There are a few categories of quality that our beloved horror films can fall into. The classic, and most recognised, is the horror film that has you hiding behind your hands/ cushion/ sofa; one that terrifies you and might even linger in your mind as you attempt to sleep. Then there is the lighter, comedy horror. This category can often be filled with a reasonable amount of blood, but the gore is lightened either by a semi-subtle irony, as seen in the likes of Scream (1996), or a much more in your face slap-stick – think Shaun of the Dead (2004). Then, sadly, there are the truly awful horrors, practically not worth mentioning because they are just that dull (For me this is Silent Hill: Revelation (2012). What a let down…).
Finally, there are the ones that tread that oh so fine line between terrible and brilliant; the wonderful-because-they-are-just-so-damn-stupid movies. These movies are almost genius in the way that sometimes it is hard to tell whether they are intentionally funny or not. Some of them full on embrace their ridiculousness – something which they should be lauded for. Some of them sadly suffer from the ravages of time, but the 21st century makes them brilliant in entirely new ways. So here, in no particular order, are 10 horror movies that are, deliberately or not, more funny than scary.
01- Dr Rage/ Nightmare Hostel (2005)
I stumbled across this beauty in a second hand DVD store under the title “Dr Rage”. I have since discovered this name was scrapped in favour of “Nightmare Hostel” which, unfortunately, doesn’t help this movie at all, since the reviews online are mostly from disappointed buyers/renters who expected a film somewhat relating to the Nightmare Hostel DVD cover and they were sorely disappointed. Luckily, my Dr Rage cover delivered exactly what I was expecting. It was ridiculous, over the top and made absolutely zero sense. An excess of green Goosebumps-esque goop (sort of reminiscent of Evil Dead II as well, but we’ll get to that…) and a series of awkward sex-scene dialogue make this film hilarious in the most cringe-worthy of ways. To be watched only if you are a fan of the truly awful; to give an example, the only quote from Dr Rage on its IMDb page is –
Moe Moebius: How do you like your coffee?
Michael Dare: Hot.
02- Beast of Bering Sea/ Damn Sea Vampires! (2013)
From the preview clip on Netflix, this movie was always going to be more funny than scary. Every time the “sea vampires” pop up on screen, it is hard to believe the people in special effects finished their work and thought “what a good job we’ve done”. Imagine a trash bag pulled tight across some coat hangers that have been tied together with string and you will get the picture. This is also another one that has since changed its name in what seems like a futile attempt to say “wait, this was supposed to be funny all along, honest!” Sorry guys. I’m not buying it. But thank you never the less for an hilarious night of unrealistic character development (they get over the death of their father extraordinarily quickly), sea gold, and the most amazingly rubbish CGI I have seen in years.
03- Leprechaun (1993)
Now, Warwick Davies is somewhat of a legend, I will grant him that. But the problem with this movie is that a leprechaun, no matter how much you sharpen its teeth and give it a creepy voice, will never ever ever be scary. Add in the fact that you have an adorable pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston, it is incredibly hard to take seriously. Now it does technically bill itself as a comedy but it does very little to distinguish itself from the movies on this list that are accidentally comical. That said, the world would be a sadder place without lines like “burn in hell you little green bastard”. Other top moments in Leprechaun include Jennifer Aniston’s enormous red brick-phone and a pogo-stick related death.
04- House of the Dead (2003)
Horror movies based on video games is not unchartered territory. And it’s sometimes pretty good. But, right from the start of House of the Dead, the overly ominous voice-over lets you know that you’re in for a comedy treat. It also allows the film happily to avoid any character development, as each character’s backstory is described as succinctly and briefly as possible. This film leaves me with many questions: Why did Salish not last longer? Why the weird techno-ish soundtrack? Wait. Where did the weird techno go? Why does the original arcade game keep flashing up? What’s with those scene transitions? Was this movie made on PowerPoint? They also fall into a horror cliche every few minutes, bless them, but you know what? That’s ok and, in some ways, oddly comforting. It almost has the narrative of a simple video game and, since that was its inspiration, who am I to judge it? Just sit back, switch off your brain, and enjoy the gory, zombie-filled ride.
