There’s a couple I know that makes sure I stay fresh on horror movies (they’re the same ones that glued my eyes open to watch Midsommar). Recently, we watched two killer horror-comedies, and, upon seeing the related films section below, I realized there were numerous entries in this sub-genre that I’d neglected to see. Little did I realize that I’d dug my own grave…
–but I’d forgotten how delicate a concoction horror-comedy can be. Picks I thought were going to be a graveyard smash ended up being ghoulish trash. TEN MOVIES LATER, I finally filled the slots for this list, and I recommend you see every one mentioned below because there was quite the vetting process.
In order for a movie to make this list, it had to fit the following:
1.) A release date of 2017 or later
2.) Make me both laugh and shudder throughout its runtime
3.) Make less than $20 million at the box office.
(The third reason is why I didn’t include Happy Death Day, its sequel, or Freaky. All three are fun films, but the picks below could use some more eyeballs.)
Dave Anderson has just gotten out of a toxic relationship (in which he provided most of the toxicity). Out of his band and now out of his apartment, Dave’s moved in with his sister, Tess, and her son, Felix. In order to gain some much-needed goodwill with the sister, Dave agrees to takes Felix to school. There, Dave meets Felix’s teacher, Miss Caroline. Smitten, Dave agrees to chaperone Felix’s trip to the petting zoo… next to a top-secret U.S. facility. As the class reaches the zoo (coincidentally being visited by a children’s show host the same day), the facility next door accidentally lets one of their zombie test subjects out. With the zoo in chaos, Miss Caroline must wrangle her class to safety. Dave’s about to learn just how much he actually signed up for when he agreed to volunteer.
Normally, I’m instantly down for anything Lupita N’yongo is in. I held off on Little Monsters, however, because it reminded me too much of Cooties, the barely mediocre Elijah Wood movie from 2014. Little Monsters proves, then, that a film’s execution trumps its idea every time. Our protagonist is repugnant enough to hit the shock-comedy zone early on in the runtime, but capable enough of change that the audience eventually roots for him. N’yongo shines as a forcefully sunny teacher that’s sharper than everyone gives her credit for, and Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) has a blast playing a morally bankrupt children’s show host.
Far from mindless, Little Monsters keeps it delicate genre hybrid in mind for the entire runtime. Many horror-comedies are only funny in the beginning, then drop that act once the serious events start driving the plot. This film deftly throws out gut-busting one-liners well into the back half of the story and cleverly uses character arc payoffs to keep everyone chuckling even as the horde closes in and the action mounts up. Best of all, it’s just over 90 minutes, so queue this up during a lull in a Halloween party and get ready for your guests to have a blast.
Marrying someone can mean agreeing to become part of that person’s family. Grace feels double the normal pressure in that regard as she agrees to become Alex Le Domas’ bride and member of the ultra-rich Le Domas gaming empire. As (unsettling) tradition, a mysterious box selects a game for Grace to play with the family on her wedding night. Not wanting to seem unkind, Grace acquiests, and the box chooses “Hide and Seek.” Grace goes off to hide while the family gathers weapons with which to execute the newest member upon finding her. You read that right–the mysterious box has determined that Grace should die and that the Le Domas family be the ones to kill her. Impressing her spouse’s family may be killer, but Grace has a few moves up her lace sleeves–and she might just turn the tables.
Unlike the other picks on this list, Ready or Not aims to put a dastardly grin and a knowing chuckle on your face. Rather than shotgun its audience with one-liners, this flick wrings its humor from its satirical look at how the upper crust operates–and how it encourages those hungry for scraps of wealth to behave. Some of the darkest/funniest moments regard the treatment of the Le Domas estate’s staff, all of whom are eager to help their masters find Grace so that the elite will deign to look upon them.
An unexpected yet delightful move by the casting director was to fill out the Le Domas family with deft comedic actors. Andie MacDowell (of Groundhog Day) plays the alternatively soothing and gut-punching matriarch while Adam Brody (of The O.C. and the fabulous Kid Detective) plays the morose brother/best man, ashamed of his family’s craven greed yet too cowardly to rebel.
As the game reaches its climax, Ready or Not lays all its cards on the table, playing a barnburner of a hand that will have you cackling with glee. Sure, you might feel bad for a couple of the losers, but with a movie this winning, you won’t care as the final player takes it all.
