Humorous Horror

Contributed by Hillary Dodge

Humor manifests in horror in a variety of ways. More appropriately, it can be said that humorous horror falls within a spectrum of comedy that ranges from downright goofy to dark and cutting. Comedy itself is a genre of literature and film that has its roots in Greek theatre. The common thread that winds itself through humorous horror is the concept of humor, being the quality or act of provoking laughter and amusement.

Comedy and horror have a long history of being intertwined. Some would argue that because both genres share a punchline structure, they are natural mates (SEE “The Horror Punchline” by Max Booth III). Others would argue that humor as a device can be used to offset terror and thus enhance the psychological experience of the reader/viewer (SEE “What Horror and Comedy Have in Common” by Wen Powers). Generally, humorous horror utilizes one or more of the following elements: gallows humor, over the top gore or situational stress, one-liners, absurdity or surrealism, jump scares, physical and body humor, wit and wordplay, deadpan or dry humor, farce, hyperbole, irony, slapstick or toilet humor, parody, situational comedy, and satire.

Down towards one end of the spectrum, we have stories that are are essentially comedies wrapped up in a gauze of horror. Examples include Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), the novella Bubba Ho-tep by Joe R. Lansdale, Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride, iZombie by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, Practical DemonKeeping by Christopher Moore, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), the Scary Movie franchise (2000), Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), and Young Frankenstein (1974).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find horror that uses comic elements to various ends, but stories that are at their core horror above comedy. Examples include The Cabin in the Woods (2011), Dead Alive (1992), the Evil Dead franchise (1981), Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, The Haunted Forest Tour by Jeff Strand, Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix, John Dies at the End by David Wong, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, Shaun of the Dead (2004), and Zombieland (2009).

Authors to look into include S.G. Browne, Edgar Cantero, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Andrew Fox, Grady Hendrix, Paul Lubaczewski, Carlton Mellick III, A. Lee Martinez, Christopher Moore, Jeff Strand, and David Wong.