Top 10 Campy Fun Horror Films

Laughs collide with scares as Top 10 Films checks out this popular subgenre of horror. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies…

10. Tucker and Dale vs Evil (Craig, 2010)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsTucker and Dale are two gentle hillbillies trying to plan a little rest and relaxation at their woodside cabin. This plan backfires when they run into a group of over-privileged college kids. When the pretty girl gets hurt on a canoe ride Tucker and Dale nurse her back to health. This is when the fun begins, it becomes an all out battle of prejudgement and misunderstanding. A very silly story but incredibly original, funny, and entertaining. Poking fun at two central themes in horror over the years – backwoods killer hillbillies and dumb college kids.

9. Student Bodies (Rose/Ritchie, 1981)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsWay before Scream there was Student Bodies. In my opinion it is one of the greatest satires of horror ever made. All the cliches are evident here, the unknown killer stalking teenagers, the innocent naive girl, the over-protective boyfriend, the unknown motives, and the misleading suspects. Student Bodies is such a clever film because it pokes fun at all the slasher films brilliantly. It also pays homage to the slasher film with the clever surprise twist ending.

8. The Gate (Takács, 1987)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsThe Gate is a knock off of many films but nevertheless entertaining. When Al and Glenn’s parents go away for the weekend Ally decides to throw a party leaving Glenn and his friend outside. They discover a massive hole dug out in the backyard by construction workers and decide to dig deeper into the hole. This apparently summons the gate to hell. It is a ridiculous plot but I have to admit watching as a child the film was scary. The effects were campy and again the story is completely far fetched but it did mark Stephen Dorff’s first film and he is quite good. The Gate is one of those films that watching upon its time was frightening, but watching it now is pretty hilarious.

7. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Newland, 1973)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsSally Farnham and her husband Alex inherit an old mansion from Sally’s recently deceased relative. Sally discovers a fireplace in the basement and asks the maintenance man about it. He says the relative had it shut and it is to remain that way. Well, as they say, curiosity kills the cat, and Sally tries to unbrick the fireplace. In the process she sets free goblin creatures to steal her soul. The effects were incredibly bad and the acting even worse, however it did manage to scare the life out of me as a kid. The relentless pursuit of Sally and the whispering voices “You set us free” gave me the heebie jeebies. Those little goblin creatures were creepy.

6. The Stuff (Cohen, 1985)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsThe Stuff was such an innovative and original story directed Larry Cohen who concocts a brilliant film that reflects excessive consumerism in America. As the slogan goes “The Stuf, Too Much Is Never Enough”. A white substance is discovered under the earth that tastes unlike anything you have ever tasted. It soon gets marketed in grocery stores and people go nuts over the taste, literally. The film also touched on media influence and the power of advertising. I feel it was ahead of its time and is still quite relevant today. The Stuff is not a well made film by any means but it’s just pure campy fun to watch.

5. Sleepaway Camp (Hiltzik, 1983)

Sleepaway Camp - Top 10 FilmsIn the madness of the slasher film heyday Sleepaway Camp stood out from the rest. Why? Well, because of the extremely disturbing ending. I will boldy say no one saw this coming, the end literally floored people like a hurricane coming through the night. Filmed in first person view, someone is offing the misogynist counselors and mean girls one by one. Sleepaway Camp has some very unique killings including a hair iron shoved in a certain region of a mean girl and a swarm of bees. The dialogue is a campy cheesefest making it a cult classic. Once again the end still traumatizes me today.

4. Motel Hell (Connor, 1980)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsEverything about Motel Hell is completely disturbing and camp. The overall feel of the film is just creepy and it freaked me out as a kid. The idea of pyscho farmers killing people and planting them in their garden for livestock is just bizarre and hilarious at the same time. Farmer Vincent and his wife make a tasty meat snack with a certain kind of ingredient and anyone who stays at their Motel Hell-O find out just what it is! Motel Hell is one of the funniest horror movies ever made and the climatic ending solidifies it as a cult classic. Farmer Vincent’s fighting scene sporting a pigs head on and a chainsaw is truly frightening.

