It’s a rough time of year out there. Despite what commercials, candy companies, and even the occasionally cagey internet listicle tells you, February isn’t the most romantic month of the year. In fact, for many folks, it’s just a cold, short 28 days with a Singles Awareness celebration wedged smack dab in the middle.
Of course that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are many reasons why being single is the ideal lifestyle for some; and to others, a respite after things went wrong. And the horror movie genre is nothing if not deluged with stories about how things can go very wrong.
Spectral old flames, lying spouses, manipulative boyfriends, femme fatales, and a lover who transforms into a literal jungle cat when you get intimate are just a handful of the concepts touched upon in the below list! Many of these stories are clear cut fables. And whatever else they have to say, one moral is always clear: Sometimes you gotta thank heavens you’re single! So here are the movies to enjoy savoring that truth with.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
At the risk of spoiling a 23-year-old movie, there’s a reason What Lies Beneath works so well as a chiller: You as the audience simply cannot accept that Harrison Ford is a bad guy! Abusers can sometimes be like that. They can be charming, handsome, and even resemble Indiana Jones in the right light. But ask them about what they were doing with their missing graduate student on the night she vanished, and look out!
Hence this Robert Zemeckis ghost story is interesting for several reasons. It was one of the biggest hits of 2000 yet has largely gone forgotten; it is written by Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg; and it takes seriously a concept that’s largely been trivialized by cable television and streaming shows in the last 20 years: the lying, gaslighting husband. What Lies Beneath introduces Dr. Norman Spencer (Ford) as a flawed but amiable man, not unlike the actor’s then-recent spate of intellectuals-turned-men of action, a la Jack Ryan and Richard Kimble. It’s why Norman’s wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) has chosen to turn a blind eye to his probable indiscretions. But sometimes, the dead won’t let sleeping cadavers lie.
At first the movie posits itself as a story about a supposed Fatal Attraction-like ghost that’s haunting the good wife and the decent husband who strayed that one time. Yet What Lies Beneath is about something much more probable: a decent exterior that hides depraved depths. Sometimes it’s better to have an empty house than one full of ghosts! – David Crow
Watching Fresh for the first time unlocked a new fear within me, and at the same time helped me realize how grateful I am to be single. Even though the film emphasizes how time-consuming and disheartening dating can be until you find the right person, it also shows us how mesmerizing life can feel when you think you’ve finally found them. That is, until you discover a deep, dark secret about the other person…
After a series of unsuccessful dates, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) meets Steve (Sebastian Stan) and finally feels swept off her feet. Their whirlwind romance is almost swoon-worthy at first, but when she decides to go away with him for the weekend, she discovers that he’s not really into her as a person as much as she thought—-he really just wants her body. Or to be more precise, her flesh, which he will eat and sell to other cannibals!
To paraphrase the great Olivia Rodrigo, it really is brutal out here in the dating world. Not only do we have to worry about ghosting, catching feelings too soon, or going on an obscene number of Tinder dates just to still end up alone, now, at least according to Fresh, we also have to worry about our date wanting to literally eat us. As weirdly hot as Sebastian Stan is in this movie, it’s just not worth it! I’m much happier sitting at home by myself eating a meal that I know doesn’t have people in it. – Brynna Arens
If you are familiar with the phrase “put him in a bear and burn him” then you will know that Midsommar sets out its bad boyfriend pretty unequivocally. Deliberately written as a break up movie by writer/director Ari Aster, the ending is debatably not the triumphant “good for her!” closer that it might at first appear (she’s basically in a murder cult now), but there is no debate that Florence Pugh’s Dani would have been way better off had she not dated Jack Reynor’s selfish douchebag Christian.
Prior to that fatal break, Dani had just lost her sister and parents in a harrowing murder-suicide that was terribly inconvenient for Christian—he was planning to dump her. Instead he reluctantly agrees to take her on a trip to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every 90 years. Once there he coerces Dani into taking mushrooms, prompting a bad trip, and doesn’t let her leave despite the group experiencing unimaginable horrors. She’s pushed over the edge when she witnesses him sleeping with a young commune member (though to be fair to him, he was drugged and didn’t actually want to). The bear costume might have been overkill, but the little smile Dani gives at the end says it all. – Rosie Fletcher
It Follows (2015)
The horrors of David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 film It Follows will be eminently familiar for anyone who endured the traumas of abstinence-only sex education in their youth (re: yours truly). For a certain generation of adults growing up in certain parts of the United States, sex outside of marriage was taught to be synonymous with death itself. It Follows just removes the middlemen of venereal disease or unwanted pregnancy and replaces death with an actual ghoul that follows the wicked fornicators until it catches and kills them.
Jamie “Jay” Height (Maika Monroe) is your everyday teen who is delighted to have sex with her new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary). Unfortunately, Hugh informs her post-coitus that he has infected her with a curse that causes an entity to pursue her until it kills her. The only way to remove the curse is to have sex with someone else and pass it along to them. While It Follows is obviously a commentary on how society treats the unimaginable horrors of teenagers wanting to bang, it’s also just a fantastic horror film in its own right. It will make you glad you’re not partnered up for Valentine’s Day just as much as it will make you wish you had a weird clamshell phone. – Alec Bojalad
Ready or Not (2019)
Ready or Not is like if a lovely fairy tale wrapped its opening chapter with a traditional “happily ever after” but then added “until” and turned into the kind of story that would have made the brothers Grimm proud. When Grace (Samara Weaving), a former foster child, marries a rich dream guy with a big family, she imagines she will finally get to experience a life she never had. Things seem to be going fairly well until after the ceremony, when the family reveals that they built their fortune by making a deal with the devil—a man called “le Bail”—and that new family members must play a game from Mr. le Bail’s puzzle box when they join.
