Over the years, I’ve been pretty vocal about how much I adore horror comedies, and considering how challenging the world at large has been over the last few years, it’s truly my favorite subsection of the genre to disappear into as of late. There have been numerous brilliant humorous horror movies over the years, but I thought now would be the perfect time to celebrate 10 films from the modern landscape of genre cinema that have not only been largely under-appreciated by fans, but also do a killer job of finding new ways to merge the funnies with the frights.
Just a note before we begin: I purposefully left off films like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, What We Do in the Shadows, Cabin in the Woods, Zombieland, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, The Frighteners and projects of that caliber, because I feel like some of those were sleeper hits that seemed to catch on during their home releases (and some just slayed it with audiences when they initially hit theaters, too), and I stuck to films released after 2000 as well (sorry, Idle Hands and Jawbreaker, I still love you both). While everyone’s taste in comedy can be subjective (much like the horror genre), there’s undoubtedly going to be a little something for everyone on this list, so I hope you enjoy this collection of horror comedies that definitely deserve a little more love.
Hell Baby: This is a quirky comedy about parents (Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb) who move into a house of ill-fame (in New Orleans of all places, where the spooky seems to be constantly flowing) and give birth to the spawn of Satan, but if you think this is just a riff on The Exorcist, think again. Hell Baby is the co-directorial effort from Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (Deputy Travis Junior and Lieutenant Jim Dangle, respectively, from Reno! 911 fame), so if that brand of laughs is very much your cup of tea, then Hell Baby is going to be right up your proverbial alley. The comedy also features performances from the likes of Keegan-Michael Key, David Wain, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Michael Ian Black, and Dave Holmes (both Garant and Lennon also have supporting roles), with their loving tributes to evil kids cinema. It’s a film I wish more folks had given a chance when it was released a few years ago, and in fact, I love Hell Baby so much that I probably bring up Key’s “Pizza Salad” at least once a week (don’t knock it ’til you try it!).
Otis: Released under Warner Bros.’ Raw Feed banner, Tony Krantz’s Otis was one of the first films I ever covered in my professional writing career, and while it has a few rough edges, there’s something slightly charming about this tale of a social outcast (the eponymous character, portrayed by Bostin Christopher) who takes a girl hostage so he can take her to the prom he never got to have when he was in high school. Not only do we get some really solid character moments between the titular madman and his captee, Riley (Ashley Johnson), but both Kevin Pollak and Ileana Douglas steal the whole damn show right from under everyone else in Otis with their performances as Riley’s concerned parents who have a few tricks up their sleeves for anyone who messes with their daughter. For those of you who like your comedy to be the pitch-black variety, Otis could very well be worth your time.
Bloodsucking Bastards: Anyone who has ever worked in an office environment knows just how much it can (wait for it) suck, which is precisely why I adore Bloodsucking Bastards as much as I do. Directed by Brian James O’Connell, this vampire-infused workplace comedy follows Evan (Fran Kranz of Cabin in the Woods fame), a generally nice guy who gets passed up for a major promotion and watches in horror as his college nemesis Max (the perfectly casted Pedro Pascal) takes over the coveted position. As if that wasn’t enough, Evan’s on the outs with his girlfriend/HR Manager (Emma Fitzgerald) and he’s convinced that his co-workers are being transformed into creatures of the night, too. While it takes a bit to get the ball rolling, once Bloodsucking Bastards hits its stride, the jokes fly almost as quickly as the gore does, resulting in an anthem for those who loathe their soulless corporate existences.
Club Dread: Welcome, weary travelers, to the island of Costa Rica, where you can enjoy all the fun in the sun you can handle at Coconut Pete’s resort... if you survive, that is! For Club Dread, the maniacs over at Broken Lizard lovingly send up slasher movies with Jay Chandrasekhar at the directorial helm (he also plays Putman, the tennis instructor), as a masked killer hunts down and murders various members of the resort staff. There are numerous reasons why Club Dread rules so hard (Bill Paxton’s brilliant turn as washed-up beach-themed crooner Coconut Pete being right on top of that list), but the best part is the fact that none of the film’s offbeat humor ever comes at the expense of the film’s genre elements, and that’s so important when you’re crafting a horror-themed spoof. Plus, the nods to films like Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Burning, and Terror Train (to name a few) certainly don’t hurt the film’s efforts, either. And for as many comedy greats as there are in Club Dread, Kevin Heffernan’s performance as Lars, the masseuse with the golden fingers, is criminally underrated. Namaste.
