“THE LIGHTS ARE OFF, BUT THERE’S NO ONE HOME”- THE RISE AND DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HORROR CINEMA IN RECENT DECADES – PART 3

  • HORROR COMEDY

The third genre to be considered is that of the Horror Comedy. Upon first glance, one would have to assume that the genres of comedy and horror do not mix well together. One is light-hearted the other isn’t. One provides laughs, the other provides terror. One has a positive outcome while the other usually concludes with death (often more than one). However, this is part of the reason why the mixing of these genres in the past has worked so well in the favour of certain directors. It relates heavily to the idea, once again, of opposites attracting. The best films of this genre are those that go to great effort to recreate the location and the tone of the films that they are spoofing or satirising. A classic example of this is the 1974 horror comedy Young Frankenstein directed by Mel Brooks and starring the late Gene Wilder. The film tells the classic monster story of Frankenstein and is shot in black and white, featuring a 1930s opening style credits in order to fool the audience into thinking that they have already seen this kind of film before, but once the witty exchanges and parody of familiar horror tropes ensue, it then reveals itself to be something far more unique.

In comparison to this is the 2012 horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods, directed by Drew Goddard and co-written with Joss Whedon. Like Young Frankenstein, this film contains a familiar location and set-up for a horror film: five college students head down to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying, sex and drugs. Yes, we have been there before and done that… Actually, not really. The film is much smarter than the casual viewer may think it is upon looking at the premise and is actually a lot funnier as well. Also, the third act of this film is hands down, any fan of horror cinema’s dream come through. This is why these films work so well for the genre; because they are able to poke fun at the worn-out tropes of the genre while also providing genuine scares.

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Then there’s the latter half of the genre to consider: The Scary Movie franchise. These movies fail where Cabin in the Woods and Young Frankenstein succeed, mainly because their intention isn’t to satirise familiar elements of the genre but rather to shock, disgust and annoy. They use familiar settings but increase the representations of familiar caricatures along with the often distasteful humour. It doesn’t come off as clever and altogether fails to successfully entertain an anyway mature audience. This brings me to one of the well-known horror comedies ever put on film: Wes Craven’s Scream released in 1996.

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Once again, the idea of the false sense of security is present here, especially in its opening scene. We are introduced to a high school student Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) who we assume is the film’s lead protagonists. She then starts to receive anonymous phone calls from an unknown person. This individual then begins to ask a number of movie related questions, she fails to answer one of them correctly and this results in her getting murdered by the masked killer. Drew Barrymore was a well-known face in the 90s so it was surprising to see Craven make the decision to axe her off within the first ten minutes of the film. It draws similarities to Hitchcock’s Psycho and the decision to kill off Leigh’s character in the opening act. With Barrymore’s character dead and gone from the narrative, the audience is now left unaware as to how the plot is to unfold, giving the story a strong unique feel. Thankfully the darkly humorous tone still remains intact throughout the progression of the narrative. With the addition of comedic elements into the genre of horror, it creates a new breed of a sub-genre which is both unconventional and unique. The 90s also saw the emergence of a new type of genre known as found-footage horror, to considered in the fourth and final piece. Sean Moriarty

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