Halloween’s coming up, and you know what that means – time to stick on some spooky movies! But who wants to watch just a horror movie? Who in their right mind would want to watch mindless killings and possessed dolls and people breaking into other people’s homes and torturing them for the hell of it?
However, if you throw an element of humor into the mix, all of a sudden things start to seem a lot more fun. The scares are there to take you out of your comfort zone, and then the laughs are there to lull you back into it.
You might say that moving, Oscar-winning dramas are an emotional rollercoaster, but none of them come close to matching the complex range of emotions you’ll experience when you watch a horror comedy. So, just in time for the Halloween season, here’s the 15 greatest horror comedies out there.
Zombieland is a comedy, through and through. It has a cast with brilliant comedic talents – Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and in a cameo capacity, Bill fucking Murray – and it’s peppered with great gags, like the “rules” for surviving a zombie apocalypse (“Cardio,” “Double tap,” “When in doubt, know your way out” etc.).
But it’s also effective as a horror movie, not just in its erratic, fast-moving undead, but also the way it taps into other fears, with one scene featuring a clown crawling under a bathroom stall to get to an indecent Jesse Eisenberg.
As well as audiences, the critics adored it, with reviewers writing, “Wickedly funny and featuring plenty of gore, Zombieland is proof that the zombie subgenre is far from dead,” and calling the film “beautifully paced” with “impeccable timing and bloodthirsty wit,” and saying that “underlying the carnage in Zombieland is a sweetly beating heart.”
They couldn’t be more right.
This isn’t really a Halloween movie, it’s more of a Christmas movie, but it is scary and it is funny and it will entertain the hell out of you no matter what time of year you watch it.
Here’s a quote from Krampus that sums up its tone: “I just got my ass kicked by a bunch of Christmas cookies!” It’s silly, it’s gory, it’s goofy, it’s funny, it’s frightening – it’s bloody good fun.
The cast features Adam Scott (Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec), David Koechner (Champ Kind from Anchorman), Allison Tolman from Fargo, and Conchata Ferrell (Berta from Two and a Half Men), with the voices of Seth Green (Chris Griffin from Family Guy) and Justin Roiland (the voices of both title characters in Rick and Morty). That’s quite a cast!
According to Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus, “Krampus is gory good fun for fans of non-traditional holiday horror with a fondness for Joe Dante’s B-movie classics.”
Slither was directed and written by James Gunn, the guy who made Guardians of the Galaxy. As that more mainstream feature showed us, Gunn has a talent for infusing his dark, idiosyncratic sense of humor into the genre pictures he makes. With Guardians, that was a big, superpowered science fiction epic. With Slither, it’s a horror B-movie homage.
An alien plague descends upon a small town and little mutant slugs go around infecting people with the virus. Only the brilliant fanboy favorite Nathan Fillion can save everyone now.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, “A slimy, B-movie homage oozing with affection for low-budget horror films, Slither is creepy and funny — if you’ve got the stomach for it.” The movie was also given the number 1 spot in Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List.”
12. Young Frankenstein
When Gene Wilder came to his friend, comedy icon Mel Brooks, with the idea of doing an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story with a new angle, Brooks told him, “Not another! We’ve had the son of, the cousin of, the brother-in-law. We don’t need another Frankenstein.”
But Wilder explained his idea to Brooks: “What if the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein wanted nothing to do with the family whatsoever? He was ashamed of those wackos!”
Brooks told him, “That’s funny,” and so they started work on what would later become each man’s crowning achievement, a masterpiece of both comedy and black and white horror homage. The AFI ranked it number 13 on its list of “100 Years…100 Laughs,” which counted down the greatest comedy movies ever made.
11. An American Werewolf in London
Arguably the first movie to combine elements of horror and comedy, An American Werewolf in London was the brainchild of John Landis, director of Animal House and The Blues Brothers. As the tagline on the poster declared back in 1981, “From the director of Animal House…a different kind of animal…”
That different kind of animal was a werewolf that an American tourist turns into after one attacks him and his friend. A reviewer for Empire wrote that “carnivorous lunar activities rarely come any more entertaining than this.”