Call Girl of Cthulhu: A wonderfully weird and comedic love letter to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, co-writer/director Chris LaMartina’s Call Girl of Cthulhu is another endlessly charming effort from the team behind the WNUF Halloween Special (both were also co-written by Jimmy George) that is not only boatloads of fun, but is also such an amazingly well-conceived low-budget/high-ambition effort that you can’t help but admire how brazenly LaMartina swings for the fences here, hitting yet another home run. Call Girl follows a virgin named Carter (David Phillip Carollo) who aspires to change his sexual status and ends up falling for his call girl neighbor, Riley (Melissa O’Brien). Unbeknownst to him, Carter’s love interest has unfortunately been chosen to birth the spawn of Cthulhu by a cult, and it’s up to him to save not only Riley, but all of humanity as well (no biggie). Featuring a ton of laughs, a thoughtful script, wonderfully gory effects and an incredible amount of love that’s on display in each and every scene, give Call Girl of Cthulhu your time, and she might end up being the girl of your dreams, too.
Where to Watch It: Available on Disc Only
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer: If you’ve never watched Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, then you’ve been missing out on what might be the greatest physical comedy performance we’ve ever been gifted with by horror icon Robert Englund, and that alone makes Jon Knautz’s monster-fueled comedy well worth your time. The film follows the eponymous hero (played by Trevor Matthews), who is a plumber by trade, but finds himself battling monsters after a local professor (Englund) unleashes a demonic force that only he can overcome. Jack Brooks has some truly killer special effects, and Matthews is so great as an unlikely hero who must fight against evil, I’ve always been bummed out by the fact that we never saw a sequel to Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. If you’ve slept on this one for the last decade, I’d recommend rectifying that immediately.
The Revenant (2009): Before you say anything, no, I’m not talking about the Leo versus a bear film here. This Revenant movie made the festival rounds in 2009 (I had the pleasure of first seeing it at Screamfest that year), and finally saw its release in 2012. Directed by D. Kerry Prior, who had previously created special effects for movies like The Lost Boys, The Abyss, Phantasm II, and Dream Warriors, The Revenant centers on two best buddies named Bart (David Anders) and Joey (Chris Wylde) who see their friendship tested in unimaginable ways after Bart is killed in Iraq, and he awakens upon his return to the States as a “revenant”: a zombie/vampire-like creature that must consume blood to survive. While it should be no surprise that Wylde gets quite a few laughs here, Anders ends up being something of a comedic revelation in The Revenant with his tortured soul performance that’s equal parts heart and humor. For those who think there are no new zombie stories to tell, The Revenant might just change your mind.
Stitches: If you hate your job (or maybe you just loathe entitled, bratty kids), then you undoubtedly share some interests with the eponymous killer clown (played by Irish comedian Ross Noble) in Conor McMahon’s Stitches. The grumpy and sex-crazed professional jokester ends up meeting his demise after a prank gone wrong, but returns from the grave some six years later to enact his own twisted revenge on the tykes behind his death. McMahon manages to subvert expectations with Stitches, giving viewers something more than yet another “killer clown” movie (there’s some great mythology introduced involving clown rituals that really amped up the story for me), but the demented horror comedy ended up being such a standout to me simply because of Noble’s brilliant performance that provides the movie with an immense amount of infectious, maniacal energy. Stitches also has some really inventive kills that gorehounds will really dig, and it also does a fantastic job of meshing horror and comedy together, giving the film’s title a few different meanings in the end.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: Last year, director Christopher Landon slashed his way into many genre fans’ hearts with his Groundhog Day-inspired Happy Death Day, and since folks for the most part seem to be on board with his PG-13 whodunit horror comedy, I thought this was the perfect time to once again sing the praises of his much raunchier Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a hilarious, off-color tribute to zombie cinema. It’s up to three scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, and Joey Morgan) to stop the living dead apocalypse from destroying their town, and the trio of unlikely heroes have to find innovative ways to outsmart the hordes of zombies roaming everywhere. Scouts Guide also features a great comedic performance from the endlessly funny David Koechner, introduces us to some feisty zombie kitties, and manages to concoct some of the craziest zombie sight gags that I’ve seen in recent history to boot. Plus, it celebrates national treasure Dolly Parton, and it's impossible for me to dislike any movie that references this angelic talent. For a movie that’s so incredibly dirty, there’s no doubt that Scouts Guide's love is so very pure, and it really is worth a watch. Scout's honor.
All Cheerleaders Die: Directed by Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, All Cheerleaders Die savagely examines the high school experience and gender politics (two topics that feel so very timely today), all with a supernatural slant and a pitch-black tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Confidently blending several different horror subgenres with the usual tale of a high school misfit who gets more than they bargained for when they try to teach the popular kids a lesson, All Cheerleaders Die is a perfect successor to films like The Craft, Jawbreakers, and of course, Heathers. Across the board, the cast brings an infectious enthusiasm to the material, which only adds to All Cheerleaders Die's charms, and I’m still wondering if the Lifeforce-esque approach to the various victims' corporeal states were intentional, or if it was just me reading way too into things (wouldn’t be the first time). But in any case, All Cheerleaders Die is a wicked amount of fun and is deserving of all the spirit fingers.