*Keep up with our ongoing end of the decade coverage here*
Merging horror and comedy templates might be cinema’s greatest challenge. Tip the scales either way, risk driving away audiences who aren’t expecting a one-sided affair. Zombie outbreaks, household hauntings, even deadly children’s games can all benefit from comedic engagements so long as terror or chaos aren’t forgotten. Horror comedies, as the best prove, trojan horse fears under blankets of laughter to create a more effective brand of scare tactics.
Over the decade, we’ve had our share of horror-comedy blunders and highlights. I, for one, would like to honor the latter. I love cackling heartily through my horror films, for the right reasons of course (well, there’s nothing wrong with a Demon Wind watch either). It’s been a righteous ten years for meta horror-comedies, as well as workplace follies morphed into cutthroat enterprise takedowns. Also, anal cavity creatures? Let’s pay homage to those films that snap through every funnybone and put a smile on your face that’ll last an eternity.
23. Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)
“I track how many paper clips we use per quarter, do you think I wouldn’t notice a vampire company takeover?”
Work sucks, especially when your department is being turned vampiric employee by employee. Well, let me rephrase that sentence. Work sucks when you’re part of a company being turned vampiric – but watching actors such as Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, and Joey Kern portray the scenario on screen? Bloodsucking Bastards takes a bite out of “Worksploitation” horror and elevates the idea of soulless salespeople to batty new heights. First acts are a bit like a more grounded episode of Workaholics, but as the vampire theme starts to slowly creep in, comedic elements don’t wane in response. A horror comedy, in my opinion, that never found the initial audience it deserves.
22. Piranha 3D (2010)
“[last words] Wet t-shirt…wet t-shirt!”
Alexandre Aja isn’t known for his jokiness, but Piranha 3D injects aqua-horror-humor into the vacation nightmare subgenre. Between shots of flesh being torn from spring-breaker bones, characters find themselves the butt of many a carnivorous gag. Jerry O’Connell, the sleazy “Girls Gone Wild” hack whose latest masterplan has no legs to stand on. Ving Rhames and his lawman’s brute tenacity. Paul Scheer being Paul Scheer. Even the gruesomeness of Greg Nicotero’s practical effects get a laugh as gore smashes Eli Roth’s head in broad daylight, or baked-in callbacks recreate classic horror sequences (Jaws). Fun in the sun, with an emphasis on “F-U-N.”
21. Bad Milo (2013)
“[shrugs] You got a thing in your butt.”
Bad Milo is a touching intestinal comedy about one man’s misunderstood butt demon, and a quite humorous one at that. Ken Marino’s chemistry with Milo is nothing short of a miracle, whether he’s losing cool after another dead body or cuddling his big-eyed little buddy. You know how fans got all meme-happy after Shudder dropped “The Finger,” a Creepshow episode featuring an “adorable killer sidekick?” Bad Milo presented the scenario first, executes more than gimmick filmmaking, and features Peter Stormare. Check and mate in my book. Shout out to some expert puppetry that brings Milo alive, this curious little colon camper with a heart of gold (massacring for daddy is sweet!).
20. Witching & Bitching (2013)
“What eyes? Pull them out!”
This might be an underdog pick to some, but anyone who studies Álex de la Iglesia’s catalog can attest to the filmmaker’s black-as-night funnybone. In this case, criminals find themselves on the lam and hiding in Zugarramurdi. Everyone knows Zugarramurdi, yes? If not, I can assure you nothing good happens there given how all types of witches run rampant through village streets. A Spanish cast including Carolina Bang and Hugo Silva either must bring upon or thwart an oncoming coven apocalypse, as Iglesia unleashes bedlam on broomsticks that comes in all shapes and sizes. Hellion curses, merciless conjurers, and unprepared heroes collide in an international satanic panic not to be missed.
19. Juan of the Dead (2011)
“[answering phone] Juan of the dead, we kill your beloved ones, how can I help you?”
I earnestly hope y’all haven’t passed over Alejandro Brugués’ Juan of the Dead. Cuba’s “first” horror film takes a page out of the commentative messaging of George A. Romero’s best while opting for more Shaun of the Dead vibes. Juan and his rag-tag assembly must fight the undead while government wavelengths and media sources claim the reanimated corpses are dissidents revolting against Cuban rule. Come for the obvious sociopolitical skewering, stay for Juan’s raucous capitalist revolution. This zombie killer for hire comes at a bargain price and with gleeful corpse-decimating kills.
18. Mayhem (2017)
“This – this – this meditation & this incense, it’s all bullshit. You think I like the taste of kale? Come on! I’m fucking dead inside.”