Another critic described the film as a “curious but oddly endearing mixture of horror film and spoof, of comedy and shock, with everything grist to its mill including tourist Britain and the wedding of Prince Charles.”
According to the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus, “Terrifying and funny in almost equal measure, John Landis’ horror-comedy crosses genres while introducing Rick Baker’s astounding make-up effects.”
10. Life After Beth
If you like April Ludgate in Parks and Rec — it’s impossible not to — then you’ll love this curious zombie comedy, which manages to ooze imagination and originality in a genre that’s been completely worn out. Aubrey Plaza stars as Beth, a girl who dies, leaving her boyfriend devastated.
The boyfriend stays in contact with Beth’s parents, but when they suddenly cut off communication with him, he’s confused. He goes over to the house to see what’s up, and there’s Beth, standing in the window, seemingly alive and well.
What follows is a thrilling, and hilarious story that moves at rapid rate and ensures you’ll be entertained from start to finish. Empire’s reviewer wrote, “We must surely now be getting close to some sort of zombie saturation point, with even the zom-rom-com becoming a distinct subsubgenre. On Beth’s evidence, however, there’s life in the undead yet.”
9. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a horror comedy with a terrific twist. The ‘bad guys’ aren’t really actually doing anything wrong.
They’re a pair of dopey woodsmen out in the woods, doing stuff with wood that involves chainsaws and axes and wood chippers, and some teenagers who have come out to a cabin in the middle of the woods convince themselves that they’re backwoods killers.
Ironically, this fear leads to various accidents that kill them one by one, and none of the killings are Tucker and Dale’s fault. It’s an interesting twist on a well-trodden horror storyline that brings in an element of comedy of errors.
According to the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus, “Like the best horror comedies, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil mines its central crazy joke for some incredible scares, laughs, and — believe it or not — heart.”
This fantasy comedy was marketed under the guise of a family friendly creature feature about a guy who gets a pet mogwai and disobeys the rules of looking after him, which leads to a bunch of them being spawned and taking over a small town.
However, the movie itself is rife with black comedy, which is juxtaposed against its Christmas season setting.
Director Joe Dante describes his demented little antagonists like this: “Our gremlins are somewhat different — they’re sort of green and they have big mouths and they smile a lot and they do incredibly, really nasty things to people and enjoy it all the while.”
Leonard Maltin described Gremlins as a cross between It’s a Wonderful Life and The Blob — that should give you some idea about what it’s like.
Don’t say his name three times. Tim Burton’s peculiar idiosyncratic style has never been more prominent than in this spooky, supernatural movie. It tells the story of a married couple played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin who live in their dream house and want to start a family, when one day, all of a sudden, they drive their car into a lake and die.
Except they don’t realize it at first. They head home and carry on with their day, but when they try to leave, they’re stuck in a barren, surrealistic wasteland.
They’re stuck in their house as ghosts for all eternity, which they wouldn’t mind so much, if there wasn’t a realtor trying to sell it to another couple and their gothic teenage daughter, played by Winona Ryder.
That’s when they enlist the aid of Betelgeuse — whom Michael Keaton turned into one of the most iconic characters in all of film — to scare them off, leaving only the daughter behind, and hey-ho, just like that, they’ve got the family they always wanted. It’s a brilliant little movie.
6. Evil Dead II
“Bruce Campbell and [Sam] Raimi are gods.” That’s what Empire magazine’s review of the sequel to their independent demonic horror movie read. It’s weird. The Evil Dead came out of nowhere as the defining low budget horror film. It was terrifying, it was audacious, it gave you nightmares, and it was made for next to no money.
So, then, when it came time to do a sequel that they weren’t expecting from their little indie movie that could, Raimi didn’t know where to go with it. He’s a versatile filmmaker — he didn’t want to just cheat his audience by putting them through the same movie all over again.
So, he took his Ash Williams character and he put him through the demon-filled ringer yet again, but this time, he made it a demented, blood-spattered, goofy slapstick comedy in totally bad taste, and surprisingly, it worked! Who could pull something like that off? A shotgun for an arm? I’ll tell you who: gods.
