The best horror comedies you haven't seen

Horror and comedy movies have a lot in common. They both require likable actors, novel ideas, and a slow build up to a cathartic emotional release, whether it is through laughing or screaming. It's no surprise then that there are so many incredible horror comedies that combine the best of both worlds, with hilarious bits of dialogue following a gruesome act of violence and vice versa. Still, while you might know some of the classics, like Tremors, Gremlins 2, and Re-Animator, there are plenty of great horror comedies you probably haven't seen.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

The concept of a homicidal hillbilly has been terrifying audiences for decades, from Deliverance to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's easy to see why; it reaffirms city-folk's fear of uneducated, homicidal savages waiting in the outback of America.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil works so well because that hillbilly concept is tipped entirely on its head. Tucker and Dale aren't evil hillbilly monsters, they're just two guys who love fishing and camping out in the woods. Once a group of Friday The 13th-esque horny teenagers camp out in the woods and start accidentally getting themselves killed, the entire movie turns into a delightfully bloody horror comedy farce. The kids believe they're fighting against hillbilly horror, but, in truth, Tucker and Dale are just trying to keep these insane city slickers from killing themselves. It basically turns into a Looney Tunes cartoon with extremely violent consequences, but, through it all, Tucker and Dale's bumbling good nature keeps viewers invested. If you're a fan of the genre and you haven't seen this one, get it in your queue quick.

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

He might be better known these days as the visionary director behind Thor: Ragnarok, but Taiki Waititi's debut movie What We Do In The Shadows is his real masterpiece. This horror comedy mockumentary follows four vampires that live together in an apartment in New Zealand, each representing a different vampire archetype as they argue over dirty dishes (covered in blood), where to go out on the town, and how to deal with nasty break-ups. Part of the fun is seeing how fundamentally human all these immortal creatures really are, but you'll be howling with laughter once they almost get into a street fight with a group of Werewolves who are just trying their hardest.

Even though What We Do In The Shadows is more of a comedy than other movies on this list, the few moments of horror are genuinely unsettling. A giggling chase through the house, as some unwitting guests are torn apart by the vampires, is equal parts funny and horrifying, and the adept genre blend makes this movie a rarer treat than virgin blood is to a couple of fanged fiends.

Housebound (2014)

Another entry from New Zealand (released the same year as What We Do…) is Housebound, a horror comedy about a woman on house arrest after who thinks that her parents' house might be haunted. It's not quite as outwardly comedic as some of the other films on this list, but Housebound has more than earned its place by just being a sharp piece of filmmaking. The characters are fully realized, and the physical comedy of the opening scene is definitely funny. However, it's the movie's deeper themes that really make this flick stand out. The movie is about the main character aging out of her rebellious phase and learning to see her family as people rather than just obstacles to her preferred lifestyle. Its limited release means you likely haven't seen it, but Housebound is easily one of the scariest entries on the list.

Detention (2011)

Detention is a tough sell for a horror comedy. The most familiar faces in the film are Josh Hutcherson (from The Hunger Games) and Dane Cook, neither of whom are huge audience draws. It is a slasher parody with three other genres melded into it at various moments, and it's directed by Joseph Kahn, who is probably best known for directing Taylor Swift music videos and (the underrated) Torque. But genre enthusiasts who haven't seen Detention are missing out on one of the most consistently surprising, clever movies of the last decade.

The cast is extremely likable (even Dane Cook), the script continually upends your expectations, and the movie's climax hinges on Patrick Swayze in a way that makes surprisingly logical sense and has to be seen to be believed. It's a truly innovative movie, as gleefully self-referential as Cabin in the Woods but much more surprising. It might have been skipped over at the theaters, but it's worth going to Detention now.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

What do you get when you combine cult horror icon Bruce Campbell playing an aging Elvis Presley, the visionary direction of Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame, and a script based on an original novella by Western horror maverick Joe Lansdale? A little piece of horror comedy heaven called Bubba Ho-Tep.

For years, the film earned cult status for how difficult it was to find a copy, but these days most anyone can watch this raunchy masterpiece about Elvis Presley teaming up with a man who may or may not be JFK to fight a mummy terrorizing a nursing home. Bruce Campbell is as good as ever playing The King, and watching senior citizens move just barely faster than the mummy that they're fighting is hilarious, but the emotional core of the movie, the way that society casts away its aging citizens, is surprisingly heartfelt. You can't help falling in love with Bubba Ho-Tep.

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Hobo With A Shotgun is a brilliant attempt to bring back the hyperviolent, who-cares-if-it-makes-sense style of classic Troma movies for a new generation, anchored by the not-inconsiderable gravitas of veteran actor Rutger Hauer. The movie follows the eponymous Hobo (played by Hauer) as he moves to a new town ruled by a vicious crime boss and his even worse children.

