Yeah, there are fewer romantic films related to Halloween than you might think. And no, I’m not going to include the Michael/Halloween films. Not romantic except in a really creepy, disturbing stalker/serial killer way. Which I’m not into. You?
Surprisingly, my first thought was Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), starring my featured crush Cary Grant. A truly hilarious film version of the popular play, this is indeed a Halloween film… about two old ladies in Brooklyn who live with their nephew (who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt) and poison lonely old men who come to rent their room. But in a sweet way…
While the film features such fantastic comic/character actors as Jack Carson and the cop moonlighting as a playwright, Peter Lorre as Dr. Einstein (no, not that one), the plastic surgeon with a boozy, shaky hand and Edward Everett Horton as Mr. Witherspoon, the adminstrator of the asylum where the sisters plan to send Teddy… the film is stolen by Raymond Massey as Jonathan Brewster, the psychopathic killer who looks like Boris Karloff (but please don’t tell him that!). Brilliant: get the popcorn and candy corn and settle in for a wonderful, chilly ride.
Zombieland (2009). In keeping with the current fad of Zombie Love (I don’t get it, but you go, girl, love a man who wants to eat your brain), this quirky little indie starring Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin is a charmer. Yes, teen love blossoms in a world overtaken by zombies… and some kick-ass zombie fighting action in an amusement park. Surprisingly, I loved the humor and thrills of this one, despite my general dislike of zombie flicks (could that be the week of bad dreams generated by sucking down Season 1 of The Walking Dead in one gulp, like a meal of out-of-season raw oysters?). Nice Halloween fare, given the abundance of child zombies my friends will be escorting this year.
I would also go for the traditional pairing of the 1930s Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein. Director James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel is masterful, in both films. His updating/technological imagery of both the creation of the monster and the Monster himself (played of course by Karloff) is absolutely the stuff of nightmares, made kitschy and campy by the passage of time. The Bride (played by Elsa Lanchester) is an iconic vision of FemmeBotCorpse beauty, with homage to her looks in both Young Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The actress is virtually forgotten now, but this image of her reads across the decades, as does her rejection of Karloff’s Monster with a cat-like hiss. Gorgeous and painful!
Let’s also remember Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ masterpiece. Yes, in its way a romantic film. Think of Frau Blucher and the stallion…. And how about Beetlejuice? The young married couple played by a skinny Alec Baldwin and Gina Davis are sweet… while the title character, played by a disturbingly weird Michael Keaton, is Halloween-worthy. Oh and the near-forgotten Winona Ryder.
Couple Beetlejuice with Practical Magic, a film coupling scary zombies (sort of) with super-cool witches played by Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing. Both have great soundtracks as well as romance and comedy.
Lastly of course I have to pay homage to vampire films. My personal favorite of the Dracula bunch is Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Made in 1992, this is no Twilight. Both Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves are a bit outside the box, okay, but Gary Oldman as the stylin’ Dracula is amazing. Way before the dandy trend reappeared, Oldman sizzles as the Victorian dandy who is really some weird kabuki monster… oh, yeah. But seeing Oldman act is always a treat.
And Tom Waits cast as Renfield? Genius.
Of course, with this I’d add my second favorite Dracula film, based on the 1992 German expressionist film Nosferatu (#3 vampire film), titled Shadow of the Vampire, a quirky black comedy abotu the making of the original 1922 film, where the star seems to be taking his vampire role as a method actor might… a bit too seriously. Vampire films always turn on the sex/blood/romance link, so any of these provide chills and romance… plus a leetle bit of quirkiness.
For a kind of lost 70s disco fun, you might try Love At First Bite, starring George Hamilton (of the perma-tan) as Dracula. Filled with familiar faces from 1970s TV, this spoof is a charming reminder of a lost world.