Inching towards mediocrity.


Laugh ’til ya die. (Now with 96% funnier beheadings!)

Well.

The wind has begun to chill, the nights have become longer, and the trees have shed the last of their leaves, leaving giant, immobile skeletons behind to tug at your hair and cast disarming shadows throughout the streets, keeping you looking over your shoulder at every wrong turn.

Halloween is nearly upon us.

A holiday based around candy (for the young set), drinking (for the rest of us), and terrifying your friends and neighbors (for everybody), is right up my alley.

To commemorate the upcoming October 31st, I present my top ten favorite horror-comedies, a genre that I am quite fond of. I disregard my usual list of seven because, let’s face it, these movies are too damn good. It was hard enough cutting it off at ten.

Horror and comedy, in my mind at least, go hand in hand. Laughing and screaming cannot be induced artificially. They are impulses that can only be brought on naturally and are thus infinitely more difficult to create.

And I’m not talking about “inadvertently funny” movies. Bad acting, poor special effects, or complete ineptitude of craft (you’ll find no Edward D. Wood here) are not taken into consideration. No, these are ten movies that are funny, and scary, by design, rather than by mistake.

They’ll chill your bones, but they may just warm your heart, too.

Right before ripping it out.

Here’s the first six:

Ten: The Frighteners. (1996)

frightenersAs if traveling through time wasn’t enough, Michael J. Fox decides take on the supernatural as well – with living hobbit Peter Jackson, no less! Partially ignored upon it’s initial release, this remains a personal favorite of mine. Utilizing his ability to see ghosts, along with a trio of friendly ghosts who befriend him, Fox is able to convince people that their houses are haunted, and then get them to hire him to exorcise them – all for fun and profit. Things take a nasty turn for him when an evil spirit hits the scene, continuing a murder spree it had cultivated while still alive, and generally making his life miserable. Fox, as always, is great, but it’s horror icon Jeffrey Coombs who steals the show as creepy and over-the-top FBI agent Milton Dammers. Not a terribly frightening film by any means (despite it’s inexplicable R-rating), The Frighteners nevertheless remains a funny, weird, and mostly lighthearted film – that honestly needs to be seen by more people. Check it out!

Nine: Dead Alive (Brain Dead). (1992)dead alive

Peter Jackson returns to bring us one of the most ridiculous films I’ve ever seen, horror, comedy, or otherwise. Zombies, ass-kicking priests, mutant rat monkeys, and over 300 liters of fake blood collide, creating one of the goriest, most bizarre things I have ever witnessed.

A young man struggles to secure his true love while simultaneously covering up the fact that his rat-monkey infected zombie mother (huh?) has begun killing and infecting the rest of the town they inhabit. It all culminates in an over-the-top, splatterfest climax, that utilizes a lawnmower to it’s ultimate potential.

Strange, slap-sticky, and oddly charming, this movie is certainly a far cry from Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” work, and that’s just fine by me.

Eight: Beetlejuice. (1988)

beetlejuiceTim Burton can be hit or miss at times – mostly “miss” these days, it seems – but “Beetlejuice” is where it’s at. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play a recently deceased couple who return their dream house to find it “haunted” by stuck-up  yuppies (who are very much alive), and desperately try to reclaim what is rightfully theirs – enter Beetlejuice. Despite only being on screen for a total of seventeen minutes, Michael Keaton’s extravagant “bio-exorcist” (he exorcises the living, you see) steals the show, bouyed by the forces of sheer originality as well as Keaton’s tour de force performance. It’s a wonderfully offbeat gem from Burton, and probably his most flat out fun movie to date.

Seven: Return of the Living Dead. (1985)

return of the living dead“Brains! Braaainssss!”

If you’re wondering where that off-repeated phrase first originated, wonder no more. While George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” may have created many of the zombie archetypes that we continue to live by to this day, Dan O’Bannon’s “Return of the Living Dead” took those tropes to town, spoofing them perfectly, while creating a few new ones of his own.

Like the whole “brains” thing.

The film is damn funny, fast paced, and features some truly amazing zombie makeup. The infamous “Tarman” a dripping, decomposing, skeletal apparation may well be the coolest and most original looking zombie ever put on film – both creatively and technically. And the zombies’ growing obsession with eating brains never gets old – and actually gets funnier and more outrageous as the film goes on.

Six: Re-Animator. (1985)

reanimatorThe great Jeffrey Coombs, who made an appearance earlier on this list in “The Frighteners”, returns – this time as Dr. Herbert West in Stuart Gordon’s take on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Re-Animator.” The movie is violent, gory, bizarre, and features equal doses of macabre and lowbrow humor – which alone earns it a spot on this list. But it’s Coombs who centers the film, playing the nerdy scientist bent on re-animating dead tissue. Part Frankenstein, part bizarre drug trip, and all awesome, “Re-Animator” is a film that you trully have to experience…and then wonder what the filmmakers were truly “experiencing” when the made it.

Five: Shaun of the Dead. (2004)

shaun of the deadSimon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright bring us our fifth and final entry for today. “Shaun of the Dead” is a hybrid film – equal parts romantic comedy, horror, drama, and slapstick. It’s as funny as it is tragic, as tragic as it is gruesome, and as gruesome as it is British. And all of those elements add up to one of the most refreshing zombie films I’ve seen in years. Many consider “Shaun” to be a spoof of zombie films; but I disagree. It’s too detailed and original to be a spoof; rather, it’s simply a very unique and very British take on the genre, that allows the occasional (and subtle) reference to films and filmmakers that came before it, but never allows itself to degenerate into downright parody.

And, it also spawned the term “rom-zom-com”, as in “romantic zombie comedy.”

So I guess that’s something too.

Well.

That wraps up the initial six. Tomorrow I shall return with the final four, to round out this spook-tastic list.

And I’m sure you’ll all be happy to know that while I apparently consider “Young Guns” a classic Western, you won’t see “Lost Boys” anywhere near this list.

You’re welcome.

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