Does it succeed at re-creating the tone of classic exploitation movies? That's debatable, but what's not debatable is what wild fun the movie is. Part revenge-thriller of a hobo pushed to his limits, part dark fantasy of two immortal assassins (whose past targets seem to include the Easter Bunny, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus) who show up to take said hobo out, the movie's a gory, ridiculous mess — but it's definitely not forgettable. 

It's hard to think of any one scene that epitomizes the movie's ridiculous excess, but The Hobo telling a room full of newborns that they might turn out to be doctors, lawyers, criminals, or hobos intercut with two immortal knights murdering an entire hallway full of doctors might clue viewers into this horror comedy's general style.

Trollhunter (2010)

Like What We Do In The Shadows, Trollhunter is another mockumentary, but this one ends up more on the side of horror than in the comedies genre. The film follows a group of student filmmakers out to investigate a mysterious bear poacher, but what they end up blundering into is a wide-spread conspiracy by the Norwegian government to hush up the existence of giant trolls. The comedy comes from the realistic writing and the grumpy, self-loathing attitude of the eponymous troll hunter, someone who sees himself as a glorified dog catcher, paid too little and given zero respect. Altogether, Trollhunter is a movie with surprisingly deft world-building, excellent characters, and a climax that's genuinely stunning considering the modest budget of $3.5 million. For a movie featuring CGI trolls depicted so incredibly well, you'd think it was a mega-tentpole blockbuster of The Avengers variety (note: it wasn't). If you still haven't seen it, there's no time like the present.

Ravenous (1999)

A war hero is sent off to exile in the western-most reaches of American expansion as punishment for his unspoken crimes; there, he meets all manner of strange bedfellows. That's the central conceit of Ravenous, but that description doesn't hit on the bizarrely upbeat jingle of the score, the stunt casting of Ferris Bueller's Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) as one of the main characters, and the vicious, unsettling critique of capitalism as a constant cannibalistic hunt for survival. The movie's a cult classic for a reason; the surreal dialogue and wacky characters (plus one of the all-time worst trailers for any movie) hide a relentlessly grim horror comedy critique of Manifest Destiny with unique cinematography and strong acting. Haven't seen it? Make room in your queue.

Dead Snow (2009)

We can all agree that nazis are bad, and that zombies are bad, but what's worse than nazi zombies? Basically nothing. That's the high concept of Dead Snow, a horror comedy that combines nazis and zombies into a terrifying undead menace. Dead Snow is another entry from Norway, proof positive that the Norwegians definitely understand horror. The movie's got a slasher sensibility but also a canny knowledge of viewers' expectations and how to upend them. Once the zombies start killing students, the results are just as innovative and gross as you would hope, with intestines used as rope and arms getting gruesomely chopped off with chainsaws. Dead Snow is as violent, goofy, and scary as one would hope. Bonus: the sequel is pretty great too.

You're Next (2011)

Slasher movies usually feature a helpless group of teenagers menaced by a supernaturally strong killer with a knife; home invasion movies follow a similar route. Both subgenres of horror rely on the viewer to be concerned that the soon-to-be victims aren't in a position of power or understanding, just prey for the movie's predator. You're Next flips the script by putting the mumblecore genre — the central conceit of home invasion movies — in a blender with Home Alone until what comes out is a satisfying, violent horror comedy smoothie. The movie's central surprise is part of the fun, so we don't want to spoil it, but trust us when we say that the animal mask-wearing invaders might not be the predators they think they are. What follows is a satisfying, violent movie with a pitch-perfect John Carpenter-esque synth score. If you haven't seen it yet, you'll want to change that as soon as possible.

House (1977)

House (1977) was famously related to director Nobuhiko Obayashi by his daughter after a terrifying nightmare, which makes sense considering the dream logic depicted in the on-screen jumps from comedy to horror. The movie follows a group of Japanese high school girls who go to a haunted house where they're menaced by a terrifying and confusing spirit. It's a classic premise, but House stands out for hitting its horror and comedy beats in equal measure, like a trip through a haunted house when you're old enough to understand how strange it all is. By the time you get to a scene where a piano begins to eat a little girl's hands, it might be hard to tell if you're laughing or cringing, but either way you won't forget this movie.

Wild Zero (1999)

There's a tradition of real-life bands appearing in movies, from the Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to Smash Mouth cameoing in Rat Race, but no band's had as flattering a portrayal as Guitar Wolf in Wild Zero. This horror comedy is basically an hour-and-a-half treatise of why the real-life band is the coolest in the universe, best exemplified by them defeating alien zombies with the power of rock & roll. It's not the best of the horror comedies on the list, but there's no other movie we can think of where a real-life rock band ends an apocalypse just by rocking hard enough. We'd've liked to see the Bee Gees try that.