Chances are if you rushed out to see “M3GAN” you were intoxicated by its mixture of horror and comedy and probably want more like it.
“M3GAN” is the story of a disaffected roboticist (played by Allison Williams) who supplies her recently orphaned niece (Violet McGraw) with a robotic companion instead of actually, you know, putting in the work to make sure the grieving process isn’t so chaotic. The results are a killer robot/killer doll movie that puts as much emphasis on laughs as it does on thrills.
And if “M3GAN” really revved your motor and you want more from this particular sub-genre, well, we’ve got you covered. Here are 15 other great horror comedy movies to watch after you’ve unplugged from “M3GAN:”
“Evil Dead II”
“Evil Dead II” is arguably the “Citizen Kane” of horror comedies. Half sequel, half remake, “Evil Dead II” took all of the things that were great about Sam Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” (released back in 1981) and amplified and exaggerated them. The horror was even scarier (and gooier) and the humor was even funnier; some have used the term “splat-stick” to describe the movie’s sense of humor. Bruce Campbell once again leads a group of doomed youngsters into the woods only to read from a cursed occult tome and unleash an army of demonic spirits who terrorize, possess and murder them all. (Campbell’s character cuts it off at the wrist.) Not all of the gags in “Evil Dead II” still work (the tree scene is particularly questionable) but it speaks to the tactile low-rent special effects and Campbell’s note-perfect comedic timing that both halves of this blood-soaked stew work so well together.
Streaming on IndieFlix.
“Arachnophobia” was marked by Disney as the first (and so far only) “thrillomedy;” a thriller that wasn’t afraid to also bring the laughs. But really, it’s a horror comedy – a killer bug movie set in California wine country with a great cast led by Jeff Daniels and some legitimate scares, courtesy of director Frank Marshall, Steven Spielberg’s longtime producer. (Spielberg returned the favor by producing “Arachnophobia” alongside Marshall’s wife, Kathleen Kennedy.) Daniels plays a small town doctor whose arrival in Canaima (actually Cambria, California) coincides with the arrival of a deadly South American arachnid, who mates with a common house spider to produce a lethal new breed. As far as ‘90s horror movies go, “Arachnophobia” is downright quaint – a version of the same story could have been produced during the 1950s. Even the performances, from Daniels’ harried doctor to Julian Sands’ slick spider expert to John Goodman’s goofball exterminator, have the heightened quality of an old drive-in movie. And honestly, it’s all the better for it. There’s something timeless about “Arachnophobia,” our most prized “thrillomedy.”
Streaming on Paramount+.
“An American Werewolf in London”
David Naughton and Griffin Dunne play a couple of dumb American backpackers who are attacked by a mysterious creature while traveling in the English countryside in this early-‘80s riff on a classic Universal wolfman movie. Dunne is killed and Naughton is brought to London to heal; he soon falls in love with an attentive nurse (Jenny Agutter) and begins a nocturnal reign of terror. Much of the humor of the movie comes from Dunne’s ghostly visitations (he’s sort of a zombie and each time he shows up he’s more rotted) and John Landis’ thoroughly modern take on monster movies. (Rick Baker created the werewolf, one of the most iconic creature designs ever.) Sad, strange and very funny, “An American Werewolf in London” is a classic. And if you want even more Landis horror comedy action, seek out his 1992 cult movie “Innocent Blood” starring a very sexy Anne Parillaud (from “Nikita!”) as a vampire who targents members of the Italian American mafia. The director’s cut is a little too long but it’s an improvement over the theatrical version.
Streaming on Fubo, Roku and Showtime.
Before Peter Jackson became the king of Middle-earth, he made a series of low budget horror comedies. “Braindead,” also known as “Dead Alive,” is the most famous. But “The Frighteners” is the best. His last movie before becoming Hollywood’s go-to fantasist, “The Frighteners” stars Michael J. Fox as a ghostbuster who is in cahoots with the ghosts (my favorite is John Astin’s old timey gunslinger The Judge). Together they stumble into a mystery involving the town’s true crime celebrity and a supernatural serial killer (played by Jake Busey). The movie effortlessly oscillates between horror (the killer really is creepy, especially when he’s masquerading as the grim reaper) and humor (focused mostly on Fox’s relationship with an attractive young widow played by Trini Alvarado), sometimes within a single moment, like every time Jeffrey Combs’ damaged FBI agent shows up.
Available for purchase or rental on various VOD platforms.
On the subject of exemplary horror comedies from 1981 that also involve werewolves (see above), we must also talk about “The Howling.” Director Joe Dante has made a few horror comedy classics (among them: “Piranha,” “Gremlins” and “The ‘burbs”) but “The Howling” will always be his best. Written by John Sayles (adapting Gary Brandner’s 1977 novel of the same name), the plot concerns Dee Wallace’s Los Angeles news anchor who is attacked by a rampaging serial killer and then, suffering from the effects of the attack, decides to relocate to The Colony, a hippie costal community upstate. It’s there that she begins to think something is … amiss. Soon she realizes that the entire community is filled with no good werewolves and she’s got to find a way to stay alive and get out (the very end is too good to spoil here). Dante has a lot of fun skewering the self-help phenomenon that was permeating the American culture towards the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s and with the characterizations of the various members of the community (including John Carradine and Slim Pickens). There are plenty of easter eggs, too, thanks to Dante’s encyclopedic knowledge of horror film history. A hoot.
