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Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Lucky 13: Week Five: Horror Comedies

This week in The Lucky 13, we take a look at one of my personal favorite sub-categories, the horror comedy. There's just something about horror in general that will often provoke a perversely humorous response in us, sometimes even when not intended. Maybe that's why it's so much fun when a horror film overtly embraces the humor that seems paradoxically inherent in the genre.

There are countless great horror comedies worth remembering , and I'd just like to tip my hat to several that have not been represented either here or at Brutal as Hell--gems like Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of the Dead. So many great ones to choose from, but here's a look at our personal favorites...

B-Sol on The Return of the Living Dead

Believe it or not, the film that truly sparked my lifelong fascination with the horror genre was ROTLD. It was the first modern horror film I had ever watched from beginning to end, and as I watched it unfold, I was filled with a combination of revulsion and fascination.

Like most pre-teen boys, I suffered from an acute lack of irony, which naturally led me to take the film quite seriously as pure horror. Almost all the comedy was totally lost on me, which makes it all the more fun to watch it now and be able to laugh instead of shiver. It's amazing how much I didn't appreciate back then.

For me, The Return of the Living Dead was a gateway movie, opening the door to so much more. My next stop was the Evil Dead flicks; then came George Romero; and the rest, as they say, is history. Funny how I saw ROTLD before even having seen the Romero movies they were partially spoofing. It's also pretty amazing to think that a movie that easily could've been a throw-away '80s shlockfest merely aping great horror films has come to be considered a great horror film in its own right, even worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Romero's series.

Marilyn Merlot on Zombieland

So I have to admit when I first saw the preview for Zombieland, I wasn’t much of a fan, and already had decided I wouldn’t see it. I was never into spoofs of horror or horror movies trying to be comedies. Then I started to hear good reviews, and people saying how they really liked it. Now my interest was piqued. And in the end, it really was a perfect mix. Firstly, it had a great cast of characters, which is really what made the movie. A tough/bad ass guy; the nerd just trying to survive; and a pretty girl with edge to her.

What makes you laugh right from the beginning are the zombie rules you need to go by to survive. Those of us who have watched endless zombie movies know these really are important rules. Soon Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, meets up with Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson. These two embark on a road journey, meeting up with two sisters, Witchita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The group sets out together to try and survive the zombie holocaust. The ensuing hijinks include a notorious overnight stay at the Hollywood home of Bill Murray.

The whole thing winds up in an amusement park, which is the perfect setting to show off both the action and the humor that make the movie work so well. Columbus and Tallahassee's rescue attempt of Wichita and Little Rock is both very exciting and hysterically funny. By the end of the film, all these different characters come together as a dysfunctional family, Tallahassee finally gets his twinkie, and everyone hits the road together…

From Beyond Depraved's Joe Monster on Creepshow

It was within the darkened den of my uncle’s California house that I was first exposed to this film. The glow from the television set illuminated my terrified face. But no matter how great my fear was, I couldn’t keep my eyes from the screen. I jumped like a startled cat when the rotting hand of a corpse jutted from a grave. I shrunk back in terror as a pair of beastly eyes stared out from the darkness of a crate. I got goose bumps as I imagined an army of carnivorous cockroaches crawling up and down my arms. Despite all these feelings of anxiety and shivering fright, I couldn’t deny one thing… I was having an incredibly fun time.

The beauty of Creepshow lies in its ability to illicit both screams and laughs from the viewer’s mouth. In my belief it stands as a true definition of the term “horror comedy”; it contains terrifying scenes that genuinely scare you, but the entire time you sense that the film’s tongue is firmly planted in its rotting cheek. It’s gallows humor with the highest quality noose. You may squirm at the sight of a stinking cadaver trudging through a misty graveyard, but then you’re tickled pink the moment it opens its skeletal mouth and gurgles “I want my CAAAKE!” I’m giggling just reminiscing about it.

