Top 10 Slapstick Horror Movies

by Nick Spacek on October 14, 2008

in Top 10s

Scene-Stealers sitegoer Nick Spacek is a self-described “rock star journalist.” He likes going to “rock shows. Punk shows. Shows where there’s cigarette smoke hanging in the air. Staying up until 2am, driving an hour, and going to work on two hours’ sleep. My ears ringing for hours afterward. Cheap beer and finger pointing while I sing along until my throat goes raw.” Lucky for us, he’s also a horror aficionado, and his list today is a terrificly demented list of hilarious horror classics. It all makes for another great user-submitted Scene-Stealers Top 10. I am constantly impressed by the breadth of movie knowledge you all display in these things! Keep ‘em coming! Email me at if you have a list you want to try and we’ll go from there! Links to related lists: Top 10 Scariest Movie Themes, Top 10 Overlooked Scary Movies, Top 10 Movie-Inspired Halloween Costumes, Top 10 Giant Monster Attacks! Movies, Top 10 Movie Monsters. In the meantime, back to Nick. There were too many to fit on one top 10, so first there are the…

Runners-up: “An American Werewolf In London,” “The Frighteners,” “Army of Darkness,” “Monster Squad,” anything made by Troma Films, “House II,” “Saturday the 14th,” “Tremors,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Slither.”

10. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Really, this movie is not so much a horror comedy in the traditional sense. “Bubba Ho-Tep” is atypical of the rest of this list due to the fact that it’s fairly tame. I mean, you could watch this with your grandmother without fear of grossing her out too terribly (aside from the scene where Bruce Campbell asks the nurse if she wants to rub it). The actual horror comes from the act of aging, as opposed to the evil mummy or any threat he poses. Still, the film is funny as hell. “Bubba Ho-Tep” starts out pretty slow, but the patience pays off by the time you’ve made halfway through. Fat Elvis (the first of two appearances by Mr. Campbell on our list) begins to interact with JFK (Ossie Davis) and plot the attack on the mummy, and things get funny as opposed to morose. Watching an old Elvis with a walker and a black JFK in a wheelchair square off against a mummy in a cowboy hat is one of the most surreal sights I’ve ever laid eyes upon.

Classic line: “That’s it? That’s the chant against evil from the “Book of Souls”? Oh yeah, right, boss. And what kind of decoder ring comes with that, man? Shit, it don’t even rhyme well!”

9. Fright Night (1985)

This film is surprisingly sophisticated, considering it pretty much steals all its best parts from other movies (“Rear Window,” “The Blob,” “Dracula”). Still, it’s that amalgamation of Hitchcock and ’50s sci-fi schlock, as well as the classic Dracula myth, that makes this one of those movies that ought to be awful, but isn’t. “Fright Night” walks a fine line between goofy teen romp and serious horror thriller very well. The addition of spastic “Evil” Ed, who is everyman Charley Brewster’s sidekick, is the highlight of the movie, and watching a loser kid glory in the newfound power of the vampire is really a campy joy, as is watching Amanda Bearse play a moon-eyed-in-love teen in light of her later butch-lesbian persona. Chris Sarandon as vampire Jerry Dandridge is a glimpse of the classy, well-spoken big bad he’d portray several years later in the “The Princess Bride.”

Classic line: “Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.”

8. Gremlins (1984)

From Hoyt Axton’s opening scene to the insane level of carnage that ends the film, this is a tongue-in-cheek extravaganza. Playing like a modern-day remake of every “thing from someplace” movie from the ‘50s, “Gremlins” is just about the best thing Joe Dante ever did. Ignore the over-the-top, purposefully silly tone of the sequel and just accept that this film is about as perfect a creature film as you’re going to get. There’s all sorts of hints and nods to various horror tropes—cute things that turn ugly, disbelieving police, the mean old woman, the tragic death of a loved one—that are turned on their heads in a film that also makes the list of great alternative Christmas films (see Eric’s Top 10 Non-Christmas Christmas Films). Phoebe Cates’ monologue about losing her father stands as one of the greatest bits of melodrama this side of Douglas Sirk.

