We love Halloween. But pumpkins scare the hell out of us. That’s why we asked guest blogger, Louisa, to share some funny, spooky films with us. Here’s her top 5 picks.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
A spooky spoof based on Mary Shelley’s classic book. This is the third Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder collaboration, and it might just be the best one.
Wilder plays (Young) Dr Frankenstein (he pronounces it ‘Fronkensteen’ to disassociate himself from his lineage), the grandson of the famous corpse-resurrecting Frankenstein. He travels from his home in the States to Transylvania with news of his grandfather’s will. As a gifted neurosurgeon himself, he believes his grandfather’s work to be nonsensical.
Upon arrival in Romania, he is met by hump-backed, goggle-eyed Igor (Marty Feldman), whose grandfather was Frankenstein’s assistant. He also meets his new lab assistant, Inga (Teri Garr) and the torn-faced housekeeper, Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), whose name elicits fear in horses. As Dr Fronkensteen explores his grandfather’s castle, he realises his ideas may not have been crazy after all, and decides to follow in his questionable footsteps.
Amongst the creepy goings-on, there is plenty of room for humour – both subtle and overt – involving brains, humps and candles – all leading to one of the funniest song and dance numbers ever filmed.
The Man with Two Brains (1983)
This is a brilliantly 80s, brilliantly silly comedy horror based loosely on a 1950’s film Donovan’s Brain. Directed by Carl Reiner, Two Brains is another movie about a gifted neurosurgeon: Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr, played by Steve Martin (who also co-wrote), who falls in love with one of his patients, Dolores (Kathleen Turner), after he hits her with his car.
During the operation to save her life, he uses his ‘screw-top method’ (a great visual gag) to access her injured brain. They soon marry, but sadly for Michael, Dolores is a gold-digger with a penchant for virile young men.
When the couple travel to Vienna for a medical conference, Michael is approached by a fellow doctor, Alfred Necessiter (David Warner), who wishes to show him his laboratory. Here he finds a collection of brains in jars and discovers he can telecommunicate with one in particular, that of Anne Uumellmahaye, voiced by Sissy Spacek. Realising what a nice brain she is, coupled with their equally mispronounced names, they fall in love. But Anne is wavering; she needs a body. And quickly.
Slapstick moments, hilarious dialogue and references to other horrors such as Tomb of Ligeia (1964) make this a comedy horror to remember.
Beetlejuice was originally written as a straight horror, but after numerous edits to the script, and with Tim Burton at the helm, it took on an altogether different form.
Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis) are newlywed suburbanites who find themselves in limbo after a tragic accident. Unable to leave the house, they must share their home with the living after it is sold to the brash New Yorker Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara), her put upon husband, Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and her cynical step-daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder). ‘Bio-exorcist’ Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) may be the man to help…
Beetlejuice is a witty and irreverent film, enhanced by Keaton’s comedic portrayal and the colourful afterlife. Just like Young Frankenstein, there’s a random musical number that sticks in most people’s minds, with the aid of Harry Belafonte’s calypso sounds.
American Psycho (2000)
An extremely black comedy starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a narcissistic, deplorable Wall Street broker with a taste for fine tailoring and fresh blood. Nothing can stand in Patrick’s way as co-workers, ‘friends’ and prostitutes are bumped off in Dexter-like fashion.
The humour in American Psycho starts early on, with Bateman’s lengthy morning routine, featuring an alarming array of skincare and his excessive exercise regime. Bateman hates being outdone by anyone: he must have the hardest abs, the biggest pay check, the most elegant business card. His vanity knows no bounds; he even makes love in front of a mirror so he can admire his pecs.
There are no gags in this film, rather it’s the outlandish behaviour of Bateman, his sneering attitude, his body language and nuances that make American Psycho so funny, with an outstanding performance by Christian Bale. There was public outcry when this film was released, but the majority of the murders and executions are too preposterous to be taken seriously.
It’s present-day US of A, and reclusive young college student Columbus (so-called for his home city) is one of only a handful of living humans left in America. He has survived a zombie plague due to his distinct system of rules, which he shares with us in case we are ever in his predicament.
Deciding he wants to see if his parents are still alive, Columbus hitches a ride from Texas with his polar opposite, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a tough guy with a very sweet tooth. They soon meet two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are headed for Los Angeles. They must work together to keep safe, although some people don’t always play fair.
While there are amusing scenes featuring zombie slaying, the funniest parts of the film come from the dialogue between the four main characters, especially those played out at Bill Murray’s mansion. Murray plays himself and his cameo is inspired.
Zombieland is America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead (2004) but for me the US film edges ahead in the funny stakes. The characters – in particular Tallahassee – are excellent, and deliver one liners with aplomb. So take note from Rule 32: ‘Enjoy the little things’, and add this movie to your Halloween watch list.
Image from Beetlejuice movie, The Geffen company 1988