WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 4 of Castlevania, now streaming on Netflix.
Horror is not a genre associated with happiness, though it has the potential to impart hugely positive messages: Overcoming tremendous adversity and trauma is the bread and butter of many a haunted house or slasher story. Audiences themselves find catharsis, too, in 'surviving' the scares of a darkened movie theater from title card to end credits; the relief of making it through is something few other genres in cinema (or television) can engender. But what about romance?
While there's plenty of room for adult, carnal desire and adolescent, sexual discovery, horror rarely spends much time dealing with mature, functional relationships, and is even less concerned with romance with a capital 'R.' The closest one can get is the gothic subgenre -- films like Crimson Peak or classic novels Jane Eyre, as well as basically any vampire story. As far as human couples in most horror fiction go, though, the narrative usually hangs around them getting together before being violently pulled apart. But two very different properties in two very different mediums beg to differ: the TV adaptation of the Castlevania games and The Conjuring film series.
Through Trevor and Sypha and Ed and Lorraine Warren -- monster slayers and ghost hunters, respectively -- horror fans are treated to something they didn't know they were missing: that 'old married couple' energy.
Castlevania's Trevor & Sypha, Bonded by Blood (and Bickering)
Over its four seasons, Netflix's horror-fantasy series Castlevania is anchored by the trio of Alucard, Trevor and Sypha, though, with long periods of separation, the latter two -- who quickly paired off -- take on the lion's share of plot-carrying. Starting as antithetical strangers-turned-colleagues, the 'opposites attract' couple grows into their romantic and professional relationship as monster hunters, culminating in a comfortability with each other in Season 4 that's both endearing and realistic.
Though they inhabit a grand and sweeping fantasy universe -- multiverse, to be exact -- Trevor and Sypha's romance is surprisingly grounded. A lot of this can be attributed to Castlevania's excellent dialogue, which, though bordering on the monologue-heavy, is always acerbic and dry enough to mop up the copious bloodshed happening left, right and center. What begins with mild flirtation in the show's earlier seasons blossoms into the kind of highly charged, coping-through-sex fling that's more prevalent in horror, where intimacy is usually weaponized to make character deaths hurt that much more for both the cast members involved and the watching audience. Castlevania nearly pulls this stunt at the very end, but Trevor's miraculous escape from Death (that's the literal Death) circumnavigates the expected.
It's also in this final season of Castlevania that Trevor and Sypha's bond is at its most interesting: Both worn-out from the drudgery of constant travel and the thankless task of ensuring Dracula doesn't return, Sypha realizes that she's starting to sound more and more like Trevor, which she hates, and the pair's mid-fight bickering feels as every day as quibbling over who's turn it is to do the dishes.
The Conjuring's Ed & Lorraine Warren, Married Against Evil
In James Wan's The Conjuring movies, of which there are almost three now -- not including the various spinoffs -- Ed and Lorraine Warren aren't as blunt or catty with one another as Trevor and Sypha. Some of this might have to do with them being loosely based on real-life demonologists rather than fictional video game characters. Reverence to their inspiration aside, the husband and wife duo strike a strong balance between idealized 'soulmates' and a believable married couple with a shared, high-risk business.
Despite being stalked by demons and haunted by deadly premonitions, there's a level of mundanity to their jobs that's more relatable, from their college campus tours to getting false callouts to attics that are merely home to bad plumbing rather than angry spooks. There's a reason why any entry to The Conjuring universe missing the Warrens is less warmly received than those they do feature in. Without them, the emotional heart of the franchise is missing; your standard jump-scare fest, in other words.
In The Conjuring 2, Ed and Lorraine separately comfort a girl plagued by demonic forces by disclosing how they found comfort and acceptance in one another as misfits, teaching her that the best ward against evil is a strong, family unit. It's extremely common for 'love' to be used as a sanctified force for good, but not as common for that love to have the thick, weathered foundation that only years of coexisting can create.
Castlevania & The Conjuring: Horror's Gold Standard for Long-Term Love
Even before their Amityville encounter, the Warrens are just as world-weary as Trevor and Sypha become, post-Dracula. Both couples are unable to turn away those in need, however, even if it means giving away a piece of themselves every time they do. There's little time for respite when the horrors of the outside world creep into your domestic safe space at every turn. Ed and Lorraine house an entire menagerie of occult items in their own private 'museum' of horrors. Trevor and Sypha have little separation, meanwhile, between them and a beast-infested landscape save for the thin canvas covering their cart.
Comparable long-term partnerships from the monster-fighting realm can be found in Supernatural's Sam and Dean Winchester or their forebears, The X-Files' Mulder and Scully. Otherwise, it's more common to see a lasting attachment form between man and monster, and usually a doomed one at that. That's why it's refreshing to have such terrifying and gory stories helmed by lived-in, human and mature relationships, as opposed to the usual parade of dysfunctional families, murderous spouses, lone wolf survivors (like the Final Girl), or horny teens being taught moral lessons by serial killers.
It's hard enough for most long-term relationships to weather the pressures of the real world. Trevor and Sypha and Ed and Lorraine do it with stakes and crucifixes in hand. Vampires and demons aside, what could be more feel-good than that?