Who says a scary movie can’t be funny? More often then not comedy and horror go perfectly hand in hand. In fact, there’s an entire subgenre of films that blend scares with tension-braking levity for a unique cinematic experience. Today I’m going to focus on those very films. Considering that horror as a genre has traditionally contained some of the most unforgettable and insightful movies as well as some of the most resilient clichés in all of cinema it should be no shock that the genre often pokes fun at itself from time to time. While some movies parody the genre directly, the best ones are those that can combine meta humor and traditional comedy elements with genuine horror thrills. Today I’m going to look at those movies that find a fun balance of both. These are my picks for the Top 10 Horror Comedies.
For today’s list I’ll be exploring ten of my favorite films that blend humor and horror creating a fun blend of genres that play with your expectations. These films can be more comedy than horror or more horror than comedy as long as the film tries to be a frightening experience and the humor serves as a significant aspect of the film’s overall tone. I only focused on live action horror comedies so animated films won’t be found here.
Finally, and possibly controversially, I decided NOT to include films like “Scary Movie” and “Young Frankenstein” and here’s why: Even though these are often classified as being within the horror genre they are in fact comedies that contain barely, if any, truly scary horror elements. To that end they are more horror themed comedies rather than true comedy horror films that blend two genres together. So, while I highly recommend these films as send-ups of everything that makes horror so fun this is not the place for them here.
Also, I understand that the idea of humor is a very relative term so what I find funny might be different from your interpretation of humor. So, with that I ask what horror comedies are must watches for you? Let me know in the comments below and maybe this list will open your eyes to a few new movies you can enjoy.
10. “Club Dread”
I know I’m far from the first person to do a list like this, but many I’ve seen have overlooked this fun little gem. A little more comedy than horror but more genuine horror than a straight up parody film, “Club Dread” is comedy troupe Broken Lizard’s love letter to the slasher genre deconstructing countless clichés in the process. “Club Dread” follows a group of employees (played by the members of the troupe) who work at the island resort of a famous singer and find themselves being picked off by a killer specifically targeting members of the staff. Mixing traditional slasher scares with self-aware humor specifically targeting the ridiculousness of its chosen subgenre “Club Dread” isn’t afraid to show the blood shed and provide a fun mystery while delving into commentary on how ridiculous these movies tend to be. One moment we’re greeted by some fun jump scares and brutal death scenes and the next moment the film breaks the tension by poking fun at its own by-the-numbers slasher plot. It works to entertain either as a straight up comedy or a slasher film often managing to be a fun mixture of both.
9. “The Cabin in the Woods”
Unlike many others who have tackled similar lists I kind of struggled to have this on mine despite it being one of my all-time favorite horror movies, thus why it’s placed so low. “Cabin in the Woods” is an amazing deconstruction of the horror genre in general with surprise twists that it would be a shame to spoil here. What I will say is that while we get plenty of blood, and gore “Cabin in the Woods” levels out its bloodshed with a perfectly balanced self-awareness that keeps the viewers, and victims, guessing. Several characters blatantly mock how ridiculous some of the clichés referenced in the film really are and once you find out what’s really going on you realize that what you’ve been watching is a spectacular love letter to horror movies that takes meta to a whole new level. Its horror lies in its inventive premise while its comedy is derived from its endless amount of Easter Eggs as well as a few choice standout characters that lighten up the mood. It’s not what you expect, and that’s the point which makes it all the more amusing when you realize who is and isn’t in on the joke.
8. “Dead Alive”, aka “Braindead”
Directed by Peter Jackson, this 1992 horror comedy is a highlight splatstick movie, a subgenre of film featuring graphic violence and gore but with a more humorous twist. “Dead Alive”, released as “Braindead” outside of North America, follows a man whose mother slowly converts and entire town into a zombie horde. As over the top as a 90s splatter film could be, “Dead Alive” delivers iconic one-liners and some fun, blood-spewing kills including the fantastic and inventive use of a lawn mower. The imagery incorporated into the film is enough to make those with even a mildly weak stomach cringe while the dialogue and events that unfold will have you laughing until your sides hurt. It’s a perfect blend of gore and humor resulting in one of the most fun zombie flicks of the 90s and is often credited as one of the genre’s best from the decade. Fun fact, the Sumatran rat-monkey featured in this film is said to be from Skull Island, the legendary home of King Kong who would become the subject of another Peter Jackson film many years later.
The 1984 classic “Gremlins” is the perfect mix of ridiculous levity and creepy monster movie scares which has earned a massive following over the decades for good reason. After a town becomes overwhelmed by a band of monster spawns of the adorable Gizmo all hell breaks loose leading to some unforgettable character deaths that’ll make you feel horrible for laughing at how ridiculous everything really is, but you will indeed laugh. Whether it’s the monsters taking a break to watch “Snow White” or seeing an old lady fly out of a window on a sabotaged lift chair “Gremlins” offers enough unexpected humor humor to balance out its dark horror thrills making for a pleasantly odd experience all the way through. On one hand it’s a fantastic tribute to the creature features of old, on the other it’s a fun piece of cross genre entertainment that has spawned numerous imitators. But there’s only one “Gremlins”, although the sequel did prove to be a fun and humorous horror romp, albeit with a little more focus on the satire than genuine horror.
