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Rosebud Releasing Corporation
The world can be an awfully dreary place sometimes, one rife with contention and a painfully depressing news cycle. Escapism, in the form of cinematic entertainment, can sometimes be the best bet to assuage the negativity that occasionally pervades the human experience. In the eyes of some, horror films can add to the bleakness. But to those who appreciate the genre to the fullest, who find beauty in the practical effects, laughter in the preposterousness and a wink from the monster as it consumes its prey, mixing comedy amidst the images of misery, death, and chaos can have the opposite effect. Lost among the darkness and the macabre themes, it just might be helping us cope with our own adversities.
But it takes a true artist to perform the wizardry necessary for successfully layering the touchstones of horror with satire, irony, or a bit of sarcasm to instill levity and laughter in scenarios that may seem hellish on their surface. When done properly, magic takes shape in the form of a raucously good time laughing at the dread of others on screen. The best of these films achieve immortality, creating cult followings that — ironically — make sure they'll never die.
Horror comedies come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them revel in over-the-top gore, satirizing the bloody tales of a certain sect; these horror comedies have become lovingly dubbed as "splatstick" comedies by some fans. Other films under the horror comedy banner might parody some of the greatest horror flicks to grace cinema, while breaking the fourth wall a bit. Whatever the case may be, there's something for everyone who loves both genres. Here are the best horror comedies that everyone should see at least once.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Rosebud Releasing Corporation
Sam Raimi spooked audiences far and wide with 1981's "The Evil Dead." The horror film focused on a group of friends who stay in a remote cabin in rural Tennessee. What they find in the cabin is a demonic book and the recorded ramblings of an archaeologist. While playing the records, the group inadvertently summons ancient demons who possess and torment the vacationers. "Evil Dead 2" took a black comedy-horror approach to a similar story. Bruce Campbell portrayed the character of Ashley "Ash" Williams (just like in the previous film), who eventually became the tortured hero of the story.
This time, Ash is visiting the remote cabin with his girlfriend. After unleashing demonic forces through playing the archaeologist's tape once again, all hell breaks loose. Ash's girlfriend is quickly possessed. He must fend off the demons, and does so in humorous ways. At one point, Ash's own hand is possessed, causing him to fight with and then sever it. Even after removing the corrupted limb, it still continues to attack and mock Ash. The film is littered with hilarious moments of Ash scrambling to defeat the evil. It's surely one of the greatest splatstick films of all time, and has garnered a massive fanbase in the decades since its release.
Army of Darkness (1992)
A direct sequel to "Evil Dead 2," "Army of Darkness" depicts Ash trapped in the past. The ending of the prior film depicted the wayward character being pulled through a portal to the past, along with the rest of the evil. He's now trapped in the Dark Ages, and reluctantly agrees to help warring kingdoms fend off the demonic incursions of the Kandarian demons.
Humorously, Ash explains his methods to the knights of the past for eliminating evil using his "boomstick" (shotgun) and his chainsaw-wielding arm. He also takes advantage of his future knowledge and pitifully attempts to pose as a womanizing hero. The grocery store clerk-turned-demon slayer sets off on a quest to defeat the evil so that he can return home. Eventually, Ash does find his way home, only to return to his reckless, demon-fighting ways decades later in the "Ash vs Evil Dead" Starz series — which further amps up the gore and humor of original films.
Psycho Goreman (2020)
"Psycho Goreman" positions itself as campy, B-style horror-comedy using the most ridiculous practical effects for gore and alien monstrosities. The film features two young siblings, Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her older brother Luke (Owen Myre). Despite her young age and stature, Mimi is anything but a pushover, constantly belittling her brother. Eventually, the two discover a gem in their backyard while digging. Later, an alien warlord emerges who was imprisoned on Earth due to his attempts at galactic conquest. He quickly realizes he can't harm the two children, because Mimi possesses the gem that allows her to command the alien.
Throughout the film, Mimi bosses the alien warlord around and names him Psycho Goreman. The idea that a feisty young girl holds the fate of the galaxy in her hands — and carelessly wields it like the small child she is — brings some true creativity and moments of levity to the concept. Eventually, Psycho Goreman opens up to the youngsters, sharing his origins and the reasons for his anger toward life in the universe. His enemies track him down and attempt to destroy him once and for all, but not if Mimi has anything to say about it. Fans of practical effects and campy horror will enjoy this strange, surreal sci-fi romp.
Dude Bro Party Massacre III (2015)
5 Second Films/Snoot Entertainment
To be clear, there isn't a first or second film preceding "Dude Bro Party Massacre III"; that's part of the joke out the gate, and gives you an idea of the humor you can expect. The intro to the film states that "Dude Bro Party Massacre III" was a film shown only once, late night, and the only reason it continues to exist is due to a solitary individual who taped it on his VCR. The film is grainy like a VHS tape, and even has (fake) commercials interspersed throughout.
