The horror genre has seen a particularly exciting renaissance in recent years. Now not only are there cutting edge horror movies coming out that are pushing the medium and introducing new voices to the fold, there are also stylized efforts like throwbacks to the ‘80s or the resurrection of dead franchises.
Something that has been around for nearly as long as horror itself is the subversion of the genre. For as long as people have been getting terrified by horror films, people have been injecting levity and humor into horror to tap into new territory in the genre. There can be straight-up comedy films that take place within the realm of horror or are dealing with frightening subject matter, such as Scary Movie or Ernest Scared Stupid. What can sometimes be more effective though is when a horror film carries a certain self-awareness and sense of humor about itself and the genre, so that it’s capable of deflating the terror with its biting wit. So turn off the lights, lock the doors, but also get ready to laugh because Here Are The 15 Funniest Comedy Horrors.
15 Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
The beautiful thing about Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is that it operates with an almost Seinfeld-ian logic to its plotting. This is a film all about misunderstandings and events dovetailing in the best worst way possible. Tucker and Dale—played to perfection by the always reliable Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine—are two happy-go-lucky hillbillies that end up getting mistaken for blood-thirsty murderers.
Tucker and Dale are just trying to enjoy their new summer vacation home as bad timing and unfortunate behavior make them look like psychotic killers. It’s a lot of fun to see things progressively get out of hand here, but there is still an element of terror and bloodshed to what’s going on. Granted, people are dying due to accidentally killing themselves, not because there’s a killer on the loose. All of this just adds to the heightened atmosphere of the film. This is a horror film where the ultimate “murder weapon” is chamomile tea. So this certainly is one of the more comedic horror films that viewers are going to come across.
14 Leprechaun 3
The Leprechaun franchise is certainly one of the more unusual horror series that are out there. Even if Freddy and Jason have been taken progressively less seriously through the years, Leprechaun has two installments set in “da’ hood.” Leprechaun 3 is an important demarcation line for the series as it marks when these horror films decided to embrace a more comedic angle. The first two Leprechaun films take themselves far more seriously than they should, and the entries from Leprechaun 4 onward go too far in the other direction. Leprechaun 3 is perfect for how it’s incredibly self-aware of how ridiculous it’s being, rather than this being a horror film that’s laughed at for being so bad. It knows exactly what it’s doing.
The third Leprechaun film takes the pint-sized killer to Las Vegas and mines tons of material from the change in location. There’s a showboating magician who takes up a lot of screen time, a terrifying sex robot that comes to life through a television screen, and a particularly disturbing scene where a woman inflates to the point of explosion. All the while, Leprechaun is singing silly limericks to compliment the carnage.
Stuart Gordon is one of those names in horror: when you hear that name, you know you're about watch something worthwhile. Re-Animator is certainly one of the director’s most popular films though, largely because of its unforgettable blend of body horror and comedy. Gordon’s film adapts a story by H.P. Lovecraft about Herbert West, a doctor who’s created a serum that allows him to bring dead bodies back to life. Gordon does much with the simple premise and pulls off some wonderfully disgusting practical effects in the picture, too. Due to just how absurd all of this is, Gordon turns to humor as a welcome way to highlight that this stuff can be just as funny as it can be scary.
Gordon is smart to show West’s experiments often being imperfect and having fun with that idea. For instance, West re-animates the head and body of his attacker separately to add further insult to injury. It allows for hilarious moments like West interrogating a severed head, only for the body to sneak up on him and get the upper hand. It also features one of the best deterrents for plagiarism to ever be on film.
12 What We Do in the Shadows
What We Do in the Shadows gets dangerously close to skewing more towards comedy than horror, but the fact that it’s so heavily stylized helps the horror resonate more. This divide perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising as the talent behind the film, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, are primarily known for their work in comedy. There is such a severe love and understanding of vampires and their mythos here that clearly these two are just as well-versed in horror. What We Do in the Shadows is creatively framed as a mockumentary that explores the lives of five vampires as they cope with the modern world. The film cleverly has each of these vampires resemble a different type of vampire from lore, with the older Petyr resembling Count Orlok from Nosferatu, for example.
The film does a great job juxtaposing the archaic traditions of vampires with modern minutiae and technology. There are plenty of gags dealing with popular vampire fare like hypnosis, familiars, and vampire hunters, with other supernatural elements like werewolves, witches, and zombies also making appearances. The end product here weirdly feels like some version of Big Brother as death and blood sucking is paired with petty house squabbles.
Before James Gunn was crafting Hollywood blockbusters and helming some of the most popular superhero films of the decade, he was getting his kicks off on grimy, gross body horror. Slither tells the story of a space parasite landing on Earth courtesy of a meteorite and then beginning a systematic takeover of the planet’s population. Slither’s plot might seem eerily similar to Night of the Creeps, which also features a bunch of space slugs turning a town into zombies. Gunn is looking to do more than simply be one of those B-horror films from the ‘80s, but rather Slither homages and deconstructs those sorts of films.
