Comedy and death have always gone hand in hand, even more so since Bill and Ted made peace with the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. So it's no surprise that horror movies are often a great source of laughs. Some are so aggressively inept that they're funny the whole way through (for example, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, which incidentally we'll be riffing live in movie theaters nationwide October 25th). But even classic horror movies, the serious ones that actually have the power to frighten, tend to feature at least one or two unintentionally hilarious moments. Here are some of our favorites.
#6. The Thing -- Wilford Brimley Freaks Out
Sometimes a movie moment becomes funnier with time, as things happen that change the way we look at the actors involved to the point that it's all you can think about. Think of O.J.'s lovable Detective Nordberg role in The Naked Gun movies, and how that was eventually tainted by, of course, his performance as John "Bullfrog" Burke in the 1994 TV movie Frogmen -- wait, what were YOU thinking of? Or how about the moment you discover that America's Fat Cranky Grandpa -- the guy most of us know for his love of oatmeal and funny pronunciation of "diabetes" -- once battled Kurt Russell with an axe and a pistol in one of cinema's most hilarious, violent meltdowns?
This is the youngest Wilford Brimley has ever looked.
That's right, Wilford Brimley, Lord Commander of the Walrus People, played a major role in John Carpenter's mostly terrifying 1982 film, The Thing. It's about a group of men on an isolated research station in Antarctica, presumably conducting research on Kurt Russell's amazingly rugged beard. Brimley plays Dr. Blair, a biologist/computer whiz/fat-dude-with glasses-so-just-assume-he-can-do-any-smart-stuff-that-needs-doin'. Then something awful arrives from space. It's not so much a Person, not so much a Place ... hmm, what to call it? Whatever it is, it immediately starts possessing dogs, then people, and making them all murderous and stretchy and gross. Before long, everyone gets paranoid, and it's time for Wilford to shine (more than he usually does from the sausage-grease coating his jowls).
"Eat. Your damn. OATMEAL."
Brimley is the first to figure out what's going on because he asks his computer, and it's a computer in an '80s movie, so it knows everything. The computer also tells him that if this alien crap gets to civilization, all human life will be gone in about three years, which would put an unacceptable dent in sales of Quaker Oats. So Wilford does what any pudgy fella in suspenders and an old-timey nightshirt would do in this situation -- he picks up an axe and gets to swingin'. And yellin'. And mumblin'. And swingin'. He wrecks their helicopter, kills a bunch of dogs, then goes after the radio equipment. The thing is, even though he seems like Santa on a drunken tear, he's actually trying to save the human race by making sure that none of the potentially infected people on base ever gets out alive. He knew what was up. You can see why he became so smug and condescending about stuff like oats and Liberty Medical supplies after this..
Final stages of "Diabeetus." He tried to warn us.
The other men can't contain Wilford's raw power. They send Keith David to talk to him, probably because of David's silky smooth baritone, but that just makes him angrier. He drops the axe and pulls a pistol, throwing out an "I'll kill you!" that'd make Yosemite Sam blush. Eventually it comes down to Kurt Russell and three other guys taking him down WWE-style: with tables, chair-hits to the face, the whole nine. They finally knock him out and lock him up. But, despite having the oldest-sounding-name in recorded history, Wilford Brimley's still not through. Turns out he was infected (theories about when this could've happened abound on the Internet, and are absolutely NOT worth your time) and he transforms into a hideous giant monster and ultimately gets blown up with dynamite. Weirdly, Wilford's character in The Natural met the exact same fate.
#5. Saw - Dude on the floor
[WARNING: This contains a gigantic spoiler for this movie. It's pretty much THE spoiler for this particular movie.]
When the giant-brained human descendants of Homo sapiens in the 50th century sift through the rubble of our civilization, they will inevitably come across some cultural artifacts from our time called "movies." The torture-porn Saw series will certainly be part of their study, since the franchise is now roughly 13 movies long. And these bulbous-headed humanoids will be suitably aghast, saying to each other (via cerebral telepathy, of course): "Holy crap, those small-brainers f***ing hated each other's guts."
"I'm glad Space AIDS killed most of them."
What they won't understand is that the horror genre can be fun and cathartic even to people who don't actually want to murder strangers in increasingly cruel, implausible ways. That said, the Saw series' central premise is that a diabolical mastermind likes to murder strangers in increasingly cruel, implausible ways. The 27 Saw movies have had a great run at the box office, and so hey, let's hear it for the classic American Dream of getting rich from stories where people torture each other. Our Founding Fathers probably had something like that in mind. Franklin, anyway. That freak.
