This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
Shaun of the Dead turned 15 this year.
We know. It hurts. We’re super old and it’s a problem. Kids who were born the day Shaun came out are in high school. They’ve hit puberty. They’re feeling weird feelings about each other that they can’t explain. Their parents are probably starting to piss them off. Their parents who are probably us. We could be the parents of Shaun of the Dead-aged kids and in a few years these fictional children will finally go off to university and maybe we can finally get some goddamn peace and quiet around here.
Okay, now for the good news: people that grew up watching all those same 80s horror-comedies we grew up with – stuff like An American Werewolf in London, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Class Of Nuke ‘Em High, and The Lost Boys – are all super old, just like us. Old enough to join Edgar Wright in making their own horror-comedies; and they are! It’s happening. We’ve had a bumper crop over the last decade or so.
Some of the following you’ve maybe seen, some you maybe haven’t, and some you could’ve seen, hated and now feel a bit narked that we’re crowing over them. Either way, please add any you think might be missing in the comments so we can all seek them out.
Anna And The Apocalypse (2018)
In the spirit of the aging Shaun Of The Dead comes Anna And The Apocalypse, a homegrown UK horror-comedy bursting with delightful imagery and ideas. In the film, Anna (Ella Hunt) is trying to decide how her future will play out – stick around and attend university here, or try her luck in Australia, against her father’s wishes. The future, however, becomes intangible fairly quickly, as a zombie apocalypse is on the horizon.
Featuring musical numbers, homages aplenty and a twisted turn from Paul Kaye as a near-demonic headmaster, Anna And The Apocalypse has got it all.
Low-budget New Zealand horror-com Housebound is exactly the kind of film we love. It starts off as a standard haunted house movie, before abruptly pulling the rug out from under you and turning into something entirely different.
The main character, Kylie, is a screw up. Despite a lovely, quiet upbringing, she’s determined to break as many rules as possible when she heads off into the real world, but she soon finds herself back in her childhood home with her timid mum and dad, put under house detention by the courts. The house, however, is a little different than she remembers – way spookier and definitely a lot more confusing.
The laughs and scares keep coming in equal measure as Kylie, who is a refreshingly flawed female character (hard as nails and sympathetic, but also massively unpleasant) picks apart the history of the house and investigates the mounting incidents inside it, with truly unexpected results.
Detention is a mess. A big, gooey hot mess of time travel, horror tropes and apocalyptic fantasy and it’s both very easy and very hard to love all at once.
The film’s use of fast-moving action and pop culture references is all very deliberate – that type of thing was huge in the late 90s, where some of the film is set and where a lot of the film finds its jokes in the present.
It’s pretty hard to nail down the plot, but a masked killer called Cinderhella is knocking people off at Grizzly Lake High School and it’s up to our sardonic heroine, the Daria-esque Riley, to get to the bottom of where – or when – the killer is hiding, as the film jumps precariously from genre to genre, practically daring you to keep up.
This is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie. If you love it, you’ll really, really love it and even if you hate it, you may still have to admit that it takes some absolutely huge narrative chances – something we rarely see these days.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
New Zealand made two straight home runs in 2014 with Housebound and What We Do in the Shadows, the mockumentary establishing what vampires might get up to if they had to share a house in modern and rather mundane circumstances – but what else could be a bigger treat than a horror-comedy from Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement? Jemaine says he grew up living for this genre and you can feel it throughout, with much irreverence clear from the opening scene.
Rhys Darby nearly steals the whole show with his turn as the leader of an antagonistic and hapless band of local werewolves. When he admonishes his cursing pack with the iconic line “we’re WEREWOLVES, not SWEARWOLVES” it’s time to stick a fork in us, because we’re absolutely done.
Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil (2010)
An inevitable comedy of errors ensues when sweet but broke-ass Tucker (Whedon-favourite Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Reaper’s Tyler Labine) retire to their recently-acquired holiday cabin in the woods to do some drinkin’ and fishin’, only to be mistaken for typically-crazy Texas Chainsaw hillbillies by a group of visiting teens.