Joe Lynch and “Worksploitation” horror is a match made in Satan’s boardroom. His contagion thriller Mayhem drives a stake through the heart of corporate manipulation and beats political office games into an unrecognizable pulp. It helps to have Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving at the top of their cubicle-crushing game, as Weaving herself steps into the forefront in terms of unhinged comedic potential. Mayhem is an angry movie about being taken advantage of by incorporated entities, yet it’s enraged catharsis makes for an insanely punchline-worthy watch. Rage viruses aren’t exactly “funny,” but it’s more in the reactions when co-workers start primevally laying smackdowns on one another when the film’s true humor bubbles over. Maybe that’s just coming from someone who’s been chained to a desk since graduating college?
17. Stitches (2012)
“You’re not our charge, but know this: a clown who doesn’t finish his party act can never rest, and a joke is never funny the second time round.”
What do you get when comedian Ross Noble plays a back-from-the-dead party clown hellbent on murdering the now teenage children who caused his death? Stitches, the 2012 slasher about red noses and vengeful brutality. Egregious puns are Noble’s calling card, as deaths all carry a carnival vibe and practical playfulness. Eyes stabbed out with umbrellas, brains scooped with utensils, heads popped like balloons. In a world where we’re still clamoring for new slasher franchises, I’m still disappointed “Stitches” never returned with his face-painted cult. At least the mad clown’s origin story is more entertaining than your lamest friend who brings his magic kit to co-ed parties.
16. Little Monsters (2019)
“I fucking hate those little Kiddlywinks.”
Can petting zoo zombie outbreaks be heartwarming and saccharine sweet? Yup! Just watch Little Monsters. Lupita Nyong’o shines ever-so brightly as “Miss Caroline,” a teacher tasked with protecting her young students from flesh-tearing threats without spooking the innocent kiddos. A mission made harder when children’s entertainer Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad at his most monstrously hilarious) snaps and would be perfectly fine sacrificing each child for his own life – but not on Miss Caroline’s watch. Cue Taylor Swift ukulele covers, “strawberry jam” stains, and hard-knock sidetalks between Miss Caroline and her nastily rude adult tag-along. I know everyone points to Us as Nyong’o crowing 2019 genre role, but dare I hoist Little Monsters higher? A performance that blasts sunflower happiness despite entrails covering animal pens.
15. Tragedy Girls (2017)
“To make an omelet, you have to kill some ex-boyfriends.”
Whichever scientist figures out how to harness the charismatic energy of Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp into usable power will solve the world’s wattage troubles. Tragedy Girls hacks and slashes social media culture to shreds, but would be completely different with any other combination of female leads. Points are awarded given Tyler MacIntyre’s “Behind The Mask, but way more fetch” setup, as goth-queen true crime obsessors attempt to heighten their online personas by, well, slicing through the competition. It’s Mean Girls wittiness influenced by Leslie Vernon’s “serial killer mockumentary” vibe. Peppier than a state championship cheer squad, funnier than your high school grade’s class clown, and still a serious murder spree. Smash that share button, yo.
14. The Final Girls (2015)
“Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve dreamed of being the final girl.”
The Final Girls impresses most as Todd Strauss-Schulson ravages audience emotions to the tune of “Bette Davis Eyes.” Second most impressive is how M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller script a pretty damn hilarious satire of 80s slasher cinema. As Taissa Farmiga’s gang finds themselves sucked into (some of) their favorite horror franchise Last Action Hero style, bonehead character archetypes cycle through the usually plotted motions of campfire massacres. Adam Devine and Angela Trimbur shine as horny sexpots – Trimber especially during her climactic striptease – while Thomas Middleditch’s superfan watches on with (somewhat perverse) glee. Take your pick of reasons to love The Final Girls, but I’ll always appreciate how hard it makes me chuckle (before flooding the waterworks).
13. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
“Christmas is fast becoming my least favorite “C” word.”
Ugh, *another* Christmas-theme horror musical comedy from Scotland about zombies. Good thing John McPhail’s holiday singalong nails every aspect, “comedy” included. While songs are pop-catchy and undead attacks choreographed with aggression, what’s most impressive is a cast that never allows rather dark thematic reaches to snuff holly-jolly humor. Festivities are splattered with blood (and…urine), and characters aren’t granted the “Hollywood Endings” other films might have allowed, but you’ll still sit with a beaming smile throughout Anna’s entire campaign thanks to supercharged spirits making seasonal slayings bright. Humor is delivered as sharp and dangerous as Anna’s pointed candy cane weaponry. Merry Killsmas!
12. Stage Fright (2014)
“Break a leg!”
