31 Campy and Cheesy Horror Films for Halloween
If you like comedy mixed in with your blood and gore, here's a list of 31 movies to die (laughing) for. They range from subtle cheese to over-the-top camp. I realize not everyone will agree with my choices, so feel free to leave a comment with your favorite Halloween movies below.
31 Not-So-Horrific Horror Films
- They Live
- My Name is Bruce
- Motel Hell
- Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
- Idle Hands
- Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn
- Shaun of the Dead
- Return of the Living Dead
- Bubba Ho-Tep
- Trick or Treat
- From Dusk Till Dawn
- Lake Placid
- Fright Night
- An American Werewolf in London
- The Cabin in the Woods
- Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood
- Planet Terror
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
- Army of Darkness
- Dead & Breakfast
Now, watch some trailers and make your selections. Once you've got your favorites ready, pop some corn, turn down the lights, and prepare to be both frightened and amused. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a happy and safe Halloween.
1. They Live (1988)
- Directed by: John Carpenter
- Starring: Keith David and the late, great (Rowdy) Roddy Piper
Wearing sunglasses allows our hero to see aliens (they appear human to everyone else) that are trying to take over the world. I guess this is more of a sci-fi film, but let's not get technical. Classic John Carpenter really nails the role, and Roddy Piper is terrific as Nada.
2. Otis (2008)
- Directed By: Tony Krantz
- Starring: Daniel Stern, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Pollack
A family seeks revenge on the creep who kidnapped their daughter. Not too many people have even heard of this one, but they're obviously missing out—because it's a delightful combination of dark and funny.
3. My Name Is Bruce (2007)
- Directed by: Bruce Campbell
- Starring: Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell as himself
A small town associates an actor with the characters he has portrayed in horror movies, so they expect him to be able to get rid them of their demon. This is one of my personal faves; it's just so much fun, especially if you're a Bruce Campbell fan.
4. Motel Hell (1980)
- Directed By: Kevin Connor
- Starring: Rory Calhoun
"It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters." Farmer Vincent kidnaps people and plants them in his garden. Apparently, he's quite taken with one would-be victim, because he decides not to plant her. Will he later regret his decision? As campy as it is, it creeped me out a little.
5. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)
- Directed By: Eli Craig
- Starring: Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine
It's not your average slasher film, because the twist here is that the kids are accidentally killing themselves. The main characters are endearing and hilarious. There's blood and gore, but you'll be laughing through all of it.
6. House (1986)
- Directed By: Steve Miner
- Starring: William Katt and George Wendt
The protagonist inherits his aunt's house after she dies. It turns out his young son (who has been missing for some time) is trapped in the house, held hostage by the protagonist's old war buddy (played by Richard Moll). It's not your typical haunted house story, and the monsters are perfect.
7. Idle Hands (1999)
- Directed By: Rodman Flender
- Starring: Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Jessica Alba, and Vivica A. Fox
Anton's hand is possessed, and it does things he has no control over (like kill people). This movie is engaging and funny, so it's worth watching more than once. There's violence, gore, pot-smoking, an animated corpse, a demon hunter, and plenty of general silliness. Plus, The Offspring makes a cameo!
8. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987)
- Directed By: Sam Raimi
- Starring: Bruce Campbell
Written and directed by Sam Raimi, the second film in the Evil Dead trilogy is every bit as entertaining as the first. Part 2 picks up right where the first film ended; Ash is still in the remote cabin, and all of his friends are dead. There's no time for him to fully process this, though, because he's got bigger problems . . .
9. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
- Directed By: Edgar Wright
- Starring: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
This spoof homage to zombie films was written by Simon Pegg and directed by Edgar Wright. It's outrageous and clever, so if you're into this sort of thing, its a must-see. Shaun seems to be on everyone's bad side. Everyone except for his best friend, Ed. The two most unlikely heroes soon discover that they must protect their loved ones from walking corpses. Zombie movie fans will appreciate the allusions to other films of the genre.
10. The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and BONUS: Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
- Directed By: Dan O'Bannon / Ken Wiederhorn
- Starring: Don Calfa, Clu Gulager, and James Karen
You'll notice some of the same actors playing different characters in both of these movies. Both are preposterous zombie films—they're not for everyone, but I enjoyed watching them. After having seen so many serious zombie movies from earlier years, these two were refreshing and uproarious.
Which Is Better?
Which "Return of the Living Dead" film do you like more?
11. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
- Directed By: Don Coscarelli
- Starring: Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis
Bruce Campbell's character claims to be Elvis. Ossie Davis's character thinks he's JFK. These two nursing home residents are the only ones who can stop an ancient evil. The story is original, and it's well-acted and directed. Those who prefer action-packed, fast-paced movies might find this a little slow moving. If you don't have a short attention span, it's worth your time.
12. Trick or Treat (1986)
- Directed By: Charles Martin Smith
- Starring: Marc Price (Cameo Appearances by Ozzy Osbourne & Gene Simmons)
A dead rock star comes back to life, and one of his teenage fans must figure out how to send him back to the grave. Yes, it's raunchy, but it's fun, and the soundtrack is good. If you have fond memories of the '80s, you will most likely enjoy this film.
13. Slither (2006)
- Directed By: James Gunn
- Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Nathan Fillion, and Michael Rooker
I'm not really sure how to sum this one up. Townspeople are more or less being taken over by aliens, but it's a lot less subtle than Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's hilariously absurd and seriously gross. You won't get bored watching this.
