I was about five minutes into the new film Cabin in the Woods when I had my first laugh/choking on popcorn fit. It was about that moment that I came to the conclusion that horror and comedy are a match made in movie heaven. While the formula for injecting laughs into a slasher or gore-fest is by no means new, it seems to be enjoying a renewed sense of vigor with the success, both commercially and critically, of films like the aforementioned Cabin in the Woods, 2009’s Zombieland, and 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. I can’t seem to settle on an adequate name merger for the genre like all the power couples in Hollywood seem to have (Horromedies?), it is nonetheless one of the more exciting genres to venture out to the theater for.
Been There, Seen That
The horror genre as a whole has seen better days. Lack of originality and the tendency to show too much or lay all their cards out on the table too soon have caused horror films to become predictable and frankly, not scary. Even the renaissance of found-footage style films, like Paranormal Activity, has become plagued by never-ending sequels with similar payouts. The brilliance of the humor-infused-horror flick is that it is self-aware.
Embrace the Crazy
Going back to some of the classics of earlier years like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series or even the more recent American Psycho, the quality that makes them entertaining is their complete irreverence for typical horror conventions. Cheesy dialogue in the form of Bruce Campbell’s Ash is welcomed (“Groovy”), and you’re left wondering if it’s okay for you to be laughing while Christian Bale moonwalks to Phil Collins with axe in hand. Let’s face it. We’ve seen zombies chase us for years, but there’s something refreshing about Jesse Eisenberg’s nebbish Zombieland character spelling out the rules of survival that we all should know and take heed of.
Instead of trying to come up with new levels of scaring the audience, some filmmakers are embracing the idea of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and go no holds barred with the blood, guts, and absolute over-the-top ridiculousness that can bring in crowds looking for a chuckle or a bloodbath.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Having made a horror film with a friend as one of my first ventures into film-making (complete with ketchup “blood”), I can vouch that it is a good genre to start out in that your plot can be fairly basic. You can really go anywhere with it and throw out the rule book if you so choose. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it. Let that freak flag fly.