Those Bloody Disgusting fans who listen to Horror Queers on the regular already know my opinions on Stage Fright are not widely shared. Well phooey on you, Trace. Now it’s MY turn to say Stage Fright wears its horror musical badge like the pride of theater camp. Meat Loaf leads a troupe of budding summer songsters in a new kabuki production that hopes to put his little outpost on the map, but a heavy metal killer starts slashing through stuck-up pupils. Cue singalong lyrics that poke fun at theater kid tropes, wailing guitar riffs behind vicious deaths, and comedy any theater camp graduate I’ve shown Stage Fright to feels on a deep, self-mocking level. Truthfully, one of my favorite horror-comedy rewatches of the decade. Doesn’t bother me if I’m alone.
11. Cheap Thrills (2013)
“Cut your pinky off. It’s your pinky. You use it for, like, nothing.”
Should I feel pity or remorse for laughing throughout E.L. Katz’s Cheap Thrills? Writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga are some mean ‘sombitchs given their penchant for denying characters basic humanity. You’ve got David Koechner throwing out increasingly harmful “dares” with dollar amounts tied to completion, meant to pit “buddies” played by Pat Healy and Ethan Embry against one another. Sara Paxton watches on, a housewife indulging in gladiatorial entertainment. Again, should I laugh as animals are endangered? Men piss on one another? Friendships are broken within hours? The answer is yes, because Cheap Thrills is a special brand of psychotic competitiveness. One that marinates in a bath of the most delicious delinquency expendable money can buy.
10. Detention (2011)
“It’s just high school. It’s not the end of the world.”
A pinch of John Hughes, a dash of Wes Craven, a sprinkle of Diablo Cody, and voilà! You’ve cooked-up Joseph Kahn’s criminally underappreciated Detention. A meta wrecking ball of sci-fi and slasher influences rolled into one hyper-attentive afterschool special. Shanley Caswell, Josh Hutcherson, and all their high-schooler supporting parts sell student body comedics while dodging a slasher villain named Cinederhella. There also might be some time paradox teleportation, insectoid arms, and mentions of the band Hoobastank. What the hell am I talking about? Find out and see, given how most everyone I’ve interacted with has been sleeping on my man Kahn.
9. Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead (2014)
“I’ve seen a thousand zombie movies, and this is not in any of them. You’ve created a whole new genre here, man.”
To steal a quote that will forever be used to describe Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead, it’s “the sequel you did Nazi coming.” How does a Nazi zombie horror movie top itself as a continuation? Introduce body-swapping aspects, American “zombie hunters,” festering Russian allies (still undead), and full committal to Tommy Wirkola’s bonkers concept. I adore Dead Snow, but it’s just a gory snow top tease. The furthered journey of Martin against reanimated German platoon leader Herzog is one for the undead history books. You know, the chapter that covers Norwegian horror-comedies based on WWII soldiers hunting gold and turning tourists into bloodthirsty, boot-steppin’ grunts.
8. Housebound (2014)
“You know, the closed mind is the worst defense against the paranormal, Kylie. What are you gonna do against a hostile spirit? You just gonna crack jokes?”
New Zealand knows their way around a horror-comedy, and Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound is proper proof. A woman sentenced to home arrest listens to stories of paranormal possibilities from her mother once returning to the nest, but she ignores such talk. Actress Morgana O’Reilly stands out as the incarcerated Kylie Bucknell, who begins to suspect her new living arrangements may indeed be “haunted” by some presence. No spoilage here as to what Kylie encounters, but just know it’ll have you rolling with laughter thanks in part to Rima Te Wiata’s motherly counterpart. A film about bumps in the night that’s smooth sailing as far as dysfunction and humorous genre setups are concerned. One that’s rumored to be getting a US remake…despite the film already existing in the English language?
7. Dude Bro Party Massacre III (2015)
“After watching seventeen of my best friends get killed by some crazy lady, I guess you can say I’m a little bit afraid of women.”
As someone who’s consumed Natural Light hard seltzers *multiple* weekends in a row, by choice, it should come as no surprise that 5-Second Films’ Dude Bro Party Massacre III stands as one of my favorite horror-comedies of the decade. Slam brewskis with the Delta Bi Theta brothers as they once again must defeat a mass-murdering slasher villain named “Motherface” while repressing their most homoerotic urges. It’s *shockingly* witty, gratuitously juvenile, and every bit of 80s after-dark exploitation you would have recorded on cable after mommy went to sleep. So many sensual and complicated handshakes, torn-off shirts, and tapped kegs – which is frankly but a fraction of the masterful mockery that propels this third franchise entry without any accompanying releases.
6. This is the End (2013)
“Something, um, not-that-chill happened last night.”
