After last week’s look at the most horrific scenes in horror, we needed something light. Today we celebrate the great, rich tradition of mixing horror and comedy, whether slapstick or splatter, dark and dry or red and wet, these are the best of a wonderful sub-genre.
6. Housebound (2014)
Funny and scary, smartly written and confidently directed, this is a film that makes few missteps and thoroughly entertains from beginning to end.
An inspired Morgana O’Reilly plays Kylie, a bit of a bad seed who’s been remanded to house arrest and her mother’s custody after a bit of bad luck involving an ATM and a boyfriend who’s not too accurate with a sledge hammer. Unfortunately, the old homestead, it seems, is haunted. Almost against her will, she, her hilariously chatty mum (Rima Te Wiata) and her deeply endearing probation officer (Glen-Paul Waru) try to puzzle out the murder mystery at the heart of the haunting. Lunacy follows.
Good horror comedies are hard to come by, but writer/director Gerard Johnstone manages the tonal shifts magnificently. You’re nervous, you’re scared, you’re laughing, you’re hiding your face, you’re screaming – sometimes all at once. And everything leads up to a third act that couldn’t deliver better.
5. Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
Horror cinema’s most common and terrifying villain may not be the vampire or even the zombie, but the hillbilly. The generous, giddy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil lampoons that dread with good natured humor and a couple of rubes you can root for.
In the tradition of Shaun of the Dead, T&DVE lovingly sends up a familiar subgenre with insightful, self-referential humor, upending expectations by taking the point of view of the presumably villainous hicks. And it happens to be hilarious.
Two backwoods buddies (an endearing Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) head to their mountain cabin for a weekend of fishing. En route they meet some college kids on their own camping adventure. A comedy of errors, misunderstandings and subsequent, escalating violence follows as the kids misinterpret every move Tucker and Dale make.
T&DVE offers enough spirit and charm to overcome most weaknesses. Inspired performances and sharp writing make it certainly the most fun participant in the You Got a Purty Mouth class of film.
4. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
You know the drill: 5 college kids head into the woods for a wild weekend of doobage, cocktails and hookups but find, instead, dismemberment, terror and pain. You can probably already picture the kids, too: a couple of hottie Alphas, the nice girl, the guy she may or may not be into, and the comic relief tag along. In fact, if you tried, you could almost predict who gets picked off when.
But that’s just the point, of course. Making his directorial debut, Drew Goddard, along with his co-scribe Joss Whedon, is going to use that preexisting knowledge to entertain holy hell out of you.
The duo’s nimble screenplay offers a spot-on deconstruction of horror tropes as well as a joyous celebration of the genre. Aided by exquisite casting – particularly the gloriously deadpan Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford – the filmmakers create something truly special.
3. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
This is a hard movie not to like. Writer/director Edgar Wright teams with writer/star Simon Pegg to lovingly mock the slacker generation, 80s pop, and George Romero with this riotous flesh eating romance. But what is easy to overlook is the genuine craftsmanship that went into making this picture.
Every frame of every scene is so perfectly timed – pauses in conversation synchronized with seemingly random snippets of other conversations, or juke box songs, or bits from the tele. (The movie will turn you British. By the end you’ll be saying holiday instead of vacation, spelling colour with a u and saying, “How’s that for a slice of fried gold?” even though you don’t really know what that means.)
Shaun offers such a witty observation of both a generation and a genre, so well told and acted, that it is an absolute joy, even if you’re not a fan of zombie movies. As social satire, it is as sharp as they come. It also manages to hit the bull’s eye as a splatter horror film, an ode to Romero, a buddy picture, and an authentic romantic comedy. And it’s more than just a remarkable achievement; it’s a fresh, vivid explosion of entertainment. It’s just a great movie.
2. Slither (2006)
Writer/director James Gunn took the best parts of B-movie Night of the Creeps and Cronenberg’s They Came from Within, mashing the pieces into the exquisitely funny, gross, and terrifying Slither. The film is equal parts silly and smart, grotesque and endearing, original and homage. More importantly, it’s just plain awesome.
Cutie pie Starla (Elizabeth Banks) is having some marital problems. Her husband Grant (the great horror actor Michael Rooker) is at the epicenter of an alien invasion. Smalltown sheriff Bill Pardy (every nerd girl’s imaginary boyfriend Nathan Fillion) tries to set things straight as a giant mucous ball, a balloonlike womb-woman, a squid monster, projectile vomit, zombies, and loads and loads of slugs keep the action really hopping.
Consistently funny, endlessly quotable, cleverly written, well-paced, tense and scary and gross – Slither has it all.
In fact, it’s the perfect movie to see in a big, screaming group – some come join us Wednesday, 7/8 as we screen it at Fright Club Live! Join us at 8pm/6:30 for happy hour and prizes, at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, OH.
1. American Psycho (2000)
A giddy hatchet to the head of the abiding culture of the Eighties, American Psycho represents the sleekest, most confident black comedy – perhaps ever. Director Mary Harron trimmed Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, giving it unerring focus. More importantly, the film soars due to Christian Bale’s utterly astonishing performance as narcissist, psychopath, and Huey Lewis fan Patrick Bateman.
There’s an elegant exaggeration to the satire afoot. Bateman is a slick, sleek Wall Street toady, pompous one minute because of his smart business cards and quick entrance into posh NYC eateries, cowed the next when a colleague whips out better cards and shorter wait times. For all his quest for status and perfection, he is a cog indistinguishable from everyone who surrounds him. The more glamour and flash on the outside, the more pronounced the abyss on the inside. What else can he do but turn to bloody, merciless slaughter? It’s a cry for help, really.
Harron’s send up of the soulless Reagan era is breathtakingly handled, from the set decoration to the soundtrack, but the film works as well as a horror picture as it does a comedy. Whether it’s Chloe Sevigny’s tenderness as Bateman’s smitten secretary or Cara Seymour’s world wearied vulnerability, the cast draws a real sense of empathy and dread that complicate the levity. We do not want to see these people harmed, and as hammy as it seems, you may almost call out to them: Look behind you!
Listen to the whole conversation on the FRIGHT CLUB podcast!