Classic line: “And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.”

7. “Return of the Living Dead” (1985)

This is it: punk rock and zombies. Punk rock and horror have been combined since, but usually in vain (“Punk Rock Holocaust,” anyone?). Taking as its central premise the idea that all the events in George Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” actually happened—and that that movie existed just so people would think it was a story—we go from there to a government storage area where everything goes completely to hell. Gas is released, a graveyard comes to life, and the Tar Man roams a medical supply warehouse. Probably one of the few movies out there to feature talking, intelligent zombies—a concept I find far more appealing than the other idea this movie introduced (that being the “fast zombie” idea that’s usually credited to “28 Days Later”). Still, it’s played for laughs and gross-outs, and doesn’t shy away from cheap nudity, something I wholeheartedly endorse.

Classic line: “Send more paramedics!”

6. “Night of the Creeps” (1986)

Seen “Slither”? It pretty much ripped off its major plotline from this flick. “Night of the Creeps” features alien slugs that enter through the mouth and take over, turning people into zombies. Fred Dekker would go on to greater cult fame with “Monster Squad” a few years later, but this film is just as good, despite not having found a DVD release. Like Monster Squad, it exists as an homage to the films that preceded it, naming pretty much every character after someone in the horror business: Hooper, Romero, Cronenberg, et al. Tom Atkins, as Detective Ray Cameron, is the reason the film succeeds as well as it does. His hard-boiled, no-nonsense cop gets all the best lines, is amazingly cool in the face of danger, and just generally kicks ass.

Classic line: “I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here.
-What’s the bad news?
-They’re dead.”

5. Re-Animator (1985)

Stone cold serious comedy. “Re-Animator” plays itself deadly serious, and that’s the best part. It’s 100 percent into what it’s presenting: a formula for re-animating dead corpses. Jeffrey Combs, as Dr. Herbert West, has not a single winking glance at the camera. He plays the role like its Shakespeare, and the good doctor comes off as someone who might actually exist, rather than the usual madman with a crazed plan. The whole thing is bathed in an eerie green light, and so much of it takes place in basement labs that you’d think that the entire college campus was subterranean. The film starts out eccentric crazy, and ends up fucking-nuts crazy with a decapitated corpse holding a head as it performs oral sex on a coed strapped to a gurney. It’s that kind of movie.

Classic line: “You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubble-headed coed.”

4. Cemetery Man, a.k.a. Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

This is pretty much the strangest film of any on the list. An Italian film starring a British actor (Rupert Everett), with various mystical elements that lead the viewer to wonder as to whether or not everything that’s happening is in Francesco Dellamorte’s head. “Cemetery Man” starts out in a fairly straighforward manner, or as straightforward as a man killing the newly risen dead can seem. Then characters start returning in different guises, Dellamorte starts killing people who aren’t undead, and I started to get confused as all hell. Really, the first twenty minutes are all that can be considered a comedy, with the remainder being more of a comedy in the Romantic-literature sense of the word.

Classic line: “You’re supposed to be setting a good example. Now will you get back to your coffin immediately!”

3. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

This is the movie that was credited revitalizing the zombie genre, and, really—it did. It’s got legitimate moments of anxious terror, as well as laugh-out-loud moments. It’s a romantic comedy, a horror comedy, a zombie film, and it’s one of those movies that everyone seems to like. The characters, including main character Shaun (Simon Pegg), are fully realized, rather than being the usual messy roommate, bitchy girlfriend, or any other of a myriad two-dimensional types. Shaun’s relationships with those around him are realistic as well. What makes it really work, however, is the parallels drawn between Shaun’s working life and the zombies who appear. The biggest laughs aren’t from gore moments or anything like that. The fact that the world seems to be in the middle of the apocalypse, and yet Shaun still goes to the corner market for an ice cream is one of the little details that makes the movie hilarious (like the bloody handprint on the cooler door to which Shaun is oblivious).

Classic line: “Shaun!”