No shock. No terror. No tangible plot. No actual birds… Everything about this movie is terrible. The acting, the camera work, the really poorly edited audio (as if they thought about editing it but then fell asleep?). That said, it is so shockingly awful (oh there’s the shock), so unbearably slow, so all-round surreal, that it comes all the way back round again from “dreadful, past “Oscar-worthy”, past “just good”, and lands on “weird but let’s go with it for the hell of it”. Watching this movie by yourself would be very tiresome but, with a large, loud group of friends, pointing out the hilarious flaws and drowning out the weird sound editing, it’s pretty great.
This franchise, like most memorable horror franchises, starts off pretty legit, without taking itself too seriously. However, by the time we reach Evil Dead 2, any sense of horror is replaced by the top notch physical comedy of Bruce Campbell – for example his Tom and Jerry style fight with his own possessed hand; he literally sets a mousetrap for it. This is also the film where Ash acquires his “groovy” trademark chainsaw. Of course we can’t forget about poor Linda, Ash’s girlfriend. First of all, the emotional ease with which he buries her after decapitating her probably takes away a lot of the tension, along with her disturbing (but mostly hilarious, depending on how much you’ve had to drink) stop motion corpse dance. Secondly, regarding the scene where her headless corpse accidentally chainsaws itself, I’d say you really couldn’t make this stuff up, but evidentially you can.
These horror villains, much like their respective franchises just. Won’t. Die. And we love it. Also, the fact that this film even exists is testament to the powerful will of horror fans everywhere; we all wanted to see that final showdown. We have to wait almost almost an hour finally to see it but it is entirely worth it. Objectively, this is probably not exactly what you would call a “good” film, but it fills the “guilty pleasure” niche so well and it’s off the charts on the nostalgia scale. There has always been something naive and hapless about Jason Voorhees so, for him to be manipulated by Freddy, it actually makes a lot of sense and, I have to say, the death scenes are as creative as ever. It’s also got a lot of unapologetically cliche touches: multiple boob shots, the classic oblivious cop, bright red blood, strange first movie goat reference…
When we’ve had seven Freddy films and ten Jason films, it’s impossible to find this one scary. Does that matter? I certainly don’t think so.
08- The Blob (1958)
Let me be clear, I love this movie. It is an absolute classic and deserves its place in horror history. From the perspective of a 2018 viewer, however, it is hard to argue that it has aged well. The blob itself looks like delicious strawberry jam and I get the feeling that all you’d need to defeat it would be a knife, two slices of bread and some peanut butter. But the most hilarious and strangely compelling thing about this film is 28 year old Steve McQueen, playing a teenager and looking around about 40. There are various points throughout the film where police refer to him as a “good kid” and all I can think is that, surely, he’s got to be up for work in the morning so that he can pay his mortgage on the new house he just bought with his wife and children.
09- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is probably one of my favourite movie franchises of all time. The first one, while tongue-in-cheek, is actually really disturbing in some of the dream sequences but, as the films go on through the 80s and into the 90s, they become much more about Freddy’s punning rather than trying to get a scare out of us. With that in mind, it’s tricky to pick just one instalment as they are all pretty hilarious, but I feel Dream Warriors is where Freddy really started to stretch his legs with his puns that we all know and love, with classics such as “What’s wrong Joey? Feeling tongue-tied?” And, my personal favourite, “welcome to prime-time, bitch.” There may have been slightly scary parts to this film but I sure as hell can’t remember any, as they are all entirely overshadowed by Freddy’s terrible, yet utterly fabulous, one-liners.
10- Troll 2 (1990)
Troll 2 is probably down there with the worst movies ever made and, on some level, the creators must have been aware of this, not believing it to have enough clout on its own and letting it appear from the title to be a sequel to the 1986 movie Troll. This was a particularly strange move considering there are absolutely no trolls in the film… Awkward acting, terrible production in general, a multitude of continuity errors and, of course (though it is hard to single out just one hilarious scene), the wonderfully bizarre popcorn scene, make what should be a true waste of 95 minutes actually very funny. Unfortunately, it is funny for all the wrong reasons, but thankfully, as viewers, that is not really our problem.
There are a few other films that I deliberated over for this list, for example Jason X (2001). For me, however, it sadly crossed the line into the aforementioned “truly awful” category, after I fell asleep while watching it. Either way, there is an absolute plethora of unintentional hilarity out there just waiting for you to discover and no doubt there is yet more to come. In fact, if you’re reading this late at night, and you are very very quiet and listen as carefully as you can… you might just be able to hear the snores of a failing film-maker… And, as he slumbers, inspiration comes to him in the form of a dream… Leprechaun 8…….