List two of my Halloween week horror picks. Today, we're going to focus on movies with puns for titles. Please feel free to comment below on any that you may feel have been left off my list (my one criteria for including it is that I HAVE to have seen it - if I haven't, then I shall leave it to you, the reader, to mention it below). Also, please keep in mind that these are not TOP ten lists, but rather lists OF ten movies that fit the particular category.
Other than reality shows replacing the word "porn" with "pawn" and the entire Austin Powers franchise, horror movies are perhaps the most guilty of using puns in their title. Here are ten that I consider to be the PUNNIEST...
1. Hide and Go Shriek (1987)
A little seen slasher revolving around a group of teens (natch) spending the night in a furniture store (hatch), but it doesn't go quite as they had planned (catch) - they are being stalked by a ruthless killer, taking them down, one by one (snatch). Will the eight friends (batch) survive the night and make their way out of the locked warehouse (latch), or will the killer succeed in offing them all (dispatch)?
As much as I've always loved this movie, it's probably little seen for a reason - while it can be a fun little slasher, has the greatest scene ever committed to celluloid (the switching of places in their van early in the film - you'll know it when you see it), and was a bit ahead of its time in the reveal of the killer, the rest is pretty mediocre by the standards of all but the most hardcore of slasher fans. The acting and effects are sub par even for the genre, but there is still a lot of charm to be found here. The furniture store setting actually makes it a good opening film to a "Consumer Horror" trilogy, to be capped off by my #2 and #3 entries on this list ("Consumer Horror" could be an entire list on its own.
This one is pretty obvious - Hide and Go Seek + Shriek = Hide and Go Shriek. While not necessarily one of the better films on the list, I certainly think this would rank pretty high based upon the quality of the pun. It flows together well, doesn't take a whole lot of thought, and isn't much of a stretch.
2. Chopping Mall (1986)
A group of teens (different group this time) decide to hide out in the mall where they work and spend the night partying, boozing, and sexing their way through the entire shopping center. Unbeknownst to them (although, when is it EVER beknownst?), the recent addition of security robots that just happen to have gone on a crazy murdering spree might put a damper on the proceedings.
One of my favorite films on this list (and one that I've seen more times than I care to attempt counting), Chopping Mall is a fun killer robot movie that remembers what 80s horror fans demand in their movies - dumb characters, T & A, and plenty of gore (including a head explosion to rival Scanners). Plus, it has genre staples Barbara Crampton in a leading role and Dick Miller in a fun cameo.
While it's not a bad pun, I feel I must call them out on the fact that there is no actual chopping contained within this film. However, with the original title of Killbots being changed at the last-minute, a much worse pun (if it can even be called that) was narrowly avoided.
3. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)
A pair of young lovers find themselves on opposite ends of the "fast food is evil" debate when one of them begins protesting the opening of a brand new fried chicken joint and the other gets a job there out of spite. Because the budding new restaurant was built on an ancient Indian burial ground, however, the food becomes tainted and turns everyone who eats it into a zombie chicken (big distinction from a chicken zombie). The lovers must band together to save themselves, the customers, and, what the heck, the world. Oh, and did I mention that this is a musical? No, I did not. What a stupid question.
Lloyd Kaufman and the folks at Troma deliver what could be the goriest, most over the top film in their entire filmography. The blood (and other fluids) flow freely, the nudity is bountiful, and, there are freaking zombie chickens. What else do you want from them? Plus, there is a healthy dose of political and social satire running through it. Sure, the musical numbers are pretty awful and the flick is shot through with many of the same Tromaesque (you decide if that is a good thing or not) elements that we're used to. But, it's still a pretty good bit of schlocky fun and certainly the most ambitious film Troma had ever attempted up to that point
The pun needles are flying off the pun charts on this one! The title alone contains two: one pretty good (Poultrygeist) and one okay at best (Night of the Chicken Dead). But, this one doesn't stop at the title - the movie is laced with them. Not the least of which is the fact that all of the main characters are named after various fast food franchises (Arby, Wendy, Denny, Carl Jr., Paco Bell, etc...)
