I’m expected to write about horror movies this time of year. But these days, real life is scary enough. So, I’m recommending a few horror comedies and some truly scary movies with a comic touch.
Instead of listing the films best first, I’m listing them from the funniest to the scariest – my opinion, of course.
A Young Frankenstein (1974)
Mel Brooks showed off his talent beautifully in this sweet-natured, 1974 parody and tribute to the Universal horror films of the 1930′s (specifically the first three Frankenstein movies). Gene Wilder wrote the screenplay and stars as the latest doctor to be stuck with the famous name. With Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle as the lovable but clumsy creature.
B- What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
This vampire mockumentary has a funny and promising premise: An unseen documentary camera crew follow the afterlives of four vampires who share a house in Auckland). They argue about household chores, go out looking for victims, and talk directly into the camera about their undead existence. Initially funny, but the basic idea begins to wear out around the half-way point. The jokes are still funny, but they come farther apart. Read my full review.
B Extra Ordinary (2019)
This low-budget, Irish version of Ghostbusters starts slow with only occasional giggles, but builds up to something hilarious. A lonely driving teacher (Maeve Higgins) has a knack for seeing and connecting with ghosts. A widower (Barry Ward) must deal with the jealous and domineering ghost of his dead wife. A once famous rock star (Will Forte) plans to sacrifice a virgin to revive his career…but it’s not easy to find a virgin in modern-day Ireland. In the first half, Extra Ordinary is a mildly funny comedy–enjoyable but not exceptional. But as it moves towards the climax, the movie becomes hysterically funny.
B+ Ghostbusters (1984)
Comedy rarely gets this scary or this visually spectacular. Or perhaps I should say that special-effects action fantasies rarely get this funny (at least intentionally so). Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Sigourney Weaver appear to be having a great time as they try to control the phantasms and monsters suddenly attacking New York City.
B- Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
This is in no way, shape, or form a great movie. It’s cheaply shot. The songs, while catchy, are hardly great music. The characters are broad clichés and the plot is nearly non-existent. But it’s a crazy, funny, absurd celebration of everything sexual–including things that were still very shocking when it was made. It’s a silly movie that runs on the enthusiasm of its audiences, which is why I’m dropping its grade from B+ to B-. Read my full report.
B Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Universal Pictures combined their horror franchise with their top comedy team to create a high-concept mixture of thrills and laughs. Surprisingly, it turned out pretty good. The filmmakers knew when to be funny and when to be scary. But the title is misleading; Bud and Lou never meet Dr. Frankenstein. They do meet his monster, unfortunately played by Glenn Strange instead of the great Boris Karloff. But Bela Lugosi gets to play Dracula one more time and Lon Chaney Jr. does his tortured wolfman bit.
A- Tremors (1990)
Few horror movies depend so much on wit, and so little on gore. The entire population of this small desert town could probably fit into a van. But that population–which includes good ol’ boys, eccentrics, gun nuts, an annoying kid, and a visiting scientist – gets a whole lot smaller when giant predators come up from the ground and drag their meals down under the sand. The movie has its gruesome moments (it is a horror film), but it mostly balances on that fine line between comedy and suspense. I love the fact that the monsters are never explained.
A An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Writer/director John Landis lightly laced sardonic humor into a terrifying, suspenseful, and yet romantic version of the werewolf myth. A young, nice, Jewish American boy vacationing in England is bitten by a werewolf, and from then on, whenever the full moon appears, he turns into a violent monster. Along with the humor and frights, there’s a sweet love story and a good doctor trying to find the awful secret. Rick Baker’s amazing makeup design forces you to feel the extreme pain of your body turning into something else. Meanwhile, the protagonist’s dead friend keeps coming back to talk to him; each time looking more decomposed.
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