Horror and Comedy...can they co-exist?

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cinemalover
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Horror and Comedy...can they co-exist?

Post by cinemalover »

Comedic horrors, or horror comedies if you prefer, are a strange and not always successful marriage. Certainly many great horror films use humor to lighten the mood and allow your adrenaline to relax until the next big scare comes along. But true cross-breeds of the two genres usually seem to fall flat.

Which ones out there have you enjoyed and find work for you?

The first two that come to mind for me are Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and Young Frankenstein (1974), though there is very little "horror" in YF.
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Post by raftfan »

Great topic. I really enjoyed the "Abbott & Costello Meet 'The Monsters'" series and also thought Bob Hope's "The Cat and the Canary" and "The Ghost Breakers" were a lot of fun. Could never get into those East Side Kids "haunted house" movies, though. Too much endless creeping through dark corridors with an occasional Bela Lugosi or gorilla "pop-up". Obvious padding, I thought.

Don't want to stray from the thrust of the topic, but would like to mention that as my interest in "current" horror movies began to wane in the 1980s, the only ones that I really enjoyed were the films that blended chills with humor, such as "The Howling", "An American Werewolf in London", "Fright Night" and "Return of the Living Dead". While for the most part I preferred my classic horror movies devoid of often deliberate and intrusive humor, for some reason the deadly-serious fright films of the later era just didn't have it. A lack of imagination, I suppose. How many ways can you slice-and-dice a teenager? With VERY few exceptions, I still feel that way.
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Post by moira finnie »

I like this topic!
All the films of James Whale seem to me to have a great deal of comedy in them, particularly The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein. Any scene with Ernest Thesiger or Una O'Connor is guaranteed to have a weird and funny element, don't you think? Even Dwight Frye is pretty darn camp in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931). Of course, all these films scared my socks off as a kid, and it's only adult perspective that allows me to see the amusing side of all this darkness.

I'm not keen on most modern horror movies due to the lack of real humor and surfeit of gore, but occasionally enjoy one of the better ones. For example, The Mummy(1999) only made me look away a few times and the cast evoked a nice sense of adventure with a good bit of subtle absurdity along with some chills too.
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raftfan
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Post by raftfan »

"Tales of Terror" comes to mind. "The Black Cat" episode still cracks me up, thanks to Peter Lorre's shameless ad-libbing and Vincent Price's broad playing. The next story, though, "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is pretty darn creepy. Taken as a whole, I suppose "ToT" could be considered in that scary/funny category.
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Post by ChiO »

The Roger Corman horror films A BUCKET OF BLOOD and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS immediately come to mind, as does the Arch Hall, Sr./Jr. classic, EEGAH!.

It is difficult to play the horror straight and still get enough non-camp laughs to call it equally a comedy (thereby disqualifying the Master, Ed Wood, Jr.'s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER).

Speaking of "the Master", didn't Hitchcock refer to PSYCHO as a comedy?
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Post by cinemalover »

ChiO,
Little Shop of Horrors is wonderful and Bucket of Blood is just macbre. How many artists can start their career by killing the neighbor's cat?
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Post by ChiO »

Then there are the Dead End Kids / Bowery Boys entries in the subgenre: SPOOKS RUN WILD (with Bela Lugosi), GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE (with Bela Lugosi and Ava Gardner), SPOOK BUSTERS, and GHOST CHASERS.

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Post by Ollie »

I can't think of any good horror film that has good comedy in it. I don't equate "camp" with "good comedy", but I enjoy all of that stuff, and most of these films exploit 'camp' very well.

Maybe AM WEREWOLF IN LONDON has the most obvious comedic moments (waking up naked in the zoo, stealing balloons and eventually a coat; the "he's very excited" description by Jenny Agutter over the phone to the Doc; and the gruesome ghost meetings, as well as the rather light-hearted musical score while the killings occur).

I can think of attempts at laughter during scary pictures, but it's an expression of the needed tension-relief rather than actually being funny.

I have a feeling that great scary films can't co-exist with good comedy. Interesting topic... I'll mull this one over for a while. BLACK CHRISTMAS (the original one, of course) has some of those desperate "tension relief" moments. FRIGHT NIGHT is an interesting twist on the teen movies that were popular - I enjoy it quite a bit and it's tough to deny the Best Friend is hamming it up for comedic effect only.

And finally, the first two RETURN OF THE LIVING DEADS are pretty amusing but their use of Kayro syrup-gore as a 'shock effect' never allowed any tension to be built up or exploited. I had scarier moments trying to get the popcorn away from Wifey.
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

I defintely think Moira and ChiO are on the right track. Whale's ventures into horror are quite comedic. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Old Dark House (1932) ("Have a a potato!" :P ) are as funny as they are frightening. Corman's early work explores this link as well and many of the fifties and sixties small independent filmmakers were indeed influenced by Whale's films. Whale had faded from view in the late 30's, but there was a resurging interest in his work when he died in 1957.

There is also a definite difference between these kinds of films that intentionally introduce humor and films that we find funny today because of their absurdity. Much of Whale's comedy was designed to poke fun at the false Puritanism of society and it's hypocritical views of man. A Bucket of Blood (1959) pokes fun at the pretentiousness of the beat generation and the cliques that do indeed estabilish our world. Both of these directors found ways to exploit various groups in society while filming under the guise of Horror.
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Post by ChiO »

I hate it when a thread is so intriguing that I can't get a minute's rest.

If we can be somewhat lax (but really just a tiny bit) with the definition of "horror film", then DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB may be the quintessential "comedic horror" or "horror comedy". As a result of the Cold War, Cuban missle crisis, bomb shelters and Civil Defense drills, few things incite as much horror for me than nuclear annihilation (the only thing more horrific is ROSEMARY'S BABY's breach of the protective wall of family and friends). Yet, only DUCK SOUP makes me laugh more and harder than DR. STRANGELOVE. That they are both "war" movies is a subject for my therapist.

DR. STRANGELOVE's ability to make us laugh as we stumble to Armageddon is a testament to the brilliance of Stanley Kubrick and every aspect of the film, from script to cinematography to performances to score.
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Post by SSO Admins »

I'm glad Arkadin mentioned The Old Dark House. That was the first that came to mind for me. I'll also toss in Evil Dead II, which cracks me up every time.
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Post by halcarter »

I have never thought of Dr. Strangelove as anything but high comedy. But your point, ChiO, is well taken. What story underpinning could be more horrific than nuclear war? Not withstanding, I will adopt cinemalover's original question as my thought on the topic...can comedy and horror co-exist? I would like to see a thread expanded to include any kind of drama with comedy. In my limited experience, I've found but few instances of a happy marriage of the two. I would truly like to be pointed to some films that demonstrate such bliss.

I like elevator music and find airline food tolerable, therefore, obviously, when it comes to art I need all the help I can get. To me, drama and comedy are still the striped tie with the plaid shirt.

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Post by benwhowell »

One of my faves is Frank Capra's frantic classic, "Arsenic And Old Lace."
Raymond Massey really gives me the creeps in this one-almost making me forget I'm watching a dark and disturbing comedy.
Also love Roman Polanski's "Fearless Vampire Killers."
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Post by charliechaplinfan »

The Bride of Frankenstein, Arsenic and Old Lace and Dr Strangelove are good illustrations of comedy and horror being a good mix.

Horror and humour are the standard fare of cartoons. 'Itchy and Scratchy' being a good take off of Tom And Jerry both have their gory moments.

As a kid I was raised on Tom and Jerry. I found nothing wrong with it at the time but when I think of it now..........well, it never did me any harm :lol:
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