Looking for a few laughs with your scares this Halloween? Here are the best comedy horror films to check out this spooky season, from Shaun of the Dead to Zombieland.
Horror and comedy are two things that shouldn’t go together. But blending scares with laughs actually works very well when done right. Whether it appeals to those with a dark sense of humor, or it’s a film that pokes fun at its own genre, comedy horrors have become a big deal in recent years.
Some films are just aware of their own ridiculousness or audacity. They invite the viewer to join them on a journey of grim but funny self-reflection. We’ve gathered a list of horror comedies that exemplify these traits the most.
Shaun of the Dead is the film that introduced us to the comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost following their TV show, Spaced. Pegg was already well known, but with Frost at his side, the pair were ready to take over cinema as we know it. The film is about everyday white-collar worker Shaun and his unemployed roommate trying to survive the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse and reunite with Shaun’s long-suffering girlfriend.
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Although to Shaun, this is all just a massive inconvenience, because all he really wants to do is to go for a “nice pint at the Winchester”, his local pub. The film pokes fun at horror/zombie movie tropes throughout. But just like the genre it affectionately mocks so often does, provides its own thought-provoking social commentary, this time about friendships, relationships, and ambition.
On Christmas Eve, struggling inventor Randal comes into possession of a cute little creature called Gizmo when searching Chinatown for a present for his son. Gizmo is referred to as a ‘Mogwai’ by his original owners and is a gentle soul, but should he get wet he’ll spawn more, less friendly Mogwais. If these creatures eat after midnight, they’ll turn into reptilian monsters called Gremlins.
Of course, this is exactly what happens, and the Gremlins multiply into an army and wreak havoc across the town. Gremlins and its sequel have some dark moments, but the film is mostly a monster-comedy movie that sets a template for future films to follow.
Sam Raimi’s sequel to The Evil Dead follows largely the same plot as the original, although, unlike the first film, leans heavily into comedy. The film has generated a large cult following since its release. Its blend of gory violence and hilarious B-movie style gave it character, something the original lacked. While the first Evil Dead was seen as just another low-budget horror film, Evil Dead 2 created its own genre.
The film has a ‘so bad it’s good’ vibe, and despite sequels having higher budgets and pushing the envelope further in terms of horror and comedy, none have matched its zany brilliance.
Cabin in the Woods starts like any other horror film: a bunch of stereotypical teens visit a cabin in the middle of nowhere, most likely destined to be murdered by something horrible. You’d be right, that’s exactly what’s about to happen, but the film subverts expectations in the most creative of ways.
It was clear from the start that Cabin in the Woods was going to be different from what it seemed to be offering. Why else would huge Hollywood stars like Chris Hemsworth agree to star in what appears to be a run-of-the-mill low-budget slasher flick?
That’s because the film is something else entirely. While not laugh-out-loud funny, the Cabin in the Woods offers a satirical glance at a genre it pretended to be part of.
Like Cabin in the Woods, Scream pulls a straight face while the movie satirizes its own genre. Scream appears to be a typical slasher movie, one that calls out the tropes of horror films of the past. Some it repeats to hilarious effect, while it also creates some tropes of its own.
When watched through a satirical lens, Scream is very funny, and it changes the way the audience viewed horror movies forever. Despite poking fun at slasher villains, the Ghost Face Killer went on to become a horror icon in its own right. What’s even weirder, is that the spoof movie Scary Movie uses Scream as its template, essentially satirizing the satirists.
At first glance Zombieland’s premise is similar to that of Shaun of the Dead. Although while that film pokes fun at zombie movies, Zombieland is a zombie movie that has fun with its own premise. Essentially, a world overrun by the undead turns into a playground for these characters. There are no more rules and priorities have shifted.
One character’s goal is to eat one more Twinkie now he knows no more of the spongy desserts are ever likely to be manufactured. His biggest threat isn’t the zombie hordes, but a best before date. It’s an original take on the zombie apocalypse genre, but it also shows how human beings (such as the above character) can easily hide from or mask great pain with artificial or superfluous goals.