As the bodies pile up, the laughs get bigger and the stereotypes get battered more than the hapless kids – solidifying Tucker and Dale’s place in the genre as atypical characters in the wrong bloody place at the very wrong bloody time.
The film has grown from basically nothing into a cult classic, so if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, now’s as good a time as any.
Happy Death Day (2017)
Blumhouse took a swing at a horror-themed Groundhog Day for this low budget gamble, and it paid off. Handsomely. Jessica Rothe stars as mildly unpleasant sorority girl Tree, who meets her maker in the form of a masked killer. Plot sound a little too familiar? Wait until you’ve seen it 30 times in a row, as Tree is killed again and again, until she can stop her killer from winning, and maybe wake up to live a different day.
Dead Snow (2009) & Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead (2014)
We can’t not put the original Dead Snow and its sequel together here, as they add up to one glorious gore-splattered cornucopia of Norwegian madness.
The first film keeps the location small, as a group of skiers head off to the mountains to hang out and catch up while surfing some serious white stuff. Unfortunately, a group of long-dead but reanimated Nazi soldiers are out to spoil the fun and soon the blood is hitting the ice faster than you (or the tag line) can say “Ein! Zwei! Die!”
The second film then starts off where the first left off, with survivor Martin now sporting a transplanted (and increasingly violent) Nazi arm. It’s not long before he goes Full Statham around the quiet villages of Norway, chased by original villain Herzog – who wants his bloody arm back, jetzt.
Where the first film kept the story and action to a minimum, the sequel goes pretty balls-out, and Silicon Valley’s Martin Starr and friends are along for the ride, too. Tropes are all but destroyed, gallons of blood are spilled and the laughs are bigger than ever.
Watching the two back-to-back is thoroughly recommended. Dead Snow 3, please?
The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
What is there to say about The Cabin In The Woods that hasn’t already been said? Cabin ‘broke’ horror movies in a way that Scream never quite managed.
The film drop a group of teens who look as if they’re grazing 30 into a traditionally spooky, Evil Dead-esque cabin setting which is actually, from the outset, completely controlled by a tired-looking and vaguely dishevelled pair of middle management bods, deftly played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.
Will the group’s faux-stereotypical characters die quietly, or will they screw the system from the inside? Well, when Joss Whedon is helping to hammer out the story on his keyboard, you know it’s going to be pretty fun finding out.
There’s a very subversive undertone to the film – horror movies have a formula (a well-worn one) and one that might well need to die. At once a love letter and a middle finger to the genre, it ends with a giant ‘fuck you’ which divided audiences right down the middle. Personally we loved it.
The fact that Cabin in the Woods sat on a shelf for years before it got released is still a terrible shame.
A film that went from being regarded by the populace as “lovable” to “trying too hard” faster than we’ve seen any other film subjected to that screeching critical gear shift in recent times, Zombieland still deserves our respect for putting the zombie road movie back on its feet and giving the world the ultimate Bill Murray cameo, all while Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg filter through the capitalist wasteland for love and Twinkies.
Would shows like Last Man on Earth and The Walking Dead be blooming as freshly without the success of Zombieland in their rear-view mirrors? It’s hard to say, but it’s debatable.
This Is The End (2013)
A ton of people hated This Is The End and we absolutely understand why. If you’re not a fan of the group in play, it’s probably going to annoy you more than delight you. Seeing Seth Rogen et al trapped in James Franco’s ‘art’-filled Hollywood home during the apocalypse as supplies run low and tempers run high isn’t going to be for everyone, but we roared all the way through to the Channing Tat-yum-slathered final act and although objectively the whole thing could’ve done with a little less Danny McBride, he serves as a decent terrible friend and antagonist to the lads.
Any film where people scream as they kick around a decapitated head like a football has gotta be a default horror-com for the collection.
Released in March 2006, James Gunn’s incredibly enjoyable homage to the creature invasion, body horror, and snatcher genre is so much funnier than it could have been. Half of that is the casting; Nathan Fillion is near-perfect as Bill Pardy, the police chief forced to take control in the midst of absolute chaos as slug-like creatures infect local residents, and Michael Rooker is fantastically bonkers as the angry husband of Pardy’s ‘one that got away’ Elizabeth Banks.
