From hilarious classics like Army of Darkness to clever modern send ups like Hatchet, here are ten more horror comedies to lighten the mood.
There’s no denying that a good laugh can make even the bleakest days a bit brighter. Whether you’re a fan of the slapstick stylings of Army of Darkness or over-the-top slasher send ups like Hatchet, here are 10 more horror comedies that will take you from hum drum to big fun.
THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)
When three travelers find themselves lost in a terrible storm, their only hope for shelter is a mysterious old dark house tucked away in the woods.
Unfortunately for the trio, the inhabitants of this oppressive abode seem a little off. There’s the fastidious and twitchy Horace (Ernest Thesiger, best known to modern audiences as Doctor Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein), his nearly deaf sister, Rebecca (Eva Moore), and their intimidating butler Morgan (Boris Karloff). But just like in most horror movies, it’s who you don’t see that’s the bigger threat. As more lost souls seek shelter in the house, it becomes clear that someone else may be lurking in the house.
Just what is this family hiding and why?
Directed by James Whale (Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein), The Old Dark House blends humor and horror together masterfully. From clever lines to site gags, no style of comedy is off the table, so there’s a little something for everyone. But there’s plenty of horror, too. Whale’s penchant for gothic imagery, stylish shadows and tense standoffs are all on full display.
HOUSE AKA HAUSU (1977)
The big reason to watch House is not for the story, but for the sake of due diligence, I’ll set the stage.
Gorgeous is a sixteen-year-old beauty whose vacation preparations go awry when her father comes home from a business trip with a new wife. Distraught at the news, Gorgeous and her friends decide to go stay at her aunt’s house for the summer.
Things get weird pretty quickly, however, when one of Gorgeous’s friend’s disembodied head starts flying around and biting people’s butts. From there, all bets are off as the group tries to defend themselves from increasingly bizarre supernatural threats.
But the story is really just a frame for director Nobuhiko Obayashi to hang his surreal and outrageous imagery from. And there is no lack of it. Human-eating pianos, killer clocks, and fanged jars—yes, you read that right, jars—are just a few of the nightmarish dangers the young heroes encounter.
In fact, “nightmarish” is the perfect word to describe this movie. Every scene has that perfect blend of menace and mirth. How many times have you woken from a terrifying dream only to realize that the thing you feared while asleep turns out to be hilarious in the cold light of day? My guess is pretty often.
ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)
After the success of Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, director Sam Raimi and lead actor Bruce Campbell decided to take the saga of S-Mart employee, Ash, in a new direction.
At the end of Evil Dead II, Ash is transported back in time from the cabin in the woods to a decidedly Evil Dead-style Middle Ages. Although he’s initially enslaved, Ash is able to win his freedom by taking on a Deadite in single combat.
From there things get even more complicated for our hero when he discovers the only way to return home is with the help of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Unfortunately for Ash, getting the book isn’t as easy as checking it out from the library, and while procuring the evil tomb, he accidentally summons the army of the dead.
Horror comedies like Army of Darkness are like a masterclass in genre mixing. Raimi, Campbell, and friends, were big fans of The Three Stooges, and that love of slapstick is apparent in every film the group made. And yet, even though their influences are clear, the team do such a good job of making the shtick their own that you never feel like they’re retreading covered ground. This final piece to Ash’s trilogy is guaranteed to make you laugh and give you shivers, which is truly groovy.
BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)
On the other end of the spectrum is the type of wry tongue-in-cheek humor that’s not afraid to show its in on the joke.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a mockumentary about a film crew documenting “real-life” slasher Leslie Vernon. Throughout the film, the crew follow Vernon as he prepares for a climatic killing spree that he intends to end in his death.
Of course, in good documentary fashion, further information shows their subject in new light when a doctor confides that Vernon is not actually the urban legend that he claims. He’s really just a normal guy with mental issues who thinks he’s a slasher. Whether he’s the real deal or not, Leslie is committed to creating a night of mayhem and confronting his virginal final girl.
After consuming a lifetime of horror movies, you can’t help but pick up on a few genre tropes, and Behind the Mask leans in to those tropes without ever feeling tired or bogged down by them. Instead the unique mockumentary style keeps things fresh by giving the classic slasher staples—final girls, creepy masks, slow-walking baddies—a totally different perspective.
The most interesting thing about horror comedy is that, depending on who you ask, any given film may or may not land within the category. What makes one person laugh leaves another person cringing. So deciding just what is a horror comedy is ultimately left up to the viewer.
Adam Green’s Hatchet is one of those movies that could go either way, but I tend to think its comedic moments are intentional.
In Hatchet a group of Mardi Gras revelers and tourists head out on a dubiously run haunted swamp tour. While on the tour, the group learn about the legend of Victor Crowley, a deformed swamp-dwelling monster who died in a house fire, but not before his father accidentally hit him in the face with a hatchet while trying to rescue his pitiful son. Now, if the legend is to be believed, the undead Crowley roams the swamps in search of vengeance for his untimely death.
All too soon, this band of strangers are confronted with the terrible truth. Crowley is real, and he’s coming for them!
What makes this movie such a delight is its absolute commitment to its more absurd aspects. Instead of just penning a cast of run-of-the-mill characters, Green sticks two porn stars and a director in their midst optimal low brow hilarity. The kills are so over-the-top that laughing and clapping are the only honest reaction.
Still looking for more horror comedies? Try these on for size:
- A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
- Young Frankenstein
- Mom and Dad
Army of Darkness and all of the films in our list can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Shudder, and YouTube.
Are you a fan of Army of Darkness? What’s your favorite horror comedy? Let us know in the comments!