Design by Grace Filbin

October has arrived, and with it, the official start of spooky season. It’s time to whip out the pumpkin spice-scented stuff, dig out those Halloween decorations from the attic and pick out that costume you definitely haven’t been thinking about since July. As per usual, it’s also the socially acceptable time to watch an excessive amount of horror media. And with the recent resurgence of original, creative and innovative horror flicks, there’s an abundance of options to choose from, whether it be slashers, run-of-the-mill paranormal thrillers or psychologically disturbing A24 soon-to-be cult classics. Personally, I’m a little picky with my horror favorites. I basically have three main no-no’s: clowns, creepy dolls and religious exorcisms. What’s left? I’m glad you asked, it’s actually the greatest subgenre of all time: the horror-comedy! As it is criminally underrepresented on most October horror watchlists, I’ve come to rectify this with my own mini goldmine of a little spooky, a little silly, never too scary media to watch this month. 

“Ready or Not”

One of the more recent additions to my own personal horror-comedy catalog, “Ready or Not” follows Grace (Samara Weaving, “The Babysitter”), a newlywed whose wedding night takes a rather sinister turn when her spouse’s family begins hunting her down in a perverse version of hide and seek. And if you thought it couldn’t get wackier, it’s all part of a literal deal with the devil the family has made in exchange for their fortune in board games. Balancing a wry, whip-smart screenplay and a killer ensemble of relatives (think the “Knives Out” family but fueled by murderous rage), with notable stars Adam Brody (“Jennifer’s Body”) and Andie MacDowell (“Groundhog Day”), “Ready or Not” paints a horrifyingly hilarious picture of family dynamics bloodied by generational wealth. Scene after near-death scene, Weaving steals the show as an all-around epic final girl, traipsing around the mansion in an impeccably gorgeous wedding dress, running into booby traps and backstabbing in-laws at every turn. As brilliantly funny as it is, “Ready or Not” doesn’t shy away from gory undertones of body horror or sharp critiques of the privileged class, making for a wickedly entertaining watch that will have you laughing in the moment and left on edge long after the credits roll.

“Ready or Not” is currently available to stream on Hulu.

“Jennifer’s Body”

Not sure if I could have made an underrated comedy-horror list without including the holy grail of unappreciated-in-their-time, misunderstood feminist cult classics. In some small recompense, “Jennifer’s Body” is now far from “underrated,” but if you somehow still haven’t watched it, get with the program, please and thank you. What can I say about “Jennifer’s Body” that hasn’t been said already? It’s a perfect film. Diablo Cody (“Juno”) and Karyn Kusama (“The Invitation”) are a writer-director match made in heaven, with their keenly feminist subversion of the exploitation of female bodies and final girls in classic horror films. All the while, they posit a unique perspective on the at-times parasitic, horrifically intense nature of adolescent female friendships. Megan Fox (“Transformers”) as the titular Jennifer is at the absolute top of her game. (I’d say the same for Amanda Seyfried, but we all know that honor belongs to “Mamma Mia.”) The soundtrack is also a delightful relic of the late ’00s punk scene; the end credits scene scored to Hole’s “Violet” is a magnificent depiction of satisfyingly vindictive, unadulterated female rage (not to mention the Hole song “Jennifer’s Body” that the film is named after). This has somehow derailed into an ad for Hole. Go listen to Live Through This, everyone.

“Jennifer’s Body” is currently available to stream on Prime Video and Paramount+.

“Scream Queens”

Contemporary horror films have gotten fairly good at leaning into the more comical situations of the genre, like the self-aware quips driving “Scream” or “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” but few genuinely embrace it quite as wholeheartedly as Ryan Murphy’s 2015 TV series “Scream Queens.” It’s able to sustain a ridiculous, deeply chaotic comedic tone without ever losing sight of itself and becoming an outright parody à la “Scary Movie.” As hysterically entertaining as this show is, it by no means shies away from the graphic, gory deaths of its classic slasher predecessors. Within the first episode alone, Ariana Grande gets stabbed, someone gets burned alive and another gets their head mowed off by a lawnmower. In terms of the acting, Emma Roberts (“American Horror Story”) as Chanel gives what is undoubtedly her best performance to date — I mean, this alone is one of the greatest character introductions of all time. The rest of the all-star cast is rounded out by literal scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis (“Halloween”), Keke Palmer (“Nope”), Nick Jonas (“Camp Rock”) and Lea Michele (“Glee”), to name a few. If nothing else, this show is the source of that infamous pumpkin spice latte scene, so it’s a classic in my book.

