Here are some horror-comedies, staggering in their brilliance or terribleness alike, for your essential viewing. Because we’ll all be in need of a laugh as well as a scare this Halloween.
A bizarre acid trip of epicly nightmarish, and equally comical, proportions. Heads doubling as watermelons! Pianos eating people! The fiendish ever-presence of a white cat with twinkling eyes…It is not just the absurdity of these things that make House so funny, but the kitschy soap opera ambiance against which it sets them. The main theme very much sounds like something your grandparents could’ve danced to at their wedding in 1957. The seven female protagonists of the film are named things like “Gorgeous” and “Kung Fu.” Because, if we may not know whether the “house” in question is really a house at all, at least we know that Kung Fu is good at kung-fu.
1980s: Evil Dead II
Protagonist Ash Williams plays a tape that contains recordings of readings from the Book of the Dead, a book that absolutely should not be read aloud from. The recording unleashes myriad demons that come to possess Ash’s girlfriend, wreak general havoc upon the world, etc., etc. The movie consists primarily of Ash slaying these demons in brilliantly gratuitous bursts of vengeance. Some of the film’s funniest moments include, in no particular order of greatness: a taxidermied deer head laughing quite obnoxiously at Ash, followed by other household objects, an eyeball flying into a woman’s mouth, Ash’s hand getting possessed and beating him, a literal geyser of blood drenching Ash from the walls, and an assortment of highly cheesy, highly quotable one-liners (“I’ll swallow your soul!”-”Swallow this.” BAM!–headshot).
1990s: My Teacher Ate My Homework
Remember Shelley Duvall from The Shining? Think the Kubrick stint made her quit acting forever? Think again. In this seldom-spoken-of 90s garbage-fire gem, Duvall makes a breathtaking comeback as a loathsome middle-school teacher/voodoo doll that a fed-up 13-year-old vents his rage upon. It is just as scary as The Shining, if only for the fact that we forgot Shelley existed.
This one wins certain points for innovation, but loses them for providing material for the entire movie within its 2:13 trailer. “There’s no such thing as an evil turkey,” declares a remarkably self-assured woman in the dead of night. Then something moves. She repeats the phrase again, this time, with a slight tremor in her voice. The thing moves again, and she dares provide utterance to that phrase again. Until a voice that is not hers, nor human, repeats it back to her. The rest is history. This is an insinuatingly quirky marvel of cinema.
2010s: Tie- What We Do in the Shadows, Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred
Now, I put these two together because I firmly believe that they parallel each other in terms of greatness and terribleness. As an unbiased author, I won’t say which is which. They are both about vampires: one, about vampire roommates (or “flatmates” as the kiwis say) and the other about a music teacher suspected of the blood-sucking habit. One features Taika Waititi and one features John Cena. Either have fairly notable scores on IMDB: one, a 2.4, the other, a 7.7. But again, it’s all a matter of personal preference.
2020s: Hubie Halloween
I’m not allowed to write too much about this one because it is still on the festival circuit. But let’s just say that, at the very least, it is a genre-bending tour-de force that will make you cackle and then vomit and then cackle more. It’s like The Witch but with Adam Sandler. 10/10 must watch.
Please take a moment to consider any one of these films for your essential horror-comedy viewing. They can all be found on the Criterion channel, or, if not, there are several bootlegs buried around Tappan. But you didn’t hear that from me.