Horror is a flexible genre that can be combined with effectively with other genres. A few weeks back we talked about our favorite sci-fi horror films. This week the staff at AiPT! will be talking about the movies that scared us and made us laugh.
What is your favorite horror comedy?Jason Segara: There are a lot of great options out there, but my favorite is probably Cabin in the Woods. It’s one of the smartest send ups of the horror movie tropes that have made for much unintentional comedy over the years, and the juxtaposition of the relatively serious A story of the kids at the camp and the rather droll reactions of the overseers at the command center creates a uniquely dynamic that is uniquely funny and frightening all at once. Plus it’s got a great cast, including an on-the-rise Chris Hemsworth and a surprise cameo from the queen of sci fi horror, Sigourney Weaver.
Justin Cohen: The Cabin in the Woods is definitely up there for me as well, but to throw out a different option I’ll go with You’re Next. I feel like it blends horror and dark comedy perfectly. It’s not over the top and it’s actually scary at points. I remember coming out of it surprised at just how much I loved it.
David Brooke: Shaun of the Dead may be my favorite horror comedy. I was a fan of the Scary Movie films too (at least the first two) but that’s a slapstick non-stop joke experience that’s not quite as intelligent as Shaun of the Dead. What We Do in the Shadows is also very good (and getting a new TV series in America soon), pushing the mockumentary style into horror in great ways. That said, there are so many iconic moments in Shaun of the Dead that play up society and the genre so very well.
Michael Rosch: I’m going with Army of Darkness. Between Sam Raimi’s direction & Bruce Campbell’s comic delivery, the old fashioned Ray Harryhausen-style stop motion effects, and an iconic last line — and you’ve got a perfect horror comedy.
Megan Wallen: My favorite is by far The Babysitter. It is smart and delivers a lot of laughs. I also love Scream if you would consider that to be one, the original 2002 Cabin Fever, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Forrest Hollingsworth: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil! It’s such a good, thoughtful, and hilarious send up of so many genres and tropes that also operates on the merits of its own plot very well. Also special shout out to Small Soldiers, a surprisingly scary movie for children and one I also love a whole lot.
What are the elements of a horror comedy? Jason: I feel like real horror comedies have to be serious about both elements. You can’t be a scary movie with wisecracks, there has to be genuine comic timing and plot elements to successfully pull the double billing off. Movies like Evil Dead and Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil do strike the perfect balance between gruesome horror and ridiculous comedy, whereas Shaun of the Dead or Dead Snow stray too far to either end of the spectrum for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both, but Shaun is definitely a comedy with horror elements, while Dead Snow is a horror movie with some jokes thrown in.
Justin: As a start, the film needs to be within the horror realm. American Psycho is more of a dark comedy with thriller aspects (not horror) in my opinion. As long as a movie is in the horror realm AND blends that pretty evenly with comedy, I believe it’s a horror comedy. Cabin in the Woods and Evil Dead are great examples of this.
Dave: Poking fun at horror itself is a must. Horror makes us feel uncomfortable which is a great place to start for humor to grow and form. Like Justin said above, it can’t forget that it’s horror either and it needs to shock you with gore or other scary elements.
Michael: A good horror comedy usually plays with the genre’s tropes or infuses a mundane element into the genre that doesn’t quite fit, either an ordinary schmo like Shaun or Buffy dropped into a horror movie or horror characters dropped into a normal world like Taika Waititi’s What We Do In the Shadows.
Forrest: I feel like the main thing is what is done with the power differential between the antagonist and the protagonist(s). In American Psycho, Patrick is totally in control of almost every situation to a horrifying effect that I would say keeps it firmly in the horror genre. But in Tucker and Dale, the villains are themselves de-powered and demystified in a way that sends up the genre and central balance a bit more, tipping the scale into comedy. If you’re willing to totally mess around the power of a villain for laughs, that’s probably more indicative of comedy.
What is your favorite horror movie that isn’t a comedy but makes you laugh every time you watch it?
Jason: Man, I seem to love horror movies that end up entirely on YouTube, but there’s a s----y zombie movie called Children of the Living Dead and it’s so comically bad that I fell in love with it. The producers clearly spent all their money on hiring Tom Savini – seemingly for one day – because he’s only in the opening sequence and it’s a tor-de-force of why he’s my hero. Dude just whips and flips, shoots and bombs zombie after zombie for like 5 minutes before dying off and never being discussed again. The rest of the movie (which has nothing to with either Night of the Living Dead or Return of the Living Dead, mind you) is done on a shoestring budget and it shows. There’s a murdered dog that is clearly a toy, an amorphous birthmark on one actor that changes shape between scenes (as they re-dye the damn thing between takes) and exactly two settings for action because they couldn’t afford any more. It’s fantastically poorly done in every aspect.