"Dude Bro Party Massacre III" follows Brent (Alec Owen), who is looking to find out who murdered his twin brother Brock. Brock was previously part of a fraternity, so Brent joins the fraternity himself in hopes of tracking down his brother's killer. The film is wild and over-the-top with jokes reaching absurd levels, such as referencing the fraternity's junior-year prank where they blew up a dam and drowned an entire town. In fact, their pranks, which always result in collateral damage and many deaths, go unpunished by the school's leadership. A serial killer by the name of Motherface (Olivia Taylor Dudley) emerges to take retribution on the fraternity. Brock, Brent's brother, was one of the first murders. This film takes absurdity and cranks it up to level 10. Some may not appreciate the nonsensical humor at play, but regardless, the film makes its mark in the realm of horror-comedy.
Dead Alive (1992)
Also known as "Braindead" in New Zealand, "Dead Alive" is the product of a young Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy). This horror/comedy presents itself as one of the goriest films ever made. After an explorer manages to capture a creepy creature known as the Sumatran rat-monkey, the Wellington Zoo takes it into its new exhibit. Meanwhile, Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) takes his overbearing mother to the local zoo. In a twist of fate, she is bitten by the rat-monkey, begins deteriorating and turns into a zombie.
Lionel's mother kills her nurse, along with other staff in the house who also resurrect as zombies. Lionel constantly tries to keep the spread of the zombie plague under control, but nothing ever seems to go his way. At one point, an actual pile of gore reanimates as an undead creature and attacks. The level of craziness in this film brings its humor to something supremely disgusting and horrific. Fans of horror films should ensure they've viewed this film at least once in their lives.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Madman Entertainment/Paramount Pictures
Framed as a mockumentary, "What We Do In The Shadows" tells the story of four vampires who live as roommates. The film stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi as two of the vampire roommates who seek to navigate life as the undead, depicting them via confessionals that chronicle a daily existence filled with squabbling and bickering over trivial things. They also attempt to relate to humans and showcase the particularities of each vampire and their feeding habits. Filled with witty banter and jokes from Clement and Waititi, it's unlike any other horror/comedy before it.
The film features other facets of classic horror monsters, including a pack of werewolves who are constantly chaining themselves down so they won't roam ravenous throughout the hillsides. The werewolves have a humorous beef with the vampires that devolves into name-calling and petulant playground behavior between the groups. "What We Do In The Shadows" is a must-see for fans of the classic horror monsters. The success of the film also inspired a TV series on FX under the same name that is well worth checking out.
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
Thanks to films like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hills Have Eyes," hillbillies and rural folk get a bad rep. Tucker and Dale, two well-intentioned friends, experience this first hand. A group of college kids head to West Virginia to go camping. Along the way, they run into the titular characters and, instantly creeped out by the pair, continue on their way to their camp site. Little do they know that Tucker and Dale have a vacation home not far from their campsite.
A series of ill-perceived, unfortunate scenarios occur that lead the college kids to believe that Tucker and Dale are evil "Deliverance"-type hillbillies set out to murder them. Moments that involve the pair saving a drowning girl encountering someone who trips into a wood chipper by mistake are viewed by the college kids as horrific, hostile acts of kidnapping and murder. Throughout the film, these teens attempt to thwart a non-existent threat, while Tucker and Dale attempt to piece together the situation they've found themselves in. The characters are charming and funny, and the scenarios are a hilariously horrific blend of bad timing and misperception.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
While you'll usually see "Hatchet" listed as a "slasher-horror" film, it's also very much a comedy, albeit one well-versed in its genre trappings. Written and directed by Adam Green, "Hatchet" tells a story of some tourists who embark on an illicit boat excursion through a haunted swamp outside of New Orleans. The legend of the swamp tells of a murderous man who was accidentally killed by his own father. Inexplicably immortal or supernatural by nature, the man — Victor Crowley — returns time and time again to disembowel anyone who enters his swamp. The film is overstuffed with cameos from horror icons, including Kane Hodder (aka Jason Vorhees), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) and Tony Todd (Candyman).
Ben Schaefer (Joel Moore) and his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) wind up on the boat tour, thanks to Ben's desire to do something different to distance himself from the Mardi Gras festivities. As expected, the boatload full of people find themselves being hunted by Crowley. The vengeful monster kills his victims in the most ridiculously over-the-top ways, as the absurdity adds to the morbid humor and frequently hilarious banter of people attempting to survive the terror. "Hatchet" spawned three sequels, each more absurd than the last.
Released in 2009, just as zombies in popular culture were once again rising from the dead to find renewed popularity, "Zombieland" features four lively characters, each identified only by the city they hail from: Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).