No horror-comedy has grown on me more over the decade than This is the End. Humor may largely stem from celebrity cameos of actors playing exaggerated and egotistical versions of their true selves (or so they say), but This is the End is also a knowledgeable horror satire. Maybe not Cabin In the Woods savvy, but genre rules and regulations are still taken to task by Hollywood’s favorite stoner crew. Plus, has Danny McBride ever been better? My newest Halloween tradition is programming horror marathons that always culminate with This is the End, capping a night of screams with a whole subterranean basement full of laughs. Exorcisms, hellfire sinkholes, creatures from beneath – tell me all the boxes aren’t ticked.
5. Ready or Not (2019)
“What the fuck is wrong with you, you fucking asshole piece of shit little tiny dick licker fucking asshole fucking die!”
Dysfunctional lifestyles of the rich and famous are all the rage in modern cinema these days given current classism climates. Eat the rich, sacrifice the rich, face off against the rich in a murderous game of mansion-wide hide and seek – take your pick. Ready or Not, 2019’s representation of the last example, completes a triumvirate of genre performances for lead Samara Weaving that anoint her horror’s new queen to watch. Be it take-no-shit aggression, snarky laughs, punchy instincts, or a host of other qualities, Weaving devours the screen as a wife attempting to survive her own wedding night. Crossbows, hidden passageways, and a tabletop gaming empire all stand in her way, but one thing’s for sure. Entertainment and bleak, bastardized nuptial humor comes at a premium.
4. Deathgasm (2015)
“Look, I’m gonna help you do this, but only because you suck at it. Also, it’s kind of fun stabbing shit.”
Underworld demons. Unhallowed hymns. Furious thrash solos. Dildo assassinations. Wait. Dildo assassinations? Deathgasm plays like a rebellious pre-teen anarchist’s Trapper Keeper full of angsty doodles animated into the form of a horror-comedy rebel yell. Filmmaker Jason Lei Howden, a professed headbanger himself, brings upon decibel damnation as moronic metalheads summon an apocalyptic curse through their garage-band amps. Think Sam Raimi, with plenty of shouts at the devil and projectiled practical gore.
My Deathgasm watch count is somewhere around eight or nine by now, with each viewing only getting funnier. Between Zakk’s (James Joshua Blake) “brutal” machismo satire, Brodie’s (Milo Cawthorne) hopeless-romantic-in-corpse-paint act, and Medina’s (Kimberley Crossman) leather-clad conversion? Whether they’re splitting possessed skulls or striking a metal-horn handshake, laughs remain at a premium. “Do it again!” is still one of my favorite horror jokes of the decade. Home run number two for New Zealand!
3. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
“Okay, I’m drawing a line in the fucking sand, here. Do not read the Latin.”
Do you think Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard knew the brilliance they hatched after writing The Cabin in the Woods? In every scene, through almost every line, there’s a roasting of some offhand genre trope turned into an anecdote or norm-busting zinger. Sure, Fran Kranz plays the collapsable-bong-smoking jester – but he’s hardly the film’s shining comedy star. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford punch their timecards as factory workers in control of real-life horror scenarios who’re part of a bigger sacrificial undertaking. Cut to Whitford’s “Merman” obsession, random dance sequences, a whiteboard of bets, and countless instances of satirical buildup before one *glorious* kitchen-sink payoff. All worth the long-shelved wait it took for The Cabin in the Woods to finally reach mainstream theaters.
2. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)
“What am I supposed to say, Dale? ‘Oh hidy-ho officer! We’ve had a doozy of a day. There we were minding our own business, just doing chores around the house when kids started killing themselves all over my property.’”
If Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp are the female horror-comedy duo of the decade, Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine steal male honors. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is such an ingenious reinvention of slasher tropes that flips the backwoods slasher script. What if stereotyped, creepy slack-jawed yokels were just two buddies fixing up their vacation homes, and kids just kept killing themselves through incredulous means on their property? One of those “why didn’t I think of that” scenarios that assuredly keeps other filmmakers up at night, cursing Eli Craig’s name for crafting a horror-comedy that’s twelve cuts above.
1. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
“I think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.”
Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi gifted horror fans the vampiric Real World mockumentary we never knew we needed with What We Do in the Shadows. Is there a more effortlessly quotable horror-comedy in the last twenty years, let alone ten? My “Dead But Delicious” Cavity Colors baseball tee disagrees. “We’re Werewolves, not Swear-wolves!” comes to mind. What an outrageously enjoyable spoof that encompasses all eras of vampire representation – Nosferatu to Twilight. Plainly put, there are too many top-notch gags to begin naming favorites. That, readers, is telling enough to the film’s satirical weight in humor-happy gold. Take a bow, New Zealand! You’ve made quite a lasting mark on the horror-comedy subgenre these last years.