Under-appreciated horror comedies everyone needs to watch

Horror and comedy are two genres that have always been linked, perhaps because the success of both is often judged on the visceral reaction they create in their viewers—terror and laughter, respectively. Horror comedies have been common in film at least since 1935's Bride of Frankenstein. But we're assuming if you're reading this list, you already know about all the most beloved entries in the genre, from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to Scream to Shaun of the Dead. This list digs a little deeper to exhume 13 hilarious, frightening, and frightfully hilarious movies you may not have seen yet—and all of which are well worth your time.

​Life After Beth

Despite starring the always amazing Aubrey Plaza, 2014's Life After Beth never got all that much buzz. As the title character, Plaza dies from a snakebite and comes back as a zombie—but she doesn't know she's a zombie, and neither does her boyfriend Zach, played by Dane DeHaan. They're just happy they can continue their teenage love story. Beth's parents (Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly) seem to know something weird is going on, but they're grateful to have their little girl back and don't want to dig into it too deeply. But as Beth's condition gradually deteriorates into the usual rotting, groaning, and cannibalism, it becomes clear that being undead might be a fate worse than death. By that point, other zombies are popping up as well, and Zach has to accept that happily ever after probably isn't in the cards. Life After Beth certainly isn't the only zombie romantic comedy (it's a whole subgenre these days), but it's a particularly strong one thanks to its cast, and definitely worth checking out.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

A group of college kids from the city go camping in the woods, with plans to drink, do drugs, and have sex. You can usually guess where this familiar setup is going, but not in 2010's Tucker and Dale vs Evil. Sure, there are two dangerous-looking hillbillies in a very creepy cabin nearby, but they're actually pretty nice guys, and all those dangerous-looking tools they're carrying are for fixing the place up. But a series of misunderstandings and no small amount of class prejudice make the college kids think the hillbillies are out to kill them, and when they start carelessly killing themselves in a poor attempt at self defense, the situation quickly escalates to ridiculous proportions. It also turns out that there's a violent sociopathic killer in the woods, but it isn't who you expect. Tucker and Dale vs Evil has no shortage of gore, but it also has some great laughs and a romantic subplot that works surprisingly well.

Hausu

You've never seen anything like Hausu. This 1977 Japanese film follows a group of Japanese schoolgirls, each of whom are nicknamed for their single defining trait—Gorgeous is the prettiest, Fantasy is the dreamer, Kung Fu is the fighter, and so on. The girls travel to Gorgeous's aunt's house in the country, where it becomes clear that a supernatural evil has permeated the place, and Auntie, her cat, and the house itself may all be demons. 

The movie has a surreal, dreamlike quality from the beginning, but once they get to the house it goes completely nuts. A severed head flies out of a well and bites a girl on the butt. Another girl is literally eaten by a grand piano. A man gets turned into a pile of bananas. And that's not even the half of it. None of the special effects look real, but so many amazing and bizarre things happen in such rapid succession that it won't even bother you. This is one of those films you want to watch with a group of friends, because reacting to its weirdness together is half the fun.

Society

Satires of the lifestyles of the wealthy were a common theme in the 1980s, but no other movie takes it in quite the same direction as 1989's Society. Protagonist Bill Whitney has never felt like he belongs in the world of the super-wealthy where he was raised. His sister and parents seem quite at home in high society, but Bill just doesn't fit in. Then a series of strange events lead Bill to think that his family is a part of some sort of incestuous, orgiastic cult—which turns out to be basically true, except that they and all the other rich people in town aren't just cultists, they're bizarre inhuman creatures who can stretch and contort their bodies, fuse their flesh with each other's, and who consume regular humans in a freakish ritual called the Shunting. The special effects in those scenes, created by the iconoclastic Screaming Mad George, are like nothing you've ever seen. Society is a very weird, very entertaining movie, but don't watch it while you're eating.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Gremlins is a great horror comedy, but it's hardly under-appreciated. Its 1990 sequel, on the other hand, is often dismissed as too silly, too over-the-top, and too outright ridiculous. But it's that ridiculousness that actually makes it tons of fun to watch. Whereas Gremlins takes place in a tiny town straight out of the past, Gremlins 2: The New Batch unfolds in an absurdly high-tech skyscraper that represents a very specific idea of what the future might hold. And whereas most of the gremlins in the first movie were an indistinguishable mass of chaos, the sequel features a bat-winged gremlin, a spider-legged gremlin, a gremlin made of electricity, and even a highly intelligent gremlin who speaks in Tony Randall's voice. If you watched the original but skipped The New Batch, it's time to correct that mistake.

​Return of the Living Dead

1985's The Return of the Living Dead has long been considered a cult classic, but it doesn't come up in conversations nearly as often as it did in the decade following its release. This unofficial sequel to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead pushes its zombie narrative to absurd lengths while playing it totally straight, as all the best comedies do. One of the zombies from the original incident that supposedly inspired Romero's film has been kept in the basement of a medical supply company, and two employees accidentally release it along with a gas that spreads the zombie virus. Meanwhile, a group of nihilistic '80s punk rockers are hanging out in the nearby cemetery, where the dead begin to rise once more. Soon the whole place is crawling with zombies trying to eat the brains of the living, and it's up to a Dr. Strangelove-esque government to figure out what to do about the problem.

