Friday, August 12, 2011

The 10 Greatest Comedy-Horrors

Comedy/horror films are becoming more and more common in the last decade, but for the most part it's still hard to find genuinely good ones, so while digging around for some I thought "Hey, why not make a list of the ten best films of the genre?"
However, first off I want to clarify that for the most part, these are films that are more comedy than horror. There's a lot of good horror films that are less than serious, so I decided just go to for the films that are closer to the 50/50 mark of comedy and horror, or more comedy than horror.
Also a quick warning: Expect spoilers, as always. I wouldn't normally mark this, but I want to set up a sort of spoiler policy for my blog. If it's relatively new and not a piece of crap, I'm going to either avoid spoilers altogether or put up a warning before a spoiler.

#10: Feast

This movie honestly came as a supreme surprise to me. Seeing the previews and reading up on it before giving it a buy (It's got Clu Gulager and Henry Rollins, of course I gave it a buy), I thought it was going to basically just be a super gory tongue-in-cheek flick reminiscent of the kinds of 80s b- grade gorefests I was raised on. Instead? I got TV Tropes: The Horror movie.

Almost the entire point of the film is to showcase and tear apart numerous horror cliches ranging from infant immortality to sex = death. I'm probably gonna catch some crap for this, but Feast was pretty much what Scream could have been. I've always had a dislike for the Scream franchise, as it's less a deconstruction of slashers and more a generic slasher film that references other, better slasher films. Do you want a smart, meta horror film? Pick up New Nightmare. Want a good parody of horror tropes and cliches? Watch Feast.

I think my favorite part of the film is Henry Rollins' character, where he's, in the films' own words, a poor man's Tony Robbins. There's just something hilarious about seeing Henry Rollins of all people as a scumbag, pacifist self-help douchebag, and he does it well. Of course, this isn't the first time he's done horror, as fans of the short lived Night Visions will remember, or fans of the Wrong Turn series. I'm just hoping that, someday down the line, we get a movie where he fights Kane Hodder.

A warning though, I'd recommend against seeing the sequels to Feast. Whereas Feast is mainly a parody of horror cliches with some grossout humor, the sequels drop the former and focus entirely on the grossout humor. I mean, if you're a fan of lowbrow humor go ahead and watch them, just don't expect anything similar to the first film.

#9: Killer Klowns from Outer Space

God I don't even know where to begin with this film. Mainly a parody of outrageously silly low budget horror films from the 60s and 70s, Killer Klowns is exactly what it says on the cover: Killer clowns from outer space invade a town in order to eat humans.

This film is absolutely hilarious. You've got shadow puppets eating people, pies that, when thrown, melt people... you've got killer popcorn, people being cocooned in cotton candy, it's all just fucking hilarious. The effects are also pretty awesome, as the creators of this film also did effects work for Critters, Team America of all things, and the nostalgic Halloween special classic Ernest Scared Stupid.

Easily one of my favorite things in this film is John Vernon, who most of you will remember as the dean from Animal House, or for his role in Dirty Harry. He plays an assholish, overzealous cop who is so overly skeptical about the whole clown thing that he actually repeatedly insults one of them and even attempts to lock it up.

It's hilarious, crazy, and a great tribute to low-budget 60's flicks with unbelievable premises, and on top of that it's actually fairly frightening to any coulrophobes that watch it.

#8: Comedy of Terrors

I love Vincent Price movies, even the bad ones. There's just something so awesome about the man so of course I have to throw his best comedy-horror on this list. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre were pretty much the horror equivalent of Abbot and Costello, and holy fuck were they awesome together because of that. This extended to real life where, at Bela Lugosi's funeral, upon noticing that he was buried in his cape, Lorre turned to Price and asked if they should stake him through the heart just to be safe.

The plot follows an evil mortician/funeral director who, in an attempt to cut costs, has been using the same casket each time. That is, he dumps the body out of the casket after everyone leaves and just buries it in the ground, taking the casket back with him. Eventually he ends up having to turn to murder in order to keep himself from being evicted, which leads to wacky situations when one of his victims has a habit of slipping in and out of a seemingly deathlike state.

