Horror parodies are a tough lot. They’re hard to do and almost impossible to do correctly. However, horror comedies are often excellent, and easier to get right, which is part of the problem. Horror comedies work because of their sincerity. They’re not calling out the genre and if they do, they typically do so in a subtle and tasteful way. It’s a surprise to people, generally, but horror comedies work because they actually take the subject matter seriously. The comedy comes out of the characters and the situations, but the great ones aren’t laughing at the genre as a whole.
By and large, that’s what separates horror comedies from horror parodies. In the most basic, broadest terms, one form is produced out of love for the genre and another is produced out of hate. But there are always exceptions. Mel Brooks adores the horror genre and that love is all over Young Frankenstein and even the underrated Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Shaun of the Dead, while more horror comedy than parody, is also done out of an adoration for George Romero and all that he has done.
Most don’t go that route. Instead, most horror parodies capitalize on what’s popular and become an awkward mix of resenting that popularity while trying to recreate it at the same time. Most of them fail. But there are some that at least come close, they have some good ideas and try to put in the effort.
Student Bodies has some genuinely hilarious moments. There are some excellent bits that are dead-on satire of early 1980’s slashers. The problem is that everything in it that’s not funny is really not funny and kind of painful to sit through. It’s a tough balance. Student Bodies is certainly watchable and I would even recommend it to the right person, but if there was a stronger balance between the jokes, it could really have been something special.
Let’s focus on the one that worked the best, without even getting into the army of sequels that switched gears from making fun of horror movies to simply pointing out whatever was big in pop culture that year. Scary Movie, like Student Bodies, has some really funny bits in it. The problem is that it’s satirizing a satire. Scream was already a sendup of the genre and a terrific one at that, so Scary Movie becomes a little redundant in whatever it’s trying to do when that is taken into account.
This may sound strange to say, but Transylvania 6-5000 would work so much better if it were simply a better movie. All of the ideas are in place. The cast is in place. Everything should work, but the script and the pacing, direction, editing, etc. are all off. It needed more time and more work and it could have been excellent but, sadly, what we’re left with is something just shy of truly memorable—and a lot of really corny jokes.
Somewhere between Scary Movie and Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th is a really good parody. And it’s worth pointing out that this one was actually made first, to get that question out of the way. Where one is funny, the other falls flat, and vice versa. Overall, there’s something much more good natured about the comedy here and it revels in its own absurdity—but some scenes, like the Grease sequence, are just flat-out awful.
Nothing about Stan Helsing works except the core concept. It’s bad. There’s really not a funny moment in the entire thing. But everyone wants to see some kind of crossover between the modern movie monsters and a venue like Stan Helsing really is the way to do it. Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Pinhead and Chucky can never get together on the screen unless it is in a context like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. You can use these characters’ likenesses under parody law, so at that point, all you really have to do is actually make the movie funny. Which is where this one took a left turn.
Repossessed could have been the Young Frankenstein of the 1980’s. The Exorcist was a massive hit, one of the most influential horror films of all time, it was ripe for parody and the religious context could have made for a great, Dogma-ish kind of comedy. But instead of being that, instead of really being a true out-and-out parody of The Exorcist, it was more of a Naked Gun sequel that happened to have a fetish for Exorcist jokes. Bonus points for the appearance of a clearly good-natured Linda Blair, though.