Well, since I seem to be going through a bit of a horror phase at the moment, I thought that I’d look at one of my favourite parts of the horror genre today. I am, of course, talking about the humour.
Surprisingly, when I first became interested in the horror genre back when I was a teenager – I took it deadly seriously. All of the wonderful dark humour in this genre went completely over my head. It wasn’t until my late teens or early twenties that I really began to realise just how hilarious the horror genre can be. These days, whenever I try to make anything in the horror genre, it always ends up being more comedy than horror (like in this interactive story I wrote last Halloween).
So, why do horror and comedy go so well together? There are a couple of reasons – the first is that both genres often rely on very similar techniques in order to either frighten or amuse the audience. The other reason is that the scary parts of a horror film, comic or story can become even scarier by contrast if there is something funny a few minutes earlier.
Plus, horror-themed comedy is just an awesome genre too 🙂 So, how can you add a few laughs to your horror story or comic? Here are four possible ways:
1) Old horror: Horror doesn’t really age that well. What may have genuinely frightened people a few decades ago usually looks laughably silly and/or hilariously melodramatic by modern standards (“The Exorcist” is a perfect example of this). So, adding some old-fashioned horror to your story or comic can be a great basis for comedy.
Another great example of this can be seen in the fifth season of a modern American TV show called “Supernatural”, where there’s an entire episode based on old black& white vampire movies – a great example of the humour in this episode can be seen in this clip.
Old horror is also funny because it often features characters being scared by things that we don’t currently consider scary. As such, it comes across as melodramatic rather than frightening. And, well, it’s very easy to play melodrama for laughs.
2) Cheesy puns: Adding a cheesy pun to your horror story or comic at a seemingly “inappropriate” time can be a great way to get a laugh from your audience. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and it still works really well. The classic example of this is Dr. Frankenstein asking someone to lend him a hand…
I saw a great example of this quite a few years back. I happened to see a clip from one of the “Nightmare On Elm Street” films, which involved Freddy Krueger devouring someone’s soul. Anyway, the caption below it was something like “Freddy enjoys some soul food”. I literally rolled about with laughter.
Visual puns can also work quite well too, if you’ve got a more macabre sense of humour.
3) Realism: Comedy can often be injected into horror stories or comics by adding realistic details in unexpected places. In many horror movies, the characters are often absolute idiots. This is mostly due to lazy writing (and because any horror movie worth watching usually has to kill off at least half of the main characters).
So, having your characters do the smart thing when your audience would expect them to do something foolish (and vice versa) can be a great way to get some laughs from your story or comic. Likewise, you can have a character trying to do something smart – only for another character to do something even smarter, like in this webcomic update of mine from earlier this year:
4) Add some zombies: Ah, zombies. Nature’s clowns. Unlike actual clowns – which are anything but funny!
Seriously though, I don’t know exactly when zombies stopped being scary and started being funny (it was probably sometime around 2004 ), but they’re the ultimate comedic horror monster.
They’re “realistic” enough to be used for social satire, but they’re unrealistic, unintelligent and well-known enough not to be genuinely frightening. Likewise, zombies can be added to literally any situation in a story or comic, which means that they are a versatile source of horror-related comedy.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