1. an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.
“This film is a horror parody.”
Synonyms: satire, lampoon, pastiche, caricature, take-off, skit, imitation
The horror genre and its fans, you can’t deny, have a hard time. Horror tends to be a thing that a person either gets or doesn’t; and with this Marmite feeling amongst the general population sometimes us horror fans just have to sit down, kick off our shoes, and have a laugh at our genre and the things that non-horror fans will never be able to appreciate. They may think we are weird, horror fans, but by god at least we can laugh about it.
Parodies are something I personally didn’t really understand until I grew up, I did not like the genre to be laughed about and I only ever saw the serious aspects of each horror film I watched because I enjoyed breaking down the films to look at their symbolism and relationships and how each film was actually taking on big topics. One day I realised though that parodies themselves do the breaking down for you and reveal even more ways to look at certain aspects of the genre.
What follows are what I would consider to be the top ten parodies to make horror fans laugh, contemplate and in some cases cry.
10. Repossessed (1990)
Directed and written by Bob Logan (who also wrote and directed “Meatballs 4”, 1992), “Repossessed” (1990) is a parody to horror classic “The Exorcist” (1973). Starring Linda Blair, the victim from “The Exorcist”, and Leslie Nielson as Father Jebedaiah Mayii; the film is set at a time when Nancy (who was once possessed as a child) is now fully grown with her own family, at which point she becomes repossessed and plans go underway to have her exorcism aired live on television.
Released a month after “The Exorcist III”, this visual gag laden and fourth wall breaking movie is typical of Nielson and is a must see parody for Leslie Nielson and horror fans alike.
9. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)
This low budget sci-fi horror parody, directed and co-written by John De Bello, suggests in its opening sequence that even the possibility of the most ludicrous attacks on humanity (such as mass bird attacks) should not be laughed at. I should mention that what follows is a scene of a tomato, climbing out from a garbage disposal unit, ready to kill.
This movie parodies mass-hysteria horror – like “Them!” (1954), “Tarantula” (1955) and “The Blob”(1958) – with a “Jaws”-like sequence and a big play on politics; and although it sure is a parody it appears that since its release away back in 1978 some people have never understood this.
Carrying itself like a Leslie Nielsen film (think “Airplane!” 1980), the film sees a special government task force band together after a wave of attacks involving tomatoes eating humans and pets. The task force consisting a lieutenant who goes nowhere without his parachute, an underwater expert that is always in scuba gear – cos you don’t know when a body of water might show up, do you? – and a master of disguise who throughout the movie dresses as a black Hitler.
“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” may always be met with a mixed response, but it has earned its place as a cult parody with its low budget, outlandish form of effects and in-your-face comedy that makes it now seem like a well before its time, and much better, “Scary Movie” (2000). Not to mention a killer theme song.
8. Club Dread (2004)
Not as well known (or maybe I’m just thinking in the UK), “Club Dread” (also known as “Broken Lizard’s Club Dread”) is a Broken Lizard film. If you haven’t heard of Broken Lizard; they are an American comedy troupe that are not exactly known for their work in horror. Directed by the Broken Lizard Jay Chandrasekhar, this film marks their unusual exception to the genre. Although it was definitely written as a spoof I cannot say for sure it was meant to become a parody.
Taking the quaint slasher movie to a tropical island resort owned by Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton) the Jimmy Buffet wannabe boozer; this film is packed to the rafters with bikini babes, alcohol filled coconuts and over-acted stereotypes that form the group of characters that make up the who-done-it party. With Coconut Pete standing as the most memorable of characters, there is also Jenny the over-sexed fitness instructor, Putman the obnoxious British tennis fan, and ecstasy loving Dave who is the nephew of Coconut Pete, to name a few.
I have never seen another Broken Lizard film and I don’t intend to – in all honesty I watched this because of Bill Paxton; the man I want to find attractive until I remember “Weird Science” (1985) – but I can safely say that this film has the Paxton horror seal of approval; and with its many references to other films in the genre I’m sure that one day it will get the full recognition and audience it deserves.
7. Fido (2006)
I have always wondered if this film intentionally started from where “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) ended. Directed by Andrew Currie and starring Billy Connolly (as a zombie), this film – although a parody – is also another satirical look at culture under the microscope, as many zombie films are (I mentioned this once about George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” 1978, possibly being the first to do this).
Set in an alternative American 1950s, the audience witnesses – through the eyes of a little boy – the oppression and prejudices towards zombies (who take the place of the black community of this time). The film sees the little boy, Timmy, as his family get their first zombie (Billy Connolly), which he names Fido and befriends. Fido as well as the other zombies throughout the film faces a series of issues as a zombie in a white suburban world; one even being used by one of Timmy’s neighbours as a girlfriend.
