Brophy describes the necessary balance in horror films between comedy and horror stating:
“It is humour that remains one of the major features of the contemporary Horror film, especially if used as the undercutting agent to counter-balance its more horrific moments. The humour is not usually well-crafted but mostly perverse and/or tasteless, so much so that often the humour might be horrific while the horror might be humorous,” (29).
According to Pinedo, if the movie incorporates too much humour, then it creates a parody. On the other hand, if the movie incorporates too much terror, then it is a form of terrorism, (29). Scary movies need humour in order to balance it out and make the movie more appealing to the audience. Who would want to sit in a two hour film of pure, unadulterated terror? A masochists, probably, but the average movie goer would most likely not appreciate it.
Some films use humour unintentionally… Examples of these types of movies can be found by visiting this brilliatn list of 17 unintentionally hilarious moments in horror films.
One example that immediately came to mind is this scene from the 80s icon horror movie, Friday the 13th. Although this movie is a horror icon, there are so many unbelievable and drawn out moments that make it fun to watch. Check out this scene below to see what I mean:
Maybe the scene in the original movie didn’t look and sound exactly like this, but boy was that lady running for a long time.
Some movies take it too far and intentionally turn into parody. These include:
And my personal favourite…
“Watching a horror film is, like riding a roller coaster, a collective experience. Horror expressly plays on the physical and emotional responses of the audience. It draws screams, nervous gasps, and laughter. Horror elicits audience rebukes and warnings addressed to narrative characters (‘Don’t go in there’), or about narrative characters (‘Heeeeere’s Jason’). A Gary Larson cartoon captures this dynamic: An audience of deer is watching a film in which a deer character approaches a door over which hangs a mounted deer trophy. The audience cringes and one member cries out, ‘Don’t go in there!'”
Sean of the Dead, as well as the other movies apart of this end-of-the-world trilogy, intentionally mix in more humour than horror to help make the film stand out. Don’t misunderstand – there are so many scenes in this movie that are chilling. The zombies are disgusting, a man gets his stomach ripped open on screen, and the ending makes you tear up a bit. . . but man, is this movie hilarious! There is a slight tip in the scales towards comedy, but this movie successfully finds a way to add in just the right amount of horror, emotional turmoil, and empathy to make it one of my favourite movies ever. You find yourself saying things like, “You IDIOT, look around you! It’s the god damn Apocalypse!” And, of course, all of this is in vain… You have to wait for this slow-witted, well-intentioning moron to figure it all out on his own. It’s heart warming, really.
There is a deliberate sense of hypermediacy in movies that fit under the horror comedy drama. The movie is aware of what the audience is expecting and delivers it with a twist of humour. The creators of Sean of the Dead, who are the main actor and his best friend, knew what audiences expected while watching a horror movie. They played off of this “insider knowledge” and manipulated it to put together a funny horror movie.
Pinedo, Isabel. “Recreational Terror: Postmodern Elements of the Contemporary Horror Film.” Journal of Film and Video48.1/2 (1996): 17-31.