'This Is My Boomstick' - The Evolution Of One-Liners In Horror-Comedy
Welcome to ComedyNerd, Cracked's new deep dive series on all things Klaatu barada nikto. Today's topic: One-liners in horror-comedy and chewing bubblegum. And we're all out of bubblegum.
When it comes to one-liners in movies these days, it's easy to shrug and say, "Man, they just don't make 'em like they used to," before mounting your horse and joining the WWII battalion because you're clearly stuck in the past. Sure, many of us grew up — in the '80s/'90s, not the '40s, mind you — with what's considered some of the greatest (and cringiest) comedy horror one-liner franchises in cinematic history. So yeah, we've got the references. But things change, and so does the art of delivering a classic one-liner in a comedy horror movie.
One of the earliest modern franchises that decided to go wild with funny quips amidst all of its blood and gore was Evil Dead, with the now-iconic horror movie character Ash Williams ramping up the funny in the 1987 sequel and beyond. There are many lists on the internet debating the rankings of Ash's one-liners, but surely the "Who's laughing now" line and also just that entire scene takes the bloody cake:
Then there's him making "groovy" a running one-liner joke as well as his character's catchphrase:
And, of course, all together now:
Circling back to the "groovy" line, it should be pointed out that nailing a character catchphrase is like hitting gold since it's all you need to secure a character's longevity in pop culture memory. Sometimes, these catchphrases happen by accident. They're not repeated over and over like Ash's groovy line; they're said only once, but that once is enough to forever associate it with a character because it's just so damn good.
Case in point, and from a modern comedy horror, no less:
Now, we know full well that one-liners in comedy-horror mashups didn't start in the '80s. We're just choosing to focus on more modern productions because, well, no one's going to read pages and pages on the history of one-liners on the internet. So when we say that the family-friendly '90s comedy horror movies The Addams Family is another great example of classic one-liners, we're not forgetting the original sitcom of the '60, even though the series were more focused on visual gags than one-liners, anyway. Not like both The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values, two heavy-on-comedy, light-on-horror films who kept the slapstick action but also rolled out those one-liners like Republicans roll out anti-abortion laws.
And if Ash Williams is the king of comedy-horror one-liners, Wednesday must surely be the queen:
What's even more impressive is how the sequel actually managed to have funnier lines than the first one, a feat that not even the other supernatural family-friendly franchise Ghostbusters could pull off in that sequel about an angry painting. Anyway, a more recent example of funny one-liners being thrown at us a mile a minute— and actually landing — is Josh Rubin's 2021 movie, Werewolves Within, which tells the tale of a bunch of eccentric and diverse townspeople who seem to have a lycanthrope problem.
The excellent film not only has some great and punchy dialogue but it's packed with one-liners that are both relevant and will most certainly have staying power, too. The movie's one-liners aren't built around the model used for family-friendly sitcom-based movies like The Addams Family, but it definitely subscribes to the joke-a-minute philosophy. It also helps that the movie is packed with funny people playing characters so truthfully hysterical, your aunt on Facebook might mistake it for a documentary.
Of course, we can't talk about classic one-liner horror characters without talking about the fast yapping, dirty mouth, killer doll Chucky who made preceding and/or following a kill with a one line joke part of the franchise's recipe. Sure, many of the narcissistic doll's lines were pretty juvenile, but there are a few we consider classics, even if they are of the silly variety.
To support our case, please refer to exhibit A:
Exhibit B, or the self-referential line:
And, the best one in our humble opinion, exhibit C:
There's just no one else like Chucky — and thank the Horror Gods for that — but if we do need to find some modern comedy-horror equivalent of the loose-mouthed, often cringe psycho doll humor … nope. We think it's safe to say that the subgenre has most certainly evolved into a wittier, slightly deadpan, and comically sincere kind of humor than that of the crass insufferable doll who always wants to effin play.
Like … whatever it is Woody Harrelson does in Zombieland:
Or what pretty much every character is going for in What We Do in the Shadows:
Or, when we consider the hilarious New Zealand comedy horror Housebound, just what New Zealanders are going for in general.
Zanandi is on Twitter and wrote a comic for Trailer Park Boys that you can order here.
Top Image: Universal Pictures