Columbus narrates the film with a quirky demeanor and sarcastic whit. He fixates on the OCD rules that he has created for surviving the apocalypse, which include "cardio" (being able to run long distances), or "the double-tap" (ensuring a zombie is dead with an extra bullet in the brain). Many of these rules ring true for most horror films, so it's fun to see references to common tropes in horror, particularly those audiences so often wish the onscreen characters would adhere to. As these four unlikely survivors travel the countryside reluctantly sticking together they encounter surreal scenes, a memorable setpiece involving an amusement park, not nearly enough Twinkies, and a possibly-zombiefied Bill Murray. Eventually, they form a bond that continues into the film's worthwhile sequel "Zombieland: Double Tap."
Scary Movie (2000)
Released at the turn of the century and forming its own little cottage industry of horror spoofs, "Scary Movie" capitalized off the popularity of the Wes Craven horror flick "Scream." The comedy feels like a Zucker-Abrams-Zucker type parody of Craven's movie (David Zucker would take over from Keenan Ivory Wayans for several of the sequels), as teens are stalked and murdered by a serial killer adorned in a stoner-like variation on Ghostface mask. The slapstick-style humor is prevalent throughout the film, with plenty of references to other late '90s films/pop culture touchstones as well.
While the film focused on parodying the overall plot of "Scream," there are jokes that center on "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "The Sixth Sense," "The Blair Witch Project," "The Matrix," and others. The film would have four sequels of varying quality and impact. The series helped make household names out of folks like Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Anna Faris, and Regina Hall, and although the franchise died out sometime around 2013's "Scary Movie V," the films are fun time capsules to look back on nowadays.
The holiday season is a joyous time, one that renews our desire to be better, more giving people – or does it? Michael Dougherty's film "Krampus" focuses on a family who aren't exactly on the nice list of Santa Claus, as they fight and bicker, belittle each other, and wallow in their own misery and selfishness. The Engel family does, however, have one among them who longs for a time when Christmas was celebrated the way it should be — with family who care to be in each other's company enjoying the traditions of the season.
Little Max (Emjay Anthony) is bullied by his cousins and ignored by the remainder of the family. After he can deal with the disfunction no longer, he angrily tears up his letter to Santa and throws it out the window. Gradually, the Engle family is besieged by haunting tokens of the season, including ravenous gingerbread cookies, demonic toys, and the ancient evil himself, Krampus. The film's dark humor comes about in the shape of this loathsome bunch being picked off one by one, as the creepy Krampus hauls them away to the depths of the hell he emerged from. Watching the self-professed rough-and-tumble Uncle Howard (David Koechner) be bested by possessed holiday pastries is a highlight, and just one memorable instance of this ridiculous family unit receive their well-deserved Christmas comeuppance.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
"Gremlins" introduced audiences to the cute, cuddly mogwai known as Gizmo — and the manic monsters who accompanied him if you fed him after midnight. This sequel ratchets up the insanity of the first film substantially, bolstered by jokes about everything from Donald Trump to Hulk Hogan to late night horror hosts and cooking shows.
This time around, the mischievous creatures take over a lab and proceed to wreak havoc while killing some of the staff. Each gremlin has its own personality, many mimicking humans; we also a bat-gremlin, a talking gremlin, a lady gremlin, and one that seems inspired by Daffy Duck. As the human desperately try to reign sunlight down upon them, the clever critters take over an entire building, resulting in sheer anarchic chaos. In the minds of some, "Gremlins 2" was a disappointment; for others, it's a minor masterpiece of ambition that took the franchise to a whole new level.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Making a play on "Dawn of the Dead," Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who play the characters of Shawn and Ed. They find themselves amidst a zombie apocalypse, struggling to survive. The two are slackers at best, constantly looked down upon by those in their lives, and the events of the film give them a chance to transcend their miserable realities, dare to be great — and kill a slew of zombies along the way.
Taking cover in a pub among their friends, associates, and Shaun's former flame, the film delivers gags with a clever script and a talented cast. The zombie apocalypse has never been so much fun, and although the stakes may be ultra-serious, the film never treats it that way. In the end, even the zombies themselves are trivialized; "Shaun of the Dead" is a worthwhile watch, one that has ascended to the upper echelons of the genre.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Writer Drew Goddard ("Lost" and the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV show) made his directorial debut with the remarkably brilliant premise of "exposing" the origins of the slashers, monsters and imperiled teens we've all come to expect from the horror genre. With "The Cabin in the Woods," Chris Hemsworth's Curt Vaughan accompanies some buddies on a respite at a remote cabin for a weekend. Little do they realize, the friends are about to become part of an ancient sacrificial scenario. The film is filled with too many twists and turns that deserve to never be spoiled, but here's the highest praise "Woods" could receive: If you haven't yet seen the film for the first time, consider us jealous of all you're about to uncover.
The clever script contains references to horror of all kinds, and the more familiarized you are with the genre, the more you'll get out of it. The film is dark, bloody, but impossibly hilarious at times, as it breaks down a world of horror stories popularized by film, then constructs a wholly new narrative around them.
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