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Stacie Ponder – Cowering Under the Covers While Everybody Else Is Laughing


Blogger Stacie Ponder’s horror columns appear every Wednesday.

I think we can all agree that nobody likes to be left out of a joke. No one wants to be that person who says, “Wait, I don’t get it…” while everyone else is doubled over with laughter. Nobody enjoys the awkwardness that follows when a joke has to be explained — when someone has to patiently say, “See, there’s a baseball team called the New York Mets, and so a hamburger’s favorite baseball team would be the New York Meats because hamburgers are made of meat.” Even if the humorless person says dully, “Oh okay, I get it,” and chuckles lifelessly, by then, everyone else has stopped laughing. Jokus interruptus. Like I said, nobody wants to be that person.

It pains me greatly to say it, but folks… I have been that person. There are movies out there that are some weird amalgamation of horror and comedy that are known, surprisingly enough, as “horror comedies.” I’m not referring to the obvious ones like Scary Movie — I’m not so dense that I didn’t understand that movie is supposed to be funny. I’m talking about movies that I thought were scary and only scary — terrifying, even — until I grew up and realized that I’d been left out of the joke all along and I was supposed to be laughing when I was actually cowering under the covers.

Motel Hell
Looking
back, I can’t believe I didn’t get that this flick about a farmer
making smoked meat out of humans was supposed to be a bit of a parody.
Apparently I never saw the theatrical poster, which proclaims in bright
white typeface “You might just die… laughing!” Nope, missed that one.
What I did see, however, was the cover of Fangoria #9, featuring a huge picture of Motel Hell‘s
Farmer Vincent clutching a bloody chainsaw, wearing overalls and a
bloody pig’s head. The feature article didn’t help matters, either: All
I saw were pictures of a crazed farmer and his equally crazed sister
wielding chainsaws, victims buried up to their necks in a macabre
“garden”, and sundry meat products made from human flesh. Ha ha ha!
Thanks to Fangoria and the fact that I was, oh, maybe nine or ten years old, I’d have to say that Motel Hell
qualified as a straight-up nightmare-inducing horror movie for me. When
I finally revisited it twenty years after its 1980 release, I was shocked
— shocked– to find that it was essentially a comedy. What scared me
on the first viewing had me laughing on the second and when I watch it this week on AMC, I’ll act like I knew it all along.

An American Werewolf in London
I
remember watching this one with my parents when I was a kid and they
found an awful lot of it to be funny, just as writer/director John
Landis intended. As for me, however, I simply could not see anything to
laugh at in the tale of two American college kids who are attacked by a
werewolf late one night on the English moors. While David (David
Naughton) survives the attack and, as we all know, ends up turning into
a werewolf, his pal Jack (Griffin Dunne) is killed. Jack returns, in a
sense, appearing in David’s waking dreams to warn him about the pain
his werewolfiness will cause. Every time Jack appears, his body is more
and more decomposed and my mom and dad thought that was oh so funny…
meanwhile, I thought Rick Baker’s Oscar-winning makeup effects were the
scariest thing I’d ever seen. Honestly, I don’t feel so bad about not
“getting” this one. Watching it today, I still think American Werewolf
is pretty scary, although I do comprehend that it’s more horror/comedy
than anything else. Mom and dad, I apologize for all the “That’s not
funny!” outbursts.

The Evil Dead
The humor intended in Sam Raimi’s early film would be more apparent in the sequels Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness .
Over the course of the films, leading man Ash (Bruce Campbell) evolved
from being a hapless doofus to a one-liner spouting, chainsaw-n-shotgun
toting, time-traveling hero doofus as he battles the forces of evil. I
might lose cred (err, if I ever had any to begin with) amongst some of
you, but Ash’s adventures after the initial film have never really done
it for me; I lost interest when the Evil Dead franchise became
more about comedy than about horror, most likely because the original
film rocked my face off in the scares department. The outrageousness of
the gore escalates to the point where you simply have to laugh, sure; Evil Dead
is nothing if not completely over the top. But otherwise? Please, that
s–t ain’t funny! I’m sure Stephen King’s huge endorsement on the
awesome movie poster got me in the right mindset before I saw it the
first time — I was ready to be terrified, but it was Raimi who really
delivered for me. A cabin in the woods, demon voices, a grody-looking
monster trying to break out of the basement, eyes with no pupils… this movie scared the bejeebus outta me, and I wasn’t alone. I brought
it to a friend’s house to watch and when it was over, she was so
freaked out that she wouldn’t even touch the videotape.

Yes,
“videotape.” That word dates things a bit, doesn’t it? As I said, I
think that’s got a lot to do with why I found these horror-comedies
simply horrifying: I was but a young’un when I saw them the first time. I didn’t get it, and in some cases, I still don’t. The Evil Dead still gets under my skin, and I’ll never be sure why some people classify Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse
as a comedy. Eh, I guess sometimes I’m just clueless, as much as I hate
to admit it. But at least I can always comprehend a good hamburger joke!

sp.jpgA fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue

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