2. Evil Dead II (1987)

Essentially a remake of Sam Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” from six years earlier, “Evil Dead II” takes the basic premise of the first (a couple stays in an abandoned cabin and unleashes demons by reading from the Necronomicon) and cranks it up to absurd proportions. Blood does not just drip from the walls—it shoots out like a horizontal geyser. The camera follows Ash (our hero Bruce Campbell) as he runs through the house, and the cabin in the woods grows to mansion-like proportions. Ash goes insane, is mocked by the stuffed and mounted animals, fights with his reflection, cuts off his hand with a chainsaw, places a chainsaw where his hand once was, is found by rednecks, and is chained in the basement with a demonically infested old woman. That’s it in a nutshell. The gore, the slapstick, the one-liners—I mean, really, goddamn. It’s nearly perfect. There’s really only one film that could top it…

Classic line: “I’ll swallow your soul!”

1. Braindead, a.k.a. Dead Alive (1992)

There is much glorious, gleefully depraved gore in this Peter Jackson-directed film, the keystone of splatstick horror. From the opening scenes with the Sumatran rat monkey to the ending birth through giant mother-zombie-rat-monkey, this film revels in its violence. Using 300 liters of fake blood in its final scene alone, there are parts of this movie where the floor is so slick with blood that the lead character, Lionel, is running in place. There are oozing parts, limbs falling off, zombie parts being eaten by people, zombies eating people and pets, limbs hacked off—literally, it’s a bloodbath. And yet, throughout it all, there is such a sweetness that you can’t help but smile. Really, the subplot of Lionel’s romance with Rita is touching and lovely, as is Lionel’s love and care for his mum. It pretty well has to be, because otherwise, there’s only so much of a grin you can get going for a film whose end makes that of “The Wild Bunch” look like an exercise in restraint.

Classic line: “I kick arse for the Lord!”

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and the Pitch’s Wayward Blog.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shaun October 14, 2008 at 10:12 am

Good list! I’m glad you at least mentioned “Tremors”, which in my opinion, makes a nice double bill with “Lake Placid”


2 jovens October 14, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Good stuff hombre. With shame i must admit that i´ve never seen night of the creeps and Cemetery man. Cemetery man is in the post(it kept poppin up on these lists, so I had to order it straight away) but Night of the creeps is sorely missing in the market place. I demand action, I just don´t know where to point my rage. Oh…and thanks for puttin two Bruce Campbell flicks in there. That man is pure gold. All hail the chin.


3 Gooch October 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm

A completely awesome list. So glad that someone else loves “Dead Alive.” I bring it up to people and get the same look my dog gives me when I tell her not to dig up our shrubs. While it won’t kick any of these off the list, I think the flick “Club Dread” by the Broken Lizard guys deserves honorable mention. It’s not quite the intelligent spoof that “Shaun of the Dead” is, but it’s got the best performance from Bill Paxton since “Navy Seals.”


4 jb October 15, 2008 at 10:07 pm

great list. i would totally add dead heat. the movie is so bad it’s good. plus treat williams, joe piscopo and vincent price! can’t go wrong.


5 The Dude October 16, 2008 at 11:09 am

Great list. Also could have mentioned Student Bodies. Any slasher movie where they keep a running body count at the bottom of the screen is OK in my book. If they ever make a film from the faux trailer Thanksgiving, from Grindhouse, I think it would have a shot at #1. “Dark meat, white meat. All will be carved.”


6 Eric Melin October 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Yes! “Thanksgiving” from the thaetrical release of “Grindhouse” is the perfect example of why some movies are better off as trailers!
Check it:


7 Nick October 28, 2008 at 5:25 pm

I think the voice-over for the “Thanksgiving” trailer is what really makes it. Thanks for all the kind words.


8 JJ Rivera July 22, 2009 at 10:58 pm

that has to be the worst top 10 horror films of all time. Who ever wrote this list is a complete idiot and does not know what they are talking about.
Thank you.


9 Tom Hughes September 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Hey I got a question, where the fuck is scary movie?


10 Si Thu August 6, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Come on. How can you forget tucker&dale Vs evil


11 Goblin December 5, 2013 at 8:23 am

Where’s Dawn of the Dead? Sure, most of it’s played straight, but any film with a zombie pie fight is well deserving of a place here.


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