Patchwork

Patchwork, a little-seen indie from 2015, is a totally unique take on the Frankenstein idea. It starts with three women who each have a particularly bad night out at a club, and each end up dead. But a mad scientist working for a shady company stitches the three together to create a single being. This female Frankenstein monster has parts of each woman's brain, which leads to internal scenes where the three very different women try to figure out what to do about their situation. Almost inevitably, the patchwork woman takes violent revenge on people who have wronged all her component parts, which leads to a massacre at a frat house, among other things. The situation escalates as a return to anyone's normal life becomes increasingly out of reach, but the ending isn't as dark as you might expect. Definitely a movie to check out, particularly if you're interested in female-centered horror.

Bubba Ho-Tep

Horror legend Don Coscarelli always had a unique take on the genre, as any Phantasm fan knows, but his 2002 film Bubba Ho-Tep is truly unlike anything else. The title character is a cowboy mummy who's menacing an old folks' home where one of the residents is none other than Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell), who's reached old age after switching places with an impersonator decades earlier. To stop this supernatural menace, Elvis will have to team up with Jack (Ossie Davis), an elderly black man who believes himself to be John F. Kennedy (and in the world of this movie, that may even be true). Bubba Ho-Tep is a surprisingly touching movie about growing old and accepting your mortality, but it's also a movie where JFK and Elvis fight a cowboy mummy, and that's every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.

Slither

Eight years before he took the helm of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, writer/director James Gunn made his feature debut with the 2006 horror comedy Slither. Drawing inspiration from a wide variety of sci-fi horror films, it's set in a small town that's invaded by space slugs that take over people's bodies and turn them into zombies. With a cast that includes Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion, and Michael Rooker, this is a movie that never stops moving at full speed, combining verbal comedy, action, and over-the-top gross-out effects that owe a little something to the previously discussed Society. Anyone who's comfortable with gore, and especially those who enjoy the Guardians of the Galaxy films, should absolutely give this one a look.

​The Stuff

1985's The Stuff has an inarguably unique horror premise: what if a wildly popular and delicious new dessert on the market was evil? Nobody knows what the Stuff is, but everybody wants to eat it. Well, almost everyone—but not young Jason, who thinks it's gross and swears he once saw it move on its own. When his family loses interest in everything except eating more Stuff, Jason teams up with a former FBI agent to investigate what it is and where it comes from. 

The Stuff turns out to be an unknown substance, mined from deep within the Earth, that causes those who eat it to become mindless zombies. Now it's up to Jason and his partner to stop it before it takes over the world. The Stuff is very 1980s in both its aesthetics and its consumerist satire, but it's still a fun movie to watch when you're looking for scares you can't take too seriously.

Rockula

Rockula, a mostly forgotten indie release from 1990, isn't just a horror comedy, it's a horror comedy musical—and even within that category, it's a pretty weird movie. 

Ralph is a vampire who's lived for hundreds of yeasr. In the 17th century, he fell in love with a woman and failed to save her life when she was killed by a pirate with a rhinestone peg leg who used a ham bone as a weapon. Ever since, Ralph's been cursed to watch her be reincarnated every 22 years, only to again be murdered on Halloween night, and every time it's by a ham bone-wielding pirate with a rhinestone peg leg. But this time he's determined to stop it, and since his love's current incarnation is a rock star, he has to become one too in order to be positioned to save her. 

Sure enough, the pirate comes on Halloween (played by Thomas Dolby, of all people) and only the twin powers of love and rock can stop him. In addition to Dolby, the cast features musicians and cult figures including Toni Basil, Bo Diddley, and Susan Tyrell. You couldn't exactly call Rockula good, but it's certainly weird enough to be worth watching even if it's bad.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)​​​

Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi co-directed and starred in 2014's What We Do in the Shadows, which takes the mockumentary format popularized by Christopher Guest and The Office and applies it to vampires, to delightful effect. The fictional documentary follows Viago, Deacon, Vladislav, and Petyr, three New Zealand housemates who happen to be immortal vampires. Each of them carries the values and habits of the eras in which they were born into their current undead existences, which leads to conflicts—both among them and with the modern world. When they make new friends and create new vampires, their day to day existences grow ever more complicated. Also, they really don't get along with werewolves.

What We Do in the Shadows might be the best new horror comedy of the last five years, and its buzz is bound to grow with the release of the Waititi-directed Thor: Ragnarok. If you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out now, before people start asking you how you've avoided this classic.

The Raven

The Raven, a Roger Corman movie from 1963, doesn't have much in the way of a plot, but its cast is pretty amazing. Corman mainstay Vincent Price is joined by fellow horror legends Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff, along with future legend Jack Nicholson. The movie starts with Edgar Allan Poe's poem, as a retired magician named Dr. Craven (Price) mourns his wife Lenore and finds his study invaded by a talking raven who turns out to be a transformed sorcerer named Bedlo (Lorre), looking for help regaining his human shape. He also reveals that Lenore isn't dead after all—she's at the castle of the evil Scarabus (Karloff). Once the three are united onscreen, they seem to pretty much give up on the rather questionable script in favor of just goofing off together. But if you're a fan of vintage horror, watching this trio do what they do best is a unique delight.