Streaming on AMC+.
Director Christopher Landon had already directed “Happy Death Day” and “Happy Death Day 2U,” two exemplary horror comedies, before he tackled “Freaky,” his very best horror comedy. “Freaky” is built around a simple, irresistible premise, mixing the plot of “Friday the 13th” (mask-wearing maniac dispatching teens creatively) and “Freaky Friday” (kooky body swap ahoy!) as a nerdy high school girl (Kathryn Newton) swaps bodies with a murderer (Vince Vaughn). The results are predictably off-the-wall, but Landon and his co-screenwriter Michael Kennedy also give the conceit an unexpected emotional heft. And it really does bring the yuks and the screams. Vaughn’s performance, as a big goofy killer with the soul of a teenage girl, is an absolute riot and the movie’s R-rating (an upgrade from both “Happy Death Day” movies’ PG-13) affords it more explicit gore (Alan Ruck’s dick-ish shop teacher gets sliced in half). If you want a movie like “M3GAN” with slightly more edge, this will get the job done (and then some).
Streaming on Freevee.
One of the hallmarks of horror comedies is that they are oftentimes ignored upon the initial release but gain a strong cult following in the years that follow. This is definitely the case with “Jennifer’s Body,” which was released in 2009 with a shrug but has become one of the most beloved cult movies in the 10+ years since. Megan Fox plays Jennifer, a high school hottie who is possessed by a demonic force after a rock band (led by Adam Brody) tries to offer her up as a human sacrifice. (They want to be huge.) This causes her relationship with her BFF Needy (Amanda Seyfried) to become strained as Jennifer starts eating their classmates and – worse yet! – making moves on Needy’s boyfriend. As written by Oscar winner Diablo Cody, “Jennifer’s Body” is full of hilarious, easily quotable (but not repeatable here) dialogue, which mixes well with the more hardcore horror supplied by director Kathryn Kusama. Chances are if you’ve seen “Jennifer’s Body,” you love “Jennifer’s Body.” And if you haven’t seen it yet, make it a priority.
Streaming on HBO Max.
Comparable to “M3GAN” in the sense that it’s about robots created for a mildly benevolent reason (in this case to work security at a California mall) that quickly get out of control and start murdering human beings and also because they strike a similar tone, with more intense elements snuggled up aside straight-up comedy. Directed and co-written by schlock auteur Jim Wynorski, “Chopping Mall” is an exploitation movie for sure. There are bare breasts and flying body parts. But it’s also slyly satirical in its send-up of Reagan-era consumerism and the misplaced idea of the serenity of your local mall. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov make an appearance as their “Eating Raoul” characters (another horror comedy that nearly made the list) and Dick Miller, a Roger Corman (and later Joe Dante) staple also shows up. Now an underground favorite (you can watch it on Shudder now) for its goofy-but-still-creepy sensibilities and its beloved electronic score by Chuck Cirino. Also, mall-heads will appreciate that it utilizes two of Los Angeles’ best malls – the exteriors were of the Beverly Center and the interiors were of the beloved Sherman Oaks Galleria, where many great movies of the period were shot (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Terminator 2” among them). Sadly, when the Northridge Earthquake hit, the mall was damaged and subsequently remodeled as an open-area bore. Thank God for “Chopping Mall.”
Streaming on Fubo, AMC+, Roku, Hoopla, Redbox, Crackle, Shudder, Pluto, ShoutTV (there is no excuse not to watch!)
“Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”
By the time you reach the sixth part of a well-worn franchise, you should be able to have some fun. And fun is certainly what “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives” does. The movie sets the tone from the opening sequence, which sees Jason resurrected by a bolt of lighting, which is immediately followed up by a James Bond parody. (Only this time Jason throws a machete at the camera instead of 007 slyly shooting at it.) From there things get goofier and more gruesome, with the movie shifting easily between high comedy and the typical “Friday the 13th” parade of carnage. (Noteworthy: this was the first film where Camp Crystal Lake is actually open for business and welcoming campers.) Some of the “Friday the 13th” sequels are tedious, oversexed bores. This sequel is a total delight and, it could be argued, the highlight of not just the sequels but the entire franchise. If they ever make another one, they would be wise to make sure there are some yuks.
Streaming on Starz.
“Return of the Living Dead”
While George A. Romero had flirted with turning his zombie movie series into black comedies (there are great gags in both “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead”), it took Dan O’Bannon, the puckish co-writer of “Alien,” to make the genre fully self-aware. The movie begins with a reference to Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (the toxic canisters that cause the zombie outbreak are supposedly what created the zombies in that film) and gets funnier and more insane from there. The night that an unknown chemical leaks into the atmosphere above a cemetery also happens to be the night that a bunch of good-for-nothing punks (including a very naked Linnea Quigley as “Trash”) break in to party until dawn. (Yes, the set-up is quintessentially ‘80s, which is part of the movie’s charm.) Thanks to the cleverness of O’Bannon’s script, which is funny and scary in equal measure, some great performances that are fully knowing but never arch (from legendary character actors like Clu Gulager and James Karen) and outstanding creature designs by the great William Stout (Tarman forever!), “Return of the Living Dead” remains a horror comedy classic, constantly reissued and for a while sequel-ized. None live (or die?) up to the original.
