Columns > Published on October 3rd, 2018

Nitpicking 17 Great Horror Comedies

Horror and comedy go together like Leatherface and chainsaws. Like Candyman and mirrors. Like candy corn and the garbage can.

But even the best horror comedies have lousy moments, tiny little things that change the tone or take a person out of the story. It’s these things that keep me up at night. Not the Kruegers or the Vorheeses. It’s these tiny, nitpicky things.

Sure, I could’ve used this space to write an appreciation of these excellent horror comedies, but let’s be serious. I’m a lonely man in an apartment who has not had success in life. That has not set me up to be good at heaping praise on genuinely good things.

What it has done is set me up to be a class A (hole) nitpicker.

1. 'Shaun of the Dead'

This is the one most of us think of when it comes to horror comedy, right? Classic sequences, Edgar Wright’s signature, energetic style. We get to see what happens when a couple shitheads have to deal with the zombie apocalypse.

The first 80% or so of the movie is gold. Cinematic gold. Horror comedy gold. So much gold that there should be latenight infomercials offering cash for your Shaun of the Dead DVDs.

But the last 20% is a little rough.

The corpse of this movie starts to decay rapidly towards the end, right after the “Don’t Stop Me Now” sequence. There’s really nothing funny about the last stand against the zombies. By the end, there are no laughs for the characters or the viewers.

And despite being so creative throughout, the resolution to the zombie apocalypse (people running in with guns) is pretty unsatisfying. That’s being nice. If I’m being honest, it stinks worse than a half-rotted Nick Frost (un)living in the shed.

[amazon B0006A9FKA inline]


2. 'Welcome to Night Vale' by Joesph Fink And Jeffrey Cranor

This very funny book, based on the popular podcast, features updates from a small desert town with more than its fair share of creepy goings-on.

Part of the podcast’s strength is its willingness to play and experiment with format (doing an episode that’s mostly in the form of a phone tree, doing a “Best Of” clip episode from shows that never existed). I think the idea of a radio station in Creepsville, U.S.A. is a great concept for a podcast, but the translation to print felt like it abandoned a lot of what makes the audio so good. It didn’t play with the format in the same ways, and it was kinda...just a book.

[amazon 9780062351425 inline]


3. 'What We Do In The Shadows'

A funny, documentary-style vampire movie, the strength of this one definitely comes from its stars and its commitment to the premise: what happens when a pack of vampires from different eras are forced to live in a house together, stop being polite, and start getting real (vampire-y)?

The problem comes with the introduction of the werewolves. They steal the show. The werewolves are a lot funnier than the vampires, and I think it’s because our time with them is brief. We get just enough. The vampires are like your parents where the werewolves are the beloved, party animal uncles who show up in Hawaiian shirts, have fun, and then take off, leaving us buzzed on candy and sips of beer and uninterested in our boring old parents. When the werewolves leave a scene, it’s a little bit of a letdown.

[amazon B00ZA9T4JE inline]


4. 'John Dies at the End' by David Wong

If you ask me, there are two novellas here. A great first one where doofuses fight a shit monster and a doorknob turns into a penis, and we even get a lovely horror/action/comedy sequence complete with They-Live-caliber one-liners. But then there’s a second novel in here, which might get great deeper in, but I wouldn’t know because I never finished it.

Everything is set up in the first book, we have an awesome climax, and then we push the reset button and start again. Halfway through we hit a low point of action and comedy, and I just couldn’t carry on.

There’s a great book here, I just don’t know why there’s a second, not-so-great book tacked onto it. 

[amazon 9781250035950 inline]


5. 'Child’s Play 2'

It’s not the original, but the action picks up in the second Child’s Play movie.  It’s a certain kind of humor, but watching a doll somehow kill a full-grown adult with a yardstick is good fun, and the final sequence in the doll factory is gruesome, gross, and by the end of the film we see Chucky fly through a windshield, mutilated by a doll-making machine, and covered in molten plastic.

What’s missing?

