Just about everybody likes to be scared, and October is the time of year when we all become horror fans for thirty one dreadfully gleeful days. But not every horror movie is built to be scary. Some of them are totally gonzo pictures that indulge their peculiarities. Some of them are sly comedy commentaries on the genre. And some of them are so incomprehensible that it’s anybody’s guess as to how they got made in the first place, in both financial and creative terms. These sorts of horror movies can still be frightening, of course, but they mostly endure on the strength of their idiosyncrasies instead of how effectively they inspire blind terror.
So to celebrate horror’s totems of unbridled craziness, Screen Rant has compiled a list of the 15 Most Ridiculous Horror Movies Ever Made. Our selections range in taste level; some will be too overwhelmingly bloody for more squeamish viewers, while others might just be too deranged. “Ridiculous” can mean a lot of different things, after all. Not every film on here is for every viewer, but every film on here, for good or for bad, smart or stupid, nasty or zany, lives up to the definition of the word:
There’s a lot about Nobuhiko Kobayashi’s cult classic monument of weirdness, House, that just plain doesn’t make any sense on paper. Why, for example, would Toho, the legendary studio responsible for backing many of Akira Kurosawa’s best films, for giving the world the gift of Godzilla, and for co-producing a number of great Studio Ghibli works, ever put its muscle behind a psychedelic, phantasmagoric horror romp? And why did Toho commission Kobayashi to make his movie as a response to the success of Jaws? House (the title of Kobayashi’s original script) probably didn’t quite turn out how Toho pictured it, but maybe that’s for the best.
If the film had gone the way they thought it would, after all, we wouldn’t have this over-the-top gem of wanton comic strangeness to behold and adore today. House doesn’t care about reality. It scarcely cares about making sense. Instead, it goes full-throttle on intentionally crummy-looking special effects, apparently because Kobayashi wanted the film to look as though a child had made it (he took inspiration from the things his daughter personally found frightening), and on screwball terror that, frankly, isn’t actually all that terrifying. It’s too busy being loopy to be scary; characters get eaten by pianos and bitten on the butt by floating disembodied heads. The results are stunning in their comical, outre creepiness.
You know that the zombie niche has gotten too bloated for its own good when this is where filmmakers feel they must turn for inspiration: Undead, wood-gnawing, semiaquatic rodents. That’s it, kids, we’ve reached the apex of zombie movies. Everybody pack up and go home. We’re done here.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with camp. In fact, most of the movies on this list fall under that designation, and of those that do, many are worth investing your time in. But Zombeavers is, pound for pound, the campiest of the bunch, a film in which a colony of beavers are mutated into feral monsters by spilled canisters of toxic waste; they attack a bunch of teens staying at a cabin in the woods (natch), who one-by-one turn into beaver-human hybrids as they suffer bites and scratches from their attackers. The beavers brought to life through the absolute cheapest puppetry imaginable, while the hybrids’ buck-toothed visages inspire fits of the giggles instead of the fantods. That’s all by design, of course, but you can’t expect to score points among the B-movie diehard set just by making a bad movie on purpose. “Cheesy” only gets you so far.
Gentlemen, cover your nether-regions. Teeth, more than any movie on this list, is movie watching repellent for guys everywhere, though if you can steel yourself for the film’s gory specifics, it’s absolutely worth a watch: It’s smart, unsettling, and blackly comic, assuming that you find the basic conceit of “vagina dentata slasher” inherently funny. That’s a tough pill to swallow – the gallows humor here works best in practice, rather than on paper – but Teeth is a surprisingly great flick, even if the premise alone is enough to make most male viewers consider joining up with the nearest monastery and going celibate for a while, or for the rest of their lives. If horror cinema has taught us anything, it’s that the vengeance of a woman scorned is never pretty.
In case you’re still not sold on Teeth – maybe you’re crying “misandrist!” as you read this – rest assured that the film’s theme of sexual trauma goes both ways: “Vagina dentata,” which enjoys global mythological roots, is very much a thing rather than a nasty invention of the movies, a metaphor for how mankind is inevitably consumed by mother nature. There’s more on Teeth’s mind than severed man-parts, in other words, though there are many of those, and in light of the film’s slim running time, they come at a pretty even clip. If the allegory here is scholarly, though, Teeth invests itself in a level of delightful trashiness at the same time. It’s a movie that’s as savvy as it is bizarre.
Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber apologizes for itself within its opening minutes, as Stephen Spinella stands before the camera and rambles about “no reason” movies – movies where things happen, you guessed it, for no conceivable reason – before stepping aside and letting Dupieux’s slasher homage unfold. Normally, that kind of meta self-awareness wouldn’t qualify a film as “ridiculous” right off the bat, but when the film focuses on a town under siege by a sentient car tire with head-popping psychic powers, then yeah, the shoe pretty much fits, doesn’t it? Like many other entries on this list, Rubber doesn’t really care about coherency as much as it does about staging sequences in which people’s noggins explode while a tire stares them down.
Frankly, Rubber packs such a nutty plot summary that Dupieux’s artistically-minded interests about cinema detract from, rather than add to, his villain’s gloriously bloody killing spree. Think about it: He shot a movie about a tire that goes full-Scanners on nearly everybody it comes into contact with, save for Roxane Mesquida, ostensibly the film’s final girl but really just the object of the tire’s inexplicable sexual fascination. When you’re going that far overboard, you really don’t need to make any excuse for your movie’s absurdity, and Rubber is nothing if not absurd.
From Beyond (1986)
Ever seen Slither? Are you a fan of The Thing or, for that matter, Leviathan? Do you enjoy curling up before bed with an H.P. Lovecraft book? Then From Beyond is going to be like catnip for you, a goopy, gruesome adaptation of an early Lovecraft tale first written in 1920, in which a mad scientist creates a device that allows human beings to perceive planes of existence outside the normal scope of reality. There’s a catch, of course, which is that the machine works in reverse, too. In Lovecraft’s story, the extra-dimensional fiends are mostly hinted at rather than shown. In Stuart Gordon’s film, they’re on full display tormenting horror luminaries Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, and Ken Foree, and boy are they disgusting.
From Beyond feels like a black metal track turned into cinema; it’s insane, figuratively but almost literally, as the monster designs and sheer volume of icky-sticky special effects might push the average viewer right to the edge of losing their minds. It’s violent, it’s grisly, it’s baudy, and it’s an essential for anybody with a fondness for mind-bending oddity, eldritch monsters, exploitative nudity, and body horror. Watching the film, you feel like you’re riding passenger to Gordon’s driver, and every second that goes by, he puts his foot down on the gas just a little bit more until suddenly, you’re stuck in full throttle. From Beyond is grotesquely outlandish, and that’s exactly what makes it worth watching.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Here we have a movie that manages to blend comedy with all-around freakiness; this is the picture that popularized the brain-eating zombie trope that we all know about and love, but which modern pop culture has mostly discarded. Like the paleo diet, the gray matter diet is complete malarky – zombies don’t really care about what they eat, just that they’re eating it, whether it comes from a person’s head, torso, or extremities. (Per The Walking Dead, the undead aren’t even picky about eating humans, either. A horse or a chicken will do in a pinch.) But if you’re the type that likes their zombies chowing down on cerebellums like pork buns, well, The Return of the Living Dead is totally your movie.
Apart from the fundamental comic value of hearing zombies make pointed demands for brains whenever occasion calls (in this film’s mythology, zombies can, in fact, talk), The Return of the Living Dead is notable for actually being effectively freaky. The movie’s most memorable creation, the Tarman, lives up to his legend and then some; he’s an oleaginous ghoul, more horrifying to look at than your average walking corpse. Plus, who can forget the scene where punk rock gal Trash shuffles off her mortal coil by fulfilling her own “worst way to die” scenario? The Return of the Living Dead is equally as well known for its punchlines as for its horror, but the film’s kooky tone pushes it into the realm of the ridiculous quite handily.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Note: Coulrophobes, look away. Seriously, stop, right now. Killer Klowns from Outer Space was not made for you. Actually, it probably was, because only people suffering from a deep-rooted fear of jesters and mimes would probably find Stephen Chiodo’s ode to the circus genuinely scary; all the same, Killer Klowns from Outer Space will not be your jam, though for everybody else it’s a hilariously terrible (terrarious? Hilarible?) ride. Granted, the movie really only tells one joke over and over again, but with different packaging – aliens that look like clowns (sorry, “klowns”) land on Earth and start capturing or disposing of people using the traditional instruments of the clowning trade.
So they melt people with acid pies, capture them in cotton candy cocoons with their phasers, turn humans into popcorn, and kill audiences with lethal shadow puppet shows. There’s something truly alarming about seeing these age-old amusements turned into lethal weapons, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space is remembered less for being frightening and more for its amateur garishness. It’s a fun movie, and an enthusiastically gonzo movie, instead of a scary movie. Just make sure to stay away if you ever had a bad childhood experience at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)
Also falling under the category of “things that kill that do not usually kill”: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. If you grew up in the 90s, then you might recognize the name of the short-lived television show on Fox Kids, which filters the cartoonishness of the film through an actual cartoon. John DeBello’s film might be live action, but in many ways it’s more of a caricature than the TV series based off of it, as well as its 1988 sequel. How so? Start at the beginning, where scrolling text reminds the viewer that audiences laughed off Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds upon its release on the basis of believability, until the case of Hopkinsville, Kentucky’s 1975 takeover by 7 million blackbirds changed everybody’s minds about the film’s authenticity.