Justin: The remake of The Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage takes the cake for me. Every scene where he freaks out or acts crazy is unbelievably hilarious. His acting is absolutely terrible in this (is amazing, depending on how you look at it) and it makes for extreme entertainment. Cage dresses like a bear and punches a woman in the face!?!? What is going on? It’s outrageous.
Dave: Tremors is so campy and weird and yet I think we’re supposed to take it seriously.
Michael: I love The Devil’s Advocate. It’s the best use of Pacino going big with his performance, and he chews the scenery in such a wonderful way. That monologue at the end is kitschy perfection. Also Keanu attempts a Southern accent with varying degrees of success from scene to scene. It’s such a fun and funny movie that doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves.
Forrest: I don’t think I was supposed to laugh at Mandy as much as I did but I had a lot of fun watching that recently, there’s some bits that are just so over-the-top they can’t elicit anything but a chuckle.
What is the funniest horror comedy?Jason: It’s tough to choose between movies that are intended to be funny and those that just happen to be funny because of how bad/cheesy they are, but I think the best horror-themed comedy is probably the aforementioned Shaun of the Dead. Everything from the overt jokes to the hidden easter eggs and references is pitch perfect, and the comic timing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is so perfect it essentially created its own genre of film (though Edgar Wright definitely deserves a heap ton of praise for his additions). It may not be that scary, but the zombie setting and often gruesome deaths make this one the most accessible horror comedy out there today.
Justin: I have to go with Zombieland. It may be more of a comedy in general, but there are zombies so and so many laughs. And the Bill Murray cameo is amazing.
Dave: This might be my nostalgia talking, but Beetlejuice and Ghostbusters are up there. I could watch both these films a thousand times and still laugh at them.
Michael: It’s a toss up between Ghostbusters and Young Frankenstein but I gotta go Ghostbusters. It’s a perfect movie and the pinnacle of pre-arthouse Murray. Walter Peck forever remains the king of the jerky antagonist despite — let’s face it — he just has a smug expression on his face and doesn’t really do anything really jerky. And, realistically, he is right. I mean, private citizens obviously shouldn’t be running their own unregulated nuclear-powered anything without massive oversight. That’s just crazypants! Still though, that perfect timing and delivery with “Yes, it’s true; this man has no dick,” is such an epic burn for the ages that it doesn’t matter that Walter Peck has a point.
Megan: I would definitely go with The Babysitter again. Before I saw this movie, my nephew and I were super into Zombeavers. Warm Bodies and Stung are also mentionable, as well as Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes. For that one, the title says it all.
Forrest: Young Frankenstein is pound for pound one of the funniest movies in existence, genre or no.
What is the scariest horror comedy?Jason: It’s a really funny movie, but the first scene where a corpse reanimates in the storage facility in Return of the Living Dead scared the hell out of me as a kid. The barrel zombie was also a classic moment, but something about that screaming naked yellow dude shook me as a kid. By the time we get to the “Send more paramedics” scene later on, I was hooked on this movie – partly because it was funny, but more because it was properly scary, and the humor made it easier for young me to not freak out at what I was seeing.
Justin: An American Werewolf in London. It isn’t as scary now that I’m older, but this movie scared the crap out of me as a kid. The scene where David Kessler first transforms into a werewolf is seared into my memory. It has a lot of genuine laughs too is what’s funny looking back on it now, and it’s directed by comedy legend John Landis (National Lampoon’s Animal House, Coming to America). Don’t let your kids see it, they will have nightmares!
Dave: If you don’t like clowns Killer Klowns From Outer Space takes this one. There’s some messed up ideas thrown against the wall in this movie and the visual effects are freaky.
Michael: American Werewolf in London definitely has legitimately good horror but there’s something deeply unsettling about that moment in Evil Dead 2 when Ash cracks & starts laughing uproariously while his bloodied face looks straight into the camera at us. It’s only about 3 seconds of the film but it’s just truly disturbing on a strange, primal level I can’t articulate.
Megan: When I was younger, I was obsessed with Eight Legged Freaks. It was perhaps the first movie in this genre that I have ever watched, but I didn’t know it at the time. There’s one part in particular that comes to mind when thinking of this flick, and that’s when one of the guys in the mines has a clogged hose, so he puts it to his mouth and sucks on it, then when he opens his mouth, a plethora of spiders crawl out. This was my favorite movie for a long time until Snakes On A Plane came out. I don’t remember this one much because it’s been so long since I’ve seen it, but I think I remember a couple good jump scares.
Forrest: Evil Dead 2 is seriously unsettling, and I think the recent remake leaned into those elements to highlight a lot of what’s going on there in the best ways. But, if we’re considering American Psycho a horror comedy, that’s also a deeply unsettling, unflinching horror movie that you truly feel guilty for laughing along with by the end.