One of the most comforting aspects of horror is that it can be deeply funny. Horror and humor have long been intertwined. Horror has been proven to be a reflection of society; humor is a mirror into society as well. Both genres play with form and style. You can find yourself getting lost in either horror or humor, either as escapism or solace.
Most importantly, both horror and humor keep readers on their toes. We like to be scared. We also like to laugh. We have a hunger for horror, as much as we have a hunger for comedy. Horror can be extremely campy, and what better way to convey a scary or sinister story than through the dark humor that can coexist alongside gruesome and gore?
It’s no wonder that several horror writers incorporate humor into their stories, through elements of silly splatstick, absurd archetypes, twisted tales, morbid monologues, and much more. And let’s be honest: Sometimes, the scares are so absurd, they are actually funny. Humor can be a coping mechanism, and we often have no choice but to laugh as we make our way through the darkness.
Comedy horror, as it is sometimes referred to, has been around for a while now, but continues to be on the rise, in boots, TV shows, and films. The cult classics Scream (1996) and Jennifer’s Body (2009) are popular examples. Films such as The Menu (2022) and Cocaine Bear (2023) have successfully combined elements of giggles and gore, as has the award-winning film Parasite (2019).
How does this translate on the page? For new and long-time horror readers, it can be nice to enjoy a hearty laugh amidst pages of spine-tingling scares. These selections offer a variety of laughs, from laugh-out-loud jokes to quiet moments of humor through the dark times. Either way, they offer a moment of humor, or several comedic elements, among the darkness.
This buzzy debut novel from Rebelein is equally amusing and entertaining; strange and sinister. The story centers on struggling writer Campbell (Cam) P. Marion, who accepts a position as a writer in residence at a small college in the town of Edenville, despite objections from his girlfriend, Quinn, who is familiar with the area. After Cam moves to the town, with Quinn in tow, it doesn’t take long for the two of them to realize they are entangled in the town’s dark history–and they face not only town secrets, but a force that may or may not even be human.
How campy is it? Prepare to sleep with one eye open after finishing this terrifying, yet witty tale.
Best-selling author Harrison has become well-versed in writing campy novels inspired by cult classics, and this latest is no exception. Similar to her previous books, Black Sheep features a broken, down-on-her-luck heroine. After leaving her religious family, Vesper Wright is struggling to find friends, a decent career, and her place in the world. She feels called to return home when her cousin, and only friend, is getting married on the family farm. Featuring Harrison’s signature dark humor and takes on feminism, this latest book, complete with a fierce female protagonist, is easily devoured in one sitting.
How campy is it? Plan on snickering along to the wry commentary on modern society.
The Dead Take the A Train
The first book in the Carrion City duology, this action-packed tale by veteran authors Cassandra Khaw, author of The Salt Grows Heavy, and Richard Kadrey, author of Sandman Slim, is Fun with a capital F. While you might not be laughing out loud, you find yourself chuckling along as main character Julie Crews, an aspiring psychic, can’t quite get her life together as she tries to establish her fledgling career. What follows is a deadly, yet entertaining, chain of events that is part gruesome horror, part gritty fantasy, with queer representation throughout.
How campy is it? Get ready for a new meaning on what it means to be a bridezilla.
This title releases October 3, 2023.
Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel
It’s been nearly a decade since the ever-popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale debuted to critical acclaim. Focused on the fictional town of Night Vale, the podcast features tales of the often humorous, always suspenseful happenings in and around town, which is located in the American Southwest. Based on the popular podcast, this novel follows two women, Diane Crayton, and Jackie Fierro, after their lives are turned upside down—and unexpectedly converge. As the story unfolds, both women find that the mysteries of Night Vale end up following them wherever they go.
How campy is it? Buckle up and settle in for a ridiculous read, in the best possible way.
Breathers: A Zombie's Lament
Browne is known for his dark humor and social satire, beginning with his first book Breathers and then continuing with Fated and Lucky Bastard, among others. The humorous story centers on recently-deceased Andy Warner, a former nobody and newly minted zombie trying to find his way among the undead. A chance encounter with fellow zombies at an Undead Anonymous meeting leads Andy down an unpredictable path of mayhem, with an added love story for good measure. Breathers is a solid choice for new and long-time horror fans interested in Browne’s later books, and short stories.
How campy is it? Expect biting wit and satirical takes on love, life, and (of course) death.