On top of having Vincent Price and Peter Lorre giving great performances, the film also has Boris Karloff as Vincent Price's elderly senile father-in-law and Basil Rathbone as a particularly assholish victim. Having all four actors together in one film by itself is amazing, but on top of that it's also quite hilarious and is easily my favorite classic black-comedy, besting even Arsenic & Old Lace.

#7: Re-Animator

Easily a classic, this film is one of my favorite b-grade horror films of all time. Before there was Evil Dead, there was Herbert West. Before there was Bruce Campbell, there was Jeffrey Combs. The film combined gore, gratuitous nudity, and dark humor in such an awesome way that it helped to popularize a sub-genre of b-grade gorey horror-comedies, often with Jeffrey Combs at least making a cameo, such as Cellar Dweller (which I reviewed maybe two months back.)

For those that have somehow never seen the movie, it's about Herbert West (played by Jeffrey Combs, who fellow trekkies will remember as DS9's Weyoun), whose goal in life is to reanimate the dead, much to the chagrin of the teachers at the teaching hospital he works at. He succeeds in making a concoction which reanimates the recently deceased, only to discover that if they've been dead for awhile they come back violent. Cue shennanigans as he and a well-meaning college student he's roped into helping him have to fight off zombies and the decapitated head of an evil, perverted professor.

There's two sequels, both of which are also hilarious, but not quite as good as the original. The first sequel takes place not too long after the events of the first film and contain the same two male leads, while the third film takes place long after and only Dr. West remains. The third film also gave us this catchy, hilaribad music video.

If you've somehow never seen the trilogy, I strongly recommend picking all three up, especially if you're a big fan of zombie films and/or The Evil Dead trilogy.

#6: Return of the Living Dead

Shockingly, this film is responsible for about as many zombie cliches as Night of the Living Dead, including being the popularizer of the cliched zombie that only wants to eat brains. The movie was written and directed by Dan O'Bannon, who many will remember as the writer behind such movies as Alien, Total Recall, Lifeforce, and the best segment from Heavy Metal: B17, so you already know you're in for some quality.

The film follows two seperate groups that end up eventually connecting: A medical supply seller (the always awesome Clu Gulager) and his young assistant accidentally releasing a chemical that raises the dead and having to turn to a moritician friend to dispose of a zombie, and a group of teenage punks that party in a cemetery where the dead rise up after the previously mentioned zombie is tossed into the cremator, spreading the chemical into the atmosphere and causing it to come down as acid rain.

The makeup effects are amazing, the writing is hilarious, and the acting is pretty damn awesome. The film's also pretty notable for what I'd consider to be the greatest nude scene in horror film history. That is, Linnea Quigley (easily my favorite scream queen of all time) stripping naked for the other punks, and remaining naked in every scene afterwards. Quigley has a great body, and many a bad 80s flick turned to her showing some skin to make their film worth watching (see: Jack-O.)

There's numerous sequels, each of varying quality. The second film is like a wackier, more family friendly version of the first film (no nudity, much less gore). The third film is pretty fun, but not as good as the first, but still worth a rent. The fourth film is something to avoid at all costs, while the fifth film is at least worth a view if you liked the first two.

#5: Gremlins

There are certain films and shows some I watch at a certain time each year, like The Twilight Zone marathon that occurs every New Years Eve. With Gremlins, I used to make it a solo tradition to watch it each Christmas, simply because it is the greatest Christmas related horror film. In your face, Silent Night Deadly Night 2!

I seriously doubt anyone reading this has somehow avoided the film all of this time, but to play it safe: A teenager gets a pet mogwai (think a Furby only cute), but is given strict instructions to not feed it after midnight, get it wet, or expose it to sunlight. He fails at following rules, and eventually from the mogwai we get a bunch of tiny green skinned demons that kill people and wreck havoc on Christmas day.