Creepshow is a work of deep-rooted love for the genre, a valentine to horror fans and readers of the four-color terrors of yesteryear. The set design and lighting, with its garish reds and blues, gives this awesome anthology the authentic feel of an issue from E.C. Comics taken straight from the newsstands of the 1950s. It includes all the common stories that used to adorn those pages: ironic vengeance from six feet under, evil doers getting their just desserts in the form of their greatest fears, and Adrienne Barbeau getting her bitch face munched off by a furry crate critter! The film also has a dream team of horror luminaries working behind it. George Romero directs the ghastly proceedings, Stephen King provides the highly entertaining tales (and a lunkheaded performance as a mutated farmer), and Tom Savini showcases some of his best makeup work, with reanimated corpses and cuddly monsters.

As the years go by, my respect and love for this film increases with every viewing. I can sit down and watch it, no matter what the time or occasion. It’s as infectious as a zombie bite, its demented glee spreading to the dark cockles of one’s heart almost as quickly as Jordy Verill’s unfortunate gardening problem. From the unforgettable opening piano score to the last frame of revenge by voodoo’s pin, you’ll feel like you’ve finally come home to the ghoulish hilarity that’s escaped you for so long. After all, it’s the most fun you’ll have being scared!

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Head over to Brutal as Hell to see what Marc Patterson and his crew have come up with. And if you're interested in taking part in the future, just give Marc or myself a holler.

Week 1: Grindhouse & Exploitation
Week 2: Creature Features & Monster Movies
Week 3: Demons, Witches & The Devil
Week 4: Gore!

Join us next week as we turn our attention to perhaps the most pervasive movie monsters of them all: Vampires!


Marc Patterson said...

Great selections. Return of the Living Dead is among my favorites. It was really tough this week as there were so many that I love so much. ROTLD being one. Elvira, Shaun of the Dead, Serial Mom... Hell, I even love Club Dread. Another great roundup!

DrippedJake said...

Great choices! Especially ROTLD. The release of the trioxin gas is one of the funniest horror moments in horror. What's great about it is it's one of the rare comedic horror films that's not making fun of dumb horror films usually are.

I didn't like the Zombieland trailer but I agree with you about the full product. A genuinely funny and, even more surprisingly, heartfelt film.

Strange Kid said...

Excellent choices, B. Along with Shaun of the Dead, RotLD and Zombieland are my all-time favorite zomcoms!!

B-Movie Becky said...

Great choices all. If I had to pick a favorite it would definitely be Army of Darkness. :)

Missy Y. (formerly A Case of You) said...

Aw, Creepshow, what a beautiful affair that is. This is a movie I so often watch before going to bed. It's just... well, perfect. Plus, Adrienne Barbeau.

Not sure I agree with the inclusion of Zombieland. It's a great time, but I wouldn't put it up there with movies like Motel Hell or even Shaun of the Dead. Nosiree.

And, well, ROTLD is... uh, definitely worth being an entry.

B-Sol said...

Yeah, this week's was a lot of fun, and SOOOO many I would've loved to have seen included. We could've had 20 different contributors and 20 different choices, and I'm sure they would've all been amazing. Becky, Army of Darkness is a great choice for sure.

Paul Castiglia said...

Tn my opinion, the '80s were the last conistently good decade for the horror-comedy. However, if you enjoy more vintage horror-comedies, please be sure to check out my blog-to-book project SCARED SILLY: CLASIC HOLLYWOOD HORROR-COMEDIES which covers the 1920s through 1960s. You can see it at http://scaredsillybypaulcastiglia.blogspot.com

Paul Castiglia said...

B-Sol and all - if you like the modern-day horror-comedy here are some shout-outs to some unmentioned films worth your time: "Night of the Creeps" (most especially), "Dead Alive" (known as "Brain Dead" outside of America), "Fright Night," "Night of the Comet," "Innocent Blood," "Lost Boys," "Fido"... many more I'm sure I'm forgetting...

Christopher Zenga said...

WOW I think I'm your Canadian doppelganger!!! I have never been as connected to any of your posts as i am with this one. I had almost mirror experiences with all these films, GREAT post B. I'm going to watch ROTLD RIGHT NOW!!!!!

B-Sol said...

Thanks for suggestions and for the info, Paul. What a great concept for a book!

Chris, any day I can inspire someone to watch ROTLD is a good day.

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