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)
Tucker 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)
Way 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)
The 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)
Sally 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)
The 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)
In 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)
Everything 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)
Night 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)
Sam 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)
Return 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.