The Scream franchise returns next Friday with the release of Scream, the confusingly titled fifth film of the iconic meta horror franchise. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette reprise their roles as Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers, and Dewey Riley alongside a new generation of survivors terrorized by yet another Ghostface killer, while Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett step up to helm this latest installment in the wake of series creator Wes Craven’s passing in 2015.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the legacy of the Scream franchise is inextricably tied to the resurgence of slasher horror films in the late ’90s and the continued evolution of the genre to this day. While certainly not the first franchise to parody the tropes of cinematic horror, the success of Craven’s 1996 original and its subsequent sequels has spawned both imitation and reinvention alike in the decades since.
Here are eight of the best horror-comedies available to stream and watch before
The Cabin in the Woods
Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods has reigned unchallenged as the go-to contemporary example of satirical horror since it was released back in 2011. As such, you’re more than likely to already be aware of the twist behind its premise, but just in case: the film centers on five college students who travel to a cabin in the woods for a long weekend getaway. While there, the group are assailed by a host of horrific creatures, all of whom seem to be connected to a terrible ritual in which the hapless co-eds find themselves entwined.
The Cabin in the Woods is available to stream on Peacock.
Evil Dead 2
At once a sequel and a soft remake of the original Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 finds oafish everyman Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) holed up in a cabin with a new group of survivors as they’re forced to fend off an onslaught of deadites unleashed through foul magical powers of the Necronomicon. With a bigger budget, improved special effects, chilling scares, and a thoroughly unhinged Ash wielding a chainsaw mounted on his stump of wrist, Evil Dead 2 is a horror film that manages to be shocking all the while winking to its audience. —TE
Evil Dead 2 is available to stream on HBO Max.
Happy Death Day director Christopher Landon tries his hand at the body swap subgenre with his 2020 slasher comedy Freaky starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton. A twist on the premise of Freaky Friday, the film centers on a teenage girl (Newton) who accidentally switches bodies with a middle-aged serial killer (Vaughn) and must find a way to switch back while avoiding being murdered herself. As Roxana Hadidi wrote in her review for Polygon, “Freaky is committed to a cheeky upending of genre conventions, with a concluding act that delivers one last bloody thrill [...] amusing and gory enough to still be an entertaining slasher movie with its own satisfying spin on the final-girl trope.” —TE
Freaky is available to stream on HBO Max.
Happy Death Day
Paranormal Activity 2 director Christopher Landon’s 2017 black comedy slasher Happy Death Day can be best described as “Groundhog Day meets Scream.” The film centers on Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), a self-centered student and sorority sister who is murdered by a mysterious masked assailant on her birthday only to wake up miraculously back in the bed of her classmate Carter (Israel Broussard). While at first taking advantage of her apparent immortality, Tree attempts to track down her killer and break the cycle when she realizes her body is slowly deteriorating from the repeated attempts on her life. Funny, quirky, and at times legitimately terrifying, Happy Death Day is an excellent horror comedy with a clever concept executed to perfection. —TE
Ready or Not
Samara Weaving (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) stars in Ready or Not as Grace, a newlywed bride who finds herself in the middle of deadly game of hide and seek orchestrated by her in-laws. Forced to hide in the labyrinthine corridors and secret passageways of the family’s mansion, Grace thwarting repeated attempts on her life while searching for a means of escape, ultimately transforming into a ruthless survivor who turns the tables on her would-be hunters. Weaving is phenomenal here with a performance worthy of the title of ‘Scream Queen’. Considering that directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are helming the fifth Scream film in the wake of Wes Craven’s passing in 2015, it only seems right to watch Ready or Not in the lead up to this new installment. —TE
The Return of the Living Dead
At once a spiritual sequel and satire of 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead injected new life (pun-intended) into the zombie horror genre, introducing the idea of the brain-devouring undead capable of sprinting after their prey while sprinkling in generous amounts of slapstick humor, punk aesthetics, and leering nudity. The film follows a bumbling warehouse worker and his assistant who accidentally unleash a deadly biochemical gas capable of re-animating the dead. Throw in a motley crew of delinquent teenagers, impressive special effects, and a rockin’ soundtrack, and you’ve got horror comedy more than worthy of its cult status. —TE
The Return of the Living Dead is streaming on HBO Max.
How better to prepare for 2022’s Scream than to return to the beginning? Wes Craven’s meta-horror original is widely acknowledged for having revitalized the flagging slasher genre when it first slashed across screens in 1996, borrowing from the psychological horror of the 1970s and onward to create a film that interrogate the well-worn tropes of horror films while simultaneously carving a new path forward. Sidney Prescott and co.’s decades-long battle against a swath of copycat Ghostface killers wouldn’t have existed were it not for the immense success of the original, so it only makes sense to pay respects to the original before watching the series’ fifth entry. —TE
Scream is available to stream on Peacock.
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine star in Eli Craig’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil as the eponymous Tucker and Dale, two affable hillbillies who find themselves in a whole mess of trouble after crossing paths with a group of skittish college students out camping in the woods. A twist on horror classics like The Hills Have Eyes and Evil Dead, the strength of Craig’s film is in how it subverts the expectations of genre tropes to maximum comedic effect, transforming what on its face would be a horror scenario into a comedy of failed communication on par with that of a Looney Toons skit, albeit with way more gore. —TE
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is available to stream on Kanopy with a library card.