“Scream Queens” is currently available to stream on Hulu.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies”

A very, very new addition to the mix, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is ripe with controversy and loads of fun to watch if you’re chronically online and know too much about niche writer Twitter drama. It follows a group of rich 20-somethings who are stuck in a mansion during a hurricane when an otherwise harmless party game takes a deadly turn. As the group starts dropping like flies, they realize that maybe it’s not just the potential killer in the midst, but the fake friends they exposed along the way. Heartwarming. Like much online humor (and the inevitable discourse to follow) the film is practically doused in satire, so much so that it’s best to take every line of dialogue with about the same grain of salt as you would with literally anything on social media. With countless zingers and an exceptional star-in-the-making performance from Rachel Sennott (“Shiva Baby”) (I still can’t get the sound of her yelling “He’s a libra moon, that says a lot!” out of my head), “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has all the makings of a comedic slasher classic. Besides, Sennott’s delivery of the line “your parents are upper … middle … class” possesses all the emphatic power of Brittany Murphy’s iconic “you’re a virgin, who can’t drive,” which is perhaps the highest testament I could possibly award to a screenwriter’s prowess.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is currently available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon Video or Vudu.

“Santa Clarita Diet”

Okay people, we’ve officially bridged into the realm of less scary, more haha-so-funny territory. Starring Drew Barrymore (“The Drew Barrymore Show”) and Timothy Olyphant (“Justified”) as a husband and wife real estate duo, Joel and Sheila, “Santa Clarita Diet” is about the two of them navigating their otherwise fairly mundane lifestyle after Sheila becomes a zombie. Barrymore, as always, has such an effervescent screen presence that she manages to ground the role of a flesh-eating zombie with a bubbly, energetically erratic personality. This role also kick-started Barrymore’s return to the screen — the “Drew Barrymore renaissance” — if you will, and rests on the trademark affability and charm that seems to ooze out of her very being. As lovable as its characters may be, this show is definitely not for the faint of heart, propelled by a rather morbid sense of humor and plenty of comedic gore to spare. I do regret to report that “Santa Clarita Diet” currently rests in the Netflix Originals graveyard. Although, given Netflix’s current track record of cancellations, this should hardly deter you from tuning in.

“Santa Clarita Diet” is currently available to stream on Netflix.

“Sabrina the Teenage Witch”

I debated the inclusion of this show. It is most definitely not a horror-comedy. Even if you had never heard of  “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” from the name alone you should be able to deduce that it does not have a single slightly scary bone in its body. But its recent remake, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” is wholeheartedly terrifying and extremely dark. So, in the spirit of unity, they are a collective horror-comedy. Watch the ’90s version if you want a laugh and the new one if you want a fright, simple as that. The reboot has only one true fault: They didn’t give Salem the Cat the power of speech. An entire show based on magical witches and you mean to tell me you couldn’t let the cat talk? Truly disappointing.

“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” is currently available to stream on Hulu and Paramount+.

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Through this process, I’ve discovered that pure horror-comedies are hard to come by. But when done right, they’re a truly magnificent amalgamation of genre and theatrical style. Honorable mentions go out to the outliers that I cut to retain at least some sense of categorical purity. This includes everything from the most perfect darkly comedic mysteries, “Knives Out” and “Clue,” to the long-running teen supernatural hits of my adolescence, “The Vampire Diaries,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Teen Wolf,” as well as that one episode of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” You know the one I’m talking about, with the ghost in the painting and Suite 613. There was no reason for them to go that hard and terrify a bunch of children watching Disney Channel. Now, that was peak horror-comedy.

Daily Arts Writer Serena Irani can be reached at seirani@umich.edu.