Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are following in a fine movie tradition where the common heartaches of love get a supernatural make-over….
10: Return Of The Living Dead 3 (Brian Yuzna, 1993) Melinda Clarke is the zombie-bitten girl being desperately tended to by boyfriend Curt Reynolds in this most entertaining of the three sequels to Dan O’Bannon’s hit 1986 zombie-fest. Clarke possibly holds the record for a zombie-victim dragging out their transformation into the living dead, which process lasts the majority of the movie’s run-time. It’s an engagingly gruesome and affecting film that doesn’t try to top the original, despite some very comic zombie-mutilations.
9: Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987) Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) meddles with the wrong puzzle-box in Morocco and ends up torn to pieces by Cenobites, the ghastly demonic police force of hell itself. When a drop of blood partially regenerates his body, frank enlists his sister-in-law (Clare Higgins) – with whom he had recently cuckolded his brother, and who secretly loves him – to obtain more flesh for his flayed form. But the Cenobites are hot on his trail, and it’s questionable if he’ll get a full body before they get their fish-hooks into him. Remake is coming to cinemas in January.
8: John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) Daniel Baldwin and Twin Peaks‘ Sheryl Lee are the couple heading from antagonism into passion as the vampire-infected Lee beguiles Baldwin into letting her out of the rather S&M set-up that’s stopping her biting his neck (his boss, vampire-hunter James Woods, needs Lee semi-alive to help track down the head vamp). But Lee’s no rapacious bite-em-and-leave-em type, and the pair struggle to help our heroes before heading off into (or rather away from) the sunset. The final scene with the lovers and Woods is genuinely touching.
7: Ladyhawke (Richard Donner, 1985) In Donner’s tale of bewitchment, lovers Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer must live out their lives together under the aegis of an evil bishop’s curse, where Hauer is transformed into a wolf by day and Pfeiffer a hawk by night. Anyone who has ever dated a night-shift worker (or – trust me – a doctor) is bound to sympathise with this. Anyone who’s seen Shrek will also find its central curse rather familiar.
6: Dracula (UK: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola, 1990) Stoker’s seminal tale of vampiric devotion owes nothing significant to any one source (besides Victorian penny-dreadfuls). Despite the UK title, Francis Ford Coppola takes great liberties with the emotional dynamics between Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Mina (Winona Ryder), transliterating Mina’s opium-like addiction to her undead suitor (in the novel) into a rather more contemporary obsession with a catastrophically destructive man destined for tragedy.
5: The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) A common complaint of Kubrick’s admittedly stunning vision of madness in seclusion is that Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is clearly crazy from frame one. The book elaborates far more effectively a picture of a fractured couple riven by alcoholism with a real shot at repairing their marriage and love for each other. If they weren’t wintering as caretakers in a haunted motel where the ghostly inhabitants want them all dead. Shelley Duvall and Nicholson are superb, but in this prosaic treatment of a couple split by supernatural forces, you would have been calling social services in the first reel.
4: Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty, 1978) Warren Beatty stars in a hit film he also directed. Based only in title on the 1943 Don Ameche original, Heaven tells the story of a quarterback prematurely taken from his body by an interfering angel (Buck Henry) during a road accident. Cosmic overseer James Mason wants to rectify the mistake, but the body has already been cremated. Beatty is therefore inserted into the dying body of a millionaire industrialist murdered by his wife (Dyan Cannon), and proceeds to fall in love with tree-hugging militant campaigner Julie Christie, who hates him. Worse yet, Cannon isn’t done trying to get rid of hubby. An amusing tear-jerker ruined (or arguably enhanced) by the excessive amount of sports action, with a motif revisited in the likes of Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990).
3: Big (Penny Marshall, 1988) Romantically thwarted 12 year-old David Moscow asks a fairground fortune-telling machine to make him an adult. He wakes up as Tom Hanks, is chased out of the house as an intruder by his mum and goes to make his fortune as an executive in the toys industry, where he falls in love with Elizabeth Perkins. The crunch comes when he realises that he wants to return to being a boy again, and Perkins doesn’t want to make that journey…
2: An American Werewolf In London (John Landis, 1981) There can hardly be a horror genre where tragic love is more painfully enmeshed in the myth than werewolf movies, and ultimately it’s a reconstruction of very basic Greek tragedy, where dark obsession (usually in the man) intervenes to split up happy couples. In AWIL, David Naughton is the hapless US student wolfing out whilst lovely Jenny Agutter does all she can to understand him and save him. This scenario plays out in many other werewolf films including The Wolfman (1961), The Howling (1981), Wolf (1995) and Ginger Snaps (2000).
1: Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990) The film that made pottery more aphrodisiac than poetry, this remains the most profitable supernatural tearjerker to date. Big (dead) lug Patrick Swayze must protect his widow (Demi Moore) from the rapacious yuppie who betrayed him and had him killed (a delightfully slimy turn from Tony Goldwyn). There are scenes of great humour (as Swayze struggles with the basics of being dead), horror (as we see the nightmarish manner in which evil souls are dragged to hell after the moment of death) which only serve to soften the audience up for a tear-jerking ending that wasn’t to be matched again until 1995’s The Bodyguard.