Both horror and comedy are some of film’s oldest and well-loved genres. It comes as no surprise then that the two merged really early on, just as they had done previously in literature. Examples of the horror-comedy hybrid genre in film can be found as far back as the early nineteen hundreds. It wasn’t until in the thirties that horror-comedies started to really get popular with the films of Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and other comedians.
Later on, in the fifties and sixties, the genre flourished on television when shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family became mainstream faves. But it wasn’t until the early eighties that the horror-comedy film genre really found its voice.
This list will therefore focus on horror-comedies from the eighties (a golden age of the genre) up until present day with some very recent examples. Whilst it might not be a genre for everybody (mainly because of the horror elements and the often black and self-referential humour), those that love these films, really love these films and nearly every single one of them has their own cult following.
So here they are, 21 of the best horror-comedies from the last 35 years.
21. House (1986)
A mid-eighties horror-comedy, which has not withstood the test of time that well but still remains a classic of the genre. House was a sizeable hit for Friday the 13th producer Sean S. Cunningham and managed to spawn three sub-par sequels.
It stars William Katt (that dude who took Carrie to the prom) as a popular horror novelist who has been suffering from severe writer’s block since his son disappeared and his wife left him. He takes up residence in his dead aunt’s mansion in an attempt to write down his Vietnam memoirs to purge some of his inner demons but as one might suspect, the house turns out to haunted and it is the house’s demons which attempt to purge him instead.
Highlights here are George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) as the writer’s neighbour, a scene where the author disposes of a demon’s corpse to the tune of You’re No Good by Betty Everett and the appearance of his Vietnam buddy in decomposed zombie form, who complains about running out of bullets after having gone to the trouble of coming back from the dead.
20. Doghouse (2009)
In this UK production a group of friends, all suffering from women problems and mid-life crises, decide to have a “boys weekend” to cheer up their recently divorced friend. They hire a van and drive to a remote village where women allegedly outnumber men 4 to 1. Unfortunately their plans are sort of spoiled when it turns out that all the women in the village have been infected by a virus, turning them into an “army of pissed-off man-hating feminist cannibals”. If they thought their lady dramas were bad before, these guys are really in for one hell of a weekend now.
Feminists certainly need not apply for this one as it has a particularly nasty misogynistic streak but if you can get past that, it’s certainly worth having a look for the fans of the genre.
19. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)
In this Canadian horror-comedy Jack Brooks’ family was attacked by a demonic monster on a camping trip when he was just a kid. He ran for his life and survived but the rest of his family was slaughtered. Fast forward to present day and Jack has become a guilt-ridden plumber with some severe anger management issues as a result.
Whilst fixing some plumbing at Professor Crowley’s place, played by horror icon Robert Englund, he unleashes an ancient evil, which quickly takes hold of the Professor and transforms him into something monstrous. It’s time for Jack to face his issues and put his rage to some demon ass-kicking good use whilst avenging his family.
18. Juan of the Dead (2011)
What’s not to like about a movie which spoofs the title and subject matter of a horror-comedy classic, which in turn spoofs the horror genre itself?
This little seen Spanish-Cuban co-produced horror-comedy gem deals with two slacker friends who finally find their calling when Cuba is suddenly overrun by zombies. Whilst the government claims the zombies are American backed dissidents attempting to topple the government, Juan and Lázardo set up shop and start a zombie extermination business.
This clear satire actually managed to win the Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film in 2012. Not as well-known as the movie which inspired its title, but well worth seeking out.
17. Night of the Creeps (1986)
The mid-eighties were a golden age for horror comedies and even though Night of the Creeps has not aged as well as some of its peers, it’s still a minor classic in the genre with a loyal cult following.
Filled with horror and sci-fi references, The Night of the Creeps is a mixture between a college campus fraternity comedy, an alien invasion flick, a slasher film and a zombie rampage. No wonder the film has become a cult favourite.
