This list is the flip side to our "Top 10 Funny Scary Movies," those serious chillers with chuckles. Here are the spooky spoofs, all-humorous films, where horror is secondary and, perhaps, only atmospheric.
Mel Brooks' best picture is a comic dazzler, charged by inspired players, deft direction and gasping zaniness, all within a cinematic embrace of James Whale's '30s horror classics. From a script by Brooks and Gene Wilder, Transylvania rocks anew when an American doctor arrives to resume the family business, Mad Science. He builds a monster, the "little zipperneck," and gives it life! Just perfect.
To eke dollars from dormant horror franchises, Universal packaged their top beasts and comedy duo together. A surprise monster smash resulted, yielding a frightfully beloved slapstick lark. Dracula schemes to insert bumbling Lou's brain into Frankenstein, while the boys close shave with the Wolfman. The Invisible Man makes an appearance. More: A&C meet ghosts in "The Time of Their Lives" (1946)
, plus Bud and Lou revisited this formula many times meeting The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and others.
"Gremlins 2 The New Batch" (1990)
is loopier, but see this live-action cartoon first, from director and animation/horror fan Joe Dante. Says critic Leonard Maltin, "A teenager's unusual new pet spawns a legion of vicious, violent monsters who turn picture-postcard town into living hell. Comic nightmare is a cross between Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'The Blob.'" Think: Vampire Furbys.
Ordinarily, freshly-dead ghosts hellbent on terrorizing the occupants of their home would be petrifying for all involved, but in Tim Burton's dark, rubbery universe, it's a party of snorts and gross-out chills. Seems the new family adores spooks, so a manic, ghoulish, deceased exorcist (Michael Keaton) is summoned to up the ante. A bizarre, totally original film, suggesting inspiration from Charles Addams. Also, seek out Burton's animated "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993)
, similar in tone.
Great Cary's ghost! Mr. Grant and Constance Bennett, suddenly deceased and eminently dapper, choose to turn grim into grins by haunting timid Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) with a barrage of embarrassing, "inexplicable" pranks. A much-copied, bona fide Hollywood classic. Avoid the colorized mess.
And "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986)
-- Roger Corman's original hoot was shot in two days, soon a cult favorite and the basis for a camped-up stage musical and movie redo. Either version, a love triangle of a girl, a boy and his man-eating plant, is cool, silly, and faux fearsome. Jack Nicholson swipes the original show as a pain-seeking dental patient. In the latter production, based on the Broadway musical homage
, Bill Murray and Steve Martin, DDS, do the drill.
A rock musical in a sexual deviants' terror-fraught castle. The best comedy occurs off-screen at cult-viewing rituals with huge guffaws created from frenzied, outlandish and biting audience participation. (A "live" performance exists on home video.) Once experienced with the screaming accompaniment, the movie's "silent" version is sadly empty. I guess you could throw toast and rice at yourself.
The spirits may be willing, yet this expensive, over-hyped epic doesn't fully deliver on its comic promise, relying on a Pandora's toy box of special effects in lieu of actual entertainment value. Ghoul removers Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis quip occasionally. Interesting and amiable film, but too much effort on eye candy, not comedy.
Exiting "The Andy Griffith Show" for big screen stardom, Don Knotts finds himself in another Mayberryish town as an eager reporter wannabe, a clone of his signature character, Barney Fife, who's elected to remain overnight in the old dark house. A gentle mystery unfolds, highlighted by the comedian's explosive nervous tics and heroic solution. Attaboy, Luther!
And "Scared Stiff" (1953)
(No shopping link available, but VHS tapes can be found in stores.) -- It's the same ol' story. Paramount cut-ups snoop through a weird mansion with plenty o' laughs and laaaadies in hand. Wisecracking coward Bob Hope chases Paulette Goddard. In the remake, Martin and Lewis meet Carmen Miranda and get eerie for Lizabeth Scott. Dean and Jerry reprise the crooner and bumbling busboy bit from their wildly received concert act. Engaging clowns serve solid fun in both films.