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The Season of the Witch is upon us. All Hallows’ Eve. The time when death and dismemberment and ghosts and goblins and monsters of all types go mainstream, and every product suddenly grows pumpkin spice crazy. I swear I saw a can of pumpkin spice insect repellant in the supermarket the other day. Or maybe that was just a hallucination.
Another thing we have come to count on during Halloween season is horror movies, of course – but not just the “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” variety. I’m talking about the films that blend scares and laughs in almost equal measure, that simultaneously test our nerves and tickle our funny bone. Fright and mirth can coexist just fine, we’ve come to learn.
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But what are the funniest, most hilarious, most hysterical, most uproarious films that go best during October, even if they don’t necessarily carry a specific Halloween theme? Here are a bunch of our favorites – and by our, of course I mean my. They aren’t presented here in descending order of quality, but if you want to read it that way, it wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.
Note: some of the horror-themed films here were designed to be funny rather than scary, such as “Young Frankenstein” and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Others were meant to be comedically dark or ironic, or darkly ironic. They all qualify because it’s my list and therefore my rules. Your own list may differ. In fact, that’s pretty much a given. And now … on with the list of funny Halloween movies!
“DEATH BECOMES HER”
Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn star in this uproarious 1992 horror fantasy/dark comedy (produced and directed by Robert Zemeckis) as onetime rivals while Bruce Willis is a plastic surgeon turned reconstructive mortician. The lesson here is that even zombies need to keep their shapely appearance – and that all fountain of youth potions aren’t created equal. Won an Oscar for its visual effects.
-“Wrinkled, wrinkled little star, hope they never see the scars.”
-“Do you know what they do to soft, bald, overweight Republicans in prison, Ernest?”
-“Well from now on, I’m going to be the kind of idiot I want to be!”
“SHAUN OF THE DEAD”
Arguably the funniest zombie flick ever made, a 2004 British import starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg plays a sad sack London electronics salesman and Frost his slacker pal who find themselves suddenly enmeshed in the zombie
apocalypse, with Pegg’s character becoming an improbable leader of the resistance. Pegg also co-wrote the clever script.
-“Who died and made you fucking king of the zombies?”
-“Just look at the face. It’s vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who’s lost a bet.”
-“Oh, for God’s sake! He’s got an arm off!”
A vampire comedy from 1985 that stars William Ragsdale as a teenage kid who figures out that the guys who just moved in next-door are a vampire (Chris Sarandon) who keeps killing people and his undead daytime companion (Jonathan Stark). The kid seeks help from an aging actor (Roddy McDowell) who hosts a TV horror movie franchise. Great plot, terrific ‘80s effects and major campiness equals greatness.
-“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently, all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.”
-“Stop, you creature of the night!”
-“He got me, Charley! He bit me! You know what you’re going to have to do now, don’t you? Kill me. Kill me, Charley…before I turn into a vampire, and…give you a hickey!”
“ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES”
The most uproarious of the Addams Family flicks, this one from 1992 – written by the great Paul Rudnick – stars Anjelica Huston (Morticia), Raul Julia (Gomez), Christopher Lloyd (Uncle Fester) and Joan Cusack (as an evil, gold-digging, black widow nanny Debbie) in a tale about love and manipulation. It received an art direction Oscar nomination. Wry and darkly ingenious. Favorite lines:
-“I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just, I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.”
-“You’ll meet someone. Someone very special. Someone who won’t press charges.”
-“I hope that someday you’ll know the indescribable joy of having children, and of paying someone else to raise them.”
In this highly entertaining 1993 Disney supernatural comedy, it’s been some three centuries since a trio of witch sisters (Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy) were executed in Salem for practicing their craft. But they’ve been accidentally brought back to life by a teenage boy (Omri Katz), and now all heck is about to bust loose.
-“You know, I’ve always wanted a child. And now I think I’ll have one on toast.”
-“I’m sorry, Emily, but I had to wait years for a virgin to light a candle.”
-“We must find the book, brew the potion, and suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise. Otherwise, it’s curtains. We evaporate, We cease to exist. Dost thou comprehend?”
The original slasher film in the franchise and still the best from director Wes Craven, 1996’s “Scream” stars Neve Campbell as a teenager who gets terrorized by a homicidal maniac hellbent on revenge. David Arquette and Courteney Cox also star, as does Drew Barrymore briefly before dying. That doesn’t sound particularly amusing, but the snarky, movie-within-a-movie patter of the characters makes for an amusing time in a self-aware horror flick that defined a genre.
-“No, please don’t kill me, Mr. Ghostface,. I want to be in the sequel.”
-“Careful. This is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life, for one last scare.”
-“Billy and his penis don’t deserve you.”
Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci and Eric Idle head up this 1995 ghost story that centers on an afterlife therapist (Pullman) and his daughter (Ricci) who move into a haunted house to exorcise its ghostly residents. They meet the friendly Casper and his three decidedly less affable uncles (Joe Nipote, Joe Aleskey and Brad Garrett), and paranormalcy reigns. Great computer-generated effects, touching storyline, witty script.
-“I feel like Oprah on hiatus.”
-“Scream or sugar?”
-“If I were alive, would you go to the Halloween dance with me?”
An altogether charming Tim Burton 3D stop-motion animation effort from 2012, based on a 1984 short, with an all-star voice cast featuring Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, and Martin Landau. It tells the story of a boy who brings his deceased pitbull back to life through a science experiment, only to have everyone in his town try to do the same thing with their own dead pets. Trademark weirdo stuff from Burton, alternately moving and frightful.
-“Look, I don’t know what you think I know. But I don’t know it.”
-“Back home, everyone is scientist. Even my plumber win Nobel Prize.”
-“I cannot make your heads bigger, but your children’s heads, I can take them and crack them open. This is what I try to do, to get at their brains!”
In this pitch-perfect 1974 horror-satire from Mel Brooks, the great Gene Wilder portrays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“It’s pronounced Fronkensteen!”), who inherits a castle from his crazy grandfather and finds that grandpa was working on a process to reanimate the dead. He hangs out at the castle with a motley collection of characters played by Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, and others. A classic that ages extraordinarily well.
-“Would you mind telling me whose brain I DID put in?”
-“Oh. Where are you going?…Oh, you men are all alike. Seven or eight quick ones and then you’re out with the boys to boast and brag, You better keep your mouth shut! Oh…I think I love him.”
-“But you have to remember that a worm, with very few exceptions, is not a human being.”
“ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN”
A 1948 horror comedy starring the then-massively popular comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello that casts them in the role of baggage clerks; The convoluted plot finds the Wolfman trying to warn the boys that Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) wants his brain to put inside the Frankenstein monster’s head. Lots of madcap mix-ups ensue, naturally, to great comic effect.
-“I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but in half an hour the moon will rise and I’ll turn into a wolf.”
-“Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the Invisible Man.”
-“Why should I hurt my own feelings?”
Keenan Ivory Wayans directed this 2000 horror parody flecked with plenty of lewd/crude humor and disturbing visuals that purposely mines every genre cliche there is, including the fact dumb teenagers are the ones trying to navigate the nightmare. Anna Faris, Carmen Electra, Cheri Oteri and Marlon Wayans are part of the cast in a movie that tosses everything including the kitchen sink into the mix. A literal killer comedy.
-“Watching TV shows doesn’t create psycho killers. Canceling TV shows does.”
-“Don’t worry, Cindy. We’ll pretend this never happened. Like the time we got drunk and went down on each other.”
-“Look, if it’s about the time I puked green slime and masturbated with a crucifix, it was my first keg party, Bobby.” -“Come in, dear. Have a seat. Take off your bra if you like.”
A creepy, supernatural horror film with plenty of darkly comedic overtones, “Child’s Play” is the 1988 movie that launched the Chucky franchise. Here, the evil doll shows up when a single mother (Catherine Hicks) purchases it for her kid, only to find out far too late that said toy
carries the mouth of a sailor and the soul of a serial murderer. Ain’t that always the way? Brad Dourif is the voice of Chucky.
-“Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!”
-“Well John, it’s been fun but I’ve got to go. I have a date with a six-year-old boy, and you have a date with death.”
-“You mean I have to live out the rest of my life in this body? No fucking way.”
Before “The Lord of the Rings” came into his life, Peter Jackson directed this 1996 horror comedy starring Michael J. Fox as a guy who is able to communicate with ghosts following his wife’s death in a car accident. He uses his newfound powers to con people and enrich himself before finally turning back into the good guy he’d always been. Watching Fox’s character hang with the afterlife beings is loads of fun.
-“When a man’s jawbone drops off, it’s time to reassess the situation.”
-“Get back in the goddamn ground you unorganized, grab-asstic gob of teleplasmic shit.”
-“Can you at least give me a ride so I don’t miss my funeral?”
One of the all-time camp classic films, from 1981, starring Faye Dunaway as the ultimate narcissistic, insecure, abusive adoptive mother Joan Crawford and Diana Scarwid as her long-suffering daughter Christina (upon whose memoir the movie is based), While not technically either a horror film or a comedy, it carries enough of both to qualify as a glorious hybrid.
A winner of numerous Golden Raspberry Awards, including five in 1982 (including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Supporting Actress) and, in 1990, Worst Picture of the Decade. Well done, “Mommie Dearest.” Well done, indeed.
-“Don’t fuck with me, fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.”
-“Hollywood royalty! Parted friends…everyone already knows! Box office poison! Box office poison! Class! You’re…class…you’re…class…box office poison! Eighteen years in the business and we parted friends! Creative differences!”
