"I'm a student of both horror and comedy because they're different sides of the same coin: Both are about using emotion to provoke an instinctual, physical response, and if you're lucky, spontaneous evacuation of bodily waste products."
When people think of Comedy
, they rarely associate it with Horror
and vice versa. However, both make great partners in crime together. If they aren't Crossing The Line Twice
, they're bringing about a Sugar Apocalypse
to Auda City
. The reason they work so well together is that viewers need "breathers" between nonstop screaming or nonstop laughing, and one can easily segue into the other.
For purposes of this trope, we'll divide Horror and Comedy hybrids into three categories, Horror dominant, Comedy dominant, and balanced.
works will use comedy as a mood lightener or "breather" from the tension or gore. Characters will crack wise while they're in a safe spot, and have the monster use a Barrier-Busting Blow
just as they relax. The benefit of this is that just as viewers relax along with the characters, tension is restored along with the scare. Other ways to use comedy in a horror movie is to treat viewers to some funny situational irony the characters can appreciate on an intellectual level while cursing on an "I'm gonna die now" level. The benefit here is that momentum is maintained throughout the scene.
works have more leeway here. They may be a straight up comedy or parody set in a typical horror setting or premise, or use Black Comedy
along with splatter horror to maximum effect. Comedy dominant works often deconstruct
horror tropes for laughs, other times playing them hilariously straight as an Affectionate Parody
(with perhaps a Lampshade Hanging
A '''balanced''' work
is perhaps the most subjective to qualify, because while it has equal amounts of horror and comedy, the viewer may be so sensitive to horror it seems scarier, or so de
sensitized to horror it seems funnier.
Of course, these works have one big problem they have to fight: avoiding jumping the shark
due to Mood Whiplash
. Avoiding this requires that the comedy or horror not break the feel of the established setting. Slapstick in the middle of suspenseful horror, or remorselessly and humorlessly killing a character in a comedy would do this. However, deadpan snarking
and Rasputinian Death
respectively would not.
See also Narm
and Nightmare Retardant
, where something that's supposed to be horrible turns out to be funny, and Nightmare Fuel
, where something that might have been intended to be funny is instead unsettling. Both of them are results of something landing on the wrong side of the scale. See also Lightmare Fuel
, where a perfect balance is actually reached between the two.
Some works that use Comedy and Horror include:
- An American Werewolf in London has a fair amount of comedic elements, but tipped to this side because even the director was surprised by how gory it turned out. Also, the humor is almost entirely gone by the conclusion of the movie save some small bits and the Soundtrack Dissonance between the final scene and the credits song.
- Arachnophobia has several comedic bits, mostly involving the Eccentric Exterminator played by John Goodman. The Primal Fear of the spider threat is played very seriously all throughout the movie however.
- Bubba Ho Tep
- The Cabin in the Woods. Despite being a Deconstructive Parody the horror tropes are played very straight in terms of tone; the parody is derived from austere deconstruction without heading into outright comedy. The humorous parts that it does have are mostly derived from the self-reflective aspects of the movie on the horror genre, mostly embodied in the manipulative Controllers.
- Death Proof
- From Dusk Till Dawn
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni starts off each chapter as a lighthearted Slice of Life comedy, until someone dies mysteriously. From there, things quickly spiral out of control, usually culminating in the gruesome murder of several major characters.
- It. Heavily horror based, but still has some comedic elements thanks to Pennywise.
- Jennifers Body
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is of the Horror Dominant type. Some lighthearted moments can be found between the Mind Rape, Eldritch Abominations, Cruel and Unusual Death(s) and The End of the World as We Know It.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street, mainly as the series went on.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: In the same vein as Neon Genesis Evangelion except it has Break the Cutie instead of Mind Rape. Furthermore, most of the comedic moments are in the first two episodes, while the rest are predominately horror-focused.
- The Signal is composed of three vignettes. The middle one is mostly a black comedy (mostly) while also showing us the first signs that things are even weirder than they seem.
- Supernatural. The entire character roster are a bunch of snarky bastards who can't resist making wise-ass comments all the time, and the humor is largely found in the absurdity of some deaths and the meta-fictional episodes. It still never manages to upstage the genuine horror and drama or eclipse it.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Teeth: The only real humor is the absurd premise and some potential Narm. All else considered, it's played about as straight as you can get for a killer vagina movie.