John Marshall is deputy of the small town of Snow Hollow, an area policed by officers so incompetent that Marshall has developed alcoholism and anger issues! His father, sheriff Hadley, won’t give up his post, which leads to a business-as-usual attitude at the station. To make matters worse, John can’t police as effectively as he’d like due to his ex-wife’s frigid attitude towards the custody split of his daughter, Jenna. None of that matters, though, to the growing number of mysterious wolf-attack victims. Julia, John’s partner and the only other competent officer in town, believes the local rumors of a “wolf man.” As fear and paranoia in the town grows, John will have to learn when to sink his teeth into something worth fighting for and when to let it go.
Rarely have I seen a film excellently use its comedy to prove a point to the audience. When comedic material tries to persuade, the results are often cringeworthy or preachy. With The Wolf of Snow Hollow, director/star Jim Cummings shows how alcohol can make unbearable things funny. Instead of treating his dad’s illness, his ex’s unfairness, the townspeople’s restlessness, or his coworkers’ laziness as dramatic fodder, John Marshall practically begs audience members to follow him from scene to scene, saying, “Look what I have to deal with! Isn’t this ridiculous?” The system works like a charm, and the audience is fully on John’s side as the wolf continues its uninhibited killing spree.
Then, the good times stop, and John Marshall is only left with pain, hopelessness, and a crippling addiction. The tonal shift rends the audience to the bone, and those watching (along with many of the characters we care about) desperately want Marshall to corral his wits once more. The ending isn’t exactly happy, but it is hopeful, and the mystery identity of the werewolf has an interesting wrinkle. If you’re looking for a horror-comedy with depth and a message, The Wolf of Snow Hollow will feed your tall order.
Rose Dooley is a medium, but she and her prodigious father mainly dealt with small-time hauntings–until a horrible accident killed Mr. Dooley, leaving Rose alone. Now a humble driving instructor, Rose is trying to put the past behind her. That is, until eligible bachelor Martin Martin contacts her for help with his extremely possessed daughter, Sarah. Like, floating off her bed possessed. Little does Rose or Martin know, but American occult ritualist and one-time rock star Christian Winter has need of Sarah’s soul. If he sacrifices the girl, Christian will be a NOW-time rock star and be able to keep the castle that he rents. Faced with actual evil, Rose must collect the necessary tools to stop the ritual, belief in herself being the most important one.
This movie is both silly and cute, never overindulging in either of those moods, balancing the comedic proceedings with spooky dread. Honestly, this film is the lightest of the bunch, with Will Forte playing a villain too goofy to be scary–until we meet his master. While this movie is low on actual scares, it’s far from inconsequential. The ghostly vibes and spooky nature of Rose’s gifts definitely fit in with October fare, but those looking for actual horror will likely leave a little unsatisfied.
On the other hand, I imagine this film will play well with the Hocus Pocus crowd–people who like Halloween, but don’t like being scared. There’s nothing wrong with that mindset, so long as one has those expectations going in. If they do, Extra Ordinary will be so fun, you’ll puke up ectoplasm.
The less you know going into this movie, the better. All I can say is that it begins with a one-shot film about a zombie invasion. During filming, however, ACTUAL zombies attack the set. The director sees this as a way to get more realistic performances out of his actors, so he keeps shooting–to bloody results. Of course, the camera only tells one side of the story. As the movie goes on, a fuller picture of the bloodbath is revealed.
I find myself in a tricky position when talking about this film because so much of both the horror and the comedy come from the sheer surprise of the proceedings. Upon watching the trailer, I thought One Cut of the Dead would be a “so bad it’s good” zombie movie. I was then thoroughly confused when I saw that it had a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, an 86 on Metacritic, and a 7.6/10 on IMDb! Without me spoiling anything, I can confidently say this movie deserves all of that praise and more. It’s a love letter to horror, comedy, and cinema in general. Watch it with your friends and be amazed as this movie comes for your brain with both its zombies AND its wit.
One of the initial selections, The Trip, turned out to be more of a home-invasion thriller. I’ll be reviewing that one in early November. The rest… didn’t survive.
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Obligatory Live-Action Viewing from 2023
Rocky: Yo, Adrian!
Midnight Cowboy: Hey, I’m Walkin’ Here!
Road House: Pain Don’t Hurt…
The Big Sleep: “You’re Cute.” “Gettin’ Cuter Every Minute.”