Chucky always needed a signature weapon, if you ask me. Something weird and fitting. In Child’s Play 2 he walks around with a knife. What is he, Pony Boy from The Outsiders? Freddy’s got a glove, Jason has a machete. Can we give Chucky something? He gets so close at the end here, but the ol' knife hand didn't stick. 

By the way, while we’re on the topic of Jason’s machete, the Friday the 13th Wiki has a pretty exhaustive entry regarding deaths via machete in the series. My favorite entry:

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Katie: Jason does a triple decapitation and kills three people at once.
Larry: See above.
Stan: See above.

[amazon B000FWHW86 inline]


6. 'My Life As A White Trash Zombie' by Diana Rowland

A woman who’s somewhat unpleasant to be around, but pretty fun to read about, becomes a zombie. And, you know, life ensues. Afterlife ensues, I guess.

A huge advantage this one has over others, the character does grow and change. It doesn’t always feel like there’s space for characters to grow in most horror, unless what they’re growing into is a giant flesh balloon full of space worms.

The issue I have with this one, if I’m nitpicking, which I totally am, is that I’m a little over the directionless dropout characters who aren’t living up to their potential. Even if that character is outside a Judd Apatow movie AND is a lady AND a zombie. Even then, with all those extra layers, I have a hard time really getting into that character. How about a character who gets a superpower or paranormal thing or has a baby and is like, “Oh, shit! This is going to make finishing grad school while working full time and volunteering at the food bank very challenging!”?

[amazon 0756406757 inline]


7. 'Ghostbusters' (1989)

I don’t know why there’s a ghost blowjob in this movie. I’ve come to love it at this point, but only because it represents an oddity that never should have made the final cut, yet still manages to be included in subsequent releases.

[amazon B00KUS5YGC inline]


8. 'Ghostbusters' (2016)

I don’t know why there isn’t a ghost blowjob in this movie. I mean, c’mon. If there’s something ripe for poking fun at here, how is it not this? If Rogue One can explain a hole in the Death Star, I’m confident that a revamped Ghostbusters can explain ghost oral. Although maybe a better comparison would be the new Star Wars movies explaining why sometimes a brother and sister just make out a little bit...

[amazon B01I2FFGW6 inline]


9. 'My Best Friend’s Exorcism' by Grady Hendrix

This book succeeds in the way good buddy comedies succeed, and it paints a great picture of a female friendship. It’s a fun book overall, and if you liked horror from the 70’s and 80’s that seemed designed to scandalize your mother, you’ll dig this one.

But the problem is that I think My Best Friend’s Exorcism got painted with the “horror-comedy” brush the way we’re told certain things are funny, but we were only told that because marketers don’t know how to sell them. This is what happens with movies like The Lobster or Her, movies that some reviewers call “funny” because they don’t really know what to call them.

It’s not a failure of the humor. I just don’t think My Best Friend’s Exorcism is meant to be hilarious. Or, rather, I think Grady Hendrix was having fun writing it and warping some of the trashy, schlock-y horror paperbacks of the past, but I think it’s a book that’s fun without being funny.

[amazon 1594749760 inline]


10. 'Zombieland'

The movie has some great moments, and there’s not much better than a bunch of zombies being clobbered by operating amusement park rides, killers reveling in kills, and the cameo in the middle is excellent.

Only problem, there were some great practical effects up top, but the later CG sequences rendered some of the gore weightless. A piano being dropped on a zombie by a kindly lady is funny, straight out of Looney Tunes, but I just didn’t feel the impact enough. A few more practical effects would’ve gone a long way in this one.

[amazon B002WY65W4 inline]


11. 'Soulless' by Gail Carriger

Featuring horror characters in a steampunk-y setting, this is for people who like their comedy with a bit of manners. I’m pretty well established at this point for liking doorknobs that turn into penises, but I know there are folks out there who get a good laugh out of the preposterous notion of dunking a biscuit into the wrong kind of tea(?) Using the wrong fork(?) Crumpeting before pip pip, cheerio?

It’s different, and it’s not my cup of tea (see what I did there? Because tea?), and I think at times it’s because it’s too much of a mash-em-up. It’s a sci-fi steampunk Victorian paranormal urban fantasy vampire werewolf historical comedy horror romance. The stew is tasty, but I wonder if there are a few extraneous ingredients here.