3. Night of the Creeps (Dekker, 1986)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsNight of the Creeps is one of my favorite films from the eighties. What makes the film so unique is that it mixes all different genres of film together. There are elements of sci-fi, horror, zombie, alien invasion, mystery, and dark humor mashed together to make one of the campiest films of the mid eighties. Before all the zombie craze hit full speed, this movie really sparked the interest. This is another film that had an underlying theme in it. What does the government really know and hide? Obviously they did it with a funny humor here but the message is still relevant.

2. Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsSam Raimi directed one of the most beloved horror/comedies of all time. Upon its release considered a B movie it still stands the test of time. It’s even more loved today and continues to hit new audiences of all ages. The plot is thin but the way it’s filmed and the main actor’s performance of Ash, who is played by Bruce Campbell, is so over the top, making it a complete campfest. Five teenagers go on a road trip to a cabin in the woods. When the “book of the dead” gets opened, one by one they get possessed by demons. All except Ash, who has to fight to stay alive. There are some truly memorable scenes including rape by a tree. Evil Dead has influenced so many films the list is endless and it’s a one of a kind film that simply can’t be duplicated.

1. Return of the Living Dead (O’Bannon, 1985)

Top 10 Films checks out a popular subgenre of horror as laughs and scares collide. Neal Damiano runs down ten of the best “campy fun” horror movies - Top 10 FilmsReturn of the Living Dead is a very important film because it helped bring back some life (pun intended) into zombie movies. In the mid eighties it was all about comedies, romances, and action films. Return of the Living Dead came along and brought zombies back into the mainstream. It’s nothing like the original but that’s what makes it great. A very silly premise: Frank and his nephew at their job release a tear gas that awakens anything dead. Where else can you see punk rock zombies sporting mohawks and chains…and the zombies actually talk. The funniest and most memorable scene is when a zombie gets on the ambulance intercom and says “Send more paramedics”. Return of the Living Dead mixes horror and comedy together brilliantly, and unlike its predecessor, the zombies are funny and become central characters. The group of punk rockers partying in the graveyard with hilarious dancing and dialogue really makes it a campy delight. I never get tired of watching this cult classic.

Written and Compiled by Neal Damiano

Tell us: what are your top 10 campy fun horror movies?

About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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  1. Tupi Reply

    Nice list. This brings back memories of late night movies as a kid. Motel Hell creeped me out as did Night of the Creeps – love that movie.

  2. Monster Nan Reply

    What!? No, Cabin in the Woods!

    • Rory Reply

      I know that film has its fans but I’m not one of them. Glad Neal didn’t put it on here.

      • Dan Reply

        Seconded.

  3. Frosty Reply

    Evil Dead is cool but Evil Dead 2 is better. I’d add April Fools Day to this list and New Nightmare. Good choices though! Love your no.1.

    • Rory Reply

      They’re almost the same movie but Evil Dead 2 is the do-over with slightly better effects and increased comedy value. On that note, yeah, Evil Dead 2 is better. Don’t know about anyone else but part 3 is my fave.

      • Dan Reply

        They arguably get better but I’d have Evil Dead 2 over 3 as the best of the trilogy.

  4. Ken B Reply

    Cool list. I love these movies especially evil dead and Sleepaway camp

  5. CineGirl Reply

    Great list Neal. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was one of the scariest horror movies I saw as a kid but I love its sense of fun. Same can be said for The Gate. Motel Hell sounds weird but fun in a crazy way – I’ll see if I can find that somewhere, might have to order the region 1 DVD.

    Great number one choice – Return of the Living Dead is great – O’Bannon was a real talent, wish he’d done more as good as this.

    • Dan Reply

      The fact he created the Alien franchise is enough for me to call him a genius. Return of the Living Dead is definitely his second greatest achievement.

