Did you have a few laughs yesterday with Part One of the Side Splitters? That’s good. But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In my humble opinion, these are some of the best horror-comedies around. Beware: you might just start laughing and never stop…
#5: Beetlejuice (1988)
Synopsis: “A couple of recently deceased ghosts contract the services of a ‘bio-exorcist’ in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’ll Split Your Sides: Tim Burton is undoubtedly a horror-comedy pro. I’ve already mentioned several of his movies in Spook Series, and now here we are with Beetlejuice, a zany, fast-paced film that pokes fun at the afterlife in a big way. Beetlejuice is great for a lot of reasons, but what makes it especially interesting is the fact that it’s an exorcism film with a twist. In this case, the ghosts are trying to exorcise the living. When married couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) die in a car crash and find themselves trapped in their home, they resent seeing a new family settle in. So they try to scare them away. But their scares are pretty…ineffective. In fact, the family becomes more attached to the home because they think the ghosts are interesting. Cue self-proclaimed “bio-exorcist,” Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). He’s crude, rude, and very bizarre, but he’s hilarious to watch. This wacky character could very well be Keaton’s best performance. The world of the undead that Burton creates in this film is so creative and fun. For example, if the dearly departed have issues with their afterlives, they can always meet with their “case workers” at a giant office for the undead. Adam and Barbara wait for the ghoulish receptionist to call their number alongside a woman severed in half and a man with a shrunken head. Then there’s the forbidden area outside of their haunting zone—a no-man’s land where giant, striped sandworms roam. Everything is deliciously strange and dark, but somehow this film is very easy to enjoy. You’ll definitely laugh, and after a few ridiculous dance numbers, you might even become a fan of Harry Belafonte.
My Grade: A-
#4: Young Frankenstein (1974)
Synopsis: “Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, after years of living down the family reputation, inherits granddad’s castle and repeats the experiments.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’ll Split Your Sides: You can never go wrong with classic Mel Brooks comedy—or with classic Gene Wilder. More spoofy that spooky, Young Frankenstein manages to pay homage to the classic 1931 Frankenstein film while also poking fun at it. Goofy, hammy, cheeky, and sometimes groan-inducing are just a few descriptions you could attach to this film. However, I would also add “pretty darn funny.” Nearly 40 years after its original release, Young Frankenstein is still a fantastic comedy. Shot in black-and-white, it has all the aspects of the classic Frankenstein tale: a sprawling and spooky castle, a mad scientist, a hunch-backed assistant, an angry mob, and, of course, a reanimated corpse who becomes a misunderstood monster. The only difference is it’s all happening to the original scientist’s reluctant grandson. When American scientist Dr. Frankenstein (Wilder) receives word that he has inherited his deceased grandfather’s castle, he hurries out to Transylvania to peruse his inheritance—not because he wants to continue his grandfather’s work though. At first, he’s very much against that. But then he discovers his grandfather’s secret room…and the secret to immortality. With the help of bug-eyed hunchback Igor (Marty Feldman) and busty, blonde Inga (Teri Garr), Frankenstein manages to bring to life a terrible, hilarious monster (Peter Boyle), much to the town’s outrage. Young Frankenstein has so many wonderfully silly touches. Igor’s hump has a habit of switching sides. Horses whinny every time someone mentions the name of the eerie Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). The game of Charades is used in life or death situations. There’s even a riotous rendition of the classic song “Puttin’ On the Ritz.” The list could go on. Young Frankenstein is a highly entertaining monster movie spoof with a fabulous comedic cast and a great script. Perfect Side Splitter.
My Grade: A
#3: Zombieland (2009)
Synopsis: “A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the Last Twinkie, and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’ll Split Your Sides: Zombies are excellent monsters for horror-comedies. They’re visceral and deeply disturbing, but it’s also so easy to make them the butt of the joke. And in Zombieland, they are thoroughly amusing. The opening scenes include a zombie stripper with tasseled pasties, a zombie politician lunging toward his victim outside a burning White House, little girl zombies in princess tiaras, and even a zombie bride gnawing on her groom. But even better than the zombies in this film are the four individuals we get to see killing them. Awkward, paranoid protagonist Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a nerdy college student who yearns for human contact—maybe even a girlfriend—in a world filled with the undead, tough guy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is a gun-toting, zombie-killing machine with an unhealthy fixation on Twinkies, and sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abibail Breslin) are a couple of clever girls just trying to find their way to an amusement park. These Zombieland loners somehow wind up together and form a sort of family of misfits, traveling from one zombie-infested area to another. They are a joy to watch together, and they have wonderful little quirks and backstories. There are so many hilarious moments in this film. Columbus’s recurring list of rules is definitely one of the best humorous aspects (never forget to “double tap” or to “limber up”), and so is the brief appearance of a well-known comedic actor (most of you probably know who it is, but I won’t spoil it for anyone who doesn’t). There’s even a tribute in the film to another superb horror-comedy, Ghostbusters. Zombieland is a funny, bloody good time with characters worth rooting for and even a bit of a love story. Definitely a Side Splitter.