14. Critters (1986)
- Directed By: Stephen Herek
- Starring: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, and Billy Zane
More alien hi-jinks. This time, the aliens are little furry creatures with sharp teeth that escaped from a prison planet, stole a spaceship, and came to a small town in Kansas to feed. In pursuit of them are two bounty hunters with the ability to look like anyone they see. The sheer absurdity will keep you in stitches. This is tame—there is blood, but not buckets of it, and there are surprisingly few deaths.
15. May (2002)
- Directed By: Lucky McKee
- Starring: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, and Anna Faris
Here's one that's a lot more subtle than some of the others; it didn't have me rolling on the floor, but I did enjoy it. May has trouble connecting with her peers, and she has some creepy ways of dealing with rejection. It's different, and I would describe it as a modern-day Frankenstein story. If you don't like overt silliness and over-the-top carnage, give this a shot.
16. Leprechaun (1993)
- Directed By: Mark Jones
- Starring: Jennifer Aniston and Warwick Davis
It's a typical slasher film, with the slasher being an atrociously evil little mythical being. If nothing else, you can laugh at the awful '80s attire and count the mullets. Fair warning, though, if you're thinking there can't be any substance to a horror movie about a leprechaun killing people, you are absolutely correct. I suggest you have a couple of cocktails prior to viewing this, because it's one of the goofiest of the 31 listed here.
17. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
- Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
- Starring: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, and Juliette Lewis
This film was created by the winning combination Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. A pastor and his teenage children are taken hostage by two criminal brothers. They all wind up at a strip club (which turns out to be a den of vampires) in the middle of nowhere. This is worth viewing more than once.
18. Lake Placid (1999)
- Directed By: Steve Miner
- Starring: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, and Oliver Platt
A giant crocodile on the loose in Maine. What else is there to say? Betty White has a supporting role, and she is as charming as ever. I almost fell out of my chair laughing at a couple of the lines she delivered.
19. Fright Night (2011) and BONUS: Fright Night (1985)
- Directed By: Craig Gillespie / Tom Holland
- Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, and David Tennant / Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse
A vampire moves in next door to a teenage boy and his mother. I'm not usually a fan of remakes, but I never really cared for the original version. Watch them both, and decide for yourself. The re-imagining is a little darker, it builds some tension, and the acting is superior.
Which Is Better?
Which "Fright Night" film do you like more?
20. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
- Directed By: John Landis
- Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Joe Belcher
While vacationing in England, a young American man and his friend are attacked by a werewolf. The special effects are pretty decent, considering the year this was filmed. The scene in which the protagonist first transforms into a werewolf is fantastic; it truly looks agonizing.
21. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
- Directed By: Drew Goddard
- Starring: Chris Hemsworth and Richard Jenkins
Strange things happen to a group of young friends when they arrive at a remote cabin for some rest and relaxation. There is so much going on in this movie, I don't know what more I can say about it without giving too much away. It's fast-paced, full of action, and it will keep you entertained.
22. C.H.U.D. (1984)
- Directed By: Douglas Cheek
- Starring: Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Kim Greist
Cannibalistic, humanoid underground dwellers. (Alternatively, contamination hazard urban disposal.) How stupid is this? Not nearly as corny as it sounds. I just watched this again recently, and I found myself engrossed in it. The monsters are actually the cheesiest thing about it, and you have to remember that this was 1984. I was also pleasantly surprised at a brief appearance by a very young John Goodman as a uniformed police officer.
23. Cursed (2005)
- Directed By: Wes Craven
- Starring: Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Judy Greer.
It's an indulgent werewolf movie with a good cast; it doesn't disappoint.
24. Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood (1996)
- Directed By: Gilbert Adler
- Starring: Dennis Miller, Corey Feldman, and William Sadler
Here's another vampire fix for you. It's better than Fright Night, but not as good as From Dusk Till Dawn.
25. Planet Terror (2007)
- Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
- Starring: Rose McGowan, Jeff Fahey, and Josh Brolin
This is another one of my favorite films. It's hands-down the best zombie film ever.
26. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990) and BONUS: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
- Directed By: Jeff Burr / Kim Henkel
- Starring: Viggo Mortensen / Renee Zellweger, and Matthew McConaughey
I can't decide which movie is worse.
Which Is Worse?
Is one "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" worse than the other?
27. Piranha (2010)
- Directed By: Alexandre Aja
- Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O'Connell, Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss, and Christopher Loyd
This updated version of the 1978 film has a great cast. It doesn't get much cheesier than prehistoric fish with needle-sharp teeth that devour swimmers.
28. Feast (2005)
- Directed By: John Gulager
- Starring: Balthazar Getty, Eric Dane, Henry Rollins, and Jason Mewes
Some people get trapped inside a bar together, and things get really crazy, really fast. This flick just doesn't let up once it gets going. There is a lot of action and even more blood. It'll gross you out and make you laugh.
29. Army of Darkness (1992)
- Directed By: Sam Raimi
- Starring: Bruce Campbell
The third part of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy is also super cool. Ash tries to get back home after being sucked into some kind of wormhole that spits him out in the medieval times. The budget is bigger, and the effects are better.
30. Zombieland (2009)
- Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
- Starring: Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin
This is one of the best zombie films out there. It sits right up there in the ranks with Planet Terror and Shaun of the Dead. It's an epic good time.
31. Dead & Breakfast (2004)
- Directed By: Matthew Leutwyler
- Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Diedrich Bader, and David Carradine
Yet another great zombie movie. This one is very campy.
With the bonus picks, there are 34 movies here to choose from. If that's not enough to get you through October, check out 31 More Campy, Cheesy Horror Films for Halloween. Now go get your scare on.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Sara Krentz