-“NO…WIRE…HANGERS! What’s wire hangers doing in this closet when I told you…no wire hangers EVER! I work and work till I’m half dead, and I hear people saying, ‘She’s getting old.’ What’s wire hangers doing in this closet? Answer me!”
A young man (Zach Galligan) screws up royally after receiving a new pet, violating the rules of care and winding up creating monumental mayhem with mini monsters overrunning his small town in this 1984 horror-com from director Joe Dante. It went on to win five honors at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Awards in 1985, including Best Horror Film.
-“Tell me something, Billy. How come a cute little guy like this can turn into a thousand ugly monsters?”
-“Christmas carolers. I hate Christmas carolers. Screechy-voiced little glue sniffers.”
“So, if your air conditioner goes on the fritz or your washing machine blows up or video recorder conks out, before you call the repairman, turn on all the lights, check all the closets and cupboards, and look under all the beds because you never can tell – there just might be a gremlin in your house.”
The 1984 action-comedy classic from director Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as a trio of parapsychologists forced out of their jobs at Columbia University in New York City who decide to open up a ghost removal service. They wind up biting off somewhat more than they can
chew, with hilarious results. It was nominated for visual effects and music Oscars in ’85 as one of the most entertaining comedies of the 1980s.
-“Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick.”
-“That’s the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there.”
-“I don’t have to take this abuse from you. I’ve got hundreds of people dying to abuse me.”
Another Tim Burton masterpiece, this one from 1988 and starring Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as a couple who recently died but don’t know it. Meanwhile, their house gets sold because they’re, you know, dead, and they try to scare off the new living residents (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara) who bought it. When that doesn’t work, they call in Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) for help. The movie is wacky and grotesque and entirely irresistible.
-“Ah, well, I attended Julliard…I’m a graduate of the Harvard Business School. I travel quite extensively. I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time doing it. I’ve seen ‘The Exorcist’ about 167 times, and it
keeps getting funnier every single time I see it. Not to mention the fact that you’re talking to a dead guy. Now what do you think? Am I qualified?”
-“Go ahead, make my millennium.”
-“I plan to have a stroke from all the MSG that’s in this food.”
The mother of all black comedies, 1988’s “Heathers” is a satire about teen suicide. Of course, if they could make a TV comedy about bumbling Nazis (“Hogan’s Heroes”), anything is possible. The movie won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and it helped make stars of Christian Slater, Winona Ryder, and Shannen Doherty. It’s biting and sick and grisly and outrageous and impossibly dark and hilarious.
-“Well fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Teresa?”
-“If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn’t be a human being. You’d be a game show host.”
-“Dear Diary: My teen angst bullshit now has a body count.”
-“Whether to kill yourself or not is one of the mist important decisions a teenager can make.”
This underrated, spooky, funny 2012 stop-motion animation feature classic from director Tim Burton (this time with the voices of regular collaborator Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman and Burton’s real-life wife Helena Bonham Carter along for the ride) is typically twisted and bizarre – but enchantingly so. Depp plays a guy who escaped into the woods to practice his wedding vows and winds up married to a dead woman (Carter) who thinks he’s addressing her. The ultimate message: death is nothing to fear.
-“Die, die, we all pass away/But don’t wear a frown ‘cause it’s really okay/And you might try and hide/And you might try and pray/But we all end up the remains of the day.”
-“Isn’t the view beautiful? It takes my breath away, Well, it would if I had any.”
-“I’ve got a dwarf, and I’m not afraid to use him.”
“WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS”
Not to be confused with the current FX series of the same name, the 2014 feature starring as well as co-written and co-directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi is a vampire-themed mockumentary with heart and soul (and plenty of laughs). It riotously looks at how three young modern-day vampires (also including Jonathan Brugh) manage their diet of blood along with all the
challenges and inconveniences of life in regular society. Boundless fun. Won Best Comedy at the 2015 Golden Schmoes Awards. Seriously.
-“Yeah, some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then you think, ‘Ooh, those are some nice pants!’”
-“Some people freak out at the age difference. They think, ‘What’s this 96-year-old lady doing with a guy four times her age?’”
-“I go for a look which I call ‘dead but delicious.’”
“ARMY OF DARKNESS”
Sam Raimi co-wrote and directed this low-budget 1992 comedy-horror mashup (the third installment in the “Evil Dead” franchise) that stars Bruce Campbell as a cynical, hyperkinetic hardware store clerk who is transported (along with his car) back to the Middle Ages and a battle with undead soldiers so he can return to the present-day. Fortunately, he’s outfitted with a chainsaw hand. A deliriously engaging piece of business.
-“First you want to kill me, now you want to kiss me. Blow.”
-“Oh you little bastards! All right, I’ll crush each and every last one of ya! I’ll squash you so hard you’ll have to look down to look up!”
-“Keep your damn filthy bones outta my mouth!”
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