The joke here is obvious, and the parody that follows that introductory parable is even more obvious. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes doesn’t go for subtle; it aims for the cheap seats. But what do you expect? The whole thing is a send-up of the very B-movie style DeBello emulates, with a side hammy political satire for Gerald Ford’s much-ridiculed “whip inflation now” campaign in the 1970s. Asking for it to be well-made, or well-written, or well-acted, or witty, or, well, anything other than tacky would be like asking Julian Fellowes to write a series of fart jokes into Downton Abbey.
Basket Case (1982)
The most mind-boggling thing about Basket Case isn’t necessarily its premise, though that does indeed boggle the mind. No, what’s more puzzling than that is the fact that somehow it managed to beget two sequels. Maybe viewers really latched onto the concept: Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) shows up in New York City with a locked basket that happens to contain Belial, Duane’s deformed and pissed-off Siamese twin. They were conjoined from birth and separated from each other in their youth, leaving Belial with a deep-rooted grudge against the doctors who operated on them. Hence their trip to the Big Apple, where the brothers aim to get a little revenge.
What a plot! It’s emotional, it’s personal, it’s intimate, and in practice it’s just plain looney-tunes. Belial is legitimately scary, even though he’s essentially a lumpy hand puppet with the skin tone of a rotting pear: He’s a ruthlessly brutal killing machine as liable to take out robbers breaking and entering into his room as the surgeons responsible for cutting him from Duane’s side. But Basket Case isn’t a purely scary movie, and it doesn’t try to be. Frank Henenlotter didn’t have the budget to do that. Instead, he aims for pure, preposterous schlock and hits the target to wildly entertaining and nauseating results.
The Stuff (1985)
Horror remakes are just about verboten these days, but if someone felt like yanking a horror flick from the 80’s and freshening it up, they could do no better than The Stuff. We’re more health-conscious today than ever, it seems, what with our growing national obsession with kale smoothies and mega cleanses a film that skewers diet trends and health food fads sounds kind of perfect for that kind of social climate, and what better way to do that than with piles and piles of murderous yogurt? You might crave your Chobani, but what if your Chobani craved you right back?
The Stuff is the kind of goofy you want to embrace rather than shun. Larry Cohen has a sardonic sense of humor that keeps the movie afloat and undercuts its natural wackiness. In the grand pantheon of horror film baddies, “killer yogurt” ranks right up there with, well, “killer c(k)lowns” and “killer rabbits,” though in fairness, the “stuff,” as it’s called, doesn’t kill you right away: First it turns you into a brainwashed zombie. Then it kills you, and horribly. (Poor Garrett Morris.) But if mind-controlling alien organisms that look like blobs of Cool Whip invite credulity, The Stuff is a good enough time that you’ll happily accept its winking nonsense.
Night of the Lepus (1972)
If you caught this movie on TV at any point in your childhood, you probably found it terrifying. In truth, it’s corny, it’s horribly acted, and the special effects are laughably rudimentary; it’s still, however, a film about killer rabbits, which sounds every bit as idiotic to adult ears as it does horrific to a kid’s. But you have nothing to fear from Night of the Lepus, unless you’re not the type to take kindly to hokey environmental subtext and you can’t stand sitting through crappy horror films.
As in so many movies where nature goes berserk, the calamity in Night of the Lepus is man-made: A research team injects hormones into a bunch of rabbits in hopes of disrupting their breeding cycle and disrupting a local area infestation of adorable bunnies. One of the little critters is snatched by the young daughter of one of the researchers, and when it escapes her custody, well, suddenly you have a roving horde of humongous hares on the loose, killing and eating people at their leisure. If you need more proof of the film’s farce than that, you can go ahead and watch it, but this “so bad it’s good” fare: It’s just so bad that it’s bad.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
“I’m gonna scare the hell outta you!” Stephen King proclaims in the trailer for Maximum Overdrive. He makes a few other grand overtures in the clip, too, all of which sound pretty promising in theory but none of which amount to anything in the actual film. Maximum Overdrive is a disaster. Even if King had switched gears and marketed the thing as a straight-up parody, he probably wouldn’t have saved himself from getting taken to the woodshed by critics and audiences in equal measure. This movie is funny by accident; it’s too self-serious to be tongue in cheek.