The other half is Gunn’s own Troma background and knowledge, which is utilised to full effect throughout – he knows what works and he makes it look very easy.
Get Out (2017)
By now, most people have seen Jordan Peele‘s little $4.5 million film that turned into a $255 million hit, but if you’ve not had chance to watch Get Out yet, you absolutely should. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous about meeing his white girlfriend’s parents when they take a trip to their wealthy estate, but he has every reason to be. No spoilers here, just watch it and see what all the fuss is about. You’re likely to be glad you did.
The only way to live long enough to see the dawn on the Irish island of Aran is to get absolutely blind drunk in Jon Wright’s alien invasion flick. These particular aliens just can’t abide alcohol and it’s all a wonderful excuse to see the cast bumbling around, desperately trying to keep it together and be heroic while also being really, really crap. The tagline, “take your best shot”, is so good that it almost outweighs the sheer fun of the whole thing, but luckily not quite.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Two girls are on a night out. One is reluctant, one is eager. Jennifer – the eager one – is suddenly kidnapped by an emo band and sacrificed to the Devil, but she comes back possessed by a demon. As her movie star good looks start to crumble, she realises she must feast on the blood of men to stay pretty.
Karyn Kusama’s feminist tale was released in the midst of a Diablo Cody backlash, and its star – the very slightly off-kilter Megan Fox – was also being largely maligned for her part in the first few Transformers movies. She was merely “a face” or “a body” or “a terrible actress” and starring as a bitchy, sexy cheerleader in this wasn’t ever going to sway those opinions, which is why it’s taken a while to be considered a standout entry in the genre.
Cody had also gone from Juno-worship to a kinda ‘ugh, I’m sick of the way she writes, no one talks like that except her’ that other writers like Aaron Sorkin have similarly suffered, but without the same level of forgiveness.
The film is well directed and has a fantastic color palette, and the relationship between Jennifer and her best friend, played by Amanda Seyfried, seems to genuinely go through the wringer while maintaining its heart and confusing sexual undertones.
It’s really nice to see more and more love being shown for Jennifer’s Body as time goes on and the snarling starts to fade. It’s well-deserved.
Piranha 3D (2010)
You know the score: man-eating fish are swarming on Lake Victoria and it’s up to well-meaning teen Jake Forester to save not only the day and his girl, but also Jerry O’Connell’s penis – all while dodging those CGI razor-jawed snaps.
This film is so much better and funnier than it has any right to be and nothing proves that more than its woeful sequel, where all the bad storytelling and directing choices were made. French director Alexandre Aja has terrific fun with a higher budget and here we all get to enjoy politically incorrect shenanigans virtually guilt-free.
John Dies At The End (2012)
David Wong’s “unfilmable” book gets a decent, albeit cherry-picked, treatment from Phantasm powerhouse Don Coscarelli as two dropouts discover a new drug called Soy Sauce and have to use its mind-bending effects to save the world from unseen monsters.
The film has its problems: its vision way outstrips its budget and sometimes the cracks start to show, never more than in the final act where the CG gets a bit ropey and the bizarre plot begins to unravel.
But despite that, there’s enough here to make it well worth a few hours of your life and we’ve come back to re-watch it time and again since its release. That’s mostly down to its overspill of ideas, jokes and visual highlights, as well as a grounding performance from Paul Giamatti, who acts as our story anchor throughout the sheer madness of it all.
Planet Terror (2007)
Robert Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse experiment is an absolute fairground ride of overblown action, gore and nudity – exactly what we want from our grindhouse, frankly. While Death Proof looked great, it was kind of underwhelming. Rodriguez is the one who really stepped on the gas in this double bill and it shows in every scene, resulting in a truly exceptional tribute to the genre while simultaneously carving out its only unique place in our hearts.
There ain’t nothin’ like it, but we suppose our fondness for the film may have a liiiiittle something to do with the references it tips to some of our favorite horror movies–like Nightmare City, Zombie Flesh Eaters, and From Beyond.
Even without that stuff, it’s pretty solid and very funny, too.