The film is hilarious but at the same time fairly dark, like Loony Toons without the immortality. The gremlins are all complete goofballs, but they do actually -kill- a few people, and they are kinda creepy despite being so silly. Sadly, the sequel removes most of the dark elements and keeps things strictly wacky, but is still awesome in the same way that Rocky IV is awesome. I mean what other film gives us Hulk Hogan threatening gremlins, Daffy Duck riffing credits, tiny demonic things singing New York, New York, etc.?

This and Critters (which is also pretty awesome) ended up inspiring numerous clones of varying quality, including Hobgoblins (which MST3K fans will remember as an epic about two men fighting with lawn equipment) and Ghoulies (and hey, Ghoulies 2 was a fun movie.)

#4: Beetlejuice

If you didn't automatically start hearing the theme music in your head, I feel sorry for you. This film is just pure awesome. The humor is just how I like it: Slapstick, abstract, and dark all at the same time. I mean what other comedy film can begin with two people dying in a car accident?

This may just be my favorite Tim Burton movie of all time, beating out Batman, Mars Attacks and Nightmare Before Christmas. That's saying a lot, as I love all three of those as well. Honestly, I love all Tim Burton films except for his god awful Planet of the Apes remake, his Alice in Wonderland (I got enough 'Lets watch Johnny Depp be wacky' in the PotC trilogy), and his remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (it really says something to me when Tim Burton's remake somehow is far less nightmare fuel filled than the original... that and Depp just kinda annoyed the fuck out of me here.)

Michael Keaton deserves special mentioning here, because he seriously makes this movie as the titular Betelgeuse. His performance is so amazing that you forget you're watching -Batman- doing all of these things. The man's a fantastic actor and it makes me sad that I don't see him in much anymore.

There's also an animated series, which... okay. I'll say this: The theme song? Is still fucking awesome. I did like the show as a kid, but after going back and rewatching it lately I find it to be way too pun filled. There's way too much "Hey Lids, I'm tired! *turns into a tire*." It's like the episodes were written by Schumacher's Mr. Freeze.

#3: Creepshow

About here, I'd say my top three are pretty much tied. It was so hard deciding where to put these, so just keep that in mind. Creepshow is easily one of my favorite films of all time, a movie that I go out of my way to watch each Halloween just because I feel it is easily the best movie for the holiday. It's just so chock full of references and homages to classic EC horror comics that it's just... a fantastic holiday film.

For those that haven't seen the film, it's an anthology story centered around a kid's horror comic: Creepshow. We get segments about an undead old man that wants his father's day cake, Leslie Nielsen killing Ted Danson, Stephen King as an ignorant hick that turns into a plant, a killer ape-like beast within a crate, and a swarm of cockroaches. All done in a tongue in cheek manner based largely on stuff like the old Tales from the Crypt comics, and directed/written by George Romero and Stephen King.

The music is fantastic, this was one of the first horror films I ever got the soundtrack for, and I still treasure both it and my The Thing soundtrack. The cast is top notch and includes such greats (on top of the previously mentioned Leslie Nielsen and Ted Danson) as Adrienne Barbeau, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, and Fritz Weaver. The special effects are among my favorites in a horror film, done by the always amazing Tom Savini who also cameos in the film. God I love Savini.

As with many of the other films mentioned here, Creepshow did get a couple of sequels. There's Creepshow 2 which is pretty fun, but avoid Creepshow 3 like the plague. Don't buy it, don't rent it, don't download it. Just avoid it. It's a god awful in-name-only sequel with horrible writing, terrible production values, and god awful acting. If you want a true sequel, watch Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.

You see, Tales from the Darkside was originally meant to be Creepshow: The Series, but the studio suggested a different name. The movie based on the show even uses a segment that got written out of Creepshow 2 involving a killer black cat. Tom Savini himself as gone on record as saying that TftD is the true Creepshow 3. Also hey, it has Christian Slater!

