1. Black Mirror
“It’s about this bloke trying to solve a murder, but he’s having to do it with a ten minute memory.”
I'm laughing already! Except Memento isn’t a comedy at all (well, save for this scene), which just goes to show, with a little nudge, a certain premise can go either way. Point of fact: not long after Memento, a similar idea was used as the basis for another film. It was the story of a man forced to repeatedly woo a woman who suffers from anterograde amnesia. A harrowing drama? That story was 50 First Dates, starring Adam Sandler, so yeah, in a way.
2. Adult Swim programming
Adult Swim have been producing weird and unsettling comedy for years though, with shows like Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Xavier: Renegade Angel, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021 (to name just a few) regularly spiked with moments of real dread and repugnance.
If you enjoy Adult Swim’s output you’d also do well to check out Wonder Showzen (originally aired on MTV2), which features some of the most horrific television comedy ever produced.
3. Shaun of the Dead
Years ago, when I graduated university with ambitions of becoming a screenwriter, I wrote a movie called Something Rotten. It was a zombie horror comedy – something that hadn’t really been done at that point since 1985’s Return of the Living Dead. I’d just finished the third draft when I found out about a film that was about to go into production with a familar pitch. That film was Shaun of the Dead, a zombie comedy that was so similar to Something Rotten it even came with the matching tagline ‘A Rom Zom Com.’ I don't tell this story to suggest foul play – Pegg and Wright hadn’t been within a hundred miles of my shonky, piece-of-shit screenplay – I mention it in a purely anecdotal capacity. That said, at least Something Rotten didn’t operate under a false pretence. I mean, how exactly is Shaun “of” the dead? He isn’t of course, it’s just an excuse for Wright and Pegg to steal from Romero and trade off of the title of his classic, Dawn of the Dead, same way they stole my screenplay, the thieving gypsy bastards.
(In case you’re wondering what happened to Something Rotten, the genuine answer is that I took it to Hollywood and shopped it around one summer but couldn’t find a buyer. The last pitch meeting I attended was with a producer at Miramax who gave me the memorable advice, “Look, buddy, if it’s anything more complicated than Jennifer Lopez falling out of a tree, who gives a shit?” It’s advice I apply to my writing to this very day).
4. The Return of the Living Dead
The above clip is a perfect capsule of the film – daft as a brush but ghastly at the same time. The same goes with an early scene involving medical specimens of bisected dogs that come to life, wriggling around in their vitrines like animated Damien Hirst sculptures – ridiculous and hideous in equal measure. Oh, and if that’s not your bag, there’s a punk chick who spends the best part of the film’s run time dancing about stark billy bollocks.
5. The League of Gentleman
That’s me dressed as Papa Lazarou for a Halloween party. I wish I’d taken a photo of the rest of the outfit, because I really went to town with it – even stitched a bunch of clothes pegs into the lining. I was going to be the hit of the party, or so I thought. See, the trouble is, if you’re not intimately familiar with The League of Gentlemen (as many weren’t at the time) a Papa Lazarou costume is really just a white guy in blackface. It’s fair to say I didn’t make any new friends at that party. Still, great show...
6. Vampire’s Kiss
One of the most memorable rentals from that time was Vampire’s Kiss, and that’s saying something given that we used to call those illicit Friday evenings ‘video/vomit nights’, named after the excess of wine consumed that would invariably lead to the participants throwing up their box of burgundy (this was considered sophisticated in the suburbs).
Vampire’s Kiss is one of Nic Cage’s first movies, not to mention one of his best. I almost considered not including the compilation clip above in case it spoiled your enjoyment of the film, but I’m a bit of a prick, so I left it there anyway. Just promise you’ll watch the full thing, okay?
7. Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place
Despite the Garth Merenghi stage show winning the Edinburgh Fringe award, the TV show failed to flourish due to its small viewing figures and excessive cost. Apparently, it takes a good deal of money to make something look that naff. Armed with this information, you’d have to be a fool to poach one of Garth Merenghi’s leads and cast her in a high production value sketch show about lobster-clawed monsters from outer space and expect it to succeed. A damned fool.
8. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
9. The Frighteners
10. Cabin in the Woods
Whedon has long had a finger in the comedy/horror milieu (as well as your mother). Right from the off he proved himself an expert at fusing the two genres, Buffy the Vampire Slayer being his most notable offering, at least until Cabin in the Woods came along.
The first thing you should know about Cabin in the Woods is that it’s batshit banana bonkers – a brilliant deconstruction of clichéd horror tropes and a glorious piece of fan service to boot. It has its cake, eats it, then shits out a brand new, better cake. A better cake with a homicidal merman in it. Yep, Joss Whedon’s a real powerhouse. Alien Resurrection can fuck right off though.
“That David Bussell sure knows his onions, I wonder if he wrote a book I can buy that masterfully combines the madcap and the macabre.”