October can be a difficult month for people who get anxious about jumpscares. Every other movie released at the box office or shown on cable seems to be about all kinds of serial killers, ghosts and ghosts. Where are the movies for viewers who crave a lighter touch?
The genre of horror comedy fills that gap. While not scary enough to cause sleepless nights, these movies balance their fears with plenty of laughter. From mockumentaries about a troop of vampires to Frankenstein’s son following in his father’s footsteps, there’s something for everyone.
‘Young Frankenstein’ (1974)
Mel Brooks’ 1974 Young Frankenstein was the seminal horror comedy of the 1970s and is considered by some to be the greatest comedy ever put on film. The script was co-written by Brooks and lead Gene Wilderand the direction of Brooks is a tribute to the James Whale monster movies from the thirties, in particular Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein.
No detail is overlooked in this faithful parody, be it the perfect music by John Morris, Gerald Hirschfeld‘s beautiful black and white cinematography, or Dale Hennesy‘s production design, incorporating pieces of the original Frankenstein set. Young Frankenstein’s success off-camera is matched only by his on-screen talent, which includes Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Peter Boylea, Kenneth Mars, Madeline Kahn, Gene Hackman,and Cloris Leachman asthe dreaded Frau Blücher. Young Frankenstein is not only an essential Halloween comedy, but a must-see for anyone who loves movies.
‘The man with two brains’ (1983)
Years ago, the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles showed The man with two brains on a Halloween double bill with Young Frankenstein. Half of the lines were drowned out by audience laughter. The third collaboration between Steve Martin and Carl Reiner follows a brilliant neurosurgeon who marries a woman who is secretly a sadist. When the Doctor falls in love with a disembodied brain, he devises a plan to replace his wife’s devious mind with Anne (the brain).
Fans of The Acorn and Dead men don’t wear plaid will love The man with two brains. Martin and Reiner’s wacky humor is on full display, starting with a little girl who thinks she knows too much about medicine and ending with the most difficult DUI test ever conducted. It’s the perfect Halloween comedy for anyone who wants to see Steve Martin take a romantic boat trip with a brain in a jar.
‘What we do in the shadows’ (2019)
While perhaps best known today for the success of the FX series, Taika WaititiThe 2014 vampire mockumentary turned from a cult gem to a modern comedy classic in the blink of an eye. Written by Waititi and co-star Jermaine Clement, What we do in the shade follows three vampires as a camera crew films their on-life.
Like many of Waititi’s films, the brilliance of What we do in the shade arises from anchoring the fantastic in unexpected everydayness. The vampires learn about the internet, try to get into a nightclub and complain about old relationships as they fly through the night air, sucking blood.
‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)
Zombie movies have long been a hallmark of the Halloween season, and Shaun of the Dead is considered a staple. Edgar Wright’s The 2004 film introduced the movie world with its fast-paced, fast-paced filmmaking style and its co-writer Simon Pegg‘s airtight comedy scripts. The movement of the camera is as intentional as any syllable, and almost every line telegraphs a little later or refers back to a little earlier.
Shaun of the Dead’s The premise is simple: When a zombie apocalypse breaks out, Shaun (Pegg) and his lovers try to barricade themselves in their local pub. Obviously, nothing goes as planned, and Pegg, Nick Frost and Kate Ashfield must take drastic measures to survive including beating an old zombie man with billiard cues while Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” plays on the jukebox.
‘Evil Dead 2’ (1987)
Sam Raimi‘s 1987 quasi-sequel to Evil Dead It may not seem like a comedy, but it sure is. While the original relied on grungy guerrilla films, the second part leaned more towards slapstick. Bruce Campbell was perhaps the only protagonist who could do both.
Here’s a sequence of events from Evil Dead 2:An evil spirit possesses Ash’s right hand and attacks him. He tries to drown the appendage, but in a… Chaplinlike scene, hand smashes plate after plate against his head. In desperation, Ash cuts off his hand with a chainsaw, but the thing is still alive. So he catches it under a bucket and weighs it with a few books, including: A farewell to weapons. The order is 50% Orlac’s hands, 50% Looney Tunes, and 100% Halloween comedy gold.
‘Cabin in the Woods’ (2011)
Another movie in the spirit of Evil Dead 2 and scream, cabin in the woods, can be a believable horror shot or an absolute comedy, depending on the viewer’s perspective. It is ultimately a comedic deconstruction of the horror genre and its narrative beats. Sometimes writing a scary movie is as easy as booking a cabin, bringing a virgin, and picking the monster. And the only one who knows what’s going on is the stoner who’s seen too many of these movies.
But when the virgin and stoner go off script, all hell breaks loose and the system eats itself. cabin in the woods is a lot: a comedy, a horror, a parody, a commentary on studio films and art, a stoner classic and more. It’s also the perfect movie for a Halloween party with a selection of pumpkin-themed beer and a crowd full of people who watched too many monster movies growing up.
‘Death Becomes Her’ (1992)
It’s possible that no horror comedy has ever reached the same star power as Death becomes her. Meryl StreepGoldie HawnBruce Willis and Isabella Rossellinic star in director Robert Zemeckis‘ crossover with horror and noir. It’s a marriage of Double compensation and a Arabian Nights fable: The film follows a plastic surgeon, Ernest Menville (Willis), and his former lover, Helen (Hawn), who plan to kill his wife Madeline (Streep). Little do they know that Madeline has just taken a potion that gives her eternal youth and immortality.
This movie is pure camp, and every second is a riot. Streep and Hawn are hilarious, dominating the frame with charm and impeccable timing. And Willis totally plays against the type as a mustachioed, floppy schlong. It’s an essential Halloween comedy, in part because of the intimidating design of Menville’s mansion by producer-designer and Stephen Spielberg collaborator Rick Carter.
“Don’t feed them after midnight.” That’s pretty much the only rule for grooming a gremlin. But when a young boy is tricked into feeding some of his pets, they cocoon and hatch into mischievous, deadly little green creatures. For the rest of the film, they wreak havoc on the small town.
Gremlins is a confusing movie. It’s set at Christmas time, but it’s also a horror movie that has a lot in common with midnight movies. Yet, despite the Christmas season, Joe Dante‘s1984 movie is a great Halloween watch. It’s brutal, scary and above all very stupid. No scene sums this up better than the Gremlins singing carols to an old woman to distract her as they rewire her electric stairlift to zip her up the stairs and out the window.
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