6. “Army of Darkness”
This is a true must have on this list. I heavily considered “Evil Dead 2” for this list, but “Army of Darkness” takes the franchise’s cross-genre approach to a larger extreme. Iconic one-liners and a delightfully odd story involving time travel made Bruce Cambell’s Ash a horror hero icon. While the first two “Evil Dead” movies certainly established Campbell as a legend in the genre it’s this movie that solidified his status and offered up some of his most memorable moments that helped establish him as the king of horror comedy campiness on the big and small screen. While “Army of Darkness” is much more amusing than it is scary it never forgets its horror roots. Yes, some of the special effects and story concepts might seem dated, but that only adds to the humorous undertones that bleed through the somewhat self-serious story. Its unsettling horror imagery and over-the-top script also serve as a tribute to classic horror B-movies of old. One can’t help but respect and enjoy how well it captures the campy nature of its genre while taking itself maybe just a little too seriously.
5. “The Dead Don’t Die”
A rather new entry on this list, “The Dead Don’t Die” is a fascinating display of dry humor that might have missed the mark with some fans but for me and many others provided delightful insight into how exaggerated and ridiculous the zombie craze has become. “The Dead Don’t Die” follows police officers who find themselves caught in a zombie apocalypse and while it does contain the blood and gore we’ve come to expect from zombie flicks it balances that out with subversive humor, constantly shifting tones and plenty of fourth-wall breaking as well as an always present sense of self-awareness that leaves you constantly wondering who is in on the joke. The movie even directly acknowledges itself to be a movie in one of the most random scenes of 2019 cinema. It’s so ridiculous and surreal you can’t help but laugh even as people are getting their limbs ripped off. “The Dead Don’t Die” presents us with a smart, fun and odd comedic tribute to what makes the subgenre so great.
“Zombieland” might be one of the most perfect combinations of mainstream horror and comedy on this list. Debuting in 2009 just as the zombie craze was starting to take off, “Zombieland” follows four strangers who band together to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Despite their circumstances all four of the main characters seem to be having a blast treating this new apocalyptic world more like a theme part than a firestorm of undead horrors. Some of the kills in this movie, particularly the banjo attack, have become iconic in the decade since its debut and watching it even today almost makes the idea of a zombie apocalypse seem like more fun than it would actually be. Memorable characters, nightmarish creatures like the clown-zombie, a seemingly endless list of rules for survival, hilarious one-liners, creative kills and odd side quests all in less than 1.5 hours of run time make “Zombieland” a fun mix of horror and comedy elements that left fans demanding the long-awaited sequel to be released this weekend.
From the mind of Tim Burton, “Beetlejuice” is a classic comedy horror mash up that features Michael Keaton in the titular role as he is hired by a pair of newly dead newlyweds who seek to scare new tenants out of their home. However, what they don’t realize is Beetlejuice is a wisecracking prankster and his dark sense of humor is brought to memorable life by Keaton’s energetic and timeless performance. While Keaton keeps the laughs coming almost the entire film, Burton puts his trademark dark touch on every element of the production giving us creepy creatures and atmosphere that add the the odd experience. Seriously, even today some of the imagery in this film is just downright disturbing. Even the shrimp hands that appear during the “Banana Boat” singalong are still as creepy today as I thought they were when I watched this film as a child in the 90s. What’s cool is “Beetlejuice” holds up surprisingly well by today’s standards and is about as close to a horror movie-standup comedy hybrid as you’ll probably ever get.
2. “Shaun of the Dead”
One of the three Cornetto trilogy movies that each celebrate a different genre, “Shaun of the Dead” is by far the most well know. Another send-up to the zombie genre (sensing a theme here) “Shaun of the Dead” stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and others as they try to survive the dawn of a zombie apocalypse. The film cleverly lampoons the zombie genre with different character stereotypes and blatant references to past zombie movies while also creating and unsettling apocalyptic reality with plenty of brutal deaths of its own. “Shaun of the Dead” sports its own engaging story and doesn’t skimp on the horror movie gore and brutality that comes with the territory of a zombie infestation. It’s a perfect tribute to the subgenre that also helped breath new life (no pun intended) into the craze that eventually spawned several more zombie comedies including the aforementioned “Zombieland” and “The Dead Don’t Die”. But for all that those films bring to the table, “Shaun of the Dead” did it best.
For me it couldn’t be any other movie but “Ghostbusters”. One of the greatest comedy movies of all time and one of the most popular family friendly horror films “Ghostbusters” is legendary for its one-liners, fun ghost designs and catchy theme song but it’s the tremendous talents and flawless deliveries of its cast that truly sells the experience. Following four ghost hunters who find themselves caught up in a shape-shifting god’s plan to destroy the world “Ghostbusters” is just the right amount of ridiculous with a touch of horror flair to drive home its spooky concept. While some would argue that this isn’t even a horror movie at all, “Ghostbusters” has plenty to satisfy your nightmares from skeletal ghosts to a few well placed jump scares but for every moment built to frighten you there’s an equally satisfying moment of levity that allows the humor to shine through. “Ghostbusters” might not be the scariest horror movie out there, but for my money it’s definitely the funniest. It came, it saw, and it still kicks the competition’s ass.