Ha-Tien Nguyen / Staff Illustrator

A question for all of you here:
Can you both laugh and be in fear?
A difficult query,
For a film that is scary,
Yet also still full of cheer.

I love horror movies, but sometimes I want to be sucked into the spooky world of a film without all of the scares. Sometimes, I wish to watch a film that will equally make my skin crawl and make me chuckle. So, from my Blu-ray collection, here are a few of my favorite horror comedies.

‘WNUF Halloween Special’ (2013)

I loved game shows growing up. I remember turning the TV to our local news network, WSAZ, around 6 p.m., watching “NBC Nightly News” at 6:30 p.m. and enjoying dinner to “Wheel of Fortune” at 7 p.m. and “Jeopardy” at 7:30 p.m. Along with the fierce competitiveness between my father and me, one thing that stands out from these game show viewings were the local commercials, specifically those for a car dealership named Dutch Miller. Ranging from parodies to absurd bits, Dutch Miller emphasizes the artistry found in the low-budget, local commercial. And, it’s this artistry that comes to the forefront in the lost media film “WNUF Halloween Special.”

Directed by Chris LaMartina, “WNUF Halloween Special” is a fictional 1987 news recording following reporter Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf) on Halloween night as he enters the Webber house, where a couple was murdered by their son and possibly homes demonic spirits. 

While Stewart’s investigation of the Webber house is engaging and has all the classic staples of ’80s news coverage, such as unnecessarily-dramatic reenactments and awkward, forced jokes, one of the best features of “WNUF Halloween Special” are the commercials. Given the film is presented as a lost VHS recording, the inclusion of various fake commercials reinforces that realism. Not only are there local promotions for small businesses like Phil’s Carpet Warehouse and events like the 18th Annual Greek Festival, but there are also ads for fictional series such as the science fiction adventure “Galaxy Pilot and the Lazer Brigade” and the mystery cop thriller “Chicago Lightning.” And, although the font choices and the classic voiceover scream ’80s, the aesthetic is further strengthened by the gritty, worn appearance of the film that makes the viewer believe they’re watching something that’s been forgotten.

Courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome and Terror Vision.

“WNUF Halloween Special” is a masterclass in self-aware comedy, as well as found footage horror and a must-watch, especially with the release of LaMartina’s sequel “Out There Halloween Mega Tape” coming out this year.

‘Ice Cream Man’ (1995)

When thinking about prolific actors in the B-movie scene, three people come to mind: Bruce Campbell, star of “The Evil Dead” (1981) and “Maniac Cop” (1988), John Saxon, most widely known for his role as Lieutenant Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) and Clint Howard. Though Howard has played minor roles in big budget films like “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018) and the “Austin Powers” franchise, B-movies have given the actor the opportunity to explore more bizarre characters. He has played a possessed military cadet in “Evilspeak” (1981), a marijuana farmer and tick victim in “Ticks” (1993) and, most notably, a traumatized sweet treat fanatic in “Ice Cream Man.”

A comedy slasher, “Ice Cream Man” follows Howard as Gregory, the “Ice Cream Prince,” who begins murdering and kidnapping people in the hopes of developing new ice cream flavors. It’s up to Johnny (Justin Isfeld), Heather (Andi McAfee) and Tuna (JoJo Adams) to take down Gregory and save the town from his chilling torment.

Courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.

The film opens with a young version of Gregory watching as his predecessor, the “Ice Cream King,” is shot in front of him, which immediately sets the tone for the film. What follows is an onslaught of ice cream based one-liners and ice cream related attacks, such as getting knocked out with a scoop, falling into an electric mixer and burning someone’s face with a waffle press. Plus, “Ice Cream Man” experiments with gross out humor at times thanks to the “secret ingredients” in his ice cream, including cockroaches and eyeballs, which pairs well with Howard’s unsettling demeanor. While I admit that the depictions of mental illness for Gregory and other characters throughout the film feel exaggerated at times, I don’t believe it hinders the absurd visual gags of the film.

If you’re looking for something that will keep you from eating that pint of Ben & Jerry’s in your freezer, then check out “Ice Cream Man.”

‘PG: Psycho Goreman’ (2020)

Imagine the “Power Rangers,” the action-packed team that has to protect Earth from intergalactic invaders using teamwork and their mech Megazord. Now, forget about the Power Rangers and focus on only these alien antagonists. The ones who crave control over the planet, wear ornate, vibrant armors and have signature appearances. Imagine a film that focuses on the life of one of these alien conquerors. Add a lot of gore, emphasize the theme of friendship and you’ll end up with “PG: Psycho Goreman.”

“PG: Psycho Goreman,” directed by Steven Kostanski, tells the story of Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre), siblings who accidentally unleash an alien (Matthew Ninaber) by finding a relic called The Gem of Praxidike. However, the alien, known for destroying planets, is powerless without the gem and becomes a servant and eventual friend of the children, who name him Psycho Goreman, or PG for short.

To say that “PG: Psycho Goreman” is gorey would be an understatement. The film extensively wields cartoonish violence and buckets of blood to strengthen a violent, but also entertaining narrative. Each death feels distinctive, ranging from head explosions and faces being ripped off to characters being devoured by PG.

On the subject of distinctiveness, the design of each character feels original and well-crafted. Of course, PG stands out, given his purple-blue, scaly-armored skin. Yet, even supporting characters possess individuality, like Pandora’s (Kristen MacCulloch) angelic armor, a homage to classic mecha and Death Trapper’s (Rich Evans) rusty, mechanical exterior with loose limbs lining the top. Mix that with purposefully awkward, yet lighthearted dialogue and you’re left with a movie that is equal parts endearing and brutal.

For those looking for both an action-packed, high-octane adventure and a story of finding friendship in unexpected places, watch “PG: Psycho Goreman.”

‘Flesh Eating Mothers’ (1988)

James Aviles Martin’s “Flesh Eating Mothers” is pretty straightforward: a sexually transmitted illness is passed around a suburb in New York that only affects those with XX chromosomes. As a result, mothers start becoming cannibals and attacking the town.

While “Flesh Eating Mothers” was written to be a comedy, riding on the coattails of zombie flicks in a far more low-budget fashion, I think a lot of the humor does come from the fact that it’s a “so bad it’s good” kind of film. The acting is either dull or over-the-top, never in-between. Every character lacks nuance to the point where one could watch the first 15 minutes and summarize the remaining plot. The set design is a bit underwhelming, specifically in the STI testing center however I’m unsure how purposeful it was. It looks as if the cast is in a shack, but we know it’s a testing center because there’s two signs: one that lists the “warning signs of VD” and one that lists off famous people who had VD, such as Julius Caesar and Napoleon.

Though the film has a few weaknesses, it does make up for some of them with the practical effects and the animation. From the mechanical unhinging of a jaw to a face being ripped off, the practical effects added some stakes to these antagonistic mothers. In terms of animation, there are some nice graphics, such as the title card that’s being eaten during the opening scene, followed by the song “Suburbia” by Sherri Lamar. Also, while looking for a cure, there’s an animation of cells that’s very reminiscent of “Schoolhouse Rock!” So, while I was amused by the inconsistent acting, I was drawn into the world of “Flesh Eating Mothers” thanks to these small moments.

Courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.

“Flesh Eating Mothers” is junk food; it provides no nutritional value. But, sometimes you’ve had a long day and you don’t feel like putting something on that’s “enlightening” or “enriches the mind.” Sometimes, you just need a movie about cannibalistic mothers.