Shaun of the Dead

I love funny horror movies -- movies that manage to scare me a little, or creep me out, but also make me laugh. Sure, there are lots of spoofs of horror movies, from Young Frankenstein to the Scary Movie series, that might be hilarious at times but don't keep the audience on the edge of their seats. And straight-forward frightfests are everywhere these days. However, it's a rare movie that can hit both ends of the spectrum with skill. The criteria for my seven funniest horror movies were that they had to actually be horror movies -- in other words, I had to jump or hide my eyes at least once, and laugh out loud at least once.

In compiling this list, I left off some horror comedies I like a lot because they're not yet widely available: for example, I saw Frostbite and Severance at Fantastic Fest this year, but they haven't been released in American theaters yet. I also left off horror movies that weren't intended as comedy, but that some people laugh at today for camp value or even sheer awfulness. At least one film isn't included because I haven't seen it, but I'm not saying which one(s) because my little brother mocked me mercilessly for not watching it and I don't need further abuse. Feel free to comment on which movies you think I should have included, though.
  • Re-Animator -- Oh, that wacky H.P. Lovecraft. He should have written for Saturday Night Live. (It's been on that long, right?) In this loose adaptation of a Lovecraft tale, director Stuart Gordon manages to shock me, gross me out, and make me fall out of my seat laughing, often simultaneously. My geeky brother would also want me to remind you of the wonderfulness of Jeffrey Combs, playing crazed genius/med student Herbert West.
  • Evil Dead II and/or Army of Darkness -- There's some debate about which of these movies in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series has the most appropriate combination of horror and comedy. I originally thought of Evil Dead II, a stylishly scary and somewhat-gory film with some moments of silliness, most notably the scene with the dismembered hand. For me, Army of Darkness is all comedy and not enough horror. But my husband insists that Evil Dead II isn't all that funny and that the undead can get rather scary in Army of Darkness. You decide.
  • Shaun of the Dead -- Since this movie was released, it's been topping everyone's "funny horror movie" list. Who knew that we'd ever see a Working Title romantic comedy with zombies? I saw the movie again last weekend on DVD and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of actual horror in the second half of the movie. The situation with Shaun's mother makes this movie more than just a goofy send-up of zombie films.
  • Dead Alive -- Remember when Peter Jackson was just some New Zealand guy who made ultra-cheap weird horror/cult movies? His horror film Dead Alive (aka Braindead) takes the premise about the unstoppable undead to its logical conclusion, with extremely gory results. When I saw this movie in a theater, I clapped my hand over my mouth a couple of times and the gag reflex kicked in. (That scene with the ear ... ew ... ) But it's also a pretty funny film.
  • Bubba Ho-tep -- I didn't duplicate any directors on this list, yet there are multiple movies starring Bruce Campbell. I swear that wasn't intentional. Campbell as an aging Elvis Presley (or an Elvis impersonator) in a nursing home is a far cry from Ash and his chainsaw. Don Coscarelli's adaptation of a Joe Lansdale story is sweet, suspenseful, a little spooky, and quite funny at times. The cast also includes Ossie Davis as Elvis's fellow inmate who believes he's JFK.
  • Little Shop of Horrors -- This musical revision of the 1960 Roger Corman film is the least scary film on the list, and I'm probably stretching a point. However, dental work always creeps me out, and the plant in its final incarnation is a little bit scary. If the filmmakers had stayed with the stage musical's original ending, the movie would have definitely fallen into this category, but instead it scrapes by as a comedy with a few elements of horror.
  • Homecoming -- Technically speaking, Homecoming isn't a movie; it's one of the Masters of Horror episodes. But it just won a screenplay award at the Sitges Film Festival, so if they consider it a film, so can I. Besides, Homecoming is a delightful combination of political satire and the zombie-film genre. You have to love a film that references both Night of the Living Dead and Ann Coulter. I watched it with a bunch of friends last Friday (the 13th) and it did not disappoint.