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Horror and Comedy: True Bedfellows

Banes at 12:00AM, Oct. 6, 2016
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I have a high interest in comedy. Writing and drawing it, reading and watching it, studying and cuddling it.

Trying to be funny is a way of life for me. When I have the time, I want to bury myself in trying to be funny in my comics as often as possible.

But horror is also a lifelong fascination of mine. Some of my strongest early memories are of drawing monsters, wearing scary masks, and trying to convince my mom to let me stay up and watch scary movies on TV. I've written a couple of horror screenplays and would love to do more scary stories. It seems a little harder to do than comedy for some reason.

The funny and the freaky have a strong association with one another. A scary movie or book can be full of tension when it's going right - breaking that tension briefly is an important way of sustaining interest in a longer piece of fiction. I noticed a long time ago that the humor in a horror movie doesn't even half to be particularly funny to be successful and get a big laugh. People are waiting for that breather. Horror can be well served by a dose of comedy.

It doesn't necessarily work the same way in reverse; comedy pieces aren't always peppered with bits of horror. Maybe it's more a matter of tension and release. But the comedy-horror genre is a strong one, though tricky to do well. It's easy to go too light on the scary parts and make them unintentionally humorous. Or to do lame comedy in the horror flick (though like I said, the bar for comedy is very low when the tension or fear is working).

I think the relationship between the two has something to do with the similar workout it gives to the emotions. Good comedy shows us the absurdity of ourselves and our lives, and gives us therapy for it. Good horror lets us feel emotions we don't want to feel, but in a safe way, giving us similar therapy. Horror is often compared to riding a roller coaster.

I read something, maybe in Stephen King's book “Danse Macabre”, about the desired experience in horror of the audience not knowing whether to laugh or scream. Horror should be FUN (but maybe that's another newspost).

Horror Comedy Movies:

An early favorite movie of mine was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
The classic monsters are played straight and true to themselves, and the comedy still holds up something like 70 years later!

Another great success was SCREAM, especially the first one (though the formula was repeated with okay results in several sequels, and done quite well in the recent series, too.

Shaun of the Dead is great! One of the best written-and-made movies ever.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is an underappreciated winner in this category, too (especially if you like the slasher or demented hillbilly genres like I do!). In that one, two lovable hicks are mistaken for psychotic killers by a bunch of college students, who try to fight the rednecks but keep accidentally killing themselves. Pretty great, and with hilarious performances by the leads.

If your tastes run a bit darker, I'd recommend Re-Animator, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.

There's the first October Newspost, in any case! Talk to ya again soon!

-Banes

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anonymous?

Udyr at 12:08PM, Oct. 6, 2016

Peter Jacksons horrormovie-era was awesome, alot of dark humour and gore yet he managed to make them all blend in very well without it getting too much of one or another. I loved Bad taste and Braindead. (: Horror-comedy is the best!

EssayBee at 7:27AM, Oct. 6, 2016

You mentioned the scream TV series, so I think Ash vs. Evil Dead definitely deserves a shout out too! And glad to see Danse Macabre mentioned--it's a very interesting and thorough look at horror entertainment (through the early 80s, anyway), and King is a great instructor on the subject. (Speaking of which, his book "On Writing" is one of the best breakdowns of good writing I've read--much better than any scholarly criticism I read in college.)

KimLuster at 6:45AM, Oct. 6, 2016

To add to examples: to me, one of the funnier horror/comedies was 1982's Creepshow (Stephen King was hilarious as Jordy Verrill)!

KimLuster at 6:45AM, Oct. 6, 2016

Excellent article again!! And yes, Horror and Humor are more closely related that most people imagine. What is the purpose of laughter? Many think it's our bodies' response to being shocked, and the relief when we know we're safe after all... Have you ever had a deadly close call - and laughed right after (I did when I almost got hit by a train...) Think about standup comedy - the things they say that make us laugh are often a bit disturbing if taken at face value...! We can laugh because we know he's 'just joking' But also we know that humor can come from a dark place to begin with (see Robin Williams). Great stuff!!

Ironscarf at 3:34AM, Oct. 6, 2016

I think I was getting the title mixed up with some terrible eighties band! Triana is great in that, she must have had a ball with the script and costumes. I recently visited the spot where they filmed the cemetery scenes at Kensal Green, including where she knelt at Lionhart's tomb. Deeply moving!

bravo1102 at 2:29AM, Oct. 6, 2016

Speaking some more of Vincent Price, see A Comedy of Terror. A Roger Corman masterpiece of black humor co-starring Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. There's also Trilogy of Terror with the Peter Lorre/Vincent Price take on Cask of Amiltilado/Black Cat being the funny one.

bravo1102 at 2:23AM, Oct. 6, 2016

That's Diana Rigg. Damn autocorrect who the heck is Triana?

bravo1102 at 2:22AM, Oct. 6, 2016

And both Dr. Phibes movies had Terry Thomas. Theatre of Hate is better known as Theatre of Blood co-starring Triana Rigg. I downloaded and watched them all in the last two months. ;-D

Ironscarf at 1:43AM, Oct. 6, 2016

Vincent Price you say? The Abominable Dr. Phibes is just about the perfect marriage for me: not played for laughs but not taking itself too seriously at any point. Price camping it up as he talks through the side of his neck into a gramaphone - fantastic. He takes it a stage further in Theatre Of Hate, which is essentially the same story but even more emphasis on the macabre humour. That said, Young Frankenstein is definitely played for laughs and I never tire of it.

ozoneocean at 1:37AM, Oct. 6, 2016

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil was great! :D

bravo1102 at 1:23AM, Oct. 6, 2016

One of my favorite horror/humor moments is what I call the MIND FUCK. The moment you discover that everything you had believed about the story is WRONG. Like in the anime series corpse Party you discover that one of the main characters and first victim had been imaginary. I'm not talking about simple surprise shock ending, but one that turns everything you had seen up till then on its ear and it makes sense but in a super creepy way you could never have imagined. Like the cigarette lighting itself the end of Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and hearing Vincent Price's voice...

bravo1102 at 1:12AM, Oct. 6, 2016

And the original Evil Dead especially if you get the special edition with the making of video. Such love. For a truly great horror/humor anime there is the original series When They Cry and the OVAs. Hell Girl also has a couple of good laugh/scream episodes. Episode 14 of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is another great horror/humor episode with its references to other Japanese horror series like When They Cry, Another and Hell Girl.


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