In Grace’s case, this is Hide and Seek, and she’s forced to spend the rest of the evening hiding from the desperate, wealthy cretins as they attempt to hunt her down with various weapons. This is surely one of the only movies where a nice lady will end up single, with their dreams in tatters, and be left with trust issues and trauma for life, and you’ll still say “good for her.” – Kirsten Howard
Cat People (1942)
Long-married men who think they can replace a heartfelt Valentine’s Day offering with a cheap gag gift should remember what Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) warns her soon-to-be husband Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) in Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People: “We should never quarrel, never let me feel jealousy or anger. Whatever is in me is held in, kept harmless, when I’m happy.” But not too happy. The Serbian-born fashion illustrator gets positively catty when aroused. She believes one kiss too many could “enflame her corrupt passions” and turn her into a panther. While this may sound like it has interesting carnal possibilities, remember that gag gift idea. It can bite you in the ass, and again, not in a good way.
This also is not something to be tested or mansplained, even by highly respected but ethically challenged men of psychiatric medicine. Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) thinks he’s man enough to prove Irena wrong, pushing doctor patient confidentiality too far and letting the cat out of the bag. Producer Val Lewton cast Simone Simon because she had a “little kitten face, cute and soft and cuddly, and seemingly not at all dangerous.” But Irena’s claws really come out when Oliver begins an inter-office affair with the sexually non-threatening Alice (Jane Randolph). Cat ladies who prefer feline company to marital bliss have a point. There is no reason to settle for mere contentment. – Tony Sokol
The Invisible Man (2020)
Every so often, a modern retelling arrives that totally justifies cinema’s habit of recycling old ideas. Leigh Wannell’s The Invisible Man is a clever reinvention that transforms the shades-and-bandages Universal Monster into a universal monster of a different kind.
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men) plays Cee, a woman who, early on in the film, escapes her abusive, controlling, and wealthy tech-genius husband, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Weeks later, Cee learns that Adrian took his own life but she still doesn’t feel free of him, and with very good reason. Whannell’s film makes the persistence of trauma a solid enemy—solid, but invisible. Cee knows she’s being stalked by an unseen tormenter, but of course nobody believes her. Thus a psychological story about a woman tortured by her cruel and obsessive ex-partner becomes a monster movie.
After 124 minutes of shocks, desperate fights, Elisabeth Moss’ terrified face, an attic scare that’ll make you warier of going into your storage space than Paranormal Activity, and an exhausting showdown, you’ll wonder why anybody ever dreams of marrying a handsome, rich man at all. Stay single, stay poor, and stay safe. – Louisa Mellor
Get Out (2017)
This list has more than a few guys you’d want to think twice about swiping right on, but one of the most impactful horror movies of the 2010s revisits an old fear with a new twist: the femme fatale. When Jordan Peele’s Get Out hit theaters, there wasn’t a jaw not on the floor after Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) sees his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) “find” her car keys. Before that moment, Rose has been the kind, protective, and understanding gal who is aware of her white privilege while dating a Black man. She uses it to shield Chris from the suspicion of racist police officers and oblivious blue bloods from her childhood neighborhood, who are eager to ask the “articulate” Black man inappropriate questions.
However, it’s sometimes hard to shake where you came from. Indeed, Rose apparently has brought a string of Black boyfriends home to meet her “liberal” parents—and they think guys like Chris are so cool that they’ll literally appropriate their bodies. It’s invasion of the country club bodysnatchers! In the end, Chris learns the hard way that sometimes it’s just better to hang with your boys on the weekend than that girl with crazy framily.
The Shining (1980)
When I was younger, I saw The Shining as the story of a mother and son trapped in a hotel with a madman. Now that I’m a writer with a family, I see The Shining for what it really is: the story of a guy whose family won’t let him hit his freakin’ deadline. I love my wife and children dearly, and am truly happy that I’m not single, but the constant interruptions experienced by Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) make him the most relatable character in horror cinema. If I could just get them to understand that writing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is in fact writing. Who can fathom the complexities of the writing process?
While I have never chased my wife or son or daughter through a hedge maze with an axe, I have lost my cool more than once when a deadline looms like a grinning ghostly bartender. More often, I find myself turning into pre-breakdown Jack, pacing around my office and engaging in repetitive actions. In The Shining, I see the worst version of myself, a man who loses sight of the people who give his life meaning, who disregards the support and love they give him and trusts the monsters in his head instead. I’m not saying that the movie makes me wish I were single, but it does make me grateful for the grace my family infallibly extends to me and inspires me to trust them instead of my worst impulses. Now if I could only get my wife to wear the bear costume… – Joe George
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
It’s easy to dream about “the good life,” whatever that might be. For some, it can be eternity on a beach in Maui or St. Thomas, drinking rum. For others, it’s the center of the political universe in Washington. To poor, sweet Rosemary (Mia Farrow), it’s living in an exclusive Upper West Side apartment like the Dakota while her husband Guy (John Cassavettes) sees his acting career flourish on the New York stage. There she can also become a mother.
Don’t live for castles in the sky. You might just find they actually lie in the mouth of hell! Rosemary certainly becomes acquainted with its laundry room, as it’s down there that Guy and the other witches and occultists in the building drug her and offer her body up for Lucifer to bed. Motherhood is never easy, but single, coupled, or married, just be thankful your significant other hasn’t sold your bodily choices to the Devil!