The supressed, straight-laced suburban community works hard to keep up appearances, even between malfunctioning collars and zombie attacks in this unusual farce of a community that seems to be trying its best to be what it was before the zombie outbreak and wars. This kitschy parody takes a good long look at the possibilities of a zombie epidemic and what the Western world would very likely do in order to delude themselves that there is still normality in the their world.
6. Piranha (1978)
This 1978 parody of “Jaws” (1975); directed by Joe Dante and written by Richard Robinson and John Sayles; sees a school of genetically engineered piranha (which were played by rubber puppets on sticks) accidentally being let loose from an abandoned military base in to a local body of water. The main characters have to rush to stop the dam from being opened so the school cannot get in to the lake and water park that the summer camp frequent.
This parody almost kicked up a storm when Universal Studios attempted to sue for the parodying of “Jaws” (1975), but ended up dropping the suit because Steven Spielberg saw an advance screening and loved the movie so much.
The flat characters and mostly poor acting does not take away from this films charm, which the remakes failed to capture. During the “Piranha” (1978) time period a lot of “Jaws”-inspired films were coming out of the works, this however, stands high above the rest.
5. Scream (1996)
You might be making a funny face at your screen right about now, but I have no doubt in my mind that “Scream” (1996) is a parody. For one it plays homage to the slasher movies of the past – more specifically – to “Student Bodies” (1981).
I have always been quite impressed with the “Scream” franchise (even though I hated the Courtney Cox and David Arquette romance nonsense) which was directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. The film sees Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) become the main target of a high school serial killer as The Ghostface Killer picks off students around her one by one in accordance to traditional slasher movie survival rules.
Although “Scream” resurrected the slasher horror and many terrible films were released in its wake (“I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Urban Legend” for instance), the “Scream” franchise itself is a unique and fantastic parody/homage slasher series. After all, when Stephen King reintroduced horror literature to the latter half of the last century, we did not blame him for all the drivel that was published on the back of his success.
4. Young Frankestein (1974)
Directed and co-written by Mel Brooks (also written by Gene Wilder), and based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel, “Young Frankenstein” (1974) takes a comical and light-hearted look at the story of Frankenstein’s monster.
The film sees Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) inherit his grandfather’s estate and continue his work by creating the creature. After several escapes and some frolicking between the creature and a woman with a love of gigantic penises, a happy ending is had by all.
Apparently Gene Wilder said this was the favourite of all the films he has made, and considering the great reaction it received from fans when it was originally released you can see why. Close attention to detail was paid in order to have scenes have the feel of James Whale’s original Frankenstein classics which only added to the atmosphere of this parody. I have no doubt this was, to some extent, made as a tribute to Whale.
3. Student Bodies (1981)
Directed and written by Mickey Rose (also directed by, but uncredited, was Michael Ritchie) this parody takes a long look at the high school slasher.
The film sees ‘The Breather’ stalk and kill any high school student he finds having sex, but not before making some heavy breath phone calls. There is absolutely nothing serious about this movie as it takes on every single typical high school slasher character and rips them a new one. I was actually very surprised when I first saw this to realise that even at that time so many clichés were well established in the slasher type movie.
“Student Bodies” (1981) was actually a flop when it was initially released in theatres, but its television airings gained it a cult following.
For all the sex, idiocy, bludgeoning and humour – I’d look no further than “Student Bodies”.
2. Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
I don’t ever recall there being a hillbilly horror parody in the past, and even if there has been a few they haven’t left a big enough impression to say that they have been done to death.
Directed and co-written by Eli Craig (also written by Morgan Jurgenson), this film sees a sweetheart pair, Tucker and Dale (played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk), living out in the sticks fall victim to a group of out of town college students’ misconceptions.
Filled with one farcical death after the other, this hillbilly/camping slasher parody expresses an over-the-top, comedic warning of what happens when you watch too many scary movies. This is a film that could sit with “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon” (2006) due to how it stands out from other parodies, especially those produced today.
Being shelved for 3 years before finally being released (for reasons I’m unsure of), this independent horror parody plays beautifully between its lines of comedy, gore and character (Tucker and Dale) development.
1. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
This independent film was shot mockumentary style in a world where supernatural slasher film killers are real. Directed and co-written by Scott Glosserman (also written by David J. Stieve), the film follows Leslie Vernon as he prepares himself to become a fully-fledged serial killer by slaughtering a bunch of teenagers in an abandoned house and finally have a face-off with his ‘final girl’.
This film is such an interesting and well thought out film that really breaks down the slasher film killer character and makes them seem human and entertaining. It has an answer for all the unusual occurrences found in your everyday slasher films, and is so detailed oriented as to make sure small pieces from other slasher films are included, such as shots of Elm Street. Being such a unique movie, the thing that really topped this one is that it was the late great Zelda Rubinstein’s final movie.
Its movies like this one that give me faith that the genre will continue to evolve underground with the help of independent projects like these.