#2: The Evil Dead Trilogy

I know, I'm cheating by having all three films share the #2 spot but I really, really could not pick between them, and if I didn't group them together this list would get be hogged by them. Admit it though, you knew this'd be on the list, and high up on it.

The Evil Dead trilogy... had so much impact on entertainment for what they are that it's just hilarious to me. I mean without them, would we still find chainsaws popping up constantly as an efficient zombie-killer? Think of all the pop culture references directed at the trilogy, or all of the comedy-horror films it spawned. On top of that, the trilogy basically brought mainstream attention to other shlocky low grade horror films, creating an even larger fanbase for the kinds of movies I love so much.

Think about all the big careers this film series started, too. Sam Raimi went onto do a bunch of big name films, including the Spider-Man trilogy (which admitedly I hate. I'm a big fan of the comics, so I hated seeing Parker turned into a whiny, mopey douchebag that spends more time being awkward around Mary Jane than anything else). The Coen Brothers also got their start with Evil Dead, moving on to make some of my favorite films of all time like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother Where Art Thou.

Similarly, the trilogy gave us Bruce Campbell. The man is like the horror genre's answer to Seagall and Chuck Norris. The man became a symbol of manliness within the horror genre, the image of the ultimate badass horror protagonist, and his fanbase grew so strong that even the worst pieces of crap could gain a following just because he was in it (I still love all the people that saw Serving Sarah just because he had a minor role in it.) I mean hell, he even got two big shows based around him going around and doing badass things: Brisco County Jr. (which was epic) and Jack of All Trades (which wasn't.) All of this thanks to these three movies.

I'm still upset knowing that Diablo Cody, the screenwriter behind Juno and Jennifer's Body, is doing a remake of The Evil Dead, but I think I've finally just grown to accept that Hollywood is... horrible. I mean seriously, we're getting remakes of this, Creepshow, Toxic Avenger, Total Recall, Hellraiser, Fright Night, The Birds, etc., etc. Originality seems to be almost dead when it comes to major theatrical releases. We get crappy remakes, crappy sequels that just repeat the same shit the previous film(s) did, and movies that just repeat the same fucking script over and over (comedies lately are especially guilty of this.) And all of this is because we actually give them our money. I mean, bash shit like Disaster Movie all you want, but it's become hard for even awful movies like that to financially fail.

#1: Ghostbusters

If anything beats the above in terms of impact, it's this. Ghostbusters is easily the greatest comedy-horror to me. It's a perfect blend of the two genres, managing to actually be pretty frightening at times while still being completely hilarious at others, and started a franchise that is still alive today.

The cast is completely awesome, and each character is extremely memorable, you've got so many big quotables that still pop up even today (my favorite being the "dogs and cats, living together, mass histeria" rant.) We've got a film that, ontop of inspiring a fairly good sequel, also inspired multiple tv shows, gave us an easily recognizable an extremely catchy theme song, an amazing game that acts as a third film... it's a beast of a franchise.

I remember that, as a kid, the library ghost scared the -shit- out of me. It may sound odd, being scared by a film starring Dan Akyroyd (though it probably doesn't to anyone that recognizes what my banner quotes), but jesus fuck I jumped when I first saw the movie. Then you've got that fucking demon dog...

The movie is a childhood classic, and a great example of the comedy-horror genre as a whole, so the degree that it's easily a film that needs to be shown to every kid, alongside other important movies like the classic Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones trilogy.

Honorable mention goes to Cannibal! The Musical, which was originally on the list, but in the end it just didn't seem to fit with the others in terms of genre. Still, it's a fantastic film, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone reading this.
It's from the creators of South Park (who also star in this) and is about Alferd Packer, the cannibal that inspired such films as Ravenous.

Singing, dancing, eating people. Amazing movie.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very hard list to argue with, though I think there should be a place on there for Student Bodies. Thanks for reminding me of Comedy of Terrors. Had totally forgotten about that, and after reading your post immediately threw it on Netflix instant.