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It’s fun to be scared. Sometimes it’s even funny. A good laugh after a scare is a good release mechanism. Ebert mentioned that when he reviewed Friday the 13th Part 2. Of course, after the fun jump-scare, when the audience is off balance, comes the real horror. Ebert was considerably less amused when that happened. (We find that amusing).
Lots of horror comedy movies don’t work out – they can’t mix the proper balance of horror and laughs. But we think we found a few films that do it well. So we now present to you our list of the 10 best horror comedy movies. This list covers the intentional horror-comedy crossovers (so films like Troll 2 are left out). We have decided to leave off the spoofs (which are almost all comedy/slapstick humor) – like the Scary Movie franchise, Student Bodies, Saturday the 14th, etc (we’re saving those for another list). In the meantime, prepare to laugh and be scared with our list of 10 best horror comedy movies. (Oh yeah – we went back and forth with putting Ghostbusters in the list – in the end we decided that it’s more of a fantasy comedy than horror comedy… not that Ghostbusters doesn’t kick major ass, mind you).
10. The Lost Boys (1987) [Directed by: Joel Schumacher]
Corey Haim Forever!
People are strange. That’s the hook for Lost Boys, Schumacher’s vampire horror comedy that has brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (the late Corey Haim) move to Santa Carla, California with their recently divorced mom (Dianne Wiest). Michael hooks up a local gang run by David (Kiefer Sutherland) and falls for Star (Jami Gertz), while Sam meets comic book geeks the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) who tell Sam that vampires have infested the town and give him a vampire comic as a manual on how to kill them. Turns out that the Frog brothers are correct – David and his gang are creatures of the night and want to induct Michael as a new member. Filled with equal parts vampire action and witty one-liners (Edgar Frog ruminates on the concept of a vampire family: “Great! The Bloodsucking Brady Bunch!”). There’s an amusing scene where the boys run “vampire tests” on mom’s new boyfriend and a few involving Sam’s grandpa, who may or may not be aware of the existence of bloodsuckers. As Alan Frog advises Sam about his brother’s new vampire status: “Kill your brother, you’ll feel better.” Review here.
9. Brain Damage (1988) [Directed by: Frank Henenlotter]
This is why you should clean your ears every day.
Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case definitely had its moments, but he next film Brain Damage is something to behold. It’s got plenty of gore (as to be expected) but it also has a wicked villain – he’s a little worm/brain parasite named Aylmer who gets a guy named Brian (Rick Hearst) addicted to a narcotic substance that his body manufactures naturally. The good news is that Brian gets the best highs in his life. The bad news is that Aylmer has to eat, so he makes Brian take him out every night for “food.” The best part is the voice of Aylmer – John Zacherle, who was a famous horror host in the 1950s and created the novelty tune Dinner With Drac, which was a hit. His voice is really old-timey and pleasant, which is completely at odds with the monster we see on the screen. There’s also some gross-out gags, like the blow-job gag which is hilarious and nasty at the same time. We want to call Brain Damage Henenlotter’s funniest movie, but we haven’t yet seen Frankenhooker, which we have heard is off the charts.
8. Gremlins (1984) [Directed by: Joe Dante]
Hark! The herald gremlins kill!
Dante’s black comedy about monsters in the machinery is a dig at Frank Capra, 50s sensibilities, minorities, the working class… pretty much everything, really. It also has a mean streak and some good effects (especially the puppet effects). There’s a hilarious bar sequence in it where the gremlins drink, smoke, and fight, another bit where cute little Mogwai re-enacts crap he saw on the TV, and finally, heroine Kate tells a bizarre story about her dad dressing up as Santa and dying inside the chimney. (Dante refused to remove the scene, saying it represented the film as a whole). Maybe the funniest thing about Gremlins is that families took their little kids to see it and got all mad because of all the dead people and green goo. Haha, silly parents. Our review is here.
A coming of age, boy meets girl type of movie. That takes place during the zombie apocalypse. After a mutated strain of mad cow disease turns almost everybody into the walking dead, a kid from Columbus, Ohio (Jesse Eisenberg) hooks up with a guy from Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who has a holy quest to locate the last batch of Twinkies on the planet. They hook up with surviving sisters (Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin) and then make their way towards the Pacific Playland amusement park. On the way they meet Bill Murray, who before dying expresses regret at doing the movie Garfield. With funny zombies, funny deaths, a babe, and an informative zombie rulebook, Zombieland is the lighter side of the apocalypse. Review here.
6. An American Werewolf in London (1981) [Directed by: John Landis]
Doc's first time delivering a werewolf baby.
John Landis’ effective, creepy, and downright funny film about a young American kid named David (David Naughton) who is bitten by a werewolf. While he’s recuperating in London, he meets hot nurse Price (a very sexy Jenny Agutter), who takes him home to her apartment. In the meantime, he has very violent nightmares and occasional visits by his dead friend Jack (Griffin Dunne), who is doomed to walk among the undead unless David takes his own life. Naturally, David thinks he’s dreaming/going crazy, so he doesn’t. The full moon comes and David turns into a lycanthrope in one of the greatest transformations in horror movie history (thanks to Rick Baker). It also has the immortal phrase “A naked American man stole my balloons!” Best scene: the decaying corpse of Jack meets David inside a porn theater at Piccadilly Circus and introduces him to his dead victims, who all enthusiastically offer suggestions on how he should kill himself. Bonus: good soundtrack, including Van Morrison and CCR.