Gunn’s knowledge of the genre helps Slither become something grander, but he’s also just a naturally funny storyteller. The film is set in a small town in South Carolina and Gunn makes each of the residents of Wheelsy stand out. The final stages of Grant’s mutation are truly a sight to behold (he’s more a house than a human) and keeps the fear very much present through the picture. At the same time, it’s hard to have people like Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks headlining the cast and it not being funny.
10 The Frighteners
The Frighteners curiously began as an official Tales from the Crypt feature film. However, the project was turning out so well that it ditched the Crypt preface and became a standalone feature. These inclinations were not wrong, with The Frighteners not only being a horror film with a lot to say, but also a gem from Peter Jackson’s career that often goes overlooked. He might be able to turn The Hobbit into three films, but there’s nothing in the rich, unexplored world that’s present in The Frighteners that’s not worth returning to? Especially considering how far his grasp on technology and effects has come along (not that The Frighteners is a showcase of dated, clunky CGI, because it’s not).
The Frighteners stars Michael J. Fox as Frank Bannister, a ghost hunter of sorts, who actually is friends with spirits and works with them to con the residents of “haunted” houses. What follows is a wildly unconventional dive into the afterlife that even ends up roping the Grim Reaper into things. The Frighteners is a stunning, scary film, but it’s also incredibly smart and able to find the bizarre humor in the dire situation at hand.
9 Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Evil Dead is a no holds barred scary piece of horror cinema. Evil Dead 2 on the other hand is basically Sam Raimi taking that frightening corpse of a film and shaking it repeatedly until it starts to look funny. Evil Dead 2 is like if the original movie had a sense of humor, it’s that simple. Many people account Raimi’s franchise and its iconic hero, Ash, as always being hilarious jabs at horror, but it’s this film that starts that tradition. Evil Dead 2 showed Raimi and his audience that humor is a crucial part of Ash’s world.
The first film certainly has its charms—and the same can be said for the 2013 remake—but it’s hard to argue with new additions like trees trying to have their way with people or Ash grafting a chainsaw onto his arm. Somehow throwing slapstick comedy into the Evil Dead cocktail makes the horror pop harder while delivering killer one-liners at the same time.
8 John Dies at the End
John Dies at the End throws its audience into a crazy, frenetic world of normalized horror. There’s such an out of control head-over-heels feeling of where this film takes its audience. It’s as if Douglas Adams were trying to do a horror film. It's the kind of world where the film's main character can lament the woes of updating his axe over time and turn it into a take on the philosophical question of the Ship of Theseus. Plus, the time shredding, dimension tearing drug featured in the film is called Soy Sauce, so clearly there’s a heavy comedic vein to this horror.
John Dies at the End follows two everymen in and out of this dimension as they’re visited by things like aliens, ghost doors, and an evil supercomputer named Korrok bent on taking over the universe. There’s a lot of dire end of the world territory that’s visited here, but David and John’s cluelessness towards it all makes it inherently funny. They’re infinitely in over their heads. Also, how many horror films are about a dog fulfilling his destiny to save the dimension?
7 Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright has grown into one of the most exciting visual filmmakers that is currently working. His ability to mix and dabble within so many different genres has made him a master at whatever he’s tackling. Shaun of the Dead is the standard zombie apocalypse story that so many films have explored at this point. What makes Shaun of the Dead different is that it practically reduces the zombie situation to background noise for Simon Pegg’s Shaun. He’s too preoccupied with trying to set his life back on track, whether that means finding something that inspires him or winning back his girlfriend. Shaun is looking for purpose in his life and this zombie epidemic strangely inspires him to man up and be assertive.
Wright’s ability to mix the extremes of zombie carnage with the mundanity of relationship woes is handled effortlessly. This is a film where the jokes just never stop and they’re as relentless as the hordes of zombies. Whether it’s debating which record should be used to decapitate a zombie or a fight sequence set entirely to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” Shaun of the Dead will never stop making viewers laugh and scream.
6 Dead Alive
Dead Alive (or as it’s also known as, Braindead) is another early classic from Peter Jackson’s career. Jackson might operate with a slick CGI-intensive approach to his filmmaking now, but his foray into zombie territory is an exciting effort full of practical effects. In fact, Dead Alive is considered to be one of the goriest films of all time with the film even wryly being referred to as “splatstick,” reflecting both the comedic and bloody urges of the picture.
Dead Alive is a perversely fun time as Lionel’s overbearing mother, Vera, gets infected courtesy of a Rat-Monkey and becomes a zombie. As Lionel tries to win the heart of Paquita, he attempts to hide the presence of his mother (and eventually more zombies) in the basement. Lionel’s situation keeps getting further out of control with finally a housewarming party getting crashed by zombies. The ensuing battle sees Lionel fighting severed limbs and wielding a lawnmower with the power of Excalibur. Jackson’s creations reiterate the grim reality at hand, but the absurdity of Lionel’s actions can’t be ignored. The gore is so extravagant that people can’t help but laugh.
