who gets in her way. May is a genuinely touching film, but our unreliable narrator (I love a good unreliable narrator) ensures that we’re strung along from one tense situation to another. Thankfully, there are no schlocky scares to underline this: just a growing sense of tension as May becomes increasingly unraveled. A really sweet little gem and an assured debut from director Lucky McKee.
Ever felt yourself pining for the one who got away? That one that seemed to end before it ran its natural course? Or, at the very least, have you ever played that sleepover game where you do the ritual to see your future spouse’s face in the mirror? If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’, you’ll find a lot of resonance in Candyman. Based on the Clive Barker story The Forbidden, it’s about student Helen (Virginia Madsen) who stumbles across the Candyman story while researching urban legends for her thesis. She becomes slightly obsessed, chasing down the legend’s origins and summoning him into existence. Whoops. Candyman is a great example of a slasher without pandering to genre convention. It respects its source material, but Tony Todd’s embodiment of the title role is unlike anything you could’ve imagined while reading. Even at the age of 27 I can’t bring myself to mutter his name five times at my own reflection.
4. Edward Scissorhands
OK, so I cheated a little on this one. It’s not an out and out horror or thriller in the same way as the others on this list. However, it’s got some seriously spooky credentials and undeniably gothic leanings: not only is it directed by Tim Burton and scored by Danny Elfman, but it co-stars horror staple Vincent Price and it’s partly set in a creepy, abandoned mansion. It’s the film which first got me hooked on Burton and all things weird. This is a darkly gothic fairy tale which, unlike the rest of this list, is high on the ‘aww’ factor. Its fresh faced stars made quirky leading roles mainstream, and Tim Burton’s signature style has never been better exemplified.
5. Cherry Falls
I deliberated on this one: there are better examples of horror romance, but this won out as it recalls awkward high school memories, subverts the usual slasher movie convention of the Last Virgin Standing, is gleefully silly and, most importantly, features a supporting role from Michael Biehn. And, in my opinion, not enough films do. This film is utterly ridiculous but I enjoyed its attempts at turning the old cliché on its head, and in any case I’m a sucker for a good slasher film. It’s also notable for a starring role from the dearly departed Brittany Murphy, still managing to seem bonkers as a virginal model student and daughter of the local sheriff. Bless ‘er.
Other notable near-inclusions: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Fly (1986), Interview with The Vampire (1994), Haut Tension (2003), Let the Right One In (2008).
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list… are there any horror romance mash ups I’ve missed? Tweet us @scotcampus with your suggestions.