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Horror Comedy

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"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."
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Extra Punctuation

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 and escaping 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.

Horror dominant 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.

Comedy dominant 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 desensitized 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 Accidental 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.


Compare the First Law of Tragicomedies.

Some works that mix comedy and horror include:

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  • 13 Sins has the hapless protagonist committing more and more horrific crimes for the accumulating prize money.
  • American Horror Story, most notably in the third season Coven, frequently likes to dabble in the campier side of horror, which shouldn't be a surprise given that its creator, Ryan Murphy, also made Glee, Nip/Tuck, and Popular. By and large, though, the more horrific elements were played terrifyingly straight.
  • 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.
  • Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon starts out closer to the middle, as a parody of the slasher genre, but very quickly becomes a straight Slasher Movie at the end.
  • Big Bad Wolf
  • The Bikini Bottom Horror
  • Blood Junkie
  • Bloody Mallory
  • Bubba Ho Tep
  • A Bucket of Blood
  • Cabin by the Lake: The sequel moreso than the first. The Villain Protagonist is a Serial Killer who is also a horror movie writer. There are therefore several self-referential elements than can be taken as parody. The bad guy is still an utter monster, though.
  • 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.
  • Child's Play has been all over the map with this. The first few films were mostly straight horror flicks, albeit with a killer with more personality than the usual masked madman, much like the below-mentioned A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, however, were comedy-dominant, while Curse of Chucky returned to a horror focus.
  • In Creed, wryly reflective narration pits cynical paparazzo Joe Creed against a murderous demonic cult. While Creed's audacious exploits and occasional undignified mishaps are drolly presented, a grim humour prevails, albeit with rather less levity, when the cult's macabre tendencies are revealed. Mention of their leader's ritual child murders is played entirely straight.
  • Chopping Mall
  • Dead and Deader
  • Dead Set: Most of the laughs come from the dark absurdity of the premise and the dialogue of the cast, many of whom are Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist types or The Ditz (Justified by the reality show setting). However, the main character is mostly serious, the premise is Played for Drama and once people start dying most of the laughs are in the form of Satire, Black Comedy, and Refuge in Audacity (zombie Davina McCall!) rather than the witty dialogue and jokes.
  • Death Proof
  • Don't Kill It
  • Dr. Giggles has a villain who is very cartoony and unleashes a Hurricane of Puns whenever he makes a kill. Despite that, it's a straightforward slasher film.
  • Drag Me to Hell is a truly scary film, but coming from Sam Raimi, it manages to also be hilarious at times (sometimes at the same time even).
  • 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 utter bastards to Nightmare Fuel.
  • Evil Dead 2: While the first film plays the horror completely straight, this film begins the franchise's slow slide into comedy. The horror here is at the forefront, with a few darkly humorous flourishes thrown in, such as the slapstick scene of Ash fighting his possessed hand and the scene of Ash going Laughing Mad.
  • Fear, Inc.
  • The Fly (1986), being a Sci-Fi Horror story hinging upon a Slow Transformation, is more humor than horror for the first half-hour as it sets up three central characters (Veronica and Stathis are snarkers while Seth is a cute nerd), their Love Triangle, and Seth's telepod technology. The only gruesome bit is the fate of the first baboon, which is seriously played. After Seth teleports himself and begins to transform, with only the audience initially aware of what is actually happening to him, the mood slowly, significantly darkens. The snark from Veronica and Stathis is replaced by Seth's Gallows Humor once his Body Horror sets in, and the final 20 minutes are straight-up Tragedy — which works as well as it does because the humorous opening stretch gets the audience deeply invested in the characters. Critic Drew McWeeny, in the Screen Drafts episode covering writer-director David Cronenberg's filmography, describes Seth archiving his molted human body parts in his medicine cabinet thusly:
    I find the Seth Brundle Museum of Natural History simultaneously the funniest thing in any David Cronenberg film and the saddest thing in any movie ever.
  • Friday the 13th has a few entries landing here:
    • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter definitely played up the comedy elements, with the Twenty Minutes with Jerks feeling very much like a teen comedy that could easily be called National Lampoon's Friday The 13th. But the deaths are some of the bloodiest in the series, and the ending when Tommy kills Jason is played very seriously (and manages to be genuinely horrifying). This is one of the reasons it remains a fan favorite.
    • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is very self-aware of the franchise and has quite a few comedic breaks, but plays many parts much more serious than the rest of the series (especially parts focusing on Tommy), and due to the reduced gore, it relies more on pure suspense (and succeeding).
    • Jason X took the "Jason IN SPACE!" angle and ran with it, most notably when Jason is locked in a holodeck simulating Camp Crystal Lake with two counselors who just love to have premarital sex.
  • Jam is a strange TV example of this, being a surrealist sketch horror-comedy, that leans HEAVILY to the horror side. It is designed to make you feel horribly, horribly uncomfortable.
  • Fright Night (1985) and its remake Fright Night (2011), as well as their respective sequels Fright Night Part 2 and Fright Night 2: New Blood.
  • Frightmare (1983)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn gets most of its humor by playing off the interaction of a bunch of hardened gangsters with bloodthirsty vampires.
  • Get Out (2017) has a fair share of tongue-in-cheek humour and a comic relief character who actually ends up saving the day but the humour is fairly subtle overall. Given the director, it's surprising the comedy elements aren't played up more.
  • Ginger Snaps uses its "lycanthropy/puberty" metaphor as much for laughs as for horror, but when it gets dark, it stays there.
  • The Gore Gore Girls
  • Gremlins. There are some comedic moments scattered throughout, but it mostly plays the premise straight. Notably, this is toned down from the original conceit, which was a lot darker in tone and contained several very gruesome deathsnote , with the Gremlins being far more violently evil than their 'cause general disruption' attitude in the movie.
  • The Hatchet series is a Genre Throwback to '80s slashers, turning all of the tropes of the genre up to their logical conclusion and playing many of them for laughs in the process. The actual killer, however, is played completely straight.
  • Hellbenders
  • Higurashi: When They Cry 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 the wisecracking protagonists and the (creepily comedic) presence of Pennywise.
  • Jennifer's Body combines a demon-possession plot with Diablo Cody's wiseass dialogue, and a devil-worshipping emo band.
  • Julia X is about two sisters who turns the tables on a Serial Killer and imprison him in their home where they plan to torture and kill him. A lot of decent one-liners, but the overall mood is too dark for the humour to ever be dominant.
  • Lumpy Touch
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street began to progress into this as the series went on. The first two films are mostly straight horror films (well, okay, not so straight in the case of the second one) with only the occasional wisecracks from Freddy Krueger, the third had more of a balance between comedy and horror (but still focusing more on horror), and later films became more comedic as the series went on, to the point where the sixth film, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is essentially a somewhat gory cartoon. The seventh film, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, jettisoned the comedy elements and brought the focus back to horror, a focus that was shared by Freddy vs. Jason and the remake - Freddy is still wisecracking, but his cracks are now played more for horror than laughs.
  • Parents
  • Re-Animator is gruesome and pretty depressing, but still mines laughs thanks to its Deadpan Snarker cast and the absurdity of the events.
  • Satan's Cheerleaders has a wildly uneven tone, but the conclusion makes it apparent that the director was aiming for horror to be dominant. This is in spite of the movie's tagline ("Funnier than The Omen...Scarier than Silent Movie") making it sound like an out-and-out horror spoof.
  • Scream is practically the Trope Codifier for the horror-dominant variety. The comedy comes from the characters lampshading the various horror tropes and being Genre Savvy. But the deaths are still gruesome and the comedy is pretty much shooed out in the third act.
  • The Seventh Curse
  • Sheitan combines anarchic, knockabout comedy with nerve-shredding suspense, jet-black humour and bloody horror.
  • The Signal (2007) 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.
  • The Slaughter
  • Slaxx: Most of the humor is front-loaded. The first half is a mix of a Slasher Movie and a satire of retail work and corporate "social responsibility", but after the halfway point, only the goofy nature of the villain — a sentient, murderous pair of jeans — keeps it a comedy.
  • Some Guy Who Kills People where the Black Comedy comes the reactions of characters attempting to cope with a series of bizarre murders.
  • 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. There's some levity given it's a musical, but ultimately is still about a killing barber whose victims are used by his landlady in meat pies - and the woman turns out to be quite the Manipulative Bastard.
  • 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.
  • Tremors: In comparison to the rest of the films in the Tremors franchise that are more Comedy-Horrors, the first movie was heavier on the Horror side.
  • Versus
  • 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.


    Balance of Comedy & Horror 


These works still need to be categorized on the sliding scale by people familiar with them. Feel free to do so.

Alternative Title(s): Comedy Horror, Sliding Scale Of Comedy And Horror


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