Romance and Horror: A Perfect Pairing

*** A warning to our readers: This post contains spoilers of various films and books ***

Here on the YA Scream Queens blog, we’ve talked about all sorts relating to horror—the gothic, true horror, hauntings, techniques for horror; we’ve talked about vampires, blood countesses and more. But today I’d like to do something a little different.

I want to talk about Romance.

Love, lust, beauty and atmosphere are things that drive us to seek out the other half of ourselves. They drive us to socialize, to date, to kiss, to connect. Love and romance are the reasons many of us wake up in the morning, or go to the cinema or pick up a book. We’re seeking some kind of connection. When you love someone, they pose a risk to you. They can hurt you more than anyone else. They can betray you, and they can leave you. They can die.
Can you think of a better motivating force in the face of true evil?

The man who stalks and kills a woman in the woods (typical horror trope) does so because of an obsession. Does he, in his warped mind, love the girl? Idolize her? What about the man who loses his wife in unusual circumstances? Is that not the perfect motivator and driver of his actions? His revenge? His mental decay? His rage? What about the woman who walks into a haunted part of an old, abandoned apartment building to rescue the man she has fallen in love with, knowing that she will likely die herself?

I was watching Apartment 1303 (The Mischa Barton one) a few weeks ago, and while not the epitome of Horror by any means, it did get me thinking about motivations. The idea that the man our main character/heroine has fallen in love with has been taken into this haunted apartment by malevolent forces, and she willingly goes in search of him because her love I so strong, is something that stuck with me. Would I do the same? Is her love strong enough to lead her to him? Questions like these started firing, and wouldn’t let me rest.

Similarly, the film Absentia, which centers around the story of people going missing in a pedestrian underpass, and the main character Callie’s self-sacrifice by attempting to trade with an insectoid creature that has stolen her sister to some kind of hell dimension, in an attempt to save her, is both heart-warming and cripplingly tragic.

Another movie that horrified me because of the love aspect: Excision. A mentally disturbed teen performs a lung transplant on her sick sister using the organs of a corpse—killing her sister in the process because she loves her so much. This one was a particularly strong blow for me as a viewer. The moment when her mother walks in to see the surgical carnage, and the desperate love and pain on her eldest daughter’s face—and the way the mother hugs her eldest (now only) daughter—is so immensely powerful.

 There are countless examples: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake—Anna’s sacrifice at the end of the novel, with Cas left behind without her. The Shining by Stephen King—Dick Hallorann rushes back to the Overlook to save Danny (not romantic love, but love nonetheless).

Romance (or, really: love) and horror go hand in hand. The next time you watch a horror movie, pick out the motivations, see how it is all tied to love or desire. If you write horror, remember this amazing truth and let it enrich your stories.

What a pairing! Romance, and horror.


Categories: Books, Movies, Stephen King, Television, Writing, YA

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