The horror-comedy. Perhaps the most difficult sub-genre of film to perfect. Most attempts at horror-comedy don’t come off well. Either they’re too scary without enough comedy or (more frequently) mostly humor with not enough horror. A lot of times they just come across as trying too hard and cheesy. But every once in a while a movie gets it just right. And when that happens, audiences embrace and celebrate the brilliant and elusive successful horror-comedy.
That being said, in celebration of the upcoming release of Trent Haaga’s Chop, we did our best to put together a list of 10 horror-comedies (in no particular order) that we feel are the most impressive efforts in the field. Wocka, wocka, wocka!
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2011)
We’ve seen quite a few attempts at horror-comedy over the past few years, but recently none has been better than Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Starring Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as the title characters, these two hillbillies orchestrate some of the funniest, goriest misunderstandings you’ll ever see.
From the chainsaw bees’ nest incident to the infamous wood-chipper scene, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is simply non-stop with the laughs and bloodletting. No, it’s not going to keep you awake at night (unless you’re tossing and turning with visions of Katrina Bowden dancing through your head), but Tucker and Dale bring so much in the gore department, it more than earns its horror wings. First time director Eli Craig nailed it. A perfect blending of genres.
Dead Alive (aka Braindead) (1992)
Long before he was directing hobbits, wizards, elves and dwarfs around Middle Earth, Peter Jackson worked with characters that would make an orc cringe. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, Jackson cut his directorial teeth with a couple of splatter films, Bad Taste and the unforgettable Braindead, better known to us Yanks as Dead Alive.
Possessing an undeniable right to call itself a contender for the title of goriest film of all time, Dead Alive holds back nothing. It’s a complete and utter assault on the eyes from the moment the infectious bite of the Sumatran Rat Monkey takes hold. With some of the most disgusting zombies you’ll ever see, Dead Alive will turn your stomach as you split your gut laughing at the completely over-the-top scenarios our hero, Lionel Cosgrove (played by Timothy Balme), gets himself involved in while trying to keep his zombies inside the house.
This was one of the first films to blend the horror and comedy genres nearly flawlessly. As opposed to many films that fall into the horror-comedy category, House didn’t rely on over-the-top gore to achieve the horror tag on the film. Instead, House was actually able to add an element of suspense. It’s not easy to get audience members biting their fingernails in suspenseful fear in one scene and then get them laughing at George Wendt in the next. (And you have to love the “Must See TV” collaboration of Wendt from “Cheers” and Richard Moll from “Night Court” in this film.)
Director Steve Miner evoked genuine laughs and frights in the same film. Yes, upon rewatching the film now, 25 years after its initial release, it does lose a bit of its original kick, but House certainly drew up an excellent blueprint for horror-comedies to follow.
Lake Placid (1999)
If hearing Betty White recite the line “If I had a dick, this is where I’d tell you to suck it!” isn’t enough to get this film on the list, I don’t know what is. Lake Placid is such an overblown creature feature that humorous dialogue is barely necessary but provided in ample supply.
Also directed by Steve Miner, Lake Placid is like Alligator on performance enhancing drugs. Too big to be true but great to sit back, suspend disbelief and simply enjoy for what it is.
Adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft story Herbert West, Re-Animator, this Stuart Gordon directed film launched Jeffrey Combs on his way to becoming one of the most recognizable faces in modern horror. The camp of the film is highlighted in, of course, the oral sex scene that gives new meaning to the term giving head. But comedy is woven throughout the film.
Followed up with two sequels that also contained insane gratuitous gore and a tongue-in-cheek personality, Re-Animator instantly became a must see film among horror fans upon release, and its great F/X and blackly comedic aura have made it a mainstay for the genre.
The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz launched the face of Troma Entertainment with the release of The Toxic Avenger. Again, there’s not a lot of true chilling horror in this film, but the insane amount of gory F/X makes this film difficult to classify as anything but horror-comedy. Crushed heads abound as The Toxic Avenger romps through Tromaville, trying to (literally) clean up the corrupt city.
Perhaps Hobo With a Shotgun might be the only vigilante film that has approached Toxie’s tongue-in-cheek body count. Followed by The Toxic Avenger 2, The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, it’s easy to see how the Troma Team used laughs and massive bloodshed to build their franchise series.
From Rule #1: Cardio to Double Tap to the Twinkie truck that wasn’t, Zombieland took a little different approach to the horror-comedy. This is legitimately scary horror film infused with hilarious dialogue and circumstances. The Bill Murray cameo may be the greatest achievement in the history of horror-comedy.
Woody Harrelson’s hard-assed Tallahassee is the perfect complement to Jesse Eisenberg timid Columbus, and the girls prove to be the perfect foils, then partners, for the duo. And if you need any more proof to validate the horror of this film, look no further than the zombie clown. Yikes! Just remember: Always check the back seat, and buckle up.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are absolutely hilarious in this film, which is heavy on the comedy. With a tip of the cap to Romero’s Monroeville Mall zombie opus right in the title, Shaun of the Dead launched a new era of horror-comedies, setting the stage for such enjoyable films as Fido, The Cottage and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer.
From Shaun’s clueless walk through the streets to its utterly perfect ending, Shaun of the Dead is one of the greatest combinations of laughs and gore ever produced. Both the F/X and the comedy writing are top notch. A must see.
Return of the Living Dead (1984)
The incidents in and around the Uneeda Medical Supply Warehouse are some of the most memorable in horror. The fact that you watch this zombie invasion laughing your ass off through the entire thing does nothing to take away from the frights. This movie is funny. In fact it contains my all-time favorite zombie, the little person who wipes while pursuing some tasty brains (Howard Sherman’s Bub in Day of the Dead is a close second).
The comedy is driven by Thom Mathews and James Karen as the bumbling employees of the warehouse, and the cutting edge F/X drove the horror. Aside from the memorable midget zombie, we were also introduced to the talking zombie torso and the legendary Tarman. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a dissected dog bark. And, as a teenage boy with raging hormones, I must admit my favorite movie quote had to be…“Hey, somebody get some light over here. Trash is taking off her clothes again.” Ah, Trash, your rebellious nature and willingness to strip naked at the drop of a hat made you irresistible!
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
You could include the entire Evil Dead franchise here, I suppose, but The Evil Dead is too far on the horror side of the spectrum, and Army of Darkness leans way too far on the comedy side. But much like Baby Bear’s porridge, Evil Dead 2 is just right. Bruce Campbell nailed the physical comedy. He was doing Jim Carrey before Jim Carrey was famous, and he did it with one hand and a cabin full of supernatural creatures trying their damnedest to kill him. No easy task there.
The strengths of this film are two-fold: the performance of Campbell and the awesome F/X team, which contained such masters of the craft as Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Shannon Shea. Evil Dead 2 may be the funniest, scariest film ever made. A perhaps unapproachable model of how the genre should be done.
The horror-comedy Chop, is heading to DVD, Video on Demand, and Digital Download on December 27th.
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