Streaming on Hoopla, Tubi, Pluto.
“The Cabin in the Woods”
A radical celebration and deconstruction of why we love horror movies, on an almost cosmic level, Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” has a fairly simple set-up, with a group of cute young coeds (led by Kristen Connolly and a then-unknown Chris Hemsworth) who go to a rickety cabin for a weekend away. Simple enough right? But what begins as a clever homage to “Evil Dead II” (that film’s cinematographer, Peter Deming, also shot this movie) reveals itself to be something far more interesting, complicated and hilarious. It’s hard to talk about the movie without spoiling everything, but just know that the back half of “The Cabin in the Woods” calls into question the viewer’s voracious appetite for watching young people get hacked in half and what that means on an almost spiritual level. This makes it sound like you’re watching a dissertation and not a gonzo, go-for-broke horror movie but it’s also one of the most fun scary movies ever. Just watch.
Streaming on HBO Max.
A testament to how beloved (and hilarious) Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” really is, is the fact that it was quoted in Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning “American Beauty.” Truly a trashy little cult movie that film snobs can also get behind! Based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft, “Re-Animator” is a zombie comedy of sorts, following Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), a weirdo medical student convinced he can bring people back from the dead. (The glowing green goo that he uses is iconic.) Of course, when they come back, things go horribly wrong and Gordon pushes the psycho-sexual perversion to the absolute limit (thanks, in part, to a fearless performance by Barbara Crampton). Sometimes you don’t know whether to cringe or giggle uncontrollably and you usually default to the latter. It’s just so odd and fun. While there were a couple of crummy sequels, at one point Gordon was going to re-team with Combs for “House of Re-Animator,” which would have been set in the White House with William H. Macy playing the Bush stand-in. Ah, what could have been.
Streaming on Tubi, Kanopy, Shudder, Arrow.
The rare movie that is truly as funny as it is scary, the biggest horror movie of the 1990s knocks it out of the park on both counts. (Typically, when things are calmer politically, the horror movies aren’t as good. The eight years of relative peace and prosperity afforded by the Clinton administration didn’t do scary movies any favors.) A savvy reinvention of the slasher movie that its director Wes Craven had a hand in establishing thanks to his “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, “Scream” made the masked killer a chatty movie nerd instead of a trickster dream demon or silent, hulking figure. Kevin Williamson’s razor-sharp screenplay will have you howling with laughter and just plain howling from one scene to the next and Craven’s elegant direction (perhaps the best in his career) grounds both the humor and terror. (They’ll never beat the California wine country shooting locations either.) Instantly iconic and, all these sequels later, never duplicated, “Scream” is a masterpiece of the horror comedy genre. It’s still funny and scary as hell.
Streaming on Paramount+, Showtime, Starz.
“Shaun of the Dead”
With “Shaun of the Dead,” director and co-writer Edgar Wright wanted to create a new genre – the zombie romantic comedy or the zom-rom-com. And you know what? They did it. Set in working class London, Wright’s feature debut stars co-writer Simon Pegg as a directionless dude in his 20s totally oblivious to the apocalypse unfolding around him. When he decides to spring into action, with his hetero-lifemate (Pegg’s real-life hetero-lifemate Nick Frost), he can prove to his disillusioned girlfriend that he can actually accomplish something – keeping them alive. What makes “Shaun of the Dead” so beguiling (among other things), is how realistic and lived-in the relationship stuff is at the beginning of the movie and how that emotional truth is sustained through all the zombie carnage. Also, it is deeply hilarious, with Wright weaving in visual allusions to some of his favorite horror movies while creating something exciting and new. There’s a reason this movie became a worldwide phenomenon. It’s that good.
Available for purchase or rental on various VOD platforms.
It’s a movie about giant ancient worm monsters that terrorize a dusty desert town. How seriously could you really take “Tremors?” Like “Arachnophobia,” it feels very much like a throwback to a simpler, more earnest type of monster movie – one in which creatures show up, without explanation, cause a lot of chaos and then slip back underneath the earth. But what makes “Tremors” so fun – and so funny – is the very modern chemistry between Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon as a couple of lowlife handymen who get caught up in all the monster mayhem. It’s their constant bickering (and their deep love of the community) that really makes “Tremors” come to life. (Talented director Ron Underwood, making his directorial debut, would make the Oscar-winning comedy “City Slickers” as his follow-up.) The rest of the “Tremors” cast is equally adept at handling both the comedy and terror, from Michael Gross and Reba McEntire’s survivalist couple to Victor Wong as the hustling grocery store owner. “Tremors” has bursts of scariness and suspense but it’s such a feel-good, genuinely funny, warm little movie that you can’t help but watch with a big stupid grin on your fame.
Streaming on Tubi.