It’s time to admit that ‘Love Actually’ is actually a horror movie

In true Christmas spirit, we’re here to ruin the so-called romcom that is Love Actually; a Stephen King film in disguise

It’s that time of year when holiday traditions have officially taken hold. Mariah Carey continues to sing the same tune she has since what feels like the Ice Age, and nagging aunts will soon begin asking about the status of your love life at Christmas lunch. 

Then, after your grandfather starts musing on how Trump “might actually have some interesting ideas,” you’ll all huddle around the television for what is ultimately the truest Christmas tradition of all; Love Actually.

Love Actually Christmas Horror movie
Credit: Universal; Courtesy Everett Collection

The Richard Curtis-directed romcom has remained a festive favourite ever since its 2003 release, and on the surface, it’s easy to see why.  

These sappy love stories of various characters in the throes of romance during Christmas have all the trappings of wholesomeness. But, upon closer inspection and now with the benefit of hindsight, Love Actually is undeniably a horror film.

Before we get into why, it’s worth noting that this realization comes from a writer who has watched Love Actually since before he even knew what Martin Freeman’s character was doing — spoiler: he was shooting a porno because what Christmas film doesn’t have a money shot?

That a much-beloved and infinitely rewatchable romcom might actually be the creepiest film of all time is a tough pill to swallow.

But it nonetheless needs to be said, since it seems all too easy for these so-called Christmas tales to be rebranded for Halloween. Some of this rebranding can be pinned down to the fact that the film has aged terribly. 

Love Actually is almost-entirely focussed on its male characters ( the movie prescribes to the idea that the less women talk, the better), who go to extreme creepy lengths to pursue love under the guise of “high-romance.”

Love Actually Christmas Horror movie
Credit: Universal Pictures

Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister character becomes infatuated with his secretary — whom almost everyone in the movie thinks is fat (a true horror) — and enacts a relationship that would certainly end in his resignation.

He also reenacts a scene from Risky Business, and invoking Tom Cruise in any capacity is enough to fuel nightmares well into the New Year.     

Colin Firth somehow falls in love with a Portuguese-speaking maid (bonus points, she can’t speak English at all!), whose arrival at his French estate is dubious at best.

Some viewers have theorised she was human trafficked, and the fact that this subtext is even remotely discernible in a Christmas film is horrifying in itself. 

One character, played by Kris Marshall, has an entire storyline revolving simply around his quest to bang American women — a feat he is somehow successful in — and others, like Laura Linney’s love interest Karl, have fuckboy written all over them.

Elsewhere, Bill Nighy enjoys (or more accurately endures) a ‘bromance’ with his music manager whom he treats horribly, and churns out the kind of Christmas carols that could easily soundtrack the Scream franchise.

Love Actually Christmas Horror movie
Credit: Universal Pictures

All over Love Actually, there are characters whose terrible behaviour can’t be overlooked, no matter how hard the score tries to paint them as romantic.

Liam Neeson tries to console his grieving step son by showing him Titanic (because Carrie is a little too on the nose), and Rowan Atkinson — a jump scare all unto himself — engages in a gift wrapping scene so torturous you’ll wish you were watching Mr. Bean instead.

Amid all of these terrible people, two Love Actually characters reign supreme. A very married Alan Rickman, who seemingly took Hugh Grant’s lead in pursuing inappropriate workplace romances, also lusts over his assistant, deceiving his wife in the process.

To disrespect the icon that is Emma Thompson is one thing, but to make her cry bedside while Joni Mitchell plays is a crime on par with Colin Firth’s mail-order bride. 

Then there’s Mark, who not only organises a flash mob during a wedding (yet another crime), but blatantly pursues the new wife of his best friend, a woman to whom he has barely spoken (seriously, the dialogue between them could constitute a silent film).

Kiera Knightly, somehow overlooking how Mark has hours’ worth of close-ups of her face stored on his camera, is even made to endure what is Love Actually’s creepiest moment. Cue the cue cards. 

Arriving unannounced at Kiera’s doorstep with prewritten cards akin to a ransom note, Mark professes his love in the form of newspaper clippings (I’m not kidding) and a particularly eerie rendition of Silent Night.

Taken alone, the scene is a mantlepiece of the horror that underscores Love Actually; men disguising their creepiness as romantic, and beloved English actresses getting the short end of the stick (thank God Kate Winslet wasn’t cast). 

It’s important to reiterate that despite all of this, Love Actually needn’t be removed from your Christmas watchlist. Emma Thompson is still in it, after all, and Bill Nighy’s Christmas Is All Around remains catchy no matter how insufferable his character is. So, this Christmas, gather your family and revel in the horror that is Love Actually.