  6. Dan Grant Reply

    Terrific list Neal. As you mentioned, The Gate really freaked me out as a kid but now it is more comedy than anything else. I’m glad you mentioned Night of the Creeps. Tom Atkinson was brilliant in this low budget film. His way of answering the phone had me on the floor. Where as 99% of the population says “hello” he chooses, “Thrill me”. Awesome choice. In fact I can’t think of anything else to put on here. I guess you could make a case for Scream. Although it’s far from campy but it is loads of fun. I’m sure there are a few others you could add but at this time, I really can’t think of one. Some might want to add Rubber, the very silly horror movie about a killer tire. It’s gained a bit of a cult status over the years, but for me personally, it’s just stupid and far from fun.

    One last film that comes to mind is the low budget American horror movie called Truth or Dare. It’s the ultimate campy and fun horror movie. It’s not easy to find, but the production values are so bad that when three people get gunned down while sitting at a bus stop, they just roll off and kind of lie on the ground, like you would in grade 1 pretend story time. It’s really quite hilarious.

  7. ArchE Reply

    Oh gosh – Night of the Creeps – a film that gave me restless sleep for years (alongside another favourite from the period: An American Werewolf In London).

    This top 10 takes me back. The Gate, Motel Hell, Sleepaway Camp and of course your top 2 (great choices by the way). Alas, I haven’t seen The Stuff but I love that screen grab so much I’m going to have to dig this out of some bargain bin.

    I’ll leave you with this wonderful line from Night of the Creeps where the detective says: “I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here.”

    “What’s the bad news,” says one of the girls.

    “They’re dead.”

  8. crawler Reply

    love these movies. nice work.

  9. Dan Grant Reply

    ArchE: That line is terrific. I think that made the poster as well. In fact I’m quite sure of it.

  10. Paul Sheen Reply

    Some nice choices but the best is missing: An American Werewolf in London has “camp” and “fun” written all over it.

  11. Rory Reply

    Two I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing – The Stuff and Motel Hell – but your other choices definitely fit the bill. There’s very much a feeling of going into the horror section of the old video store and looking at all the scary cover art about this top 10.

    Some other favourites that have that campy-fun thing going on – which I read as a knowing, self-reference with elements of horror and/or comedy – would be, of course, An American Werewolf in London for starters. The entire pub’s disdain for the American travellers, the variations of moon-themed Rock and blues, the decomposing best friend – it’s joyously subverting or coolly underplayed or both. An almost perfect film.

    Others:
    Tremors
    Gremlins 1 and 2
    Zombieland
    Fright Night (original version)
    Critters

  12. Jackson Reply

    Peter Jackson – he is your man for these films – have you seen Dead Alive, Bad Taste or The Frighteners

  13. Chris Lewis Reply

    My pick: Shaun of the Dead

  14. Lois Reply

    Shaun of the dead?

  15. Callum Reply

    I’ve not seen many of these. In fact I’ve only seen the top 2 but I do love a film that’ll fit perfectly here: Re-animator!

  16. Dan Reply

    Fun top 10 Neal as always. You’ve got a knack of picking crowd-pleasing films but with a b-movie/independent slant that always makes for a great top 10.

    I love the niche for this list too. The self-reflexive horror movie has been an interest of mine ever since Scream came out, and I think many of these have that element of over-playing cliche for dramatic and comedic effect.

    The Return of the Living Dead is one of my favourites from the 1980s. Dan O’Bannon is a genius in my book if only for this and writing Alien.

    I’m not Evil Dead’s biggest fan as I think the series gets stronger – I prefer both Evil Dead 2 and 3, but it’s a classic.

    I must try to find a couple on here that I’ve not seen but would throw the likes of Tremors, Gremlins and An American Werewolf into the mix.

  17. Neal Damiano Reply

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful feedback. I have to say, this is one of my favorite top 10’s I’ve written. There’s something very fun about these movies although they are horror. Some great mentions here I didn’t include. One I will reply to is An American Werewolf in London, although it is fun I feel it’s so much more than a campy film. It’s one of my favorite films and consider it an important film in American cinema. So I couldn’t put it on here. To me it is a horror film and would be put in a top 10 greatest American horror films list definitely.

