Sure, horror films starring comedians sounds like an oxymoron. When comedians branch out into movies, they'll usually try and stick to what they know best: comedy. Occasionally, though, comedians will be tapped to star in horror films -- with mixed results, at best. Here's a list of comics who've tried their hand at bringing the scary.
No telling what inspired director James Cameron to cast comedian Reiser in Aliens -- by far the best movie on this list, and certainly the most distinguished. Whatever the inspiration, it was a masterstroke of casting. In this sequel to 1979's Alien, Reiser plays Burke, the corporate representative on a military mission to check out a space colony. Then, of course, the aliens show up. Reiser (who had already been really good in Barry Levinson's Diner) actually underplays everything, seeming like one of the smarter and more sympathetic characters. That's only until his real motives begin to come out. Even then, though, Reiser makes his corporate slime seem sincere -- which only makes him slimier, and his fate that much more satisfying.
Wes Craven's Scream is a movie that's already pretty funny, so it's impressive that comedian Jamie Kennedy could walk away as the "comic relief." And so he does with the 1996 film (and about half of its 1997 sequel), playing movie geek and horror aficionado Randy. He's the best friend; the sidekick, and the only character that knows all the rules on how to survive a horror movie. Kennedy made a name for himself with his fast, funny performance; his role in Scream remains one of the best things he's done, and is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a comedian in a horror movie. He's since switched it up by doing horrible things in comedy movies movies like Malibu's Most Wanted and Kickin' It Old Skool.
Here's one of the only movies on this list where the comedian isn't relegated to a supporting role, but actually has the lead. But, because it's '90s-era Eddie Murphy, that means it's an overblown vanity project and a spectacular failure on just about every level. I supposed credit should go to Murphy for trying to do something different -- play a vampire in a movie directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) -- but the movie is terrible. Murphy is badly miscast and plays his romantically-tortured vampire as pure melodrama; to make matters worse, he and Craven try and shoehorn in some of his trademark "I play all the characters" broad comedy. It's an uneasy mix, and a movie that satisfies no one.
On paper, this must have sounded great: A Tales From the Crypt production about a bunch of vampire hookers, led by model-turned-actress Angie Everhart. Chris Sarandon (Fright Night) as a guitar playing preacher. Corey Feldman. And battling all this evil in the film's lead? Why, none other than former Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" anchor and political comedian Dennis Miller. It had to work, right? Wrong. The result isn't even enjoyable in a so-bad-it's-good way, with Miller trying to distance himself from the film even while knee-deep in it. Supposedly, it was 9/11 that made Miller sell his soul to FOX News and become a "conservative" comic. I tend to think it was Bordello of Blood.
I can only guess that comedian Judah Friedlander agreed to be in the 2005 film Feast more for its association with Project Greenlight than because he really loved the script. The comic, who has done impressive -- and unrecognizable -- turns in respectable indie fare like American Splendor and Duane Hopwood, essentially plays a version of his bespectacled, trucker-hatted on-stage persona in the film. Called only "Beer Guy," Friedlander spends most of the movie in states of decay after a monster throws up on him early on (the movie's actually better and funnier than that makes it sound). His is a good representation of the usual role of comedians in genre films: he pops up from time to time, gets a laugh, then goes away for a while.
Brian Posehn -- star of The Sarah Silverman Program and one of the Comedians of Comedy -- is a long-time heavy metal and horror buff. So, when his chance came along to appear in The Devil's Rejects, written and directed by Rob Zombie, his head must have exploded. Posehn has only a small role as a member of the family band terrorized by the movie's "heroes," the evil Firefly family, and is never especially funny (the bad guys get all the good laughs). But in a movie filled with "spot the cameo" moments, it's fun for fans of the comic to see him living out one of his dreams.
Director John Landis tried to recapture some of his old American Werewolf in London glory with 1992's Innocent Blood. The movie, about a French vampire in Pittsburgh (how's that for a title?) who takes on a mob family, combines horror and comedy in much the same way as Landis' earlier movie. Insult King Don Rickles, who plays the corrupt legal counsel to Robert Loggia's scenery-chewing gangster-turned-vampire, basically plays a straight role. He's effective and it's fun to watch him play such a weasel, but is it really a good idea to have someone as funny as Rickles and then give him nothing funny to do? Luckily, the movie's best and most memorable scene is reserved for the comic. It's a showstopper, and worth the price of admission alone.
Cheech Marin, one half of stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong, plays not one but three roles in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 1995 vampire mash-up From Dusk 'Till Dawn. Playing a border guard, a gangster and -- best of all -- a strip club MC/vampire, Marin is obviously having a good time in the movie. Actually, everyone is; if you're into this kind of movie, Dawn is actually a lot of fun. Marin had worked with Rodriguez once before (on Desperado), and has gone on to have a least a small part in most of the director's films.
Legend has it that Henny "Take My Wife, Please" Youngman denied having appeared in gore-meister Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls -- though that seems like an odd claim to make, because it's such an easy thing to refute. Youngman plays a strip club owner who has to recruit a bunch of new strippers when a murder starts slashing the throat of every go-go girl in town. It's as trashy as it sounds, but by design -- Lewis specialized in bloody, self-aware sleaze. But it's also the kind of movie that a has-been comedian might agree to be in for a paycheck. Youngman may not have been as big as he once was by the '70s, but he still had enough of a following that he couldn't have needed the money. Maybe he just really liked the script.
Garrett Morris, one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, has the distinction of being the only comedian to ever star in a movie about killer dessert. Writer/director Larry Cohen's (who makes better schlock than most) 1985 movie tells the tale of a yogurt-like dessert, called simply "The Stuff," that's actually a kind of alien substance that takes over the brain of people who eat it and turns them into zombies. It's a satire of consumerism, see? Morris' role, "Chocolate Chip" Charlie Hobbs, was originally intended for another comic -- Arsenio Hall. But it was 1985, and Hall hadn't blown up yet. His loss is Morris' gain.