In interviews, Sam Raimi sighted Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Italian horror movies as influences. However, despite being a peer of those horror classics, the Evil Dead series never took itself too seriously. The Evil Dead, in particular, attempts to be earnestly scary while recognizing the absurdity of what we are seeing. The possessed characters spew comical amounts of blood and bile. The fight scenes between Ash and these monsters occasionally look like gory slapstick. Moreover, though not as punchy as the sequels, we do get a taste of the one-liners forever associated with Ash. Bruce Campbell holds the film together by almost winking at the camera. The Evil Dead Trilogy became incredibly influential to the world of horror comedy. Fans of the The Evil Dead's dark humor should check out some these more recent films.
I purposefully chose some lesser seen films in hope that people will seek them out. However, for those who have not seen some of the more popular horror comedies, here’s a few more recommendations: Shaun of the Dead is perhaps the gold standard. It is funny, gory and must watch for any fan of The Evil Dead. The ultimate meta-horror comedy, Cabin in the Woods takes the old horror conceit and tries to pull it apart at the seams. Both witty and gory, with a handful of comical moments, the horror fans will appreciate the deconstruction of common themes. Both of these films are available for rental on Amazon. Finally, I urge everyone to see the movie that influenced all of these films, George R. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead. Not a comedy, though some of the effects may amuse modern audiences, it is fascinating to watch origin of many themes and tropes that occur throughout modern horror.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [Eli Craig, 2010]
Available on Netflix
Easily the funnies on this list, Dale & Tucker vs. Evil is trying more to make audiences laugh than scream. The titular characters are a couple of good old boys on their way to a fix up their new vacation home in the woods. They cross paths with a bunch of college kids venturing into the forest for spring break. From there the film reverses the audience’s expectations. Tucker and Dale play against the Hillbilly stereotype. They are thoughtful, kind and emotionally open with each other. However, their accents and attire lead the college students to think they are creepy and possibly dangerous. Eventually, the kids’ prejudices and their friend’s disappearance cause the students to believe they are living out a horror film. They decide to become the aggressors, but end up killing themselves in humorous and slapstick ways. Alan Tudyk [Tucker] and Tyler Labine [Dale] have a great chemistry, and much of the humor stems from their reactions to the gory deaths. People who are a bigger fan of Bruce Campbell than Wes Craven will probably enjoy this film a lot.
Dead Snow [Tommy Wirkola, 2009]
Available on Netflix
Stop me if you have heard this before: A group of college-age friends travels to a remote cabin to enjoy a spring break filled with sex, drugs, and tubing behind a snowmobile ... only to have their peaceful vacation disrupted by Nazi Zombies after gold they stole at the end of WWII. Dead Snow shares a lot more with the The Evil Dead than just that classic horror set-up. Tommy Wirkola’s film pays homage to several classic horror movies with its characters and camera movement, including a POV shot from the perspective of the zombies similar to that of the evil presence in Sam Raimi’s classic. The character's reactions and deaths should be familiar to modern horror fans, but there are some good jumps and scares. The broad, self-aware humor feels more like that of Evil Dead 2 and later horror comedies, especially during the final battle. If nothing else, it is a great excuse to watch people kill Nazi zombies. Dead Snow's sequel [also available on Netflix] ramps up the comedic elements and adds Martin Starr into the mix.
Juan of the Dead [Alejandro Brugués, 2011]
Available for Digital Rental
Many people have seen Shaun of the Dead, but few have seen its Cuban counterpart Juan of the Dead. Both films involve a crew of misfits, slow to realize what’s going on, trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Both of the titular characters are trying to win back the affection of someone they love by proving they’ve matured. But Juan, both the character and the film, is uniquely Cuban. Juan lives in a run down building, and his slacker lifestyle drove his ex-wife and daughter to move abroad. He and his best friends fish and commit petty crimes to survive and pay for rum. They are waiting for a million-dollar idea that will make them rich. So when the “dissidents” start turning people into zombies, they get a business idea. Through the movie, we get to see sections of Cuba rarely shown. And through the protagonist, we get social commentary one would think might get the filmmaker in trouble. The film does feel a bit thin over its 92-minute runtime. Moreover, there are a couple of questionable characters and scenes that play on gay stereotypes. However, it is mostly a funny, gory glimpse inside the world that until last year was cut off to most of us.
John Dies at the End [Don Coscarelli, 2012]
Available on Netflix
Dave and his best friend John get drawn into a multi-dimensional conflict after taking a mysterious drug, Soy Sauce, they get from a mystical Rastafarian. And it only gets weirder from there. The drug forces the two unambitious dudes into a fight to save the world. They are the only people who can see the inter-dimensional monsters trying to take over our world. That is until they meet a celebrity psychic named Marconi who helps them realize their greater calling. From the director of Bubba Ho-Tep, John Dies at the End is as self-aware as the title would suggest. Dave often voices sarcastic remarks that could just as easily come from the audience. The creatures feel like they belong to the same world as those in The Evil Dead, including a hilarious meat-monster they meet in someone’s basement freezer. The movie does have its problems; the convoluted plot can be hard to follow. It can also feel a little sophomoric at times and has no female characters. Despite that, the film has a lot very funny scenes that make it an enjoyable movie overall.