It’s October — which means that the Halloween season is officially upon us! Let’s all ease into occasion by watching a few movies that’ll make us laugh just as much as they’ll make us scream.
In preparation for Halloween this year, I recently asked a good friend of mine who’s a horror movie aficionado to recommend some horror films she thought I might enjoy — while keeping in mind that I still sometimes find it necessary to sleep with a night light.
She emailed me back with a list of sixty different films broken out by sub-genre, along with about 2500 words about why she loves horror films so much (shoutout to my friend Brittney H. for opening up a new genre of film to me).
It’s honestly a fantastic list of films and I’ve had such a great time going through it and thinking about the horror movie genre in a completely different way than I have before.
In fact, it’s such a great list that I felt like it was a shame to keep it all to myself — which is why I’ll be sharing my personal favorite genre horror films from it over the next four weeks.
This week, we’ll start out with a genre that appeals to me as someone who loves to laugh — the horror comedy film.
Eight Legged Freaks
There’s no way to describe this — parody? homage? — to 50’s giant monster films other than fun.
Of course, since then, there have been a slew of purposefully bad monster movie films — but Eight Legged Freaks manages to be equal parts fun, ridiculous and horror-film inspired without tipping the scales into full Sharkando mode.
Basically everything you need to know about this film can be gleaned from its movie poster — it stars David Arquette and involves an attack of a bunch of giant spiders.
It’s an hour and a half of enjoyable horror comedy that not only knows exactly what kind of movie it is, but revels in it.
This movie could actually fall into a few different categories — zombie film, so-bad-its-good — but its premise is so outlandish and the movie is oftentimes so campy, that I feel like horror comedy is still the best descriptor.
Basically, it’s a Norwegian horror movie…about zombie nazis.
I mean, do you need to know anything else?
Ok – for those of you who do, here are a few things that happen: someone saves himself from falling off a cliff by using intestines as rope, another person gets disemboweled by a tree branch, a third person cuts his own arm off with a chainsaw.
Yes, that all sounds super bloody — but it’s seriously so ridiculous that you’re too busy laughing to be disgusted.
It’s definitely not a good film — but it is definitely a good film if you want to laugh.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil
It’s a continuing national travesty to me that Alan Tudyk is not ten times more famous than he is.
He’s got such great comedic talent, often imbuing his characters with just the right amount of humor, authenticity and sentimentalism. It’s a skill we saw in full display with two of his best known characters — Hoban Washburne from the cancelled-far-too-soon Firefly and K-2SO from Rogue One — and one that he likewise uses in this terrifically underrated horror comedy.
The film takes one of the most enduring conventions of the genre — the murderous hillbillies — and turns it on its head, instead giving us two likable hillbillies who find themselves mistakenly cast as the murderous kind of hillbillies by a group of unsuspecting college students.
You essentially follow these two nice, if somewhat clueless, backcountry folk as they continually try to help the college students around them, only to have the students accidentally kill themselves in increasingly hilarious ways as the movie progresses.
It’s a really smart and hilarious movie that both plays into and subverts common horror movie tropes, while also highlighting what a damn fine national treasure Alan Tudyk is.
Shaun of the Dead
As a huge fan of the zombie film, I have to say that this comedic take on the genre is as good of a zombie film as it is a comedy.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play best friends Shaun and Ed, who are dealing with a variety of personal issues while also having to contend with a post-apocalyptic zombie plague.
It’s a horror that does just as good of a job at making you care about its characters’ story arcs as it does about the incredibly engaging plot — all while pulling off gag after gag, joke after joke that all manage to land every single time.
It was a hugely successful film, so most of you out there have probably watched it. If you haven’t though, I suggest you take some time this October to sit down and watch it — and tell me if you manage to get through the scene where the cast of characters all have to pretend to be zombies without howling with laughter. I’ve watched this movie at least a half dozen times and have yet to make it through that scene without breaking down into peals of laughter.
What We Do in the Shadows
Before he was directing a short-haired Thor in the upcoming Ragnarok and rocking the world’s greatest pineapple shorts set, Taika Waititi was co-writing, co-directing and co-starring in this horror comedy gem alongside his best friend and resident Flight of the Conchords comedy genius Jemaine Clement.
This mockumentary style film follows four vampires who share a flat in a Wellington suburb, tagging along in their adventures as they attempt to lure humans into their home for food, learn how to use the internet with the help of their one human friend Stu, and indulge in a centuries-old rivalry with the local werewolves (led by fellow Flight of the Conchords alum Rhys Darby).
Honestly, it’s probably closer to a true comedy than a horror, but let’s just say that the inclusion of vampires and werewolves keeps it in the horror genre.
It’s a movie that makes smart use of its mockumentary setup, fantastic use of the conventions of the vampire genre and absolutely pitch perfect use of its incredibly hilarious cast.
Unlike my other favorite movie on this list — Shaun of the Dead — What We Do In The Shadows generally seems to be a little less known, which I think is just a damn shame.
So if you have time to only watch one horror comedy from this list, I highly recommend making it this one.