That doesn’t mean Maximum Overdrive isn’t entertaining, just that it’s entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Here, inanimate objects spring to life after a comet passes by Earth, and humanity descends into chaos; cars drive themselves, ATMs taunt customers, and electric carving knives develop minds of their own. Most memorably, a Little League game comes to a tragic end when a vending machine batters the coach to death with soda cans and one kid gets flattened by a steamroller. If the entire film consisted only of incidents like that, maybe, just maybe, it might have been remembered as an unplanned trash masterpiece. Too bad Maximum Overdrive soberly plods along, unaware of its own badness.
The Happening (2008)
Where to begin with this, M. Night Shyamalan’s most notorious bomb? (Maybe that’s The Last Airbender. Then again, maybe they both just suck.) Skip over the plot, for one; somewhere out there, there is a human being on this planet capable of making a good movie about plants spreading airborne neurotoxins that force human beings to commit suicide (and in increasingly excessive ways). The Happening’s problems all tie back to Shyamalan’s poor execution, which, admittedly, is so bad that it exposes the story’s innate silliness. So what’s the right starting place for the film? How about with the fact that Mark Wahlberg apologizes to a plant late in the movie, in hopes that the plant will be merciful and not brainwash him into feeding himself to lions? How about the fact that that plant turns out to be plastic?
Maybe that’s as far as anybody needs to go to “get it.” The Happening is the worst kind of ridiculous, the kind you laugh at instead of with. It’s so bad that Wahlberg, star of Rock Star, Max Payne, Shooter, and the 2001 Planet of the Apes remake, went on record five years ago to decry the film in a deluge of F-bombs. Conceptually, The Happening stood out from most of its summertime competition back in 2008; most blockbusters tend not to be concerned with anything other than explosions and their bottom lines, but, to Shyamalan’s credit, he actually made a movie that was about something. Problem is, he took a top-down approach to putting the damn thing together and wound up with something ripe for the mercies of RiffTrax.
There are simple, effective solutions to all of life’s most mundane, nagging problems. Water damage in the ceiling? Scrub it with bleach and put a coat of paint on it. Snow built up in your wheel wells? Clear it out with a scraper. Zombies ruining your dinner party by messily devouring your guests, thereby creating more zombies for you to deal with? Cut them to bloody pieces with a lawn mower. Peter Jackson’s quick fix to a zombie infestation might leave a lot of excess clean-up, but boy does it get the job done. That moment is probably the pinnacle of Braindead (known to many as Dead Alive), a splatter storm of blood and guts that brings the house down figuratively, before Lionel Cosgrove’s enormous zombified mother brings it down literally.
And yet you can debate the merits of the film’s infamous lawnmower sequence all day long, because Braindead packs so much gleefully ludicrous viscera into an hour and forty minutes that choosing your favorite gross-out scene is almost impossible. Braindead gained a jump in status after Jackson became one of the world’s most famous filmmakers on the back of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but if you had a penchant for gore, you’d likely already seen the film by that point; you might not, however, have seen Jackson’s preferred cut, given the film’s history with censors outside of the UK and Australia. (In the US, the R-rated version released in theaters only clocked in at 85 minutes. C’mon.) Today, though, you can see Jackson’s 97-minute version or the full 103 version and catch all of its carnage unimpeded, and if you haven’t already, don’t wait a second longer.
With a title like this, your expectations will pretty much just build themselves. Frankenhooker is 100% the movie you think it is, a re-telling of Mary Shelley’s iconic novel (and by extension James Whale’s equally iconic 1931 picture) where the monster happens to be stitched together from the bodies of dead New York City streetwalkers, and has both an insatiable sexual appetite as well as a near-equal lust for murder. Science has its perks, but it has a dark side, too, and when your girlfriend dies in a tragic lawnmower accident, that dark side has a tendency of making itself known. (Incidentally, that makes Frankenhooker the third film presented here that warns viewers of the dangers of mishandled lawnmowers.)
Frankenhooker is a film about the dangers of obsession, a harrowing tale of love lost, and the delicate art of creating one whole new woman out of the diced-up bodies of a gaggle of prostitutes. Arguably, it’s an anti-drug yarn, too; our Dr. Frankenstein stand-in, Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), uses explosive “super crack” to kill unwitting ladies so that he doesn’t have to do the dirty work himself. (Apparently, prostitutes really like crack.) It’s inspired lunacy, and while Frankenhooker isn’t quite as funny as it wants to be, it’s still totally outrageous, offensive, and senseless in all the right ways.
Of course, the word “ridiculous” has a number of broad applications. (Just ask Rob Dyrdek.) So, a few of the films on this list might not read to you as being quite ridiculous enough; alternately, they may not read as ridiculous at all. Got any favorite horror flicks that fit the bill? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
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