Although fear and laughter may sound like an odd combination, the horror-comedy subgenre is one which has become hugely popular in recent times and this is because there are some fantastic films to choose from. Often, these films are best enjoyed by horror fans as they very cleverly play on the tropes and clichés that you find in the genre, and they often parody many of the classics. However, they can also be enjoyed by those that are unfamiliar with the horror genre and this can make for a good compromise. Here are 10 that are certainly worth checking out.
In celebration of Mel Brooks’ 93rd birthday and the smash hit Young Frankenstein (1974), here are ten of the most memorable horror comedies of all-time. Enjoy!
10. The Final Girls
It could be said that there are a few too many horror-comedy films that have been made in recent times, and this has somewhat flooded the subgenre with many poor films. However, The Final Girls is a terrific new entry which serves a reminder as to why this is such a great type of movie. Horror fans will be familiar with the title, which is a character type in the slasher subgenre where there is one girl left standing to fight the villain. The film centers on this idea, where a group of teens enter a cult classic slasher film, and they must survive with their knowledge of the subgenre. This awareness of being in a film allows for some great comedy, but there are also some fantastic characters too, such as Adam DeVine playing a typically over-the-top yet very funny young counselor at the summer camp (a classic horror setting).
A film very highly regarded in both the comedy and horror genres, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is an important film in the horror-comedy subgenre, and reportedly a sequel may be in the works. The plot sees a family move into the house of a recently deceased couple who are waiting for the afterlife, but in the meantime, they must scare the new owners away. In order to do so, they enlist the help of a “bio-exorcist” ghost, Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), who is crude, offensive, and vulgar. In addition to the originality and excellent humor, the film is also heavily praised for its makeup and production design, ensuring it is one of the most bizarre, funny and unique films of all time. Betelgeuse is also now an iconic character and one that is equally important to the comedy and horror genres.
8. Scary Movie
Unashamedly very silly and still very funny, Scary Movie is often the first film that will spring to mind when discussing horror-comedy and one that certainly inspired the influx that followed. A Wayans brothers creation, the 2000 film very heavily parodies a number of different films largely in the slasher and mystery genres, but Scream is the film which it borrows from the most (more on this later). In order to fully appreciate the film you will need to be familiar with the horror genre and all the classic films, but it is a wild, silly and outrageous film from start to finish which can be enjoyed by all as there are many nods to other films. The success of the film spawned four sequels, with the second also being highly enjoyable, but the rest do not come close to this first release in the series.
Another film which is considered a comedy classic but also one that slots into the horror-comedy subgenre, Gremlins is very funny but also has some very violent scenes. The film follows a young boy who is given a strange creature called a mogwai as a pet, which then spawns other small creatures who become violent and destructive. These creatures cause utter havoc when they go on a murderous rampage, which is both funny and shocking, and the success of this film spawned a sequel which was a bit lighter and not quite as shocking as the original. Along the way, the film also parodies many classic film tropes (including some horror) which adds to the humor. It may now be over 30 years old, but it is still a fan favorite which speaks volumes about just how entertaining Gremlins is.
6. The Cabin in the Woods
Funny, clever, scary and very strange all tangled into one; Cabin in the Woods is a meta-film that any horror fan will get a huge amount of joy out of with so many conventions and films being toyed with throughout. Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams, the story sees five college friends take a short vacation at a remote cabin in the forest. However, this cabin is being controlled by scientists and things soon take a very strange turn and the body count begins to rise. Not only do classic horror creatures such as werewolves, zombies and other monsters feature, but it also acknowledges slasher character archetypes with the sexually adventurous girl, the jock, the scholar, the fool and the virgin (also the Final Girl). It is a very smart and slick horror-comedy which is mainly targeted at fans of the horror genre.
5. Young Frankenstein
It is not just in recent times that horror and comedy have been blended to create unique films, and a terrific example is the excellent 1974 film from Mel Brooks—Young Frankenstein. Gene Wilder stars as the titular character, who is a descendant of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The film, like so many others in the subgenre, went on to do, affectionately parodied the horror genre and most notably the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The plot sees the young Dr. Frankenstein summoned to his grandfather’s castle, and here he discovers a guide to bringing a corpse to life. He manages to do so, but this time it is a monster who simply wants to be loved. Not only is this considered one of the great horror-comedies, but it is also one of the greatest comedy films ever and was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.
4. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
A modern entry but easily one of the greats, 2010’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil celebrates the horror genre but also brilliantly subverts it through the characters constantly having misunderstandings. The protagonists are two well-meaning and kind hillbillies (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk), who are mistaken for killers and hunted by a group of clueless college students (it is usually the other way around). Things all take a turn for the worse after the hillbillies save one of the girls after she hits her head, but the college students mistake this as a kidnapping. The body count quickly rises in some horrific and gory, yet very funny, deaths, which only cause further misunderstandings and drama for the hillbillies. Like all good horror-comedy films, it plays on classic horror tropes and nods to staples of the genre, whilst also having plenty of scares, gore and outrageous comedy.
One of the most popular film franchises of all time and considered one of the great comedies, Ivan Reitman’s brilliant Ghostbusters is also a horror-comedy as it centers around three parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business. Although it is not the scariest of films, it does contain elements of horror and there are frightening moments. It is wildly funny, however, and features an incredible comedy cast comprised of Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who also wrote the film), Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver. When this comedy is combined with spectacular special effects and a brilliant script, it ensures that it is an incredibly fun film and ones which is still a fan favorite today. The popularity in the series is evident with the success the franchise enjoyed (sequels, video games, comics, animated series) and the upcoming 2016 reboot of the original.
A brilliant film which is often wrongly labeled as solely a horror film, Scream is self-aware and heavily parodies the slasher subgenre, particularly films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th. The characters are openly aware of these films and the clichés as the story unfolds around them. This was unique at the time and went on to influence countless horror-comedies that followed. The plot follows a high school student who becomes targeted by a mysterious killer known as Ghostface (now an iconic villain). One by one those around her are killed, and this all leads to a dramatic twist at the end which parodies many “whodunit” films. The success spawned several sequels which became increasingly Meta, but none quite as effective as the original. Scream is likely to be the scariest horror-comedy out there and too much for some.
1. Shaun of the Dead
A film that gets better with every watch, Shaun of the Dead is an incredibly clever and well-written horror-comedy which can be enjoyed by both horror and non-horror fans. An Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg creation, which stars Pegg and Nick Frost, it parodies zombie films (as the title implies) but also has classic British humor running throughout (as well as famous British comedy actors). The story sees Shaun attempting to get his life in order after his girlfriend dumps him, but he must do this at the same time as an apocalyptic zombie uprising which has rocked the entire country. In addition to the clever parodies and the British humor, it is also crammed with small hidden jokes and references throughout. On top of all this, there is also a huge amount of blood and guts to ensure it is a fun, thrilling and shocking ride.