- You're Next. It's a Deconstruction of many horror tropes, especially the Final Girl, that happens to be thick with Black Comedy, yet it plays the horror aspects much more straight.
- The Dresden Files tends heavily towards the horror end of things. Most of the comedy is in the form of Harry wisecracking to save in his sanity in the face of soul-destroying horror and almost certain death. His adversaries range from Complete Monster to Nightmare Fuel.
Balance Between Comedy and Horror:
- American Psycho
- Bad Taste
- Braindead, also known as Dead Alive
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: One reason Joss Whedon wanted to do it as a series was that the movie had been more comedy-dominant than he hoped.
- Grindhouse. Specifically, Planet Terror is balanced, while Death Proof is more serious. The film as a whole (including the trailers) plays the Grindhouse conceit mostly for the camp value while retaining a lot of genuine scares.
- John Dies at the End is pretty balanced, and it's not unusual to find comedy and horror on the same page. This is partly because the protagonists seem to use humor as a coping mechanism, and partly due to the sheer ridiculousness of the things they encounter, like the wigmonsters, or the ghost that possesses an entire fridge full of meat to give itself a corporeal body.
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space is largely balanced. The film is played surprisingly straight for such a silly premise which the filmmakers wisely didn't take too seriously. The klowns are very often Laughably Evil, but the movie keeps some genuine scares for even non-coulrophobes.
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Due to the idiosyncratic nature of its protagonist, who walked from the mostly comedic scenes of the newsroom and witness interviews to the mostly horror scenes of investigations and monsters without changing his style one bit.
- Lake Placid
- Planet Terror
- Red Letter Media. Yes, the Star Wars reviews.
- Tremors. The first film was more horror dominant, but every installment after that struck the balance.
- Return of the Living Dead
- Tasogare Otome X Amnesia: Bounces back and forth.
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! is nearly pure comedy; the only real "horror" aspects it has are those that are unavoidable when you decide to parody the B-movie horror genre.
- Big Tits Zombie, a J-horror flick that slides much more towards the Sex Comedy genre.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog.
- Eight Legged Freaks
- Evil Bong is advertised as a "horror/comedy", but is predominately comedy. The sequel, Evil Bong 2: King Bong, isn't even a horror movie, but a combination of fantasy/adventure and stoner comedy.
- Evil Dead, particularly Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. The first film falls off the scale entirely.
- Gremlins. This is mostly the result of making the movie lighter in tone from the original conceit, which was a straight-up horror with body parts flying everywhere and the Gremlins being even more psychotically murderous. The second movie went even further and made the comedy dominant to the point of Self-Parody.
- A Haunted House, a parody of the first Paranormal Activity.
- Hot Fuzz. It's a comedy, but most of the film is an homage to slasher flicks and there are some bona fide gory bits in there. It's something of a three-way hybrid, among a Badass Cop movie, Comedy and Slasher. The slasher elements also segue into Town with a Dark Secret.
- Kore wa Zombie desu ka??. Heavily on the comedy side.
- The Little Shop of Horrors, as well as the musical of the same name, and its 1986 movie version. The 1960 film is more of a broad comedy, whereas the musical and the 1986 movie are morality plays, and somewhat darker.
- My Name is Bruce
- Scary Movie series. Mostly spoofs horror movies, except for some of the more recent sequels which predominately spoof sci-fi movies.
- Shaun of the Dead. The Zombie Apocalypse is played almost entirely for laughs. The only real horror comes from when the zombies make their true presence known.
- Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth. Predictably, since it's an outright horror spoof.
- This Is the End: Like Shaun of the Dead, the Biblical Apocalypse is strictly played for laughs, with small moments of horror sprinkled in throughout. Yet even these scenes have a punchline to them, including one part where a man getting decapitated leads to an impromptu game of soccer.
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror are non-canon Black Comedy episodes with 3 segments each, usually parodying horror films. However, some segments can be genuinely scary.
- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. It's a straight Deconstructive Parody that flips the Hillbilly Horrors genre on its head by making the hilbillies the heroes. Even the most gory deaths are Bloody Hilarious and not really played for horror.
- The Voynich Hotel has all sorts of unsavoury characters, from demons, witches, and criminals (ranging from: Yakuza, present and past; assasins; and serial killers), and quite a lot of weird natural occurrences on the island to boot, but things are consistently light and funny. Most of the time.
- Young Frankenstein
These works still need to be categorized on the sliding scale by people familiar with them. Feel free to do so.