The blending of horror and comedy doesn’t make much sense on the surface. We see comedies to laugh, and we see horror films to be horrified (whether that takes the form of being scared, grossed out, or a myriad of other responses that can be reduced to a simple, “Uh…no.” I can’t speak to why hardcore horror fans also enjoy horror comedies (beyond the containing of multitudes), but as someone who isn’t a big horror fan, the horror comedy allows me to enjoy the spectacle from a safe distance of superiority and laughter. It’s schadenfreude – and definitely not because I’m a chicken.
1) The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Where to even begin? Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s meta-commentary on the, well, “cabin in the woods” subgenre (which makes an appearance in two of my other picks) leans more toward the funny than the frightening, but that’s okay because it’s very, very funny. The movie is carried by a cast that includes all-star supporting actors Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) and Bradley Whitford (Get Out) and an MVP performance by Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) as the most insightful stoner ever.
2) Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010) – Writer/Director Eli Craig (son of Sally Field, apparently?) made his feature film debut with the second of my “cabin” films, with this hixploitation parody that is also genuinely gruesome and hilarious. The titular Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two good old boys just looking to chill out and drink some beer at their new cabin when they encounter some college kids from the city who immediately decide the two are psycho hillbilly killers. Bloodshed ensues.
3) Shaun of the Dead (2004) – The first, and possibly best, of writer/director Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy” stars Simon Pegg (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and Nick Frost (Ice Age: Continental Drift) in a zombie classic that manages to be scary, touching, and funny – often in the same scene. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite from this list, Shaun would probably be it, despite my general apathy toward most things zombie.
4) Evil Dead 2 (1987) – A quasi-sequel/remake of Sam Raimi’s first film The Evil Dead (1981), this one is bloodier and funnier, full of non-stop one liners from Bruce Campbell’s iconic Ash. He just wanted a simple, romantic weekend at a CABIN IN THE WOODS with his girlfriend, but winds up tormented by an ancient evil after reading from The Necronomicon (or Book of the Dead). Chainsaws ensue.
5) What We Do in the Shadows (2014) – There aren’t a lot of scares in Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s vampire mockumentary, but there are plenty of laughs. The deadpan approach to a ridiculous concept (“What happens when vampires, living in a house together, stop being polite, and start being real…”) mines almost every trope of the genre, and even brings in a rivalry with the roaming gang of werewolves (not swear-wolves) led by Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords).
Young Frankenstein (1974), Gremlins (1984), Ghostbusters (1984), Fright Night (1985), The Monster Squad (1987)