6 Unintentionally Hilarious Moments in Famous Scary Movies
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.
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.
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?
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.
Alien -- The Two Most Iconic Scenes (Upon Second Viewing)
There's this thing about horror that makes it a lot like sex -- the first time, it's absolutely terrifying; the second time it makes you scratch your head, wondering what the big deal was. No film is better at illustrating this dynamic than the two most iconic scenes from Alien.
We all remember the moment when John Hurt starts doing The Worm on the dining room table, then gives birth to a Hollywood legend - the Chestburster. It's shocking, freaky, and iconic the first time you see it. But then, on repeat viewing, you realize that the little guy looks kind of like an angry Muppet slathered in a bold, tangy moppin' sauce. In defense, Yaphet Kotto brandishes a spoon -- let me write that again, a spoon -- perhaps threatening to eat it to death. Baby Chesty races across the table, knocking over cereal bowls and juice glasses like something born of Robot Chicken.
"Your meticulously laid-out meal means nothing to my cosmic horror!
Then comes the punch line: a quiet moment in which four of the remaining cast members stand staring off in four different directions, and your mind hears a laugh track and the Seinfeld slap-bass tab.
"I swear ta God, Jerry, the guy at the pet store said he was house-trained!"
The second iconic scene, and the dessert of Alien's second-viewing smorgasbord of unintentional hilarity, is when Ash starts attacking Ripley, revealing that he is a goddamned robot. In that split-second, Ash goes from Bilbo in a little space jumpsuit to a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic who tosses six-odd feet of Sigourney Weaver around like a wet towel while sweating boogers and madly blinking like Kristen Stewart. It's almost too much for a human brain to handle. And then it gets better. As if he's just had a brilliant idea, Evil Bilbo rolls up a magazine and tries to jam it down Ripley's throat. It's probably a porn mag and it probably has all kinds of foul undertones, but the look on Ripley's face is less sheer terror than it is "Ash, what the hell, anyway?"
Look. Lookit. What am I? What am I? ... A duck, come on!
Ash tries the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Yaphet Kotto, who responds reasonably by coldcocking him with a fire extinguisher. Ash responds by moshing around the room, puking his yellowy snot all over the place while shrieking in a way that reminds you of Adam Sandler whenever he pretends he's not trying to sing. And the cherry on top? Yaphet knocks his block off, leaving Ash to search twitchingly, almost apologetically for his own head.
Okay, just give me a moment here, I can explain.
Back in the Days of Innocence, before Torture Porn and Bucky Larson, the horror genre had to rely on foreboding and dread and surprise to get a rise out of the audience. Now, as we get used to flying limbs and spraying bodily fluids, it's hard not to just start laughing right away.
The Birds -- The Gas Pump
Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds is a creepy classic that genuinely shocked audiences when it came out in 1963. The slow buildup of the avian threat is masterfully done, and the fact that the reasons for the bird-pocalypse are unresolved by movie's end make it a rarity of its time: There will be no Act III comfort for you, people of the Mad Men generation! It's effectively scary today even with its very limited, non-digital special effects. (Though it needs to be said: Even with a technological disadvantage of nearly 50 years, the SFX of The Birds still embarrass its schlockfest imitator Birdemic.) Given that it came out in 1963, it is a surprisingly grim, unrelenting study in terror, endangered children, pecked eyes, madly flapping feathers, and (presumably) a massive amount of bird poop.
Above: Scarier than every scene in Birdemic, plus color footage of an actual colonoscopy.
Ah, but there's one unintentionally funny moment. As the crazed birds go into overdrive, a man standing at a gas pump filling his tank is suddenly dive-bombed by a few drunk-with-power birdies. They barely seem to graze the guy, but he goes down like a dropped sack of onions. And -- wouldn't you know it -- the gas keeps pouring out of the pump, flooding the street. The people in a nearby building, huddled away from the people-loathing birds -- including pulchritudinous star Tippi Hedren -- notice the river o' gasoline heading for an oblivious middle-aged dude about to light his big fat cigar.
"I deserve a break today."
Tippi and the people with whom she's holed up throw open the window and try to warn cigar guy by yelling and screaming and generally banging pots and pans, but somehow he doesn't get the message through his thick fedora and -- BLAMMO! He ignites the gasoline with his match! Which blows him up instantly! Then it blows up his car, and everything around it, and then the fire keeps following the trail of gasoline back to the service station where -- DOUBLE BLAMMO! -- it levels the building and sets fire to everything around it!
Pet Sematary -- Toddler Vs. Munster
One day Stephen King had an hour to spare, so he wrote a novel, later made into a movie, paying homage to the classic story "The Monkey's Paw." (He knew that, despite its grim subject, nothing with "monkey" in the title can ever be anything but kind of silly, e.g., "Monkey Murders," "Suicide Monkey," "Cross Country Killing Spree: Special Extended Monkey Edition." See?)
Sometimes, dead is better. But spell check might be best.
Made into a movie in 1989, Pet Sematary tells the story of a young Chicago doctor who moves his family to rural Maine, on purpose (already straining credibility, I know), and discovers an ancient burial ground that supernaturally resurrects those buried in it. When the family cat dies, the man buries it so as not to disappoint his young son. Huge mistake. One should take care never to own a cat, ever. But alas, the cat comes back to life and is even more mean and revolting than a normal cat, if you can believe it.
Then his toddler is hit and killed by a truck, so numbnuts, overcome with numbnut grief, buries his son in the Pet Sematary. What could possibly go wrong? Well, instead of being gut-wrenching, grim and terrifying, the scenes of his return could end up being hilarious, I suppose. And indeed they do.
"Generic fruit snacks?! $#% you!!"
The zombie toddler, played by a real toddler(!) and armed with a scalpel, hunts down and kills the family's neighbor, played by Fred Gwynne. Seeing TV's lovable Herman Munster get his face slashed by an angry toddler is of course comedy gold. But then when the little moppet growls fiercely and helps himself to mouthfuls of Herman's neck, well, it doesn't get any better than that.
Talk about your problem child! [Note: The preceding horrible joke is there solely to justify this clip of Robert De Niro in Cape Fear laughing at Problem Child in exactly the same manner you will upon seeing the toddler murder scenes in Pet Sematary. See how that all comes together elegantly and justifies the terrible pun?]