Horror and comedy may seem like polar opposites to some, but they are far more similar than people realize. They are both used to elicit a specific emotion from the audience, whether it be a scream, dread-filled silence, or burst-out laughter. And when these two are combined, it can make from some amazingly potent entertainment.
The idea of mixing horror and comedy has been around for over a century in film, and even longer in literature, with films like One Exciting Night (1922) pioneering the way. Here is a selection of films that deliver audiences some creepy, suspenseful, and downright scary moments, while also finding opportunities to make people laugh.
‘Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn’ (1987)
The follow-up to Sam Raimi‘s 1981 cult-classic horror film, Evil Dead 2 leans a bit more into the realm of comedy. Acting as a sequel and a bit of a reboot, fans are presented with a somewhat altered retelling of the events of the first film, and the mayhem that ensues after.
Included within the horrific story of this cabin-in-the-woods possession tale are some incredible moments of levity, as Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) takes on the demons that possessed and slaughtered his friends in the first film. Campbell’s comedic chops are on display here as he comes face-to-face with a talking mounted deer head, battles his own possessed hand, and more.
‘An American Werewolf In London’ (1981)
One of the quintessential films in the werewolf genre, An American Werewolf In London follows David and Jack (David Naughton & Griffin Dunne), two college students from America, as they backpack through England, when they are attacked one night, causing David to transform into a werewolf.
The film starts out with them riding in the back of a truck with some overly friendly sheep, letting the audience know that this isn’t a typical, overly serious horror film. They have some great moments with the patrons of a local pub, and David’s interactions with his dead friend continue to build the humor as the horror takes a more gruesome turn.
‘American Psycho’ (2000)
While being a dark, twisted slasher flick, American Psycho brilliantly rides the line of satire in ways most fail. Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, an investment banker who is secretly a serial killer. The film, released in 2000, utilizes a late 80s setting, exaggerating the Wall Street lifestyle in such a perfectly comedic way.
The upbeat 80s music wouldn’t typically fit in a normal slasher movie, but the satirical nature of this one allows it to work. Bale’s ability to effortlessly be funny while performing horrendous acts is incredible to watch, and only adds to the brilliance of this film.
‘Happy Death Day’ (2017)
The idea of mixing a time loop with a horror movie is so perfect, and while Happy Death Day isn’t the first to do this, it is definitely the most well known. This one tells the story of a self-centered college girl who gets murdered on her birthday, only to wake up and relive the day over and over again.
What differs in this from most horror time loop films is the injection of humor, which allows the audience a chance to breathe amidst the terror. And the lead actress (Jessica Rothe) does such an incredible job of bouncing between both genres within this film.
‘Get Out’ (2017)
Get Out tells the story of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man who gets thrust into the strange world of his white girlfriend’s family. Things quickly start to take a turn as the secrets of this seemingly nice group of people begin to come out.
Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut is a fascinating social commentary, touching on the darker side of white privilege and racism, as well as faux allyship, and even relationship trust. While the psychological horrors are sure to stick with you, they are slightly elevated by the clever humor weaved throughout.
One of the most common fears among people is the fear of spiders, and Arachnophobia dives head first into that, exploring the fear itself, as well as effectively bringing it out among the audience. In the film, Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) and his family move to a small town where he’s to become the new doctor. But after some mysterious deaths, he discovers they may have actually been caused by spiders.
Even for those who aren’t typically afraid of spiders, this film does an amazing job of building up that fear, causing the audience to feel like there may be spiders around them. But even though the terror is high throughout, the film takes the opportunity to lighten the atmosphere a bit with the always charming John Goodman as local exterminator Delbert McClintock. His humor is showcased anytime he’s on-screen, and for most of that time, it’s accompanied by a sitcom-like score, really helping to elevate his comedic moments.
‘The Cabin In The Woods’ (2011)
Inspired by films like The Evil Dead, The Cabin In The Woods takes the titular horror trope and completely subverts it in a way you wouldn’t expect. In the film, a group of friends head out to a small cabin for the weekend, but little do they know there’s much more in store for them than they could’ve ever imagined.
Right from the beginning, the humor is evident. They lean into it hard in the surveillance scenes, and anytime Fran Kranz in on-screen. But even though it’s filled with great comedic moments, the horror aspects still manage to be top-notch, giving the audience a very unique horror story.
‘Fright Night’ (1985)
Vampires meet Rear Window in this mid-80s classic from writer/director Tom Holland. Fright Night follows Charlie (William Ragsdale), who is absolutely convinced that his new neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is actually a bloodsucking vampire. With the help of his friends, and a TV horror host named Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), he attempts to take out this creature of the night before it kills them all.
While this movie screams the 80s, it also manages to tell an interesting vampire story that still translates today. Its great creature makeup, and a particularly gruesome wolf transformation scene, help steer the film more toward the horror side, while most of the scenes with Charlie’s friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), lay in the humor and provide some laughs.
There have been many examples of body swap movies throughout the years, the most famous of them being Freaky Friday. This film takes that idea (and even part of the name) and flips it into the horror genre, where an unsuspecting teenage girl inadvertently swaps bodies with a middle-aged male serial killer.
This unique take on a classic film trope is what makes Freaky such a good movie. Fans get the good old-fashioned slasher moments, complete with rated-R violence, as well as some great comedic moments, thanks to comedy veteran Vince Vaughn, who spends most of the movie portraying a teenage girl in the most hilarious fashion.
Post-90s horror was unequivocally shaped by Wes Craven‘s 1996 slasher film, Scream. It jumpstarted a whole new wave of films within the genre that centered around young adults/teens taking on murderous villains with their quick wit and humor.
A seemingly simple story of a mysterious masked murderer hunting down local teens gets more complicated as the story unfolds. Craven’s ability to keep the audience on the edge of their seats and guessing right up to the end was incredible, and the sharpness of the humor could cut as deep as any blade used by Ghostface.
KEEP READING: 10 Horror Movies That Were Near-Perfect, According To Metacritic