[amazon 0316056634 inline]


12. 'Hellboy'

I know we don’t all consider this comedy, but in the early iteration, I think Hellboy creator Mike Mignola was picturing something a little funnier. Something that didn’t take itself too seriously:

There’s a slapstick-y element to Hellboy that faded over time, but is very much alive in the earlier books.

My complaint? The world caught up with Hellboy. At the time of its release, a put-upon superhero who’s dealing with paranormal nonsense was pretty novel. But the character’s been around so long that he had to grow up and abandon his sense of humor, die, go to hell, and he’s gotten a little mope-y. At the risk of being “that guy,” I miss the exploding jetpacks.

[amazon 1593079109 inline]


13. 'Beetlejuice'

This is a perfect film. This is the Demolition Man of horror comedies. I understand that some people will say that something is the Citizen Kane of its genre to denote that it’s perfect, but I don’t care what those people think. Most of them haven’t even seen Demolition Man. A sled? How about a cryo-prison? THAT’S a film!

Winona Ryder is decades ahead of her time with her over-the-top goth teen performance, Michael Keaton is at his best, and it’s easily Tim Burton’s best-looking movie.

If I had to nitpick...where’s the Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian sequel?

[amazon B001CD3PM4 inline]


14. 'Tucker And Dale Versus Evil'

A solid horror comedy that turns the evil hillbilly stereotype on its head, this one has kills so over-the-top that you can’t help but laugh.

What’s missing from this one? Well, the movie goes a long way to show us that country folk are not what we think. But it hits the fratboy/sorority girl stereotypes so hard in doing so. It makes sense, but a viewer can't help but wonder what could have been.

[amazon B005HI4LLY inline]


15. 'Bloodsucking Fiends' by Christopher Moore

If you don’t know Christopher Moore by now, you should get on that. He's written books that parody the Bible, Moby Dick, and here he takes a crack at the vampire tale.

Moore’s a type, and some people don’t find him funny, which is cool. But my nitpick for Bloodsucking Fiends is that there’s a reading group guide for this book. Seriously?

Jody has obviously had a tough time with the men in her life; do you think this affects how she reacts to becoming a vampire? Was the way Jody thought about herself shaped by how men reacted to her? How did you feel when Jody started to come into her own as a vampire and enjoy her powers?

This is nuts. This is like writing a serious-minded study guide for Basket Case. “Do you think Duane was wrong to keep Belial, his mutated twin, in a picnic basket, or do you think he was making the best of a bad situation?”

[amazon 9781416558491 inline]


16. 'Cabin In The Woods'

A fun, clever ride with some good twisty parts and an ending that’s bananas, this movie tells us the sorts of movies we’d have gotten if Joss Whedon had gone horror instead of Marvel.

The nitpick isn’t with this movie so much as it is with the viewers. SO many people watched this and felt like they were smart and sophisticated because they "got it." This somehow became a horror movie that was “acceptable” for smart people to watch. “Not like that torture porn that you see all the time.”

Anyone who says this is their favorite horror movie all the time probably uses the word “authentic” ALL THE TIME.

[amazon B008G33O0G inline]


17. 'Apeshit' by Carlton Mellick III

While it’s not Mellick III’s weirdest, most Bizarro-est book, it might be his bloodiest and one of the more fun. Strangers to Bizarro can enter here as long as they’ve got some horror background. If you thought Cabin in the Woods was shocking, take out your pipe, pack this book in lightly, and smoke it.

What itches me about this is what itches me about all of Carlton Mellick III’s books: I can’t tell if this guy is

A) A genius who pretty much invented a genre
B) A genius marketer who seized on something and the books are ancillary
C) Completely unhinged

This book absolutely did not aid me in my quest for an answer.

[amazon 1621050416 inline]

Don't tell me you can't think of any nitpicks for great horror comedies. Or, at the very least, can't you nitpick some of these nitpicks?

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Reedsy | Editors with Marker (Marketplace Editors)| 2024-05

Submitting your manuscript?

Professional editors help your manuscript stand out for the right reasons.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: