20 Horror Comedies You Need to Watch

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Most horror movies are inherently ridiculous. They usually ask us to believe in things that aren’t possible, that flout the rules of reality, and to become so invested in these fictional worlds that we feel legitimate fear over what happens. Maybe that’s why I prefer horror movies that embrace that ridiculousness and intentionally try to make us laugh over ones that try to play it straight? (And maybe that’s why I edit a comedy section instead of, say, a movies section?) There’s a lot of room to move around on the horror comedy spectrum, sliding between laughs and scares, and these 20 movies show the full range of possibilities within the form. This is far from a comprehensive compendium of horror comedy, but if you’re looking for a horror movie with a bit of personality to it, you can’t go wrong with any of these films.

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948


By the end of the ‘40s, the classic Universal monster movie series was on its last legs. In the wake of WWII, the old monsters simply couldn’t hold up, so the studio instead turned to comedy with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein while simultaneously including their most iconic monster creations. The movie is significant for being the one and only time that Bela Lugosi ever returned to play the Dracula role in a second film after the 1931 Dracula, although he played a different vampire on several other occasions. He brings his magnetic presence back to the role while also introducing an unexpected sense of humor. The film is great fun, with reverence both for the classic monsters and the blockbusters they starred in while also injecting levity and classic Abbott and Costello wordplay/physical comedy. There’s plenty of madcap sequences of the pair opening and closing doors, running through hallways and suffering pratfalls. It’s a must-see for fans of classic cinema and is also a great Halloween movie for kids, presuming they can be convinced to watch something in black and white.—Jim Vorel

2. Young Frankenstein, 1974


Routinely listed as one of the best comedies of all time and one of the 10 or so films I can quote almost entirely from memory, Young Frankenstein is a classic of the genre. At once a spoof of traditional Universal horror films and a loving tribute, Mel Brooks and his immensely talented cast have created a timeless film.—Mark Rabinowitz

3. An American Werewolf in London, 1981


There’s gallows humor, then there’s the more direct approach of a-wolf-tearing-out-one’s-esophagus humor. John Landis’ other werewolf (non-King of Pop) entry is practically an overachiever in balancing its genuinely scary-as-hell moments with scenes of absurd levity. Rick Baker’s wolfen SFX also serves as evidence that David Cronenberg didn’t hold the monopoly on bodily horror during the ’80s, nor Industrial Light and Magic the monopoly on putting the fantastic on film.—Scott Wold

4. Pandemonium, 1982


This obscurity might be permanently imprinted on your brain if you were young and impressionable and had HBO in the early 1980s. Years before Scary Movie, Pandemonium parodied both specific horror films and the genre as a whole. It fires out gags almost as relentlessly as a Zucker-Abraham-Zucker movie, and although they don’t land quite as often, there’s still some great work here from the always excellent Carol Kane. It also features a pre-fame Phil Hartman and Paul Reubens, for the Pee Wee completionists out there. I saw this before I had seen any actual horror films—hell, I saw this a half-dozen times before I had seen any horror films—so in a way it’s colored my entire history with the genre. It’s one of those movies that gets a little bit worse every year past the age of maybe seven, so if you didn’t see it in your youth the window has probably closed.—Garrett Martin

5. The Slumber Party Massacre, 1982


The script for The Slumber Party Massacre originally envisioned the film as a satire of the burgeoning slasher genre, which was pumping out cheapo films at this point after the huge successes of Halloween in 1978 and Friday the 13th in 1980. It appears that no one told the film crew or actors about that whole “satire” thing, though, so what you get is a really goofy film with earnest attempts at delivering comedic material, and it just works. It feels like a teenage boy’s idea of “what would totally make Halloween way better,” and thus sets the film at a slumber party of nubile, oft-times naked young women. The killer is a beautifully silly pastiche of psycho killers—no known motivation, he’s just some “mass killer” who happens to escape from prison and then goes right back to his favorite pastime. Weapon of choice? An electric power drill, which seems completely impractical. The dopey characters make it something of an accidental horror comedy, but the laughs are real, provided you have any fondness at all for the classic era of slashers.—JV

6. Ghostbusters, 1984


Ghostbusters was a simple concept: put some of the best comedians of the day in a live-action riff on the classic Disney short “Lonesome Ghosts,” but, y’know, kind of scary. Adults maybe didn’t shake at the sight of an as-yet-unnamed Slimer, or at Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis increasingly giving over to demonic possession, but when you’re a kid that is some legitimately horrific business. It warmly embraces the corniness inherent in the word “spooky,” evoking Saturday afternoon creature features and the Haunted Mansion while letting Bill Murray be as Bill Murray as he can possibly be.—GM

7. Gremlins, 1984


You know those stories of kids who thought Gremlins was going to be a cute, funny movie about a cute, funny critter named Gizmo, and then lost their minds with terror while witnessing its true horror in the theater? Nice to meet you! Gremlins is violent and disgusting and even kind of mean-spirited at times, which is to say it’s a legitimate horror film. It’s also a lot of fun. It may not be as clever or funny as the amazing sequel, but it’s still funny, and more of a straight-up horror film. If you have kids today, maybe prepare them for what’s coming.—GM

8. Night of the Comet, 1984


A forgotten little gem from the ‘80s, Night of the Comet can easily be dismissed as nothing more than a goof of a film. Those with an open mind, however, will find an intriguing example of a film that mixed genres before such a thing was readily acceptable. The story centers on two teenage Valley Girls who, after a comet passes right near the Earth and vaporizes billions in its wake, decide to take advantage of the end-of-the-world situation by having an epic shopping spree. On the way, however, they encounter zombies, the military and countless other “totally lame” detours. A hilarious send-up of ‘80s culture, Night of the Comet provides a thoroughly entertaining time capsule of the decade.—Mark Rozeman

9. Return of the Living Dead, 1985


Return of the Living Dead, or simply ROTLD, is an important film on numerous fronts—important to the history of zombie movies, important in terms of “youth-focused” horror films, and important as a great horror comedy. Plenty, even most horror flicks before this one featured teenage protagonists/victims, but few feel like they really captured the zeitgeist of being a young person in that time period. ROTLD, on the other hand, simply feels like one of the most profoundly “teen ‘80s” films ever made. The kids are exaggerated archetypes, satirical depictions of nerds, punks, greasers, mall junkies and leather-studded badasses. The zombification, meanwhile, creates ghouls that are much different from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead zombies—faster, smarter and far chattier. The film’s humor has a sick streak, a morbid delight in the comic ultraviolence necessary to even make a dent in the zombies. It delights in its juvenile nature and the celebration of youthful vitality (cut short). All that, and it’s got a ridiculously cheesy punk soundtrack that will make you laugh all on its own.—JV

10. House, 1986


William Katt wasn’t just the guy from The Greatest American Hero when I was a kid; he was also the guy from House, a frightening movie full of violence, horrific images and two of America’s favorite ‘80s sitcom stars. George Wendt and Richard Moll moonlight from Cheers and Night Court, respectively, to add some comic relief to this haunted house story. Wendt’s basically playing just another shade of Norm, but Moll turns the weirdness always present in Bull Shannon into something genuinely threatening and terrifying. It’s perhaps forgotten today, but House was a cult hit at the time, and inspired a number of sequels.—GM

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