A funny thing happened to me when I started looking at horror comedies. I realized that I really like them. I was under the impression that I didn’t like horror comedies. This is probably because of the “imbalance”. What’s the imbalance you ask? Well, I can usually find something to like in just about any horror film. Be it a great performance, great special effects or interesting writing. But when it comes to horror comedies, well thats a different story. More often than not if you aren’t connecting with the style of the humor in a film, the movie’s sunk. There are exceptions of course but humor is subjective; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Student Bodies (1981)
Student Bodies is one of the early examples of the “horror spoof”. I’m sure there are earlier examples but this one made an impression on me when I first viewed it. Long before the Wayans brothers’ Scary movie franchise there was this send-up of the teen slasher genre. What is surprising is how early the film was made. When you consider that the slasher craze technically started with John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978 and that it took the genre a few years to reach critical mass, its pretty impressive that writer, director Mickey Rose was able to rush out the project so quickly. The film is pretty much what you’d expect. It lampoons all the major hallmarks of the slasher phenomenon pretty accurately. You might be surprised how familiar a couple of the techniques in the film are…
Dead Alive aka: Braindead (1992)
I’m at a loss for words sometimes when it comes to Peter Jackson’s New Zealand horror opus. I really don’t like the film. Oh it has it’s moments; “I kick ass for the lord!”. But in general the absurd humor of the film turns me off. Scenes involving the consumption of human ears and fornicating zombies are just too over the top for me. I’ve tried to “get” the film several times, but every viewing leaves me cold and unimpressed. That the film has some fantastic gore is unquestionable, but I don’t like the characters and I don’t connect with the humor.
The Toxic Avenger (1984)
The film that launched a studio and brought deformed superheroism to the public is an absolute win for me. Lloyd Kaufman’s sense of humor connects on pretty much every level here. This is a case where the absurd nature of the comedy totally works for me. I don’t become desensitized to it because it never reaches that saturation level. The film gives me time to breath. Not only this, but it is one of the first comedies to attempt to offend its audience while they’re laughing. Kaufman’s brand of humor practically invented the phrase, “I’m going to hell for this.”
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Wes Cravens junker of a comedy was the beginning of the end for Eddie Murphy. As is common for Murphy vehicles, Brooklyn sees him playing several characters, but here they don’t all work. In one of the worst scenes in the movie, Murphy actually dons “white” makeup to become an annoying gangster character. There isn’t a second where it isn’t obvious we’re looking at Murphy in drag here. The humor is atrocious, the directing is tired and the laughs are painful. Amazingly, Brooklyn is sandwiched between Scream and A New Nightmare in Wes Craven’s career, and Murphy followed this up with the delightful Nutty Professor so maybe both talents were having a bad year….
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Hopefully I don’t have to introduce Night of the Creeps. At one time the film was considered a “cult” gem but these days thanks to word-of-mouth, Netflix, YouTube and a host of other service most people are finally aware of its brilliance. To be clear, I have loved Night of Creeps ever since I first sneaked a peek at half of it on HBO as a youngster. I was entranced. It gave me nightmares. Later I realized how goofy and fun it was. Tom Atkins nearly singlehandedly steals the entire show with hilarious lines and deadpan delivery. Creeps is a shining example of the delicate balance horror comedies must walk between terror and laughter.
Bride of Chucky (1998)
After Child’s Play 3 in 1991, the Chucky franchise was in trouble. The film underperformed at the box office and the formula was getting tired. Horror was also entering the nineties which is historically a rough time for the genre. The central conceit of the franchise, a doll possessed by a serial killer, was already a little ridiculous so a natural direction was to push that concept a little further and that’s what happened in 1998 with Bride of Chucky. My problem with Bride of Chucky is that it isn’t funny. The film seems to rely solely on the innate humor of a talking serial killer doll. The problem with this is that this film was the fourth entry in the franchise. While it was novel to inject humor into the series and switch directions, there just wasn’t enough added to the formula to really deliver the laughs. Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany was marginally funny, but not enough to really save the film for me.
Seed of Chucky (2004)
Here we have the other side of the coin. This may not be a popular opinion but I found Seed of Chucky to be immensely more entertaining. The film just has more “irons in the fire” so to speak. This time we have the androgenous progeny of Chucky and Tiffany trying to figure out its sexuality. We have Tiffany fighting her murder addiction. We have the killer dolls encountering all manner of celebrity including Jennifer Tilly herself. There are so many more opportunities for humor and the self-aware nature of the film is magnified to the point where it really became funny to me. Ultimately your choice between Seed and Bride is like your choice between Chocolate and Vanilla unless you don’t like either, then you’re fucked.
Idle Hands (1999)
Here we have one of the premier horror comedies of the horror boom in the late nineties. If only it wasn’t so dull. Devon Sawa who had a hot streak of about two movies turns in a performance nearly as irritating as it is laughable for all the wrong reasons. I always appreciate Seth Green but I find him more funny now than he was then. Jessica Alba seems cast more for her beauty, than her comedic timing. And the “friends haunting their killer after death” thing was handled a hundred times better in the American Werewolf series. Essentially I loathe this film.
An American Werewolf in Paris (1998)
I could have chose either of the films in this series. Both of them are riotously funny. I chose Paris because it is a film I feel is undervalued in several circles. The film’s success lies in its cast, particularly leading man Tom Everett Scott. He is effortlessly charismatic and Paris finds him in the middle of the hot streak he had in the late nineties, early aughts with films like Dead Man on Campus and That Thing You Do! Audiences today might know him from his lead role in the Syfy zombie series, Z Nation. I like Paris because I like the cast and the situations they get themselves into. I also like that the film is not a direct copy of the first iconic film. There are odes and nods to Landis’ 1981 classic for sure, but I think there is enough fresh and enough yuks to make this sequel more than enjoyable.
The experience of Feast was a fascinating one for me. I got to view the film from its conception to its release. The film was one of those spawned from Project Greenlight, the independent film project famous for its involvement with producing/acting duo Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The show charted the progress of an independent film from script conception to casting to production. It was enthralling being able to see what the film looked like behind the scenes and then finally being able to see how the finished product matched up. Unfortunately, the comedy side of Feast is a mixed bag (that drops and spills its contents on the floor). It just doesn’t work. Going for that zany brand of humor present in films like The Evil Dead and The Cottage, director John Gulager misses more than he hits. Watch the sequels and it gets worse. The film has some great gore and some interesting monster design, but man is it not funny.
That’s it, that’s horror comedy. What do you think? Which picks do you agree with? Which picks don’t you agree with? Sound Off Below!