Most horror films have a jokester, prankster, or trickster in them. Sometimes he or she is a disposable character who dies a gruesome death in the first half of the film; sometimes the role is fulfilled by the lead or main supporting character. Whether they live or die, the jokester is almost always responsible for breaking up the tense atmosphere with well-timed pranks, tricks, or smart-assery. Writers and directors have recognized the need for comic relief since the dawn of film, but it seems that the jokester role in horror has become more finely tuned over the last few decades. So for your reading pleasure, we bring to you nine of the most memorable jokesters in horror cinema...
Marty – The Cabin in the Woods
Marty (Fran Kranz) is the quintessential silver screen stoner, and represents almost every character that’s ever sparked up a joint in a horror film, but Kranz brings a brilliant sense of sarcasm that is completely unique to the character. Though each member of the Cabin cast has their moment to shine, Marty takes the cake for the best one-liners, and keeps the audience laughing throughout the entirety of the film. Among many other outrageous claims, he asserts that in the pioneer days people had to make interrogation rooms out of cornmeal, and also makes the claim that the police will never pull over a guy with a huge bong in his car because they fear him.
Shelly – Friday the 13th Part 3
I like to think of Shelly (Larry Zerner) as the original horror movie prankster: though he isn’t literally the first, he did carve out a template that a lot of characters have since been modeled after. In the film he brings a trunk full of costumes, movie makeup and props that wind up making him wildly unpopular with his onscreen cohorts – particularly when he fakes his own death. However, Shelly will always maintain the distinct honor of being the character who provides Jason Voorhees with his iconic hockey mask. Shelly didn’t exactly give up the mask willingly... but nonetheless, without him Jason would still be wearing a bag over his head.
Buffy – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Buffy (Kristy Swanson) is a huge smartass. She's constantly complaining, making silly jokes and giving her mentor Merrick (Donald Sutherland) a hard time, and she does it all with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility that makes her wisecracks especially effective. Buffy pretty much sums up her attitude with the line "All I want to do is graduate from high school, go to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die." This film is so distinctly a product of the ‘90s that going back and re-watching it is like opening a time capsule containing a grossly exaggerated slice of 1992.
The Cast of Scream
Nearly every cast member in Scream has at least one good punchline. Tatum (Rose McGowan) has some hilarious dialogue where she is mocking and toying with the killer right before her death; Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu (Matthew Lillard) are constantly wisecracking – even up until the very end; and Randy (Jamie Kennedy) is constantly offering semi-sarcastic tips on what one must do to survive a horror film. Kevin Williamson’s perfectly crafted script and Wes Craven’s keen directorial eye came together for one of the first truly self-aware horror films. Granted, Student Bodies did it first, but we will gladly argue that Scream did it better.
Barb – Black Christmas
Black Christmas is primarily a serious horror film, but what comic relief we do get is almost entirely courtesy of the sharp-tongued Barb (Margot Kidder). Barb is the perfect specimen of an over-the-top, foul-mouthed alcoholic... and she hasn’t even finished college yet. She also gets all of the best lines, and Kidder delivers them with unflinching brilliance (for example: "You’re a real gold-plated whore, Mother"). In a moment of utter hilarity, Barb convinces a rookie cop that the new telephone exchange for the sorority house is "Fellatio."
Muffy St. John – April Fool’s Day
Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) definitely falls under the prankster category. She invites all of her friends to her summer home and treats them to a weekend they're sure to never forget. Throughout the course of the film, the audience comes to realize that Muffy has a particularly wicked sense of humor – but all is explained in one of the most elaborate and epic twist endings in slasher film history.
Stooge – Night of the Demons
Stooge (Hal Havins) is a really big, really dumb oaf in Kevin Tenney’s 1988 supernatural horror film, but he also provides ample comic relief. Perhaps his most memorable line in the film is “Eat a bowl of fuck. I am here to party.” Stooge is like a bull in a china shop… a bull with one of the most distinctly ugly hairstyles ever to come across a movie screen.
Trickster – Brainscan
Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) is Michael’s (Edward Furlong) guide through a totally trippy game experience that begins in virtual reality and quickly starts to overlap into actual reality. His name is somewhat self-explanatory: Trickster is a master prankster with a warped sense of humor and an arsenal of macabre jokes (in one particularly grotesque scene, he starts breaking his fingers one at a time). But the biggest trick he pulls is revealed at the end of the film.
Bill – Dark Ride
The perpetually nerdy, film-obsessed Bill (Patrick Renna) isn’t a big hit with the ladies, but he does have skills as a prankster, as demonstrated when he and Cathy (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pull off a fake death similar to Shelly’s self-staged murder in Friday the 13th Part 3. Speaking of similarities to other movies: the first half of Dark Ride is almost identical to the plot of Tobe Hooper’s 1981 film The Funhouse – but the final act takes a completely different direction, making up for what could have been a blatant case of cinematic plagiarism.