Have you seen The Visit yet? If not, you’ve still got the chance to get your chills and laughs on at pretty much any local cinema. When was the last time you actually saw a horror-comedy? And was it more of the scary kind or did you roll on the floor throughout? If you start thinking about it, you might find out that you have in fact seen many more horror-comedies than you would have imagined.
But not all horror-comedies are the same. A list that includes both Scream and Shaun of the Dead is a pretty weird list. So how can we compare these movies and actually keep them in the same list? I give you the Horror-Comedy Scare Scale (or the HCSS).
0 ———————————————– 5 ———————————————– 10
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To get things started, here are just five horror comedies placed on the scale. Feel free to add your favorite in the comments!
Shaun of the Dead
Let’s start off very light on horror. Shaun of the Dead is hilarious. Our hero Shaun is a hopeless salesmen, at first too oblivious to recognize the zombie apocalypse around him. But after coming up with “The Plan” to save his mother and (ex)girlfriend, Shaun and his unemployed best friend Ed embark on a crazy journey that will pretty much solve all problems in the end.
Interestingly the movie creates the same suspense moments typical for horror movies to set up a scene. But before the audience can even prepare to scream at the approaching zombies, Shaun and Ed have already found the ultimate weapon against the intruders: vinyl records. With a mix of British humor and oblivious characters within a zombie horror story, Shaun of the Dead is a one-of-a-kind horror comedy, suitable for even those who don’t watch horror movies at all. Apart from the set decoration, nothing will scare you and you can wait for all this to blow over.
HCSS Score: 0.5
Tim Burton’s all time classic has again a style of its very own. The story, just to Burton’s usual taste, revolves around Adam and Barbara Maitland, who find out that they are dead. After another couple moves into their home, the Maitlands try to scare them away and invite the deviously funny ghost Beetlejuice to help them. What follows is an amusing story full of comedy, horror and Tim Burton’s signature fantasy. While the movie invites you to laugh and sing along most of the time, it comes with another side to it. The fantasy elements wink at horror and make this movie a very special – and often disturbing – experience. In other words it’s horror in a fantasy costume.
HCSS Score: 2.5
From Dusk Till Dawn
It’s getting more serious! What Beetlejuice is for Burton, From Dusk till Dawn is for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez – guns, gore and two guys ready for attack. The two brothers, Seth and Richie, are on their way to the Mexican border after robbing a bank. En route they kidnap a preacher and his kids and land at the “Titty Twister,” a topless bar (nomen est omen). They soon find out that the sexy waitresses, and in fact everyone else at the bar, are all vampires. And since this is a Tarantino/Rodriguez joint, you know what must follow: a violent showdown full of blood, blades and self-made killing machines. From Dusk till Dawn is serious violence mixed with horror and a hint of absurdity at all times. That’s what makes this movie so amusing. The characters are constantly at the brink of death, but the unexpected turns fear and thrill into comedy.
HCSS Score: 5.0
The Cabin in the Woods
You think you know the story. That’s what The Cabin in the Woods told us in its trailer. And indeed, briefly told the story stars five teenagers who spend the weekend at a cabin in the middle of nowhere. The characters, the location, and the movie’s narrative style are all familiar.
Simultaneously, however, we keep switching to some sort of laboratory that watches the teenagers and seems to influence what is about to happen. Nightmare creatures start to appear, and one by one the kids get killed. But in the end we find out why: It’s a ritual to appease the evil forces that live beneath the surface. The lab workers are as ordinary as can be. But instead of working at Costco they happen to work for this laboratory. It’s the juxtaposition of the expected horror scenarios that we expect with sheer normality of the behind-the-scenes machinations. It’s a horror movie with a humorous side story wrapped around it.
HCSS Score: 7.5
It might not seem at first like Scream belongs anywhere on the horror-comedy scale, but if you have a second look at it, there are quite a few funny moments. The story is familiar to most of us, at least in its broader strokes. A bunch of teenagers in the town of Woodsboro are stalked by a slashing murderer in a ghost-face costume. The psychopath keeps on stalking and calling his victims before attack. The teenagers soon find out that the murderer must be among them. But who is it?
Wes Craven’s classic slasher movie gave us all nightmares when we first saw it. Admit it. Therefore most of us have missed the comedic parts such as the clumsy murderer tripping over things, or the heroine Sidney Prescott knocking the killer down with a phone handset. And one of the most famous “funny” – Sidney trying to flee from the killer by running out of the house, where police deputy Dewey scares her with the ghost-face mask – and shrieks himself. This scene was pretty much copied and pasted into the movie’s parody, Scary Movie.