By Eric J.

**Please note some films mentioned in this post are not appropriate for all ages.**

EVPL is proud to have Kanopy – a free, digital streaming service for libraries. Watch great movies with the click of a button but without the monthly fee of most streaming services. The app – available to download on evpl.org – works on phones, desktops, Roku, Amazon Firestick, and Chromecast. As an EVPL user, you will have access to 20 films per month. This feature looks at some of what Kanopy has to offer, highlighting a particular filmmaker, actor, studio, genre, or theme.

Text says Kanopy Spotlight with the movie posters of Tucker and Dale vs Evil, What We Do in the Shadows, Dead of Night, and Tusk

This time, the spotlight is on horror comedy. These are two genres that may seem as polar opposite as one can get on the surface, but there is a long cinematic history combining the two. They both bring out very primal, emotional reactions out of the audience, not content with the viewer passively watching but actively shouting, screaming, or laughing. Some of the most successful horror films of all time from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to Scream incorporated elements of both so that the horror is made more horrific and the comedy funnier by having a contrast. Even within the subgenre, there is a lot of variety in the ways that the films mix the two elements. The horror comedy films available on Kanopy vary from comedies with some horror aspects or elements to horror films with absurd or comical premises.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2011)

Director: Eli Craig

Features: Alan TudykKatrina BowdenTyler Labine

Runtime: 89 mins. 

Rating: R

A group of young college students go out to the middle of the woods to camp and party, but in that same forest lies a rickety old shack owned by two unkempt rednecks brandishing chainsaws. Sounds pretty easy to guess what will happen next, right? Well… not exactly. The two hillbillies, Tucker McGee (Alan Tudyk) and Dale Dobson (Tyler Labine) are actually really kind, compassionate, soft-hearted people who would not hurt a fly. They bought the rundown cabin because they want to fix it up and just want to be friends with the college kids, with Dale even crushing on Allison (Katrina Bowden). But a series of bizarre mishaps and horrible accidents lead to suspicion being cast on the two, who of course fit all external appearances of rural serial killers from a horror movie…

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil has some gory and suspenseful scenes, but for the most part, it is a comedy mining the tropes and situations of a horror movie than a horror movie itself. Unlike Scream or The Cabin in the Woods, which merely point out horror movie clichés while engaging in them, this film frequently subverts them, showing how horror movies have warped our perception of going out to the woods or someone using a chainsaw into automatically sinister territory. The film has a lot of fun taking stereotypes of the genre, as well as more generally held ones about class, and twisting them upside down while still providing an entertaining experience that makes you laugh all the way through.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Director: Jemaine ClementTaika Waititi

Features: Cori Gonzalez-MacuerJemaine ClementTaika Waititi

Runtime: 86 mins. 

Rating: R

What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about the undead life of four vampires living in a small apartment in New Zealand. Vampires are like any family: Vladislav the Poker (Clement) rules the vampire clan as its patriarch while Viago (Waititi) rules the household as the group’s mother. Young Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), only 183-years-old, wants to rebel while the 8000-year-old, Nosferatu-looking Petyr (Ben Fransham) just wants to sleep and be left alone. Their horror movie trappings contrast with their mundane day-to-day lives: dealing with familiars, training new recruits to vampirism, starting rivalries with other local vampires and werewolves, hanging out with a human named Stu (Stu Rutherford), and the other trivialities in the life of a vampire.

Taika Waititi’s third film is the first he shares co-director credit, in this case with Jemaine Clement, one half of group Flight of the Conchords, and star of Waititi’s first film, Eagle vs Shark. This movie is an outright comedy, although utilizing horror elements when needed. Using the style of shows like The Office, the fake documentary format allows them to both parody a lot of vampire movie tropes and take them seriously at the same time; when they kill people in this movie, they still kill people. If the premise and title sound very familiar, that may be because Waititi and Clement turned the film into a TV series for FX in 2018, sharing the same name and premise but with a new cast of vampires living in North America. Waititi and Clement even cameo as part of a star-studded Vampire Council across all franchises.

Dead of Night (1945)

Director: Alberto CavalcantiBasil DeardenCharles CrichtonRobert Hamer

Features: Allan JeayesAnthony BairdBarbara LeakeBasil RadfordElisabeth WelchEsme PercyFrederick ValkGarry MarshGoogie WithersHartley PowerJohn McGuireJudy KellyMagda KunMary MerrallMervyn JohnsMichael AllanMichael RedgraveMiles MallesonNaunton WaynePeggy BryanRalph MichaelRenée GaddRobert WyndhamRoland CulverSally Ann Howes

Runtime: 103 mins.

Rating: Unrated

A British anthology film from the 1940s, Dead of Night is not a full-on horror comedy, but an anthology that has a horror comedy segment. In the framing sequence, an architect named Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) gets a job to do some renovations on an old house and once inside, is startled to realize that although he has never met anyone in the house, he has seen them all in a variety of dreams he had. Craig then describes his dreams, each a short horror story featuring one of the house guests. The segments vary wildly in tone and mood, the most famous of them being the final segment featuring a ventriloquist’s dummy with a mind of its own…

The second to last segment is an unusually humorous segment featuring ghosts and golf. When two friends (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) both like the same woman, the men decide to play a round of golf to determine who will approach her. One cheats at the game, winning unfairly, and his friend commits suicide in response. Everything seems to go well to the surviving man… until his friend reappears as a ghost to haunt him. The man agrees to give up the woman they fought over, but refuses to give up his true love, golf, even when the ghost refuses to leave him alone. This is a fairly dark premise written out like this but the actual execution is lighthearted and whimsical. The two actors who play the friends, Radford and Wayne were famous at the time for their duo, Charters and Caldicott from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. They play very similar characters in Dead of Night, although given different names for copyright purposes.

Tusk (2014)

Director: Kevin Smith

Features: Genesis RodriguezHaley Joel OsmentJustin LongMichael Parks

Runtime: 102 mins. 

Rating: R

Podcaster Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) finds himself with nothing do in the middle of nowhere, Canada, his planned assignment no longer possible, and comes upon a strange ad posted on a bathroom wall, promising “interesting stories” to anyone who would visit him. Upon arrival at the old, abandoned-looking house, Bryton meets the extremely eccentric Howard Howe (Michael Parks), who tells the Internet host about his very unusual encounter with a walrus when stranded on a desert island. As Bryton starts to realize there is something seriously wrong with the man, Howe drugs and kidnaps the podcaster, sewing him into a walrus costume made of human flesh. Even as his friends try to find and save him, is Bryton too far gone to be saved…?

The origins of this one are as odd as the film itself. A man in the U.K. created a prank ad asking for a housemate who would have to dress in a walrus costume once a day in order to live there rent-free. Director Kevin Smith recorded a podcast reading the ad, not knowing it was fake, and described a potential film that could be adapted from it. He asked his followers on Twitter whether he should really make it, #WalrusYes or #WalrusNo. They voted Yes and the film was actually made. While some of the other films on this list were more comedy-focused with some horror moments, Tusk has an inherently absurd premise and was born out of comedic circumstances, but the film itself takes the premise pretty straight. The actual execution is taken seriously and the body horror of being sewn into a costume made of flesh is treated as ghastly and awful. There is humor in the supporting characters and just the idea of a man in a walrus costume, but the final film shows how horrific that would actually be.

More Kanopy Spotlights

Eric J.

Eric J.

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