One Way to Make a Horror-Comedy

NOTE: This is in response to a topic suggested by the SAE Institute, “Media Genres and Style.”


Polar opposites on the color spectrum are often used as matching choices to greatly improve upon the look of any subject they are used on, like clothes, posters, buildings or even food. The contrast between the opposite colors, like green and purple, creates a mix of warm and cold emotions to people (Patkar, 2014). The same can be said of the mix of comedy and horror, on the contrast of warm and cold emotions, except that the contrast relies upon the context of scenes as well. However, these contrasts only go as far as the surface-level impressions appear to be in the two genres, because they both share lots of similarities in the way they entertain their audiences. Writer Robert Bloch even stated that they are “opposite sides of the same coin” (Carroll, 1999).

Comedian Jordan Peele shares the same viewpoint during his promotion of his directorial debut, the satirical social-horror Get Out, adding, “Any really successful or great horror movie, you go and see an audience there’s going to be laughter from nervousness. They’re both about building the tension and releasing in some way.” He also says in order to achieve what the two genres are going for, there needs to be a “certain grounded-ness” and a “certain consistency” (Cinema Blend, 2017).

However, I disagree, because grounded-ness could only depend on the context and style directors and writers are aiming for in their own projects, so there needs to be more of a focus on consistency. It can be found in Get Out among other films like it, but the consistency is most apparent in horror director Sam Raimi’s work, his Evil Dead films and Drag Me to Hell. According to filmmaker and YouTuber Patrick H. Willems (2017), most horror-comedies “generally balance the genres by having one horror scene and then a comedy scene.”

Sam Raimi uses a different approach: not only are those films consistent with the tones they aimed for, but the consistencies are identified as being efficient with executing scares while delivering punchlines, making jokes out of the scares, although there is nothing inherently comedic about Raimi’s movies. “On paper,” Willems continues, “Evil Dead II is classic horror…the characters themselves are not comedic, no plot-points are comedic.” The comedy comes from the way the way the scares are executed, so the funny parts are the scary parts, and vice-versa. Raimi found that the construction of the scare is more or less the same construction of a laugh, in the sense that there is a set-up and a pay-off. For a comedy, the set-up ends with the punchline, but for a horror, the suspense ends with a scare – in a Sam Raimi horror film, they are both intertwined, often exaggerating the scares to the point where they become jokes.

From this, it is easy to assume that this is the standard for creating horror-comedies, but like with Jordan Peele’s approach, Sam Raimi’s is only one of increasingly many ways to make them.


 

References and Bibliography:

(American Film Institute). (2017, April 6). GET OUT Director Jordan Peele on Similarities Between Comedy and Horror. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ysLIHEbJ40

(CINEMABLEND). (2017, February 22). Jordan Peele – How Horror and Comedy Can Work Together – “Get Out” Interview. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wbJ6ayryV8

Carroll, N. (1999). Horror and Humor. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 57(2), 145-160. doi:10.2307/432309. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/432309

Hallenbeck, B. G. (2009). Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co. Retrieved from https://books.google.ae/books?hl=en&lr=&id=2AIgAef-bAcC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=comedy+horror&ots=OJGTj9gdN1&sig=bWl0r7EuXeflGZwGhMHr-Kynpzk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=comedy%20horror&f=false

Patkar, M. (2014, July 22). Learn the Basics of Color Theory to Know What Looks Good. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://lifehacker.com/learn-the-basics-of-color-theory-to-know-what-looks-goo-1608972072

Willems, P. (Patrick (H) Willems). (2017, July 19). Sam Raimi – How Does Horror-Comedy Work?. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwcjToDEsUY

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