Two of these four flicks are heavy on the humor before getting to the horror, one vacillates between action flick and horror, and one is like 80s Spielberg with a darker horror edge. Let’s take a closer look at each.
RACHEL GETS STRANGE (2011)
Argh. This horror comedy had so much potential, but takes an hour of its 80-minute running time giving us character development…mostly through dialogue. Is it funny dialogue? Yes. Is it at all related to horror? No. It’s all about Rachel’s man problems.
She lives in an isolated house in the desert and is looking to rent out a room. Her best buddy from childhood is clearly in love with her. Her ex works at a hospital with another young doctor who needs a place to stay and wants to rent the room.
The comedy revolves around Rachel looking to get laid. She has long conversations with other characters about it, the highlight being with a pizza delivery guy who I think was the funniest one in the bunch.
With 20 minutes left, all of a sudden a bunch of Lost Boys wannabes shows up (yet we barely see them), and things get suspenseful for the final act.
It’s a fun and funny horror comedy sequence, it’s just too short. And the ending, while quirky and ironic, is too abrupt to give us any sense of closure with all the vampire stuff.
CAMP WEDDING (2019)
As with Rachel Gets Strange, Camp Wedding relies on its humor for a majority of the running time, but at least along the way it focuses heavily on meta horror references and tropes. The banter is quite funny here and delivered by actors with excellent comic timing.
When a bride-to-be rents a summer camp as the location for her wedding, she, her girls, and her gay BFF head there to set up (landing this one on the does the gay guy die? page).
Archetypal horror characters abound, and stories come of the camp’s dark past: a drowned girl, Indian burial ground, witchcraft. You name it, it supposedly happened at this place.
Then the groom and his men show up, and before long, everyone is splitting up in the woods to have sex…and getting ominous texts. In fact, much of the plot is told through texts, but this film plays it smart. Sure, the text bubbles pop up on screen and are virtually impossible for my worn out eyes to read, but they’re also given voice-overs by the characters that sent them.
The film plays out like a comedy of errors, reminding me of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. And although this seems to be a slasher, things take a crazy turn in the final act when the horror comedy elements really kick in—and make a statement about phone obsession.
Along with that, there are two guys running around in their undies and a weirdly funny aspect of the film that entirely relies on a Teddy Ruxpin Teddy bear.
AMONG THE LIVING (2014)
This French film gives off a Stranger Things vibe…except it came before Stranger Things. In other words, it gives off an 80s Spielberg vibe. It opens on Halloween with a pretty vicious scene, but after that the holiday is out the window, so this isn’t a Halloween themed horror film.
It’s about three adolescent delinquents that get into more trouble than ever when they sneak onto an old rundown film studio lot and see a masked, mutant creep abducting a woman. Eek!
Then this somehow turns into home invasion horror! The creep from the film studio tracks down all the boys at their houses—don’t ask me how.
Suspense abounds, but the film is oddly restrained with the gore until the very last battle with the mutant creep. At that point the gore kind of rocks.
The mutant is uber freaky–almost robotic yet calculated in his slinky movements. There’s a long, cruel torture scene of a character that really didn’t deserve it, and a final trip to the killer’s lair for a straightforward surprise conclusion that isn’t much of a surprise after all.
PENANCE LANE (2020)
It was fun to see Scout Taylor-Compton and Tyler Mane reunited—and working on the same side of the horror—but this film gets stuck somewhere between gritty horror movie and hokey action movie.
Tyler, an ex-con drifter, comes to a small town and helps Scout out of a jam. She and her mother welcome him into their diner, and then he goes and takes a job working for John Schneider at an old house.
Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Mad Max wannabe freaks come crawling out of the woodwork and wreak havoc. The film briefly feels like a hardcore psycho family horror flick (House of 1000 Corpses comes to mind), with the freaks terrorizing Scout, Tyler, and some unfortunates that make their way into the house, but eventually it takes a really odd turn.
SEMI-SPOILER: Remember that really weird ending of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation with the guys in suits? This movie seems to take that jarring surprise and completely run with it. The entire third act feels like Tyler Mane as an action hero single-handedly battling the mob.