When considering the greatest horror movies ever made, we often think of the ones that send a chill down our spine. The ones that fill us with dread and make it hard to sleep at night. In other words, the ones we can take seriously. And who can blame us? Horror as a genre is designed to unnerve, disturb, and terrify us in all sorts of unique ways.
But what about the horror movies that make us laugh? The movies that aren’t exactly horror comedies, but are so enveloped in their own schlocky charm and gruesome absurdity that they make you smile? In preparation for the Halloween season, here are ten horror movies if you’re looking for a good laugh, but can handle blood and guts.
10. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Night of the Living Dead is known by many as one of the most influential horror movies of all time. It’s played a large part in shaping our modern depictions of zombies and the typical tropes we’ve come to associate with them. However, you shouldn’t let this movie’s title fool you. It is absolutely NOT a sequel to it. Instead, Night of the Living Dead exists within this film’s universe.
Freddy Hanscom is a new employee working at a warehouse with his boss Frank. To impress the boy, he tells him that Night of the Living Dead was secretly based on true events and that the toxic gas that brought the bodies to life is stored down in their basement. After the gas is accidentally released, the bodies within their tanks and a nearby cemetery arise from the dead and wage terror upon the living.
What really makes The Return a fun watch is its punk flavoring and appeal to the radical youth of the 80’s. Frank’s friends are major characters within the film and they are as wild, ruthless, and hilariously vulgar as any viewer could want. The movie is riddled with the various hard rock songs of its era and an incredibly morbid sense of humor, which makes it an absolute goofy treat. On top of that, it arguably has the most horrifyingly badass zombie designs in all of cinema. What’s not to love?
9. Malignant (2021)
Of all the auteurs of modern horror, few are quite as successful as James Wan. He has made a name for himself amongst mainstream audiences with huge hits such as The Conjuring, Insidious, and the first Saw movie. He’s definitely mastered the art of making accessible popcorn films that rely heavily on supernatural scares. But in 2021, Wan’s newest film made the bold direction of being his most stylish, yet out there movie yet.
The film is about a woman named Madison, who just lost her unborn baby in a miscarriage. After the death of her child, she is mysteriously plagued by visions of murder and horrible violence, which seem to be affecting reality. As the mystery unravels, she soon discovers that the source of the killings may be coming from within herself all along.
Malignant stands out amongst Wan’s filmography for not being the typical horror film with jumpscares and creepy ghosts. Instead, it’s incredibly in-your-face, gruesomely gory, and just revelling in its own madness. Its bizarre tone has caused many to speculate if the film is completely sincere in its attempt to be creepy or just a tongue-in-cheek self-indulgent experiment. Whether it’s either of those things, it’s already established itself as a favorite among many and an immediate cult hit. Even if you don’t love this movie, it’s worth seeing just for the twist alone.
8. Society (1989)
One of the many advantages of horror is its ability to provide social commentary on a number of issues. There are many horror films that have tackled topics such as bigotry, the rise of technology, isolation, and conformity. Society itself is a horror movie about class divide, the exploitation of the poor, and cultish manipulation from the elite.
In Beverly Hills, California, a young man named Bill Whitney is given a strange tape containing an audio recording of his family engaging in an explicit orgy. From this, he begins to suspect that there may be something up with his family, as well as the other rich citizens of Beverly Hill. His suspicions lead him down a rabbit hole involving a secret cult, intense orgies, and incest. Truly, high society is just a shiny veneer for an inhuman cacophony of sex and violence.
For the most part, Society holds itself back throughout its first two acts. It has a rather off sense of humor here and there, but there’s nothing outright brutal throughout most of the runtime. However, that all changes once Bill is actually brought to the murderous cult and witnesses what their orgies are like. The result is a revolting, slimy, positively atrocious fever dream that David Cronenberg wishes he could’ve made. It’s one of the most famous examples of body horror in all of cinema, and the sheer insanity of its climax is more than enough to put it on this list.
7. Street Trash (1987)
While Street Trash is arguably the most obscure film on this list, it’s still made quite a name for itself as a cult classic over the years. It’s beloved by many as a cheesy 80’s splatter masterpiece and is one of the shining examples of “melt horror”, a subgenre dedicated to everything oozing, gooey, and disgusting in life.
Street Trash takes place in Brooklyn, New York, and more specifically, in a neighborhood full of homeless bums. In his basement, the owner of a cheap liquor store discovers “Viper”, a mysterious brand of alcohol. Despite clearly being expired, he decides to sell the booze regardless. Shockingly, the drink causes anyone to drink it to rapidly melt in colorful, bubbling messes of acidic goop.
Right from the start, Street Trash is a filthy piece of work loaded with character. The streets of Greenpoint fill the screen with irresistible grime and the film’s comedy definitely reflects that. Even aside from its technicolor gore, its sense of humor is black as night and extremely crude. You’ll either find it absolutely hilarious or absolutely obnoxious, but that’s part of the charm. There’s always something admirable about a film that knows its inhumane filth, no matter how you feel about it personally. Besides, seeing people dissolve into screaming, pulsating piles of mush will always be worth the price of admission.
6. Brain Damage (1988)
Part of the major appeal of cult cinema and the dedicated followings that spawn from it is how it can bring films that’ve been buried by the sands of time back into the light. While one would hesitate to call Brain Damage a well-known film, it’s certainly gathered more attention now than when it was first released, where it was practically ignored by everyone. Like Street Trash, it’s an underground favorite with a strongly dedicated fanbase.
While experiencing terrifying hallucinations, Brain soon finds out that his body is now the home of an oddly polite worm demon named Aylmer. The demon strikes a deal with him, promising to inject him with a powerful chemical that’ll put his mind to sleep. Brain agrees, allowing Alymer to burrow himself into his head and take full control of him while he’s unconscious. With the boy becoming increasingly addicted to the chemical, he uses him to commit several murders around town.
From that summary, it’s clear that Brain Damage is making a statement on drug addiction and its damaging effects. It’s certainly admirable, but that’s not the film’s biggest draw. What IS the film’s biggest draw is its trippy imagery, neon-soaked atmosphere, and creepy creativity. It’s not a film that’ll win awards for its acting quality any time soon, but who cares? The cheesy performances only add to its absurd fever dream quality, and that’s something to be treasured. Ironically, it’s a drug trip in its own right.