My Grade: A
#2: Ghostbusters (1984)
Synopsis: “Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’ll Split Your Sides: Hey, I just mentioned this! After Ghostbusters hit theaters in 1984, everybody knew who to call, and almost 30 years later, we still know. This film is one of those wacky, gleeful comedies that’s easy to love. Started whenever three parapsychology professors find themselves jobless, the Ghostbusters are a group of men dedicated to removing troublesome ghosts from the places they’ve chosen to haunt. Business is slow at first, but after a successful catch at a ritzy hotel, the Ghostbusters are swamped with clients, and they’re the subject of almost every form of media out there. But when the Ghostbusters get to the root of a haunting that involves a demi-god, they have to pull out all the stops to save New York City from certain destruction. It’s a unique, lively story written by two of the actors, Dan Aykroyd, who plays Dr. Raymond Stantz, and Harold Ramis, who plays Dr. Egon Spengler. So much of the dialogue is hilarious—in fact, almost anything involving Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) is golden. Murray’s dry, deadpan delivery of so many of his lines is in stark contrast to the bizarre things going on around him, which only adds to the humor. This film is also a visual treat, with spooky and/or disgusting ghosts, rooms covered in ectoplasm, lots of bright lights and explosions, and a giant, outrageous marshmallow man, which you wouldn’t think would fit, but somehow it miraculously does. Add all this to the fact that you get to see Sigourney Weaver in one of her strangest performances ever, and you’ve got quite a horror-comedy—definitely more comedy than horror, but a great Halloween film for all.
My Grade: A
#1: Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Synopsis: “A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’ll Split Your Sides: I love this film not only because it’s incredibly funny, but because it’s so very clever. Sure, there’s plenty of dumb humor, but it’s mixed into a script with fantastically funny dialogue, outrageous situations, and more marvelous zombie spoofs than you can shake a stick at—or in this case a cricket bat. The first of the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg Cornetto Trilogy (action-comedy Hot Fuzz and sci-fi-comedy The World’s End followed), Shaun of the Dead focuses on underdog hero Shaun (Pegg) as he tries to cope with the zombie apocalypse. His week starts out rough—Shaun’s flatmate is fed up with his lazy best friend (Nick Frost), no one at work respects him, he has constant tension with his stepfather (Bill Nighy), and to top it all off, his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield), dumps him. But none of these things compare to the zombie plague that sweeps the nation. When the zombies become a threat to the people Shaun loves, he gathers them up and takes them to the safest place he knows: his favorite pub. A humorous play off of basically every zombie flick out there, Shaun of the Dead brilliantly balances horror and comedy. The zombies are still eerie and eager to rip everyone to shreds, but they’re also gleefully mocked. A zombie is mistaken for a drunk. A couple believed to be making out is actually a zombie munching on her prey. Shaun mistakes a zombie for a forward drunk girl when she lunges at him. Even before the plague takes effect the film shows people going about their daily business in a zombielike manner, and it’s hilarious. There’s so much more to praise, but rather than prattle on I’ll simply say this: WATCH SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It’s horror-comedy gold.
My Grade: A+
Well, that wraps up the horror-comedies! How about it—did your sides split? I certainly hope so. Hey, you know what’s great? We’re still not done with Spook Series 2013! In, fact, we’re only halfway there! Up Next: 8 Malevolent Mockumentaries. And I’m not splitting them into two parts! You’re getting them all in one big ol’ post. That list will be up in a jiffy! Anyway, I’ll list all of my side splitters below. Did you favorites make the list? Any you would’ve added? Happy to hear your feedback!
#1: Shaun of the Dead (A+)
#2: Ghostbusters (A)
#3: Zombieland (A)
#4: Young Frankenstein (A)
#5: Beetlejuice (A-)
#6: Evil Dead II (A-)
#7: The Frighteners (B+)
#8: Fright Night (B+)
#9: Army of Darkness (B)
#10: The Lost Boys (B)
#11: The Monster Squad (B-)