Of course you’ve seen Return of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, Deathgasm, Slither, and Tucker & Dale vs Evil, but there are dozens of equally uproarious horror comedies you’ve probably missed. To this day, major studios are nervous about investing serious coinage in support of the subgenre, which is a real shame; horror comedies are an excellent way for genre fans to rope in those who might be too nervous to give a straight-up gore-fest a spin.
To be truly successful, a horror comedy needs to be more disgusting than suspenseful; yes, humor is key, but this doesn’t mean these films lack bite and balls. Indeed, the irreverence of horror comedies often allows for more excessive bloodshed in the name of intentional overkill, containing scenes of mayhem and dismemberment the MPAA would likely banish from more serious offerings.
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Below, in no particular order, are 15 of my favorite underappreciated horror comedies. All of them sport a hard R-rating, or were released directly to DVD and/or VOD, thereby remaining unrated. Have a read and let me know what you think in the Comments section. Did your favorite underrated horror comedy make the list? Let’s discuss!
Chop (2011, Directed by Trent Haaga)
Official Synopsis: Lance Reed is forced by a psychotic stranger to confront his duplicitous past. Seeking retribution for a crime, the man forces Lance to reveal his inner most secrets by systematically removing his limbs.
Chop is a complete upending of torture porn tropes established by the Saw and Hostile films. It’s just as gory, but comedy allows for another path to examining concepts like revenge, repentance, and karma. A seemingly random encounter becomes a descent into dismemberment when one man seeks retribution for past misdeeds. Moral of the story: You can’t escape your past, no matter how fast or far you run.
Botched (2006, Directed by Kit Ryan)
Official Synopsis: During a heist in Russia, a professional thief finds himself dealing with serial killers, insane hostages, double-crossing psycho Russian hardmen and the real possibility of a horrible death.
Before getting a fresh look at Stephen Dorff later this year in Jackals and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel Leatherface, check him out in this underappreciated horror comedy gem from a decade back. Dorff plays Richie, a career criminal looking to leave the con-life behind after one last job. Botched kicks off like a mumble-core heist flick before becoming something altogether more disturbing—and hilarious.
Sightseers (2013, Directed by Ben Wheatley and Benjamin Taylor)
Official Synopsis: Chris wants to show girlfriend Tina his world, but events soon conspire against the couple and their dream caravan holiday takes a very wrong turn.
If you’ve recently seen (and therefore loved) Alice Lowe in Prevenge (a Shudder exclusive), check out her first foray into deadpan horror comedy in Sightseers, a film directed by Ben Wheatley; Lowe actually wrote the script with co-star Steve Oram, who recently knock my socks off playing a tortured occultist in A Dark Song.
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Bubba Ho-Tep (2003, Directed by Don Coscarelli)
Official Synopsis: After falling into a lengthy coma following a freak accident involving hip gyration, a now aged Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) wakes up in an East Texas nursing home, where he befriends Jack (Ossie Davis), an African-American senior who claims to be President John F. Kennedy. After residents of their quiet retirement community start dying of dubiously unnatural causes, Elvis and Jack discover that the perpetrator is Bubba Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy), an Egyptian mummy with murderous intentions.
Best known as the mastermind behind the Phantasm “Phranchise” Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep is a bizarre anomaly—one that’s pretty damn funny to boot. The Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell is nearly unrecognizable as “Elvis” (quotes, because whether or not he actually is the King is suspect); along with “JFK” (played by Ossie Davis), the unlikely duo faces off against a soul-sucking mummy from Ancient Egypt.
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What We Do in the Shadows (2014, Directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement) [Featured Image]
Official Synopsis: Vampire housemates (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh) try to cope with the complexities of modern life and show a newly turned hipster (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) some of the perks of being undead.
A mockumentary that will likely have you rolling on the sofa, What We Do in the Shadows is an indie winner that should not be missed. It’s like a 90-minute episode of The Office, except with vampires and werewolves.
Severance (2007, Directed by Christopher Smith)
Official Synopsis: Members (Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny) of the Palisades Defense Corp. sales group arrive in Europe for a team-building exercise. A fallen tree blocks the route, and they must hike to their destination. However, a psychotic killer lurks in the woods, and he has a horrible fate in mind for each of the co-workers.
Meat pies and bear-traps and hookers, oh my! While Christopher Smith is probably best known to genre fans as the director of Black Death, his workplace-themed horror comedy Severance is a sleeper hit worth digging up. Plenty of cringe-worthy moments will have you groaning out loud, while the clever script and quick pacing will keep you thoroughly entertained throughout. There also some deep subtext on military industrialization and the lingering effects of war in Eastern Europe.
Witching and Bitching (2013, Directed by Álex de la Iglesia)
Official Synopsis: Jewel thieves flee into the Basque forests and are captured by a coven of witches.
Álex de la Iglesia’s follow-up to The Last Circus is about as fun as a horror comedy can be. The only reason you haven’t heard of it is because it’s a Spanish film; it saddens me that so many of my fellow genre-lovers still refuse to check out a film with subtitles. Everything about this movie is great: The script, the acting, the FX—everything. It even includes body actor Javier Botet in a rare speaking role. Bite the bullet, hunker down, and give Witching and Bitching a watch/read ASAP.
