Cat People

Not many of the relationships on this list are lucky enough to begin with the classic serendipitous meet-cute. However, in the 1942 cult-film Cat People, a simple missed toss of a crumpled piece of sketch paper into a trashcan unites the beautiful Serbian artist Irena (Simone Simon) and engineer Oliver (Kent Smith). They are immediately taken with one another and Oliver’s genuine patience and kindness with the reserved Irena is nothing short of true love. After a brief romance, the two marry and live happily ever after! Or they would have…

Irena is more than reserved. Hailing from a Serbian village overrun by evil Satan-worshipping witches, she is afraid that she is cursed like the wicked cat-people of her homeland and will turn into a panther and eat her true love if they are to kiss and consummate their relationship. Even with the fear of being some sort of man-eating were-panther, Cat People still boasts one of the healthiest relationships of the bunch, and it is one of the few gothic love stories that paints the woman as the troubled monster. Like most of these stories, a love triangle does form, leaving Oliver to choose between his increasingly more paranoid wife and his levelheaded, non-feline-inclined coworker.

Crimson Peak 

Disguised as a simple, albeit stunning, haunted house horror film, I took a couple friends with me to go see Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak when it opened in 2015. When we left, these self-proclaimed horror fans said that they felt more like they had just read an old book than seen a scary movie. Ghosts, hauntings, mysterious inhabitants of big old houses, a questionable romance, and an eerie prophecy; this film starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, and Jessica Chastain is one hundred percent inspired by the actual gothic romances from the days of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. It is an homage, fully realizing every detail that made those stories so poetic that they are still inspiring an array of mediums to this day. The clever and charming heroine, Edith Cushing (Wasikowsha), even makes reference to wanting to be like Mary Shelley…and die a widow. Crimson Peak is a romanticization of gothic horror in every way. From the sway of the house to the truly exceptional costuming, it is a film that you want to go into completely open and unspoiled so that you can soak in every last drop.

It is hard to compete with the classics, and I do not think that is what del Toro set out to do. Every scene, every shot is as poetic and romantic as the story the characters are acting out. And creepy. Oh boy is it creepy. Nothing about this movie seems surefooted: you feel uneasy every single moment, and yet you want so badly for every sweet confession of love between Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and Edith to be genuine. However, Thomas’s enigmatic sister Lucille (Chastain) is always lurking about, reminding you that there is something strange about this sibling pair. Not to mention the shadowy ghosts, the bleeding foundation, and the “never go beyond this floor” warnings.

Bride of Frankenstein 

“Such an audience needs something stronger than a pretty little love story, so why shouldn’t I write of monsters.” 

On a dark and stormy night, Mary Shelley reveals to her company that there was more to her frightful story, and just like that we are transported to the end of Frankenstein, except the townspeople failed, and the monster is alive! However, Dr. Frankenstein seems to have a new lease on life, and wants nothing more than to be with his wife, far away from his experiments. It is only when Doctor Pretorious, a mad scientist that out-mad-sciences Dr. Frankenstein himself, comes knocking with the disturbing plans for a manmade race.

Bride of Frankenstein has become a pop culture figure, and with that I have encountered a lot of misunderstanding about the relationship between the monster and his bride. Some even believed that they were some sort of deranged duo like Bonnie and Clyde or Joker and Harley Quinn, but the film itself is a tragedy, and the relationship was one that should have never existed. Like Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein is what you think of when you think of gothic romance. It is beautiful in its horror and tragedy, and as far as misunderstood monsters go, Frankenstein’s monster is the one on which all others are based.

The sinister Dr. Pretorious, with his criminal ways and corrupt motives, makes you detest the idea of creating another monster, but watching the monster, still struggling with understanding his place in the world, form a real friendship with a blind musician who cannot judge him by his monstrous appearance and is just happy to have someone around that is also ‘afflicted’ is heartbreakingly sweet. The moment that relationship goes up in flames, and he calls out looking for his kind friend, you start to agree with Pretorious’s plans, if for no other reason than to bring purpose and peace to this misunderstand creation.

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