RANKED! Horror Comedies Paramount to Our Survival (Because Laughter)
Some have compared the revolutionary mixture of stupid comedy and in-your-face horror and gore to peanut butter and jelly. The potent marriage of these genres has offered audiences high-energy laughs and panic-inducing scares for decades. Introducing the dichotomy of funny and fright elevated horror to new heights almost immediately—some of the best horror films ever made are also comedies. Why does this work so well? Maybe it’s because mocking that which scares us is a cornerstone of everyday life. That said, comedies with supernatural or otherwise psychotic killers are paramount to our survival (there’s irony in that sentence somewhere). The following list ranks some of the funniest and/or most revolutionary horror comedies ever. Enjoy.
Cover Photo: Universal Pictures
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14. 'Fright Night'
Tom Holland’s 1985 Fright Night is a classic, as is the remake. Colin Farrell plays the suave vampire who moves in next door to nerdy high-schooler, Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin). As an avid fan of the horror genre, Charley almost immediately assumes his neighbor is a vampire. Of course, no one believes him. With the assistant of the ever-entertaining David Tenant, Charley goes head-to-head with Farrell’s vamp for the sake of his community. Modern, quick-witted, and fun, 2011’s Fright Night is an underrated remake.
Long before Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn made his directorial debut with 2006’s Slither. Taking place in a small town where “not much happens and everyone minds their own business,” Slither injects mutational and a hungry alien organism into the general population. Heavy on the gore and scares but light on the humor, the film isn’t as funny as the others on this list, but a much-needed amount of wit is exhibited by Nathan Fillion’s Bill Pardy and Elizabeth Banks Staria Grant.
12. 'Warm Bodies'
Warm Bodies is an unusually endearing take on the zombie genre. The film follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), who meets a human survivor, Julie (Teresa Palmer). R has somehow retained a smidgen of his consciousness and ends up saving Julie from an undead attack (because he’s desperate for love). Julie comes to realize that R is different than other humans. So, the two develop a special bond, promoting R to become more and more human as the film progresses. Bottom line: human connection revives the dead (sort of). Light-hearted and funny, Warm Bodies is the rare horror/comedy that, well, warms the heart.
11. 'The Cabin in the Woods'
Written by Joss Whedon and directed by Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods upends every horror trope and cliché, even morphing its characters into a dim-witted cheerleader, stoner, and jock. The Cabin in the Woods should be seen as a template for modern-day horror—satirizing all that came before and paving the way for something fresh. The film feels familiar at first, then outrageous up until the point you realize how self-aware its circumstances are. If you’re a fan of the titular sub-genre of horror (or just horror in general), The Cabin in the Woods is as much a love letter as it is a good time.
10. 'The Return of the Living Dead'
Dan O’Bannon’s (fun fact: he co-wrote Alien) “based on a true story” The Return of the Living Dead (1985), follows the accidental release of a horde of zombies in a town over Fourth of July weekend. The film perfectly satirizes George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), even referencing it on numerous occasions. Hilarious and excellently paced, with fast (for once) zombies, The Return of the Living Dead is often underrated and overlooked. However, you can pass on the sequels.
9. 'An American Werewolf in London'
Director John Landis has helmed classic comedies like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Coming to America. In the realm of horror, Landis directed An American Werewolf in London (1981). Following two young Americans who are attacked, killed, and cursed by a werewolf while backpacking through England, David becomes a werewolf, and his friend, Jack, exists as a zombie of sorts until the bloodline is severed. This buddy comedy/horror is elevated by its Oscar-winning effects responsibly for a terrifyingly iconic transformation sequence (see above).
8. 'Tucker and Dale vs. Evil'
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil follows two broke and scruffy buddies, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) on a backwoods vacation that turns bloody when a group of college students mistakes them for crazy Texas Chainsaw-eque hillbillies. Similar to how this virtually non-existent movie has become a cult classic, the film gets funnier as it goes on. If you haven't seen it, definitely check it out.
Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is that misleading “family-friendly” Halloween movie (see possessed family singing "Banana Boat") that has quite the dark side. Lead by Michael Keaton’s game-changing performance, Beetlejuice tells the grim story of a deceased couple obsessed with keeping their prior home vacant. As inexperienced poltergeists, Adam and Barbara Maitland invoke the help of the deranged demon, Beetlejuice. The implications of Bettlejuice's actions, entangled with Burton’s creepy vibe, makes this film as scary as it is funny (and entertaining).
6. 'Army of Darkness'
The third installment in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise, Army of Darkness is as iconic as it is hilarious. Bruce Campbell is in his prime as Ash, the Deadite hunter who spent the prior two films stuck in the woods with the undead. Army of Darkness sees the lovable buffoon (and his chainsaw) transported back to medieval times where he is taken prisoner by Arthur. His mission: uncover the Book of the Dead, which can summon an army of ghouls. As one of the most quotable horror films ever made, Army of Darkness is as good as it gets.
Zombieland is just good fun, playing in the zombie genre’s sandbox. Following Columbus and his set of rules, the film might be the most endearing (comedically) in the genre. With a charming cast including Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin (not to mention Bill Murray...briefly), Zombieland feels like a post-apocalyptic world we wouldn’t mind living in. Side note: Zombieland should be accredited with single-handedly reviving the undead genre right before AMC’s The Walking Dead premiered.
4. 'One Cut of the Dead'
One Cut of the Dead follows a Japanese film crew that gets attacked by zombies in an abandoned WWII bunker while trying to film a zombie movie. So, it’s a zombie movie inside of a zombie movie. Despite their situation, the crew commits to finishing their film while differentiating between the real zombies and their actors.
3. 'What We Do in the Shadows'
Taiki Waititi has risen to fame thanks to his quirky irreverence present in films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok, and Jojo Rabbit. That same sort of shenanigans can be seen in Waititi and Jermaine Clement’s What We Do in the Shadows. Adhering to a mockumentary format, this horror-comedy follows a group of vampire flatmates as they teach a fresh vampire their ways. Dismantling everything we think we know about vampires, What We Do in the Shadows is at its best when the central bloodsuckers argue about how the dishes haven’t been done in years. There’s also real moments of horror to be found in the more traditional moments of vampire etiquette.
Is Ghostbusters a horror/comedy? Sure, why not? Supernatural entities wreak havoc on New York City and that ghost at the beginning scared some of us as a kid. That said, Ivan Reitman’s brilliant ensemble including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Pitts, Rick Moranis, and Harold Ramis, has made Ghostbusters timeless. Following the titular paranormal investigators as they rid NYC of ghosts, Ghostbusters features a plethora of classic moments, the pinnacle of which being, of course, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
1. 'Shaun of the Dead'
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s debut feature caught everyone off-guard. Their spoof of George A. Romero’s movies, Shaun of the Dead, follows Shaun (Pegg), a loser with an easy existence, who must rise to the occasion and protect his mom and girlfriend during a zombie apocalypse. The film brilliantly explores the parallels between the undead and our mundane and disenchanted lives. Shaun of the Dead takes all the elements of great horror and comedy, making it one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
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