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From Goopy to Groovy: How Sam Raimi Approaches Horror Comedy

If comedy is just tragedy + time … we have to assume that horror comedy is tragedy + slime.
Evil Dead Ii Sam Raimi
Renaissance Pictures
By  · Published on May 5th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that takes a look at how Sam Raimi approaches horror comedy.

Genres can be helpful, especially when you’re not quite sure what you’re in the mood for. While the unique thrill of physically walking between genre sections in a video store may be a thing of the past (boo), there’s an admitted convenience to searching “western” or “biopic” on your streaming service of choice to cut straight to the chase.

But genre rules were meant to be broken, or at the very least, bent. Genre hybrids, for instance, are plentiful. And of all the genre mishmashes out there, one, in particular, is especially, uh, weird: horror comedy. In theory, these two genres shouldn’t work together under any circumstances. After all, they both are aimed at eliciting completely opposite reactions in their audiences: joy and terror. However, upon closer inspection, horror and comedy share one key trait. Namely: a talent for prompting visceral, base-level reactions. Screams. Gasps. Chuckles. Snorts. It’s no surprise that a showman like director Sam Raimi would repeatedly return to such an entertainment-forward well. It’s the “hooting and hollering” metric. A good horror comedy should make you punch the air or retch in disgust. Raimi proposes: why not both?

On paper, Raimi’s handful of horror comedies play like straight horror: a boyfriend mutilating his girlfriend in a cursed cabin in the woods (Evil Dead II), a young woman being pursued by a deathly curse (Drag Me to Hell), a death pit filled with homicidal, bloated corpses (Army of Darkness) — that kind of thing! But for Raimi, the “comedy” half of things all boils down to the execution, not, as is often the case with horror comedies, to winking nods to the audience’s knowledge of the conventions and history of the horror genre itself.

As the video essay below explains in more detail, Raimi’s “funhouse gauntlet” approach to horror comedy ultimately relies on a varied bag of tricks, from exaggeration and escalation to seeing how much slapstick punishment Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell is able to take. All that said, let’s strap in, rev those chainsaws, and hit play:

Watch “Sam Raimi – How Does Horror Comedy Work?”:

Who made this?

This video essay on how Sam Raimi tackles horror comedy is by New York-based Patrick (H) Willems created this video essay on the rise, fall, and hopeful return of opening credits sequences. Willems has been making content on YouTube for the better part of a decade. You can find their own directorial efforts and their video essays on their channel here. You can also find Willems on Twitter here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.