This time of year, you might be inclined to watch a scary movie or two. I am inclined to do this all year round. After a lifetime of watching everything from successful slasher franchises, to lesser-known “Z” movies, and some fantastic international entries into the genre, I have seen a lot of scary, not so scary, and downright laughable horror films. As you become inundated with lists of the best of horror and the scariest movies out there, I thought I would offer up a different type of treat. This list focuses on moments in horror films that I found fun. That might mean they gave me a smile, or a big laugh, or even a delighted gasp. They are moments I often can’t wait to point out to friends I re-watch the films with. In the list, you might even discover some horror films you haven’t seen, but mostly, I hope you find a bit of humor and amusement in this list of randomness. If you’re wondering what kind of items might be on this list, think of things like “Saxophone Man” in The Lost Boys. Oh, and there are spoilers everywhere below this point, so continue reading at your own risk!
Jason Strikes a Pose: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
If you were thinking Demon’s outhouse serenade would make this list—well, I don’t blame you. But that scene is such a major part of the plot that it doesn’t quite fit in with this list. What does fit is the scene where a newspaper article regarding Jason Voorhees’ murder spree is shown. Sure, it makes sense that around the Camp Crystal Lake area there would be a lot of news stories regarding Jason. What makes me laugh every time is that one of the stories includes a picture of Jason. Not, mind you, a picture of young Jason, but a picture of Jason as fans mostly know him, standing tall and clad in the infamous hockey mask. Where did they get this picture? When did Jason pose for a journalist? Or when did one of his victims bother snapping a shot while they were running for their life? It should also be noted that the picture is a close-up. Back then, most cameras that the average camp counselor would have with them would not have that ability. Close-ups could only be taken if you were actually close to the subject (or perhaps my family only bought the cheapest of the cheap cameras). Either way, it seems like this photo of Jason is highly unlikely to exist. Is it supposed to truly be a snapshot of the killer, or did they hire someone to don the mask so that the readers would get a better idea of who to look out for? I don’t really care because the existence of the picture at all just brings me so much enjoyment. Philosophy Camp: Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives The sixth installment of the franchise could have been a disaster. In a twist near the end of the previous film, we learn that Tommy Jarvis was successful in killing Jason at the end of the fourth film. After Roy saw his estranged son’s murdered corpse, he snapped, and it was him, not Jason, who was plodding around in a hockey mask, out for bloody revenge. After Roy was also killed, it seemed like maybe the franchise would also die, but this was the 80s and we all know the death of the antagonist was never reason enough to kill a series. The sixth part had a Frankenstein inspired opening that then took the series back to its roots. Camp Crystal Lake was reopening, and a set of new counselors and young campers soon filled the campgrounds. Since talking villains like Chucky and Freddy were injecting doses of humor into their kills, this film decided to add some intentionally funny moments. Since Jason didn’t speak, and since the idea of him suddenly doing pratfalls might not be as accepted as Freddy suddenly being an amateur pun enthusiast, other cast members were given funny lines and sight gags were incorporated into a few scenes.
An early attempt at humor came after Jason killed two counselors on their way to camp. After one of the counselors acknowledges that she’s seen enough movies to know not to mess with a hulking, mask-wearing stranger randomly blocking roads in the woods at night, the car gets stuck in the mud and Jason swoops in to kill both counselors. Just before the second counselor is killed, she offers Jason her wallet, but we all know that’s not what Jason wants, so he still kills her. After the kill, we see her AmEx card floating in the puddle. Though I still enjoy that scene, my favorite moment comes when a room of campers is shown sleeping. It could potentially be an unsettling scene. We haven’t really seen Jason around kids before, save the first appearance of Tommy Jarvis, so we aren’t sure if we are looking at a roomful of potential victims or not. The camera pans over to one of the sleeping girls, who fell asleep—like so many of us have—reading a book. Then we see the title of the book. Is it a Sweet Valley High book, or another popular YA book of the time? No. Not at all. This innocent camper is reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. If you aren’t familiar with the title, or Sartre in general, let me offer you the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry: “No Exit is a 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre.” That’s right. This camper, who is no older than 12, is reading a decades-old existentialist play. This girl is my hero.
Here He Comes to Save the Day: God Told Me To
I own a lot of horror movie collections. You know, those boxed sets that are filled with public domain movies and typically low-quality versions of mostly obscure horror titles. Each collection offers a number of hidden gems. One such gem is the film God Told Me To, a rather good horror film by well-known (at least in horror circles) director Larry Cohen. Whenever I watch films from these sets, I always assume the worst, so I was thoroughly enjoying how interesting this movie was. Maybe this caused me to be so focused on the plot that something unexpected would just automatically elicit a greater reaction in me than usual, but when this “surprise” entered the screen, I 100% remember gasping. Unlike many horror films where one killer or entity is the focus of most murders, this film takes a mysterious turn by having many people kill. Most of these people would never be suspected of carrying out heinous crimes, but what makes the mystery is that each of the people claims they killed because God told them to. As you can imagine, this plot means that there are many scenes where you are introduced to a person or group of people, then soon discover one of the new characters is about to commit murder. I watched this film in the pre-smartphone era, so I wasn’t checking cast lists or trivia about the film before or after I watched it. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when Andy Kaufman showed up! It is a tense scene, as a parade is forming and there is a chance another murder attempt will happen during it, so I was not expecting to see an actor who was known more for his unique brand of humor. At first, I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but they weren’t! It was a fun surprise, even though it was one of many serious moments of the film. Let’s just Kaufman’s character really wasn’t there to save the day.
Insulting the Audience or the Characters?: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
This entry is slightly different from the rest, but I added it here because it is a minor moment in a movie that I am still fascinated by with every re-watch. What makes it even more special is that years ago, when I was still a teen and the film debuted, I was furious, but after contemplating the moment again years later, I realized it was actually supposed to be a funny moment—at least I think.
Early in the film, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Julie James is presented with the opportunity to win a radio contest. She (with the help from her roommate Karla) only has to answer one simple question: What is the capital of Brazil? In 1998, this answer couldn’t be found in 10 seconds, so the girls had to scramble to come up with the response that neither knew off the top of their heads. Fortunately, they found a bag of coffee from Rio de Janeiro and offered information from that as the answer. They were thrilled to find it was correct and they had won a tropical vacation. I was so angry during this scene. I have never been great at Geography. I mean, I can easily remember names of countries and capitals and basic facts like those, but once the test is over most of the material flies out of my head. I loved when information was easy to memorize. I still use the HOMES mnemonic device if asked to list the Great Lakes. I love when a capital is just the name of the state or country followed by the word “city.”
So when I had to learn the capitals of South American countries, Brazil was always my favorite, since the answer to that radio contest question is actually Brasilia. It’s a capital that stayed with me long after whatever test I memorized it for was completed. I was angry that the writer of the film assumed audiences were so dumb that we wouldn’t figure out until Julie does much later (and potentially too late) in the film that there was no actual radio contest and the whole thing was a ruse by one of the film’s antagonists to make sure Julie and her friends were trapped in a nearly isolated location (because when they arrived, almost all the other tourists were leaving to avoid the island’s rainy season). That frustrating scene eventually became one of my favorites because I realized that the joke wasn’t on the audience, it was on Julie. Imagine you want to trick someone into thinking they won a contest. First, you have to come up with a contest they are likely to win, and if they aren’t someone who often plays the lottery or enters drawings, presenting the person with an opportunity to answer a trivia question might be your best bet. But what if they answer incorrectly? It’s why in Scream Casey was asked who the killer in Friday the 13th was. The killer knew she would likely answer Jason instead of Mrs. Voorhees. Most trivia questions should be difficult, especially if the question is part of a contest. Had Will asked Julie a more obscure geography question, she would likely not be able to answer it and the plan would fail before it even began. Just like me, Will probably thought that asking Julie the capital of Brazil was one of the safest bets. It was a little less obvious than asking the capital of the United States, but it was still an answer Julie should absolutely be able to answer correctly. I now enjoy watching the scene, imagining the completely baffled look Will must have on his face when he hears Julie give the wrong answer. If she had mentioned how she won the contest to the wrong person before they left, the entire plan would be blown and Julie would be on high alert that something suspicious was going on. I Still Know hasn’t held up as one of the more beloved slasher movies, but for me, this scene makes it a memorable movie, as I imagine a FanFiction version of it that shows the comedy of errors Will goes through making sure his plan is completed.
Greek Chorus Turned 80s Dancers: Night Train to Terror
You could make the argument that this moment is as much a part of the plot as Demon’s outhouse serenade, but there is something about this particular musical number that feels far more unexpected to me. Again, I might not have seen Night Train to Terror had it not been included in one of my horror movie collections. Occasionally, my dad and I would peruse the films in these sets, taking time to read the names of the listed cast and the brief plot synopsis for each one. We’d then pick a movie, fully knowing that it might become the worst film we had ever seen, but always hoping we would discover a hidden gem. We liked the concept of Night Train to Terror, particularly the idea that three separate tales would be shown. Our interest was piqued by the idea that the stories were part of a conversation between God and Satan, who would then determine what fate should befall the subjects of each story. Imagine our surprise when, moments into the film’s opening, we were treated to a seeming non- sequitur dance scene. It was about as 80s as an 80s song and dance number can get, with unforgettable lyrics like “Dance with me/Dance with me,” and “Everybody’s Got something to Do/Everybody but You.” And you know what? We loved it. It was so unexpected, so retro, and so ridiculous that we fully embraced it in all its cheesy glory. We memorized the chorus and would randomly sing it long after the day we watched the film. Seven years after my dad died, this completely goofy song and dance number remains one of my most cherished horror movie moments.