It’s October! Time for crisper air, falling leaves, spooky nights, bonfires, and scary movies. But, if you’re like me, you don’t have much stomach for the more modern, gorier fare. Something about razor claws coming out of bath tubs or people getting diced to pieces in a thousand different ways doesn’t appeal to you. (What kind of abnormal humans are we, anyway?)
Just because you don’t want to see people eaten alive or tortured barbarically in a cellar doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy any spectral festivities, though. The ’50s and ’60s provided plenty of scary movies featuring plastic skeletons on strings, men in rubber suits, and clunky claymation that alleviated some of the horror with inadvertant humor. Here’s a short list of seven great horror films that provide more unintentional laughs than they do scares.
1. House On Haunted Hill (1959)
This horror classic starring Vincent Price has some genuine jump scare moments and creepy interactions. The effects are rather dated (strings are obvious on a floating skeleton) and the script is clunky, making this a good pick to sit down with friends and laugh at the mysterious goings-on at the haunted house. Price’s over-the-top performance sells this movie, from presenting guns to the guests in little coffins to reacting indifferently to various murders.
2. Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957)
If your worst nightmare is being stranded on a shrinking island while giant psychic crabs slowly pick off your party, then you might want to avoid this Roger Corman classic. But, on the other hand, if that description sounds incredibly corny, you’ll enjoy this flick. The effects are good for their time, and its pace is nearly break-neck. Still, monster crabs with giant eyeballs? Did I mention they’re psychic?
3. Beginning Of The End (1957)
Have you ever gazed at a city skyline and thought to yourself, “Gee, wouldn’t it be something to see giant grasshoppers climbing those buildings?” Well, your dream has already been realized in this 1957 film starring Peter Graves. There’s not much working in favor of this movie other than the laughs it generates without even trying. Soldiers run in terror from gargantuan crickets and a poor mute man tries to warn his friends by waving at them. Graves also takes his role seriously…a little too seriously.
4. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
He may be “king of the monsters,” but even Godzilla had some ridiculous bouts on the big screen. In this sequel to the 1954 classic Godzilla, not-so-subtle messages about the effects of nuclear bombs are exchanged for two monsters duking it out. While this movie has the distinction of introducing that concept, the scary tension is negated by poor effects and weird plot developments, such as Godzilla being drawn to land after escaped convicts crash a gas truck into a chemical plant. Whatever serves the story, right?
5. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
While in the vein of giant beasts attacking cities, you should check out this corny classic featuring an unfrozen dinosaur wreaking havoc on an American city for…reasons. This film does feature some impressive (for its time) visuals and somewhat plausible (for its time) science. But there are moments the effects fail and the solution to killing the beast will leave you scratching your head. A stand-out moment involves a lone cop firing his puny pistol at the monster before getting snatched up in its clay jaws. When will people learn that’s not the best approach?
6. The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966)
Yes, this one is meant to be funny, but it also provides an eerie murder mystery in a spooky setting. Don Knotts leads the way as a bumbling wannabe reporter coaxed into spending a night at a haunted house. His resulting article causes a stir that could unearth clues to a closed case. The plot holds its own until the mystery is explained and then you’re trying to head-cannon it all together. The night in the house holds you in creepy tension, but silly music playing in the background relieves that some. Group settings also find hilarity with a wise guy providing humorous encouragement at the right moments.
7. The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra (2001)
This one is more recent and also intended for laughs. The difference is that this movie takes professional actors and forces them to act woodenly, treating the madcap comedy as seriously as possible. All the tropes of a classic cheesy horror film are here–aliens stranded on the planet trying to fit in, a mad scientist tampering with things beyond his knowledge, and an oblivious couple featuring a wife who wants to bake and a husband who wants to “do science”– making for a great Halloween night special. If you enjoy it, consider looking up the sequel.
What other cheesy horror films would you add to this list?