Shaun Of The Dead is 13 years old.
I know. It hurts. We’re super old and it’s a problem. Kids who were born the day Shaun came out are in secondary school. They’ve probably 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 six years they’ll 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 American Werewolf In London, Killer Klowns, Class Of Nuke ‘Em High and The Lost Boys – are all super old, just like us. Old enough to make their own horror-comedies; and they are! It’s happening. We’ve actually had a bumper crop over the last decade.
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 I’m crowing and glowing over them. Either way, please add any you think might be missing in the comments so we can all seek them out.
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 vacation cabin in the woods to do some drinkin’ and fishin’, only to be mistaken for classically-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 of such wonderful proportions that when I mentioned writing a list of recent great horror-comedies for the site, the editor asked only one question: “will Tucker and Dale be on it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then go for it.”
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 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 balls-out and this time Silicon Valley’s Martin Starr and friends are along for the ride. Tropes are all but destroyed, gallons of blood are spilled and the laughs are bigger and harder 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? If Kim Kardashian’s shiny butt officially ‘broke the internet’ then Cabin ‘broke’ horror movies in a way that Scream never quite managed.
The film plonks 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’s helping to hammer out the story on his keyboard, you know it’s going to be pretty fun finding out.
But there’s also a very subversive undertone to the film that isn’t as easy to spot on a first surface watch, mainly because the consistent laughs are distracting – it’s that horror movies have a formula (a well-worn one) and that we can do better. At once a love letter and a middle finger to the horror genre, it ends with a giant ‘fuck you’ which divided audiences right down the middle. Personally I loved it, and despite Whedon’s admission that Avengers: Age Of Ultron was “all me, it’s so me”, I can’t help but feel that Cabin, with its anarchistic ‘the world is doomed anyway, so let’s fight what the people in charge expect of us and fuck some shit up’ attitude is the most purely ‘me’ I’ve seen him outside of his shows. He and Drew Goddard should hunker down and write something together again sometime, I reckon it’d be pretty good stuff.
Oh, and the fact that Cabin sat on a shelf for two years before it got released is still a goddamn disgrace.
A film that went from being regarded by the populace as ‘lovable’ to ‘try hard’ faster than I’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 at least debatable.
Planet Terror (2007)
Robert Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse experiment is an absolute fairground ride of overblown action, gore and nudity – exactly what I want from my 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 I suppose my fondness for the film may have a liiiiittle something to do with the references it tips to some of my favourite movies – like Nightmare City, Zombie Flesh Eaters and From Beyond.
Even without that stuff, it’s pretty solid stuff and very funny too.
This Is The End (2013)
A ton of people hated This Is The End and I absolutely get it. If you’re not a fan of the group in play, it’s probably going to piss you off 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 I 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.
Thinking that maybe this isn’t a ‘proper’ horror-comedy? 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. I hope he still has a few more of these in him now that he’s Marvel’s newest golden boy.
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 has a 5.1 rating on IMDB and I can understand why. Not only was it released in the midst of a Diablo Cody backlash, 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.
Meanwhile, Cody had gone from Juno-worship to ‘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 they were later awarded.
The film is well directed and has a fantastic colour palette. The relationship between Jennifer and her best friend, played by Amanda Seyfried, seems to genuinely go through the ringer while maintaining its heart and confusing sexual undertones.
It’s really nice to see more and more love being shown for Jennifer’s Bodyas 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 severed 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 the politically incorrect shenanigans virtually guilt-free.