But the more edgy and disturbing torture porn aims to be, the more a dumb story can rain on its blood-parade. (... Or rain blood on its parade. Whatever gets you off, sicko.) When the plot of the legitimately disturbing first Saw movie gets incoherent to the point of silliness, it's like witnessing a bully pee his pants on the playground.
A bully with mad papier-mache skills.
There are a few moments in the first hour or so where the sound of "Arggghh!" gives way to the stray derisive chuckle. But the ending frees cowering moviegoers to unleash a full-blown "Ahhahahahahaha! Dumb pants-peeing movie!"
The premise of the movie is that a super-genius, homicidal maniac guy named "Jigsaw" has set up an amazingly intricate series of people-killing traps in order to ... make them appreciate life more! Two hapless sons-of-bitches are chained in a dank bathroom with a bloody corpse who apparently blew half his head off before they woke up in this sicko trap. A few dozen red herrings later, the uber-mastermind Jigsaw turns out to be -- the corpse-guy who has been lying on the bloody floor THE WHOLE TIME!
"Thank God for soundproof diapers."
... And with this reveal we do not pause to be briefly scared, but proceed right to the pointing and laughing like Nelson Muntz, while our brain shouts questions like: "REALLY?" and, "This dope has been lying stock-still for hours and hours, not visibly breathing or involuntarily twitching or accidentally letting a little fart rip here and there?" As well as, "Of all the carefully considered, nefarious plots he could have constructed, why design it so that he's required to lie on a cold, stinky bathroom floor in nothing but rumpled boxer shorts and a T-shirt covered in stage blood for an entire day?
#4. Jaws - Young boy's grieving mother confronts Police Chief Brody
The classic funnyman's rule of thumb is "tragedy plus time equals comedy." But a lesser-known corollary, known by some as the "We're a bunch of dicks" corollary, is "It's funnier when it happens to ugly people."
If Quint were a 4-month-old infant, this scene would be at least 60 percent less hilarious.
We'll get this out of the way: None of us are going to be on the cover of GQ any time soon. And the actress that plays Alex Kintner's mother is undoubtedly a nice woman. I mean, it's definitely just a coincidence that her only other screen credit is a flashback in Jaws: The Revenge, and not because an on-set caterer accidentally looked at her without a mirror and turned to stone.
The scene: Mrs. Kintner, clad in all black, approaches Police Chief Brody on a dock. She looks distressed, as any mother might while still mourning the death of her child. Her distress also might just be due to the fact that she began menopause yesterday, as this mother of a 10-year-old boy appears to be anywhere between 65 to 70 years old. Walking next to her is a man who was clearly born during the Taft administration.
Voted "Cutest Couple" at their high school, in 1907.
Their relationship is not explained. For the sake of comedy, we'll assume this is her husband. As she approaches the police chief, he hangs back, perhaps knowing this isn't his fight. Her first action is to raise her black veil so that Brody can look her in the eye, and this is the first time he gets to see her face. Brody looks slightly surprised, and his eyes flit away ever so slightly as he represses his natural instinct to do the mathematical inverse of a Tex Avery wolf routine (this involves barfing instead of howling, a giant beating heart shooting out of his butt, and him hitting Mrs. Kintner with a mallet instead of himself, then doing the Lynndie England pose next to her unconscious body).
Hommina hommina (but not in a good way) hommina.
Then she slaps him, and her face contorts with grief. To say that she now grows less attractive is like saying that the Atlantic Ocean somehow gets wetter during a rainstorm. It sounds impossible but it's technically true. A strong breeze blows, and a glimmer of hope enters Brody's eye as he suspects that maybe, just maybe, the veil will be blown back over her face.
Instead, she lectures Brody for not closing the beach, and he looks like he's about to come around to her side when suddenly it hits him: This is not a woman -- it's the guy who played Willie Tanner on ALF in a wig!
There's another famous saying that "The greatest tragedy imaginable is for a parent to outlive a child." A popular variant, coined by an Amity Island beauty-parlor owner, is, "The greatest tragedy imaginable is Mrs. Kintner coming in to redeem the second half of her 'Two Brazilian Waxes for the Price of One' Groupon."
She's not a conventionally attractive woman and therefore it's funny to laugh at her sorrow.