In honor of Halloween I thought I would offer a post on my favorite horror movies. There’s only one problem, I don’t really like horror movies and I would be hard pressed to come up with a set of horror movies that I really like. I love comedy, however, and some of the following movies are hilarious. And I mean they are intentionally funny; I’m not thinking of some horror movies that are so inadvertently silly that they are funny like Plan 9 from Outer Space, a film on everyone’s list as one of the worst ever made. So here is my top ten list of terrific horror movies that are really funny. Not a few of them, I must add, are send-ups of classic horror films such as Dracula and Frankenstein.
10. Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995): Leslie Nielson reinvented himself as a comedian in the 1980s after a career as a romantic lead by starring in a series of satirical films ranging from Airplane! (1980) to The Naked Gun (1988-1994) films. All of them are silly, using puns and parodies as their stock in trade. They are also truly funny. This film, directed by Mel Brooks, spoofs the original novel by Bram Stoker and a succession of films that have been Hollywood’s stock in trade since the 1930s. Favorite quote: “Children of the night…what a mess they make!”—Dracula after a bat poops on the stairs.
9. An American Werewolf in London (1981): A John Landis film, famous for his teen comedies, this movie stars David Naughton,Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne. Two American students—Naughton and Dunne—were caught by werewolves while hiking in the Moors of Wales. One (Dunne) was killed outright, and keeps appearing as a ghost to warn the other, and Naughton is in the process of transforming into a werewolf for the rest of the film. A fair amount of comedy results from this, even as it ends badly for all. Favorite quote: “I am a victim of your carnivorous lunar activities.”—A victim of the werewolf.
8. The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck(1967): Roman Polanski made this outrageous film in the counterculture 1960s with a counterculture cast and a counterculture message. Two vampire hunters visit Transylvania to destroy vampires. Everything goes badly, hilarity ensues, and the hunters lose in the end. Favorite quote: “Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire.”—A Jewish vampire when confronted with someone holding up a cross to fend him off.
7. Little Shop of Horrors (1986): This musical is one of the joys of recent comedic horror. Starring Rick Moranis as Seymour he finds an alien plant that grows into an insatiable carnivorous plant that proceeds to eat everyone in sight. The greatest scenes involve Steve Martin as a sadistic dentist and Bill Murray as a masochistic patient. This part is unbelievably over the top and belly laugh inanity. Favorite quote: “I’m just a mean green mother from outer space and I’m bad!”—Audrey II, the alien plant.
6. Shaun of the Dead (2004): This outrageous send-up of zombie movies stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as losers who take on zombies all over London and save their friends Shaun’s mother, and the day. Favorite quote: “Look, I don’t care what the telly says, all right? We *have* to get out of here. If we don’t they’ll tear us to pieces, and that is really going to exacerbate things for all of us.”—Shaun.
5. Zombieland (2009): Geeky Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, can’t get laid until the zombie apocalypse begins and his partner is infected. He survives by living by a rigid set of rules, “double tap,” “cardiac”; you get the picture. He meets Woody Harrelson’s crazy Tallahassee, who lives to kill zombies and eat Twinkies. They meet two sisters who get the better of them repeatedly, kill several zombies, and eventually reach Los Angeles where they hole up in Bill Murray’s mansion. Bill Murray’s cameo is awesome. Favorite quote: “My mama always told me someday I’d be good at something. Who’d a guessed that something’d be zombie-killing?”—Tallahassee.
4. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966): The third Peanuts television special, yes I understand this is not a movie, but how can I omit it from this list, this one introduced Snoopy versus the Red Baron and the story of a Halloween visitation not unlike Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It’s heartwarming and funny and still speaks to me as an adult almost fifty years after it first aired. Favorite quote: “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”—Linus on the Great Pumpkin.
3. Young Frankenstein (1974): This movie was written and directed by the comedic genius, Mel Brooks, and starred Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, and Peter Boyle. A younger Frankenstein returns to Transylvania and takes up his grandfather’s work, creates a monster, and outrageous adventures. I recently rewatched it, andYoung Frankenstein still holds up really well after forty years. Favorite quote: “For what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius.”—Frederick Frankenstein.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Another musical, yes, but not anything like one from Rodgers and Hammerstein, or even Andrew Lloyd Webber. All I can say about it, “Let’s do the time warp again.” Favorite quote: “So come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. I see you shiver with antici…pation.”—Dr. Frank-n-Furter (Tim Curry).
1. Ghostbusters (1984): What a terrific film; it represented a triumph for Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Harold Ramis, as well as an outstanding supporting cast of Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and Ernie Hudson. Kicked out of a university, the Ghostbusters go into business for themselves. They chase demons, ghosts, and other assorted paranormal phenomena in New York City until coming into contact with Gozer the Gozerian, aSumerian shape-shifting god of destruction. Of course they destroy it in the end. Favorite quote: “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*.”—Ray Stantz (Dan Akroyd).