4. Thankskilling (2009)
Continuing with another poultry-based entry to the list, Thankskilling is a coming of age story about two teens raised on opposite sides of a civil war-torn country who band together to prove that, no matter the conflict, love can unite us all. Well, okay, it's actually about a cursed turkey killing a bunch of people, but I felt that one sentence does not a paragraph make.
Surprisingly NOT the first horror movie I've seen about a killer turkey (that would be 1972's far superior Blood Freak), this is the one that is aware of how ridiculous the premise is. Plenty of one liners from our feathered baddie, along with lots of blood and skin, make this one worth seeing once. It does, however, fall victim to the pretty accepted edict that it's hard to make "bad" movies on purpose.
Much like Chopping Mall, I'm split down the middle on the quality of the pun here. On one hand, it doesn't flow particularly well. But, on the other, if making a cheesy horror movie revolving around a killer turkey on Thanksgiving, I defy you to come up with a better pun. I'll just say that the more clever title belongs to its sequel, Thankskilling 3, probably the first instance of a movie deciding to skip it's own part 2 and jump directly to the third.
5. The Gingerdead Man (2005)
Another ridiculous bad guy, this time an executed serial killer whose ashes are sprinkled into a batch of cookie dough. When said dough is cooked up, a gingerbread man leaps off of the sheet and continues the killing spree begun by his former self, specifically targeting a survivor of the very massacre he was given the electric chair for. Yeah, I'm a rebel - I strand my prepositions you myth perpetuator!
Your enjoyment of this one will depend on two very specific things: your acceptance of a cookie as a slasher villain and your love of Gary Busey (who plays both the serial killer before he is executed and the voice of the cookie he inhabits). This one is from Full Moon Entertainment, a company who always gives their villains a lot of character and personality, and that remains here in spades. Plus, you get to watch a wise-cracking cookie kill a bunch of people!
The movie won't win any awards, but the pun sure will. It might be the most perfect of all horror movie pun titles. Plus, it's followed by two Busey-less sequels that up the pun ante even further (Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust and Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver).
6. Aerobicide (aka Killer Workout) (1987)
Two years ago, a young woman named Valerie was burned after entering a tanning salon. Now, her twin sister, Rhonda (I thought, by law, twins' names MUST rhyme?) runs a local gym where all of a sudden, people are being murdered. Fitness craze of the late 80s - thou hath been slasherized!
Ah, the Prior brothers! David (R.I.P.), a director responsible for such classics as this, Sledgehammer, and Deadly Prey (an action movie that gives Commando a run for its money in body count) and his brother Ted, a Playgirl model turned actor who knows how to ham it up better than most. This is an above-average (for being AFTER the slasher boom that is) flick that takes place in a gym. The one downside is that, with all of the potentially great murder weapons contained within a workout center, our killer settles on a giant safety-pin. Then again, you are watching someone kill with a GIANT SAFETY PIN, so tat for tit (not as much tit as you'd expect, unfortunately). Also, it is chock full of my favorite staple of a Prior film - just because a character has died doesn't mean that same actor won't be sticking around as an extra. You can put on a different wig, but we still see ya!
This one is known under two different titles, depending upon who, what, when, where, why, and how you ask - one is a silly but fun one (Aerobicide, of course combining Aerobics with homicide) and the other one actually pretty clever as far as horror movie puns go (Killer Workout actually works as a true double meaninged title).
7. I Dismember Mama (1972)
Albert tried to kill his rich, snobby mother once and was institutionalized for his efforts. Now he's escaped and after his mother again. And he will torture and kill anything that lays in the way. Sorry, no killer turkeys or cookies, though...
This one is strictly for die-hard fans of 70s exploitation (rather than 70 exploitative fans of Die Hard - you know who you are). Like most of the films of that ilk, this one has far less action, gore, and suspense than you remember it having (you're still remembering the trailers), but it still has a rather creepy vibe running throughout and has an entertaining first act, let down slightly by the remaining two.
Much like Chopping Mall, I must call this one out for not containing any actual dismembering within. Still, it's sorta catchy and serves as a perfect lead-in to the next one on my list.
