6. Night of the Creeps (1986)
It is not surprising that Night of the Creeps falls into the realm of B-list horror comedy. Its tongue-and-cheek plot sees fraternity pledges (Jason Lively, Steve Marshall) accidentally let alien slugs run rampant on a college campus. However, Night of the Creeps is more than just its genre. There are so many layers that make this product of 1986 a must-see film.
A major source of hilarity in Night of the Creeps comes from the balance of its characters being both in on the joke and completely serious. Steve Marshall as one of the fraternity pledges particularly excels as a sharp, cunning sidekick to Lively’s character who never loses his attitude even with killer aliens on the loose. The best way to think of Marshall’s character is if Duckie from Pretty and Pink found his way into a horror comedy.
Atkins also steals scenes as Ray Cameron, the cop investigating this mysterious case. On occasion, Cameron inserts quotable lines like his catchphrase “thrill me.” Cameron can also be hilariously aware as per his response to discovering an alien-filled body, “What is this a homicide or a bad B-movie?”. However, most of the time, Atkins plays Cameron as a traumatized, obsessed cop who treats the alien slugs as sincerely as any homicide case. It is awareness along with the severity that produces laughs. With solid comedic timing, winks to horror icons, and obvious inspiration from legendary sci-fi classics, Fred Dekker’s film is a love letter to the genres he and connoisseurs of dark comedy rightfully admire.
7. Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
Tucker and Dale VS. Evil asks the important question, what if the hillbillies in horror movies were simply misunderstood? Two buddies (Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk) take a country vacation that turns bloody when a group of college students mistake them for a pair of backwoods lunatics. With more misunderstandings than a Three’s Company episode, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil’s primary joke allows for a ton a of giggles and heart.
This film is clearly poking fun at films like Wrong Turn, Hills Have Eyes, Cabin Fever, and more that have helped create hillbilly horror. All the gruesome violence and uncivilized nature of the backwoods killers are now turned into laughs. It is the college kids that are the mean-spirited, unintelligent ones as they misjudge the sweet, loveable, and articulate country boys. Whether intended or unintended, there is also witty satire on the unlikability of one-dimensional protagonists in numerous horror films by making the typical murderers completely caring, innocent, and lovable.
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is worth a watch as it effortlessly makes tired clichés new and fresh once again.
8. Bernie (2011)
One of the only films on this list to be based on a real-life crime, Bernie is about Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a beloved assistant funeral director in Carthage, TX. Over time, Bernie befriends one of Carthage’s richest and meanest residents, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Eventually, Marjorie is found murdered in a freezer and the investigation to find the perpetrator begins.
Throughout the movie, interview segments of Carthage citizens are shown describing Bernie’s selfless character and their disdain for Marjorie. The eccentric interview participants of small-town Texas provide many laughs as they act as a strange but welcome Greek chorus that continuously interjects.
In addition to the structure of the film, Jack Black gives one of the best performances of his career. Black plays Bernie as a sweet man who was possibly pushed to the edge by the jealousy and control coming from Majorie. While his actions are not excused, there is humor in seeing him use her money for charity rather than himself and still participating in his extra-curricular activities. Also, director Richard Linklater, skillfully shrouds the specifics of Bernie’s thought process, which allows him to tread the line between funny and macabre without going too far on either side. The comedy in Bernie is not as blatant as the other films on this list, but for viewers who can see both the darkness and humor, it is clear Bernie is a well-crafted film.
9. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Assassination and a high school reunion have never led to a more banter-filled romance than 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank. Martin Blank (John Cusack), an assassin, returns to his hometown of Grosse Point, MI to attend his 10-year high school reunion after a failed assignment. While in town, he meets up with Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), an old girlfriend, and sparks begin to reignite. Meanwhile, Martin’s secretary (Joan Cusack) gives him another assignment he can perform in Grosse Point just as Martin starts to reexamine his life and develop feelings for Debi.
Thanks to the direction of George Armitage and story by Tom Jankiewicz, Martin’s identity crisis is portrayed in an enduring manner. Cusack’s performance also adds to the sweet nature of his life-changing dilemma, and Cusack’s charm is so palpable that his violent and morally corrupt occupation as a paid killer still makes him a great romance star. Driver’s performance adds to the stylishness of the film as she can deliver her quips with sass and force whether she is falling for Cusack’s character or fighting with him. Driver’s delivery of Debi’s line “I’ll go put these in some rubbing alcohol” when Blank gives her flowers in one their heated moments is hysterically sharp.
Cusack pleasantly keeps up with Driver between his hit man shenanigans and has some lines dripping with terrific sarcasm. In particular, there is a fantastic scene with a therapist (yes, the hit man has a therapist) where Blank worries about relating to his former high school classmates and says, “What I am going to say? I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How have you been?” Overall, the lines contribute to their chemistry and as a result, it becomes the driving force of this movie. Grosse Pointe Blank’s entire concept seems wildly preposterous, but there are countless qualities about the film that make the absurdity work well.
10. Delicatessen (1991)
Leaving America and heading to France, Delicatessen proves that dark comedy knows no borders. In a post-apocalyptic France, food is limited, and cannibalism thrives. This film focuses on Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), a butcher who owns a dilapidated apartment building. His property is constantly in need of a new handyman because Clapet kills them and sells them for food. Therefore, Clapet hires Louison (Dominique Pinon), a former circus clown in need of work and housing. However, things become complicated when Clapet’s daughter (Marie-Laure Dougnac) falls in love with Louison.
A major element that jumps off the screen is the world-building from both a physical and storytelling perspective. The actual set design is wildly impressive, and its original look puts viewers is a setting they are unfamiliar with. The events that occur throughout the film feel silly and nonsensical but the pacing and the well-established environment of the society at large and the inner workings of the apartment complex all fall into place.
In addition to the backdrop of the story, the characters surrounding the central romance set in a human-eat-human world all have strange quirks that seem random but are able to fine purpose. They contribute to showing how this new France functions and enhance the cuteness of the love story. Some of the tenants include siblings who create cylindrical cow-sound trinkets and a man who lives with an insane number of snails and frogs. All these oddities start to make sense and produce giggles as people living in a severely depressing world attempt to focus on anything other than their possible death.
Delicatessen is a wonderfully artistic French approach to gallows humor that is sure to delight anyone’s palate.