The story deals with some alien-leeches who enter through one’s mouth and act as brain parasites, turning their victims into bloodthirsty zombies who love attacking semi-clad sorority girls. You can tell this one was designed with the horror nerds in mind. Add the fact that the main characters are named after horror and sci-fi directors (Cronenberg, Romero, Landis, Cameron, Hooper and Raimi) and you have a real treat for those who thrive on these types of movies. Directed by Fred Dekker, who also wrote the aforementioned House.
16. Infestation (2009)
Another slacker, another mutant invasion trying to take over the world and eradicate mankind.
Cooper has just started his new job as a telemarketer but whilst he didn’t have high expectations of the job, he never imagined that he would be waking up in a cocoon only to find out that the world is being taken over by giant bugs. Gathering a group of survivors to take on the giant insect invasion he still finds time to also make moves on his pretty co-worker. A man has got to know his priorities.
With cult favourite Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, Robocop and recently Big Ass Spider) as one of people in Cooper’s crew and CGI effects which are remarkably good for a production of this scale, Infestation is a little seen flick well worth seeking out for fans of B-movies, giant insects and funny horror fare.
15. Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)
Clearly playing with genre conventions and extremely self-aware, Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a hell of a silly Canadian horror-comedy with clear emphasis on the comedy yet plenty of gore. Genre fans will love this spoof of the many clichés of the slasher and hick-bumpkin-type serial killer films when traditional roles are reversed and undermined.
A group of college kids head into the woods and come across Tucker and Dale, two lovely and clueless hillbilly friends, who they mistake for psychopaths as Dale tries to flirt with one of the girl in a socially awkward manner. Later it turns out that the group is vacationing right next to the pair and a further misunderstanding leads them to believe that they have killed one of their party, when in fact they just saved the girl from drowning.
From there on in, it is the students who try to prey on the innocent friends with very little success. Hilarious all the time but yet gory enough to satisfy the gore-hounds, Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a delight for those who are well versed in the genre and casual viewers alike.
14. Severance (2006)
Another UK horror-comedy production (and again starring Danny Dyer, who also starred in Doghouse) is Severance. In this movie, a group of employees from the Palisade Defence military arms corporation are treated to a relaxing group-building exercise in an Eastern European mountain retreat. But instead of group-building and relaxing, the co-workers start being picked off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways by an unknown killer.
The film works wonders with its cast as the well written and smart screenplay fleshes out each character properly and alternates laughs and shocks in equal measure, leaving the audience to never know which one is coming up next. An underseen and underrated entry on this list, Severance is a very successful entry in the genre.
13. Slither (2006)
Before he started work on the upcoming big budgeted Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn had a Troma film background and directed a couple of quirky and idiosyncratic comedies. Slither was the first one and it’s one hell of a ride, clearly borrowing heavily from a bunch sci-fi and horror movies which came before it, like the aforementioned Night of the Creeps and David Cronenberg’s Shivers.
Whilst Grant (Michael Rooker) has a one night stand with a floozy, a meteorite crashes nearby and as he goes to investigate he is infected by an alien parasite, which turns him and all his victims into rampaging zombies. Soon the town is overrun by them and it’s up to the local sheriff and mayor to put a stop to the invasion.
Far heavier on laughs than on scares but with a willingness to really pump up the gross out factor, Slither is a delight for those who have a passion for B-movie pulp.
12. Tremors (1990)
Another clear example of a tribute to the spirit of B-movies is Tremors, a movie successful enough on home video to warrant three sequels and a thirteen episode television series.
The story deals with a small desert town which comes under attack from a bunch of prehistoric giant worms, which move underground and start picking off the town’s small population.
Whilst Tremors definitely works a suspenseful thriller with a sci-fi and horror twist, the film clearly also emphasises the laughs with Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward playing great bumpkin handy-men placed in a bizarre situation. The script also finds the perfect balance between treating its material with the respect it deserves whilst at the same time being able to poke fun at it.