8. A Night To Dismember
Detective Tim O'Malley is recounting the horrific tale of a woman who escapes from a mental institution in order to exact revenge upon her and another family for doing her wrong (stop doing potential killers wrong, people, unless you, too , would like to be dismembered). Will there be any survivors? Who knows? Also, how does the detective narrator know many of the details that he knows about events he wasn't around to witness? Who cares?
Okay, I forbid anyone but the most ardent of "bad" movie fans to watch this movie. A good third of it, after filming, was completely lost, so mad genius director Doris Wishman shoehorned in the detective's voice-over to try to salvage what is left. Also, no sound was recorded while filming, so everything is done post, and you rarely get to see the actor's faces when their character is speaking. But, a healthy dose of gore and nudity also pop up - in combination with the absolute bizarreness at foot (no pun intended, but there IS a foot fetish thing going on here, too), you'll know within five minutes whether you want to continue this one. At least you can feel confident that you'll never see anything else like it.
Unlike the previous entry on this list, this one does contain it's share of dismembering (not the least of which being the dismemberment of all sense of logic or common sense). The title is not incredibly catchy or flow-full, so I'll give this one a barely passing grade...
9. Santa's Slay (2005)
This tells the true story of Santa Claus - he is actually a demon who lost a bet with an Angel, so he becomes the giver of toys and happiness. But when the bet is off, he returns to his evil ways. Also, he's as big as a wrestler...
With good reason - Santa is played by pro wrestler Bill Goldberg. This one almost qualifies as much as a black comedy as it does a slasher flick - there's a healthy bit of humor running throughout. This first of two Christmas-based-killer-santa films on this list is a little better than it had any right to be (besides the humor, this one avoids the trap of the mid-2000s that saw most new horror movies sanitized for multiplex audiences). It's nothing special, but you could do far worse. You could also do far better, as will be evidenced by our final entry.
Let's be honest, I'd be willing to bet my entire royalty check from this article that this movie BEGAN with the title and then had a script written around it. That's how you know that you are working with a good pun title - scripts were written, cast and crew were hired, and direct-to-video dvd's were pressed all to not let this title go to waste.
10. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
After some stern warning about the evils of Christmas by his institutionalized grandfather, little Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a man in a Santa Claus suit. Years later, after spending the rest of his childhood in an orphanage under the cruel tutelage (movie tutelage is never good) of a sadistic nun, Billy is all grown up and dons a Santa suit to begin a killing spree of his own. This guy does NOT like Christmas.
This one is perhaps better known for the controversy surrounding it's release (parents hated the idea of a killer Santa) than the actual movie itself. That's a shame, really, because there's a pretty decent genre flick contained within - the first half is a bit of a gritty throwback to early 80s exploitation, complete with the worst mental institutions and orphanages your likely to see in a Christmas flick, and the second half becomes a nasty little slasher. Even better, the sequel picks up with Billy's little brother (a baby at the time of the original murder of his parents) picking up the mantle left by his big brother and doing some killing himself. Plus, that one is made up of nearly FORTY FIVE minutes of footage taken directly from the first film. That's right - half of the sequel consists of clips of its predecessor, so if you only have 90 minutes to kill, but want to watch two films - part 2 is your man. This flick must also be given credit for adding a new song to my annual Christmas mix - the amazing Warm Side of the Door (see below, featuring some amazing toys you wish your mom hadn't thrown out - so many Jabbas)...
The only pun on the list that would not really be considered 'jokey', and
could therefore stretch the limits of what some readers would consider to actually be a pun, but I still maintain that it works.
So, there you have it... Sure, this particular list leaned heavily towards the cheese, but that was inherent in the topic itself. A movie's title is generally the first thing about a movie that a viewer will experience, so if you're leading with what many consider to be the lowest form of humor, then we would expect no less than as cheesy as can be. Other movies that were considered for this list include: My Bloody Valentine, Gore-Met Zombie Chef From Hell, It's My Party and I'll Die if I Want To, and Rocktober Blood. Never fear - with more lists on the way, it's quite possible that they may still make an appearance. Are there any others that you feel I should have included? Leave a comment below and let the berating begin! Also, be on the lookout for future lists as the most evil of all holidays quickly approaches...