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Housebound (2014, Directed by Gerard Johnstone)
Official Synopsis: A would-be thief (Morgana O’Reilly) is remanded to the custody of her estranged mother (Rima Te Wiata), who turns out to be correct in her assertion that evil spirits are afoot in their family domicile.
One of my absolute favorites of 2014 was Housebound out of New Zealand; it’s loaded with black comedy, but it’s also got all the atmosphere and mystery of a straight-up haunted house movie. Perhaps most surprising is family drama that anchors the film and allows viewers to create uncommon bonds with the characters on screen. You could say Housebound has it all, likely to appeal to horror freaks and cinema snobs alike.
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Otis (2008, Directed by Tony Krantz)
Official Synopsis: A man (Daniel Stern) and his wife (Illeana Douglas) seek revenge after their daughter (Ashley Johnson) escapes from the clutches of a serial killer.
Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas are comedy dynamite in this irreverent black comedy from Raw Feed, the straight-to-DVD horror distribution arm of Warner Bros. They play parents who feel ignored by local authorities when their daughter goes missing and decide to take an active role in both her recovery and her vengeance. It’s a gory comedy of errors that never lets up, and could make a perfect double feature with Sean Byrne’s prom-themed shocker The Loved Ones. There’s even an obscure crossover with Raw Feed’s previous release, Sublime.
Teeth (2008, Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein)
Official Synopsis: Dawn (Jess Weixler) is an active member of her high-school chastity club but, when she meets Tobey (Hale Appleman), nature takes its course, and the pair answer the call. They suddenly learn she is a living example of the vagina dentata myth, when the encounter takes a grisly turn.
The infamous scene with a pervy gynecologist pales in comparison to the ultimate length Teeth goes to make anyone with a penis squirm in discomfort. While the premise is literally absurd, the film is presented with all the attention to detail commitment to concept you’d expect from a major studio blockbuster; there’s some stunning cinematography in this horror allegory. As difficult as Teeth can be to watch at times, its more than entertaining enough for multiple viewings.
The Cottage (2008, Directed by Paul Andrew Williams)
Official Synopsis: A botched kidnapping gets even worse when the four perpetrators come across a psychotic man.
Andy Serkis is best known for his roles in motion-capture suites (playing Gollum in Lord of the Rings and Caesar in the rebooted Planet of the Apes Trilogy most famously), he steps out from behind the technology to play in-over-his-head kidnapper David in The Cottage. Not only do he pick a victim who refuses to cooperate (to put it mildly) the whole party gets crashed by a mute psychopath cut from the same cloth as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. This madcap misadventure even includes a cameo from Doug Bradley, the actor most associate with iconic horror villain Pinhead from the Hellraiser films.
Zombeavers (2014, Directed by Jordan Rubin)
Official Synopsis: College friends find their weekend of sex and debauchery ruined when deadly zombie beavers swarm their riverside cabin.
I’ll go to my grave defending this bloody brilliant send-up of both the cabin-in-the-woods and the zombie subgenres of horror. It’s just as raunchy as the title implies, and the animatronic water mammals are deliberately retro, but Zombeavers ultimately delivers high caliber gore and thrills. Just when you think things can’t possibly get more outlandish, they do.
Cheap Thrills (2014, Directed by E. L. Katz)
Official Synopsis: A scheming couple put a struggling family man and his old friend through a series of increasingly twisted dares over the course of an evening at a local bar.
Definitely the darkest entry on this list, Cheap Thrills is both hard to watch and impossible to look away from. It has a deceptively inauspicious premise that makes the its shocking turns extremely impactful. If you enjoyed Ethan Embry in this year’s The Devil’s Candy, his performance in Cheap Thrills will reinforce what a talented thespian he is.
Cooties (2014, Directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion)
Official Synopsis: Elementary-school teachers (Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson) come under attack from children who have been turned into vicious monsters by contaminated chicken nuggets.
How can you go wrong with a zombie apocalypse film set entirely in an elementary school? You can’t. Cooties had a lot of competition from other horror comedies in 2014, which could explain why so many genre fans appear to have missed it. And don’t let the fact that the movie is full of kids fool you; Cooties earns is hard-R, with some scenes that are absolutely nauseating! Oh yeah, it goes there.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, Directed by Christopher B. Landon)
Official Synopsis: What could possibly go wrong when three buddies (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan) decide to join the Boy Scouts? When bloodthirsty, undead ghouls invade their once-peaceful town, it’s up to kindhearted Ben, quick-witted Carter and class clown Augie to save the day. With help from Denise (Sarah Dumont), a beautiful but tough cocktail waitress, the boys must put their scouting skills to the ultimate test to save mankind and earn their zombie-killing badges.
The Monster Squad meets Porky’s in this super raunchy horror comedy with an astonishing amount of heart. If you found the popular zom-com Zombieland to be saccharine and bloated (like I did), this one delivers gore and depravity without unnecessary platitudes and pointless meandering. I mean, who really gives a damn about Twinkies when you could be looking at zombie strippers. Am I wrong?