I blame Freddy Krueger.
And it’s not because I’m a Jason Vorhees fan, either.
I blame Freddy Krueger for making jokes out of horrifying deaths. And I blame Freddy Krueger for taking the ‘scary’ out of Halloween.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.
There was a time when Bill Cosby would make jokes in his early comedy routines about staying too late at the monster movies and having to walk home in the dark. One night he knew he was out too long because it was 8pm. That’s when the monsters came out. Having spent the day watching the classic werewolf, vampire, and mummy movies, his imagination had been charged with monster mania.
The slashers came and went in the 80s, giving way to the comedic catharsis of Freddy Krueger, cracking a joke while eviscerating one of his victims in his dream deathland.
What happened? Why the need for humor during a horror movie?
Let’s face it, laughing is good for the soul. And as far as we can tell, we’re the only species on the planet that can laugh or understand humor the way we do. The only other animal is the monkey that has been known to play jokes or rough up its friends in a silly manner. And let’s not forget the YouTube video of the chimp that decided sticking its finger in its butt and smelling it was a good idea before throwing its hands up in the air in melodramatic shock and falling off its tree limb.
It’s great to have such high-functioning brains.
And yet we humans take the joke a bit further. Our high-functioning brains can take a ‘smell my finger’ joke just that much further. I was once in a summer stock theatre show in Palo Duro Canyon many years ago, and there was this guy I’ll just call “Corey’. Corey enjoyed goosing his friends by sliding his index finger up the pants portion of people’s butt-crack. And while the people are in the middle of making that silly grunt of a surprise goose, he would stick that same finger under the victim’s nose and say, ‘smell that’.
Ah, yes. Jokes and the high-functioning brain.
With the evolution of horror movies comes the evolution of humor, too. We’ve always laughed at things that crack us up, and every individual finds humor in different things. Mel Brook’s ‘History of the World’ makes light of laughter during the caveman days, where a caveman tries to act silly to no response from the tough crowd. But when a dinosaur (!) appears and eats the caveman in the middle of his act, the crowd laughs out loud.
The mixing of humor with drama or tragedy is also nothing new. Shakespeare used to inject humor in the middle of his darkest tragedies like ‘Macbeth’ or ‘Hamlet’. It added to the peaks and valleys of the story, and was a great way to ease tension before ratcheting it up again. I used that same convention in my zombie horror story, “Down the Road: On the Last Day” and “Down the Road: The Fall of Austin”, with a duo of characters (two friends in ‘On the Last Day’, and two clownish gang members in ‘The Fall of Austin’) to bring a little levity to the zombie apocalypse.
So just like in horror movies, the old comedies of yesteryear (Keystone Kops, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello) would elicit barely a chuckle with kids, or adults for that matter, like the shows probably did back in the day. Humor, like horror, has also evolved and changed over the years.
And that’s where this lovely humorous tale comes in. Set in the world of Halloween Hallows, ‘When Good Holidays Go Bad: Rise of the Fiend” is like Goosebumps after an all-night bender. It’s a good-natured parody of scary monsters of yesteryear with the humorous sensibility of an ‘Airplane’ movie. It’s like Monty Python ate R.L. Stine and then wrote a book.
You will enjoy the laughs and you will enjoy the characters. But most of all, you will enjoy the story.
And you won’t have Freddy Krueger cracking a bad joke after dismembering someone.
So grab your favorite beverage and get ready for a fun read and plenty of chuckles.
Bowie V. Ibarra
Author of the ‘Down the Road’ zombie horror series