    @ Rory you must see Motel Hell it doesn’t get campier than this.
    To reply to the other gentleman I do see the humor in Cabin in the Woods but I wasn’t a big fan of the film. It kind of lost me especially at the end.
    @ Dan Grant, there is a lot of funny lines in Night of the Creeps the detective is hilarious! An 80s gem for sure.

    There is a lot of mention of Shaun of the Dead possibly could of made the list it is a very fun film.
    There are a ton of camp films I easily could make a part 2

    Thanks for the read, guys. + feedback.

    I just want to give a big thanks to Dan Stephens for keeping this website going and allowing me to share my vision and lists. Much appreciated.

    • Dan Reply

      I know what you mean about An American Werewolf In London – it’s almost too good to be lumped into the “campy” category. I suppose that’s because “camp” has baggage as if it’s something lesser than serious cinema but as horror has proven, its best attributes can often be discovered through exaggeration.

      • Neal Damiano Reply

        Dan Stephens,
        American Werewolf in London is a modern American masterpiece It’s in my top 50 favorite films of all time list. A near perfection film. One of the greatest American horror films ever made in my opinion.

  18. Paragraph Film Reviews Reply

    Love that Tucker/Dale and Evil Dead are on this list.

    I’d also shout out Cabin in the Woods, Jennifer’s Body (surprisingly good), and maybe Idle Hands – but probably for nostalgia over it actually being a good film :p

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      @paragraph film reviews
      Good catch on Jennifer’s Body it got ripped by critics but I actually liked it a lot , silly and entertaining.. I did like the movie Teeth better. If you haven’t seen Teeth I highly recommend it. There is a movie that recently came out just like these type of films called “All Cheerleaders Must Die” it was pretty funny.

  19. Neal Damiano Reply

    Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a very funny and well made film. I highly recommend for anyone who hasn’t seen it!!
    It is still on Netflix I believe.

  20. Dan Grant Reply

    Alan Tudyk plays Tucker, and he has been in a litany of movies. You guys might remember him as the Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball. He kills it as Tucker. And for eye candy, Katrina Bowden is in it too.

  21. Anna Reply

    Some fun movies listed here but there’s a few great ones missing: Shaun of the Dead, Tremors, Gremlins (the sequel would be perfect for this list), Cabin In The Woods, Dead Alive, Fright Night, Zombieland.

    I’d dump Motel Hell, The Stuff, Sleepaway Camp and Student Bodies.

  22. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Anna
    Thanks for the read and feedback

    Motel Hell has got to be one of the campiest and funny horror films ever made along with Student Bodies. So I can’t see dumping them. The Stuff I just personally like. Sleepaway Camp is a cult classic campfest.

    Cabin in the Woods not a really good film incohesive bad acting and not funny bad the storyline was original but not put together well and the ending just lost me.

    I’ll give you Fright Night a great film!!
    Dead Alive I’ve never seen (believe it or not)
    Zombieland I’ll also give ya
    Tremors boring and done before
    Gremlins part 2 I agree great film slipped my mind would go on a part 2 list for sure along with Shaun of the Dead.
    Like I said easily could do a part 2 list.

    Again, thanks for the feedback.

  23. Evan Crean Reply

    I love Tucker and Dale vs Evil. So glad it made the list. I’m also a huge fan of Night of the Creeps, Evil Dead, and Return of the Living Dead. Although Return of the Living Dead’s talking/screaming zombies scare the shit out of me, especially because even after you burn them chemicals get into the air and create more zombies. My list would also include Dead Heat, which was way ahead of its time in terms of horror comedy. Shaun of the Dead, Dead Alive, Bad Taste, Zombieland, Gremlins, and Cabin in the Woods would also be contenders for me.

  24. Neal Damiano Reply

    Everybody raves about that film Cabin In The Woods. I don’t get it??
    I didn’t even consider it.

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