Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a tragic love story. Throw in a good bit of blood and gore and you’ve got one hell of a date night! Since our theme here on Nightmare on Film Street this month is Time, we’ve got 10 Tragic Horror Love Stories… Set in the Past! That’s right! Watch too much Downton Abbey and need something a little more spooky? We’ve got you covered!
10. Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)
Kicking off the list with a non-traditional love story, we’ve got Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning! A prequel to Ginger Snaps (2000), this film takes place in the 1800s with sisters Brigitte and Ginger (once again played by Emily Perkins (Extraterrestrial) and Katharine Isabelle (American Mary) respectively) taking refuge in a Canadian fort that is apparently under constant siege by werewolves. No, this isn’t a story about romance, this is a story of the love between siblings. It’s about how far one is willing to go for their sibling and how that love can ultimately lead to self-destruction. Tragic enough?
9. Knife + Heart (2018)
Set in 1979 Paris, Anne is a filmmaker producing gay porn. When her lover and partner Loïs leaves her, she decides she must make the her most ambitious film yet. But with her actors being murdered by a mysterious dildo-knife wielding maniac and the police being of little help, she must track down the murderer herself all the while attempting to reconcile with her love. This film not only showcases a tragic love story in the case of Anne and Loïs but also with another couple that I won’t spoil here. It’s tragic, violent, and it shows the desperation that comes from losing one’s love.
8. Sweeney Todd (2007)
Tim Burton is a master of melding the macabre with the tragic. He’s also infamous for using the same actors in a lot of his films. Fortunately, those actors are pair Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows) and Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) whose chemistry is unquestionable. Set in Victorian London, Benjamin Barker (Depp) is a talented barber whose lovely wife is assaulted by a local judge (Alan Rickman) who frames Barker and takes possession of his daughter. Years later, Barker returns under the name Sweeney Todd to exact his revenge only to discover that his daughter is set to marry the villainous judge. With the help of Mrs. Lovett (Carter) and her pie shop, Todd sets off on a path towards revenge. If revenge and tragedy with a splattering of gore are what you’re after, this film will not disappoint!
7. From Hell (2001)
It doesn’t get much more period than Victorian era London, and in our second Johnny Depp performance on this list, we’ve got the story of a detective on the trial of infamous killer Jack the Ripper. Of course, he is also falling in love with one of the Ripper’s prospective victims, a sex worker by the name of Mary Kelly. As the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that this is not a simple case of a killer on the loose, but instead has ties that go higher than any of them ever expected. As far as period piece love stories go, this one’s got a lot going on with psychic detectives and killer conspiracies.
6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
This film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name follows two sisters in 19th century England. The catch? Zombies are roaming the streets of England! Not to worry, though, since the sisters are trained in deadly martial arts. Aside from the zombies, life progresses as it normally would in 19th century England with balls and arranging marriages to wealthy suitors. Whether the sisters or their suitors will survive long enough to determine compatibility is the question. Without going into intense detail, this is a pretty straightforward film. It’s Pride and Prejudice… and Zombies!
5. Interview With The Vampire (1994)
This classic vampire tale based on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles follows a pair of vampires Louis and Lestat played by Brad Pitt (Fight Club) and Tom Cruise (The Mummy) respectively. Though not a traditional relationship, the partnership between the two and their love for one another, however abusive, is palpable. The film mostly takes place in and around the Victorian era with small flashes to the present. If you’re looking for a vampire flick with some of the most beautiful actors in the world in a, let’s face it, very homoerotic period period piece, this one’s for you!
4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
A classic Universal horror film, Bride of Frankenstein incorporates a lot more of the original Mary Shelly story while ensuring that it aligns with the narrative established in Frankenstein (1931). The Monster, having survived the end of the first film, sets out into the world and learns much. Meanwhile, Dr. Frankenstein has married and is living a comfortable life until another scientist convinces the Monster to kidnap Dr. Frankenstein’s wife and force him to make another monster. This time a woman to be the monster’s wife. Unfortunately, creating life does not mean that the creation will be grateful.
3. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
In our third Johnny Depp pick, and second Tim Burton team-up, Sleepy Hollow follows Ichabod Crane (Depp) who is investigating a set of murders in Sleepy Hollow in the late 18th century. The locals believe a headless apparition is to blame for the deaths and although initially skeptical, Crane is convinced after witnessing another murder at the hands of the ghost. As he investigates, it becomes apparent that the ghost is targeting specific members of the community. Ichabod must deduce why in time to end the bloody spree and protect his love interest, the town elder’s daughter Katrina played by Christina Ricci (Cursed).
2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
This is a highly stylized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original novel directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It stars a powerhouse cast of Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), Wynona Ryder (Stranger Things), Keanu Reaves (John Wick), and Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs). Following the traditional Dracula story, Jonathan Harker (Reaves) is hired by Count Vlad Dracula (Oldman) to procure real estate in England. Having done so, Dracula traps Harker in his castle and sets off to procure Harker’s fiance Mina Murray (Ryder). As his bloody reign descends on England, professor Abraham Van Helsing (Hopkins) tracks the vampire down in effort to put an end to the killing. It seems, Dracula’s thirst for love drives him just as much as his thirst for blood.
1. Crimson Peak (2015)
Set in the early 20th century, Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a writer and heiress to her father’s large fortune. She falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and moves into his large manor with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Edith, though, is haunted by an apparition in red who eventually leads her to discovering the Sharpe siblings’ plot to murder her and take her father’s inheritance for themselves. The complication, however, is that Sharpe has truly fallen in love with Edith. This story is everything that makes a gothic romance, complete with a tragic and somber ending. Paired with Guillermo del Toro’s unique style, this is a true ghostly masterpiece.
There you have it, 10 Tragic Horror Love Stories Set in the Past. How did we do? Did we miss any of your favorite horror love stories? Let us know on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook. And for all the best in horror movie discussion, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.