Ben Wheatley’s killer holiday caper is as dark as the bottom of a caravan toilet bucket, but that doesn’t stop it being an instant classic.
We’re almost in Ken Loachian territory here as we watch Chris and his girlfriend Tina go from one murder to another along the British countryside, working up to a confrontation that may leave one or both of them dead or in prison forever.
The fact that the film manages to be funny is often thanks to Wheatley’s gentle touch. You never feel him behind the camera and it’s as unnerving here as it is in his preceding film, 2011’s Kill List.
If you like your horror-comedies pitch black, this is one to go for.
The Innkeepers (2011)
After pleading with the studio to take his name off the not-very-good Cabin Fever 2, Innkeepers was Ti West’s worthy follow-up to 2009’s sublime House Of The Devil.
He’s in altogether different territory here and not invoking any particular past age of cinema, but the story of two people working behind the desk at an unassuming and not-at-all-scary (or is it?) Connecticut hotel on its last legs is lodged firmly on the capable shoulders of actors Sara Paxton and Pat Healy; their relationship and bored work banter is 100% believable and the laughs that are harvested from it are what make the fairly generic scares work.
Sadly, West was unable to keep up his streak with 2013’s The Sacrament, but he’s always going to be one to watch.
Dance of The Dead (2008)
Gregg Bishop has only directed one feature film since this Dazed & Confused-ish prom night zombie caper and that’s a damned shame. The low-budget hijinks are carried along by such a wave of good will and obvious joy throughout that it would be great to see him whip up even more batches of bloody cookies for us. Until then, this film remains a gory prom queen frozen in time for us all to throw glitter at and clap encouragingly.
Recommended Saturday night viewing.
Night of the Living Deb (2015)
When our Deb takes a shine to barely-concealed ‘Blane from Pretty In Pink’ knockoff Ryan despite his girlfriend’s presence in her local boozy haunt, the two unexpectedly end up spending the night together. He can’t wait to get rid of her in the morning, but unfortunately a gathering zombie horde has other ideas…
Night of The Living Deb is certainly a curious piece. It’s more comedy than horror, with the zombie element playing second fiddle to the laughs and romance, rather than being symbiotic.
And Deb is a mess. A girl who thinks she’s funnier than she actually is, who cannot dress herself for love nor money and who is still picking up guys in bars with a wingwoman while wearing the most cringeworthy of scrunchies. She’s just perfect, and played so well by Maria Thayer, best known for underrated early-00s TV show Strangers With Candy.
Despite its messy parts and often seemingly directionless humour, what we end up with is a fundamentally enjoyable 90-minute meet-cute that builds realistically and sensitively along the way. Maybe Ryan’s not perfect, maybe Deb’s more perfect than she thinks she is, but they’re definitely both highly edible.
The Visit (2015)
If nothing else, sticking to the very simple plot of The Visit – where two children visit their estranged, increasingly crazed grandparents – must have brought a sense of relief to Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyalaman as he finally nailed that third act again. Hard.
Your ability to enjoy the ride might depend on how you feel about found footage horror movies, but he captured that rare thing here: an increasingly unsettling atmosphere that builds to a genuinely disturbing conclusion.
The Engle family kinda hate each other, so when mythical monster Krampus pulls up ready to punish those poor souls who have lost their Christmas spirit, these guys are easy pickings. Toni Collette and Adam Scott try to hold things together as the assault threatens to make this yuletide period the Engle family’s last. Doesn’t sound that funny, but director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘R Treat) knows what he’s doing here, bringing in a menagerie of ludicrous demonic toys and elves to seal the deal, and dishing out a lot more laughs than you’d expect.
Half classic exploitation horror, half biting satire on the puritanical nature of America’s approach to sex education, Teeth lands an absolutely cracking punch in the face to anyone expecting “that movie where her vagina has teeth lol.”
The material and concept are approached sensitively (until they aren’t) and we get to watch timid Dawn go from her first horrible sexual experience to her final acts of revenge one by one with an almost ethereal aura. But in terms of expectations, Teeth is a biter and may disappoint those who are expecting a less delicate outing for their vagina dentata.
For the patient cinemagoer, it’s wrapped in plenty of layers.