Comedy horror

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The 1948 film Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a comedy horror film, in that it pairs the comedy duo Abbott and Costello with the Frankenstein monster.

Comedy horror, also known as horror comedy, is a literary, television, and film genre that combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. Comedy horror has been described as able to be categorized under three types: "black comedy, parody and spoof."[1] It often crosses over with the black comedy genre. Comedy horror can also parody or subtly spoof horror clichés as its main source of humour or use those elements to take a story in a different direction. Examples of comedy horror films include Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), An American Werewolf in London (1981), the Evil Dead franchise (1981–present), Gremlins (1984), Shaun of the Dead (2004), and The Cabin in the Woods (2011).

Author Bruce G. Hallenbeck cites the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving as "the first great comedy horror story".[2] The story made readers "laugh one moment and scream the next" and its premise was based on mischief typically found during the holiday Halloween.[2]

In literature[edit]

Horror and comedy have been associated with each other since the early days of horror novels. Shortly after the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, comedic parodies appeared. Edgar Allan Poe put humor and horror on the same continuum, and many nineteenth century authors used black humor in their horror stories. Author Robert Bloch called them "opposite sides of the same coin".[3]

In film[edit]

In comedy horror film, gallows humor is a common element. While comedy horror films provide scares for audiences, they also provide something that dramatic horror films do not: "the permission to laugh at your fears, to whistle past the cinematic graveyard and feel secure in the knowledge that the monsters can't get you".[2]

In the era of silent film, the source material for early comedy horror films came from stage performances instead of literature. One example, The Ghost Breaker (1914), was based on a 1909 play, though the film's horror elements were more interesting to the audience than the comedy elements. In the United States following the trauma of World War I, film audiences sought to see horror on screen but tempered with humor. The "pioneering" comedy horror film was One Exciting Night (1922), written, directed and produced by D. W. Griffith, who noticed the stage success of the genre and foresaw a cinematic translation. The film included comedic blackface performances and footage of a hurricane for a climactic storm. As an early experiment, the various genres were not well-balanced with horror and comedy, and later films improved the balance and took more sophisticated approaches.[4] Charles Bramesco of identifies Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein as the first commercially successful comedy horror film. Its success legitimized the genre and established it as commercially viable.[5]

Some comedy horror movies, such as the Scary Movie series or A Haunted House also function as parodies of popular horror films.

Well-known director Peter Jackson began his film career with the comedy horror classics Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and Braindead.

In television[edit]

Examples of horror comedy on television date back to sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family and more recently include gruesome slapsticks Ash vs Evil Dead and Stan Against Evil, mockumentary the What We Do in the Shadows (franchise), Wellington Paranormal, comedies Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, Shining Vale and Santa Clarita Diet, and cartoons Beetlejuice, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Scooby-Doo. More recent examples include The Owl House,[6] Wednesday, and Don't Hug Me I'm Scared.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, J.S. (2004). The Horror Spoofs of Abbott and Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy Team's Monster Films. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7864-1922-7.
  2. ^ a b c Hallenbeck 2009, p. 3
  3. ^ Carroll, Noel (Spring 1999). "Horror and Humor". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 57 (2): 145–146. doi:10.1111/1540_6245.jaac57.2.0145. JSTOR 432309.
  4. ^ Hallenbeck 2009, pp. 5–7
  5. ^ Bramesco, Charles (22 October 2015). "The History of Horror-Comedy in 11 Crucial Films". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  6. ^ Brown, Tracy (10 January 2020). "For its creator, Disney's 'The Owl House' is the best revenge". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 1 February 2020. Retrieved 10 August 2020.


Further reading[edit]