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The Horror Spoofs: One Bona-Fide Classic...and a Whole Lotta Crap
by Scott Weinberg

When you're looking to encapsulate an entire genre of film into one entertaining feature, your best bet is to pick one that quite simply doesn't include many movies. And since I've been an aficionado of both Horror Movies and Comedy Crap for basically my whole life, the Horror Spoof gives me an compelling classification to cover. But be forewarned: this article may be more entertaining than 85% of the movies mentioned. But I wrap it all up by singing the praises of "Young Frankenstein", so you know all ends well.

So I'm sitting here watching (for the second time in my 31.5 years) a bizarre 1982 horror spoof called Pandemonium. It may be all this cough medicine I've been taking, but the flick's actually kinda funny. :D

And check out the cast!

Tom Smothers, Carol Kane, Tab Hunter, Paul Reubens, Debralee Scott, Marc McClure, Judge Reinhold, Candy Azzara, David L. Lander, Eve Arden, Phil Hartman, Eileen Brennan, Richard Romanus

So it's REALLY silly and kinda bad, and that got me to thinking of the few (and generally obscure) horror spoofs. There's of course the two recent Scary Movies, each of which have a few very funny bits - but for the most part sorta suck real bad. And don't even bring up the howlingly bad Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th or I may begin weeping.

Then there's the one that all old us old farts still love: Student Bodies (1981). The more I think about that one, the more irked I am that Paramount seems to have forgotten all about it. Apparently it was a massively troubled production, with people taking their names off the flick left and right, etc., etc. - and make no mistake: it's a cheesefest. But we all saw it when we were impressionable young movie addicts and the stupidity made us laugh because we were all weaned on the art of Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers, and every other slasher under the sun. Fun flick.

Then there's one I STILL remember the TV commercials for: Greydon Clark's Wacko from 1981. It was about the exploits of the "lawnmower killer" and if I remember anything at all about the old Vestron VHS it's that this was ONE STUPID MOVIE. But hey, it's got Joe Don Baker, Stella Stevens, George Kennedy, Julia Duffy, E.G. Daily, Charles Napier and Andrew Dice Clay as "Tony Schlongini". I'd love to check this one out again.

Let's not forget both Saturday the 14th (1981) and Saturday the 14th Strikes Back (1988)! The first one's bad broad comedy; the second one looks like it was filmed in a garage for the cost of five pizzas.

And hey here's one that I just realized is available on DVD: 1983's Hysterical. I believe this one was meant as some big introduction to "The Hudson Brothers" but my recollections of this one is hazy at best. Perhaps when my Netflix queue thins out I'll give this one a revisit. Heck it's got Julie Newmar, Charlie Callas, Bud Cort, Murray Hamilton and Richard "Jaws!" Kiel. How awful could it be? OK, you're right: very VERY awful.

I remember dragging my pal Ross to see Bob Balaban's bizarrely endearing My Boyfriend's Back (1993). Ross detested the movie to an amazing degree and to this day he mentions it whenever I recommend a movie he's not interested in seeing. ("You wanna go see The Core? Dude you picked My Boyfriend's Back!") The movie's a colorful spoof that has a lovestruck zombie teenager rotting away as she tries to woo his sweetheart. Paul Dooley is hilarious in this movie, and Traci Lind is mega-cute. I'd recommend this one, but if you rent it and then send me an email calling me a moron - I'd probably understand.

One that Horror Freaks know well and love loudly is Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps (1986). There's nothing a 15-year-old horror freak can appreciate more than a horror spoof that features characters named Cameron, Landis, Raimi and Cronenberg. Plus this wonderful little movie successfully combines old-school "invasion from space" material with slasher stuff and a truly witty approach. I saw it again last year and was afraid that time would not be kind to Creeps. I was happily mistaken.

One I used to love and now cannot stomach is 1985's Transylvania 6-5000. Aside from the hilariously limber pratfalls of a pre-Kramer Michael Richards, this one's a cheesy and tiresome affair...though I think it sparked a romance between co-stars Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum. Like that matters.

(One that's not exactly Horror but worthy of inclusion thanks to its relative obscurity and amazing pedigree: 1985's Crimewave a.k.a. The XYZ Murders a.k.a. Broken Hearts and Noses. Interesting partly because it's so overwhelmingly and exhaustingly silly, but MAINLY because of who wrote it (Joel & Ethan Coen) and who directed it (Sam Raimi), this one is hardly something those involved italicize on their resumés. I've done a little digging on this one and it seems the flick was taken away from Raimi (who did the flick under protest for not being allowed to cast Bruce Campbell in the lead role) and butchered by its producers. Interesting story; bizarre flick. I managed to snag this one via TiVo just a few days ago and will soon be giving it a first visit since way back in 1986. Semi-looking forward to that.)

Those titles were off the top of my head (plus a healthy dose of research on each from IMDb of course), but after doing some searches for "horror spoof" it seems that lots of writers consider stuff like The Lost Boys, Gremlins and Ghostbusters as 'spoofs' and I'd strongly disagree with that assessment. Those movies are comedies with 'horror leanings' or vice versa. And as far as the Scream trilogy goes, though each film strives (and succeeds to varying degree) to mock or satirize the genre conventions...these are not spoofs. They're self-referential slasher flicks.

Of course the one Great Granddaddy of Horror Spoofs is my favorite movie of all time: Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Most of the movies mentioned above are content to tweak the genre in very episodic fashion. Even the funnier ones are little more than a series of goofy set-pieces. But Young Frankenstein does what no other film has yet replicated (and that includes Brooks' own amusing-yet-disposable Dracula: Dead and Loving It) - it thumbs its nose at all of the most familiar conventions of the first two Frankenstein films, but...

...and here's the important part...

Brooks did it with love and respect. Laughter was absolutely the order of the day, but everything about Young Frankenstein - from the glorious black & white cinematography to the usage of actual pieces of laboratory set design to Gene Wilder's earth-cracking performance - screams Loving Homage.

Since there's apparently not a whole lot to "deeply love" about the Modern Horror Movie, we get very few satires that express this sort of reverence for its source material. Heck, nobody enjoys the Friday the 13th flicks as much as I do - but could someone EVER make a slasher-style Young Frankenstein? Unlikely.

So let me know the ones I'm sure I left out, and let me know your opinions of the ones I mentioned. Overall the Horror Spoof presents a pretty ugly picture, but there are a few worthwhile bits in every one. (Yes, even Wacko...) Hopefully the financial success of each Scary Movie sequel will inspire someone clever to pen something worthwhile, but I'm not exactly holding my breath.

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originally posted: 06/21/03 22:04:11
last updated: 12/30/03 09:56:39
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