With twelve days left to fully express your love for all things scary without needing to fear anyone beginning to think that you are, the impulse to cram in as many horror film viewings as possible before October 31st could not be more justified. With that being said, while most of us will (understandably) be inclined to reach for the gore-packed, uber-suspenseful, and adrenaline-charged classics that we know are always to die for, those who bravely choose to go for a lighter take on the genre are likely in for a treat. While the heart-pounding thrills of jump scares and summoned evil may be the main attraction for horror fans, recent releases like Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (2022) have proven that the combined power of laughs and screams can rival the supernatural. In celebration of the often unsung virtues of horror comedy, here are six pre-Y2K releases that I promise will have you dying…from laughter.
1. The Invisible Man (1933)
The Invisible Man, based on the H.G. Wells' novel of the same name, is genuinely a genre classic. That said, it also features numerous scenes that are literally just a shirt and pants (only sometimes together) dancing around. The narrative follows Dr. Jack Griffin, a young chemist who secretly invents a drug that allows him to turn himself invisible. However, due to an unforeseen side effect of the drug, Griffin also becomes a megalomaniac who is determined to use his new power to wreak havoc on random townspeople in an effort to take over the world. Between Griffin’s numerous self-aggrandizing rants and the townspeople’s various attempts to deal with him, the whole thing is absolutely stellar.
2. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
This film posits a bold answer to the question, “what if an American tourist became a werewolf in 80’s London?” The film follows two American college students, David and Jack, who are backpacking through rural Britain. However, after a dangerous encounter with what authorities dismiss as an escaped madman, Dave wakes up in a London hospital to find that Jack has been killed and that he now has a mysterious bite. When the next full moon prompts him to transform into a murderous werewolf, all of London is put at risk.
3. Serial Mom (1994)
John Waters’ Serial Mom expertly combines domesticity and murder to an effect that is unashamedly both horrific and comedic. Kathleen Turner kills as suburban housewife Beverly Sutphin — a content and caring mother of two whose unstoppable blood-lust is ignited after accidentally running a teacher over in the school parking lot.
4. Scream (1996)
Wes Craven’s hilariously self-aware Scream brought new life to the world of slasher films by pairing genuine tension and high-stakes with a satirical embrace of the genre’s classic tropes. Following a group of suburban California teenagers who are terrorized by a mysterious, knife-wielding figure in a (now iconic) ghost face mask, this movie completely revitalized its genre by featuring characters that directly acknowledge the ‘rules’ of the slasher genre and mining that for both suspense and comedy.
5. Young Frankenstein (1974)
This Mel Brooks film stars Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a descendant of the original Dr. Victor Frankenstein who learns that he has inherited the family’s Transylvania estate. Upon returning, Dr. Frankenstein meets a descendant of his grandfather’s assistant Igor, and the two team up to begin resuming some of his old experiments. Eventually creating a monster of their own, hijinks ensues as young Dr. Frankenstein attempts to quell its more homicidal tendencies.
6. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
The first of a series of Abbott and Costello horror films made for Universal Pictures, this film not only sees the duo meet Frankenstein’s monster but also Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr.’s the Wolfman. Combining a variety of Universal Pictures’ classic horror characters with the exploits of one of the most popular comedy duos of the time creates a film that might not necessarily inspire bone-chilling dread (unless you fear old special effects) but which is undoubtedly a genre classic.