Rubber is without a doubt the best movie about a sentient killer tire that’s ever been made. It’s also surely the weirdest film on this list (which is saying something), but it wears its weirdness on its sleeve like a patch on a tire. Quentin Dupieux is a bit of an enigma of a filmmaker. His work always seems like it’s trying to fight against the medium itself, with Rubber being a fine example of this. Rubber chronicles the mission of a psychically powered tire named Robert. The film shows the tire “coming to life” and another bewildering sequence depicts the object slowly refining his psychic abilities. It’s not long until this tire is blowing up the heads of anyone who rubs him the wrong way.
Dupieux inserts a Greek chorus of sorts into the film that actively comment on how weird this is. Many can’t even make it to the end. They’re told that this is all being done as an homage to “no reason,” and as weird as that is, it makes sense. Dupieux wants to prove that anything can be a frightening serial killer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, an animal, or even a tire.
4 Cabin in the Woods
Cabin in the Woods is a masterpiece in horror writing that puts the entire history of the genre under the microscope. The film innocuously begins with a bunch of teenagers running off to an abandoned cabin in the woods for the usual celebration of vices and sexuality. It’s not long before the lives of these teens are put in danger, but the film then very quickly deepens its scope. Cabin in the Woods posits that the usual boneheaded behavior of individuals in horror films is actually being masterminded by a secret underground government facility. What follows is an incredibly sharp dissection of the horror genre that simultaneously attempts to evolve it into something smarter.
The deeper implications present in Cabin in the Woods are a lot to have fun with, but this is also a horror film that descends into utter chaos by the end. The massacre at the facility is one of the most glorious scenes to ever take place in a horror film. Mermen, unicorns, zombies, and every horror trope available are having a free-for-all and it’s everything great about horror.
3 Piranha 3D
Joe Dante’s original Piranha film (1978) was a biting parody of Spielberg’s Jaws, but Alexandre Aja’s 2010 remake embraces the satire to an outrageous degree. This is a film that is fueled by scantily clad women and gory shots of razor sharp teeth tearing people to bits. An accomplished horror director, Alexandre Aja, doesn’t struggle with injecting real fear and bloodshed into the film. The moments of the piranha letting loose are genuinely unsettling. A number of shots of half-eaten victims will likely stick with viewers long after the film’s over.
And yet, Piranha 3D is also a deeply silly movie that gleefully laughs at all of the carnage it’s causing. It’s a movie that has Richard Dreyfuss essentially playing his character from Jaws again and never failing to make reference to it. Plus, there’s Christopher Lloyd acting like a crazy scientist. Aja attempts to take an already silly parody film but make it frightening this time around, and he absolutely succeeds. And it’s all in 3D!
2 Scream 2
While many people are quick to praise Wes Craven’s original Scream over its sequels, Scream 2 actually expands upon everything that’s great about its predecessor. The original Scream re-invented the slasher genre by giving its characters a keen love and awareness towards horror films. Scream 2 elaborates on that by adding the topic of sequels into the film’s crosshairs, too. The result is an incredible meta horror experience that drags the slew of shoddy horror sequels under the bus, while brilliantly becoming a good sequel at the same time. This film starts with a screening of Stab—the in-universe film adaptation of the events from the first Scream—as dozens of people are costumed as the killer. It’s unreal, but Craven holds all of this insanity together.
Scream 2 benefits from audiences already being invested in the survival of Sidney, Randy, Gale, and Dewey from the previous film, but also having fun with subverting those relationships, too. In addition to the constant digs at the genre, the film is still legitimately scary with a great reveal of its killer. Scream 2 just works as an exceptional piece of horror, while also happening to be one of the most self-aware ones.
1 The Final Girls
The Final Girls deliciously carries over the self-aware, movie obsessed mentality that’s present in Scream, but it goes one step further by actually transporting its cast into a slasher film from the ‘80s. The Final Girls has far too much fun lampooning and taking advantage of the many staples that give slasher films their charm. These characters know that popping open a bra is the best way to lure the killer, and seeing how the cast cleverly use horror conventions against the movie is brilliant. There is also just a lot of fun to have with characters being trapped in a movie, like watching the loop that they’re stuck in or even trying to interact with the giant floating letters in the air that are meant to be titles and credits.
The Final Girls is one of the most creative takes on the slasher genre in years, with it also having a moving story at its core about a girl getting over the loss of her mother. There’s also a real murderer’s row of talent on the picture, with many accomplished names from both horror and comedy helping sell all of this.
This might be a worthy collection of horror, but are there any fundamental pictures that are missing here? Are Zombieland and Jennifer’s Body the holy horror gospel to you? Have the charms of the Leprechaun films never pieced through your cold, black heart? Let your choices be known in the comments below!