5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Still today, The Rocky Horror Picture Show stands up as one of the best and funniest musical comedies ever made. It’s rife with homages to the horror and science fiction genres, and the humor is of a screwball nature.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a riotous movie from start to finish, utilizing and subverting all the right clichés of classic horror movies, such as the amiable newlyweds’ car breaking down — well, flat tire, but still — outside a spooky castle filled with peculiar individuals and mad scientists.
The whole thing is anchored by a powerhouse performance by Tim Curry, an actor who has breathed life into all kinds of oddball characters from Pennywise to Wadsworth to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Here, he plays Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” and it’s a character that only Tim Curry can play.
Others have tried in stage productions and remakes, but mark my words: no one but Tim Curry can do Dr. Frank-N-Furter justice. It was initially panned by critics, but decades after its original distribution, the movie is still in limited release, making it the longest running theatrical release in film history — it’s a testament to the film’s staying power.
The New York Times described it as a “low budget freak show/cult classic/cultural institution.” Yeah, pretty much.
“What’s your favorite scary movie?” Scream was the slasher movie that flipped the slasher movie over on its head. It was a slasher movie about a serial killer who was inspired by slasher movies, killing a bunch of teenagers who have seen all the slasher movies.
It was the beginning of an era of shameless, inferior rip-offs that all wanted to be meta-horror like Scream, but none of them ever came close to matching it in originality, humor, and satire.
Scream nailed all the clichés of the genre and subverted them accordingly. Empire’s review of the movie declared it “clever, quick, and bloody funny,” and praised the script for its “fiendishly clever, complicated plot” that “deftly mixes irony, self-reference, and wry social commentary with chills and blood spills.”
3. Shaun of the Dead
When it comes to horror comedies, Shaun of the Dead might be the daddy of them all. Edgar Wright saw the masterful blend of humor, terror, drama, romance, and action that John Landis struck in his deft direction of An American Werewolf in London and he went and topped it with this “zom-rom-com.”
The screenplay, which Wright co-wrote with his star Simon Pegg, is beautifully written. Not a single word is wasted. Everything either progresses the story, develops the characters, or simply makes you laugh. Or scream.
It’s a favorite of Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, and even the king of the zombies himself, George A. Romero. Bloody Disgusting ranked it the second best horror film of the decade, declaring, “Shaun of the Dead isn’t just the best horror-comedy of the decade – it’s quite possibly the best horror-comedy ever made.”
Ghostbusters and Gremlins came at a time when the combination of the horror and comedy genres was becoming increasingly popular. Audiences were finally starting to see the potential in this unlikely hybrid style.
Originally conceived by Dan Aykroyd as a vehicle for himself and John Belushi inspired by his fascination with the paranormal, Ghostbusters eventually evolved from time-traveling, intergalactic “Ghostsmashers” dressed in tactical gear to the guys in beige jumpsuits with proton packs working out of an old firehouse in New York City that we know and love today.
The cast was filled out by Bill Murray and Harold Ramis after Belushi tragically passed away and left a gaping hole in the world of comedy. Murray brings his signature deadpan wit, while Ramis brings a lovable sweetness, which Aykroyd rounds out by being the voice of reason.
It’s an ensemble for the ages and the movie itself is, as Newsweek’s David Ansen put it in his review, “wonderful summer nonsense.”
1. What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about life as a vampire in New Zealand. It stars Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi, who just directed Thor: Ragnarok, as a pair of vampires in Wellington who are just trying to have a normal life. They go out and party and look for victims to feast on. It’s really funny.
It’s ranked in the 68th place on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Top 100 comedy movies of all time. It has a score of 96 per cent on the site with the critical consensus reading, “Smarter, fresher, and funnier than a modern vampire movie has any right to be, What We Do in the Shadows is bloody good fun.”
That’s because it doesn’t take its cues from Twilight like that awful vampire ‘comedy’ Vampires Suck. It harks back to the days of Hammer Horror and their Dracula movies and Nosferatu. Classic vampires.