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person dressed as a ghost in a black and white cap and shades

By Prakhar Patidar

In real life, it might not seem like a likely combination. We are not horrified by the things that make us smile and do not laugh when we feel horrified. These two are opposite emotions that can only come together in a world where the laws of this one don't apply. What is cinema if not an example of such a world? Anything can happen on the screen, even the coming together of these two genres; comedy and horror. And not to forget quite successfully. Horror-comedy has been a well-explored sub-genre in horror cinema, especially in the West. In the past few years, it has also gained popularity with the Indian audience of which the commercial and critical success of which Amar Kaushik's Stree (2018) is a tell-tale example.


It is not uncommon for poorly made horror films to be the fodder for unintentional laughter. YouTube is full of satirical reviews of horror films that make you laugh more than they scare you. A lot can be said about why this happens. The top reasons seem to be lack of originality (the same old story of a house haunted by an evil spirit), conventional tropes (more often than not this spirit is drawn to the virginal protagonist), and poor acting (those possession scenes demand more than indiscernible growling). However, when these tropes are subverted sophisticatedly, what comes out of it is good cinema.

The genre in Indian cinema is not that easy to define. There have been instances of comedic reliefs being secondary characters of slapstick being a sub-plot within classic horror films such as those made by the Ramsay brothers. The films that take both horror and laughter head-on have to be careful of the cocktail they create. Take Zombie flicks, for example, these have been popular within the sub-genre, with Go Goa Gone being the Hindi contributions. Taking inspiration from the likes of Shaun of the Dead, the film plays with tensions bound to arise in the wake of a zombie attack to produce laughter. Another example is Stree the explores a bizarre real-life phenomenon and combines it with a classic tale of witches and possession.


The recipe isn't always a success. Even when it is replicated word to word as was the case with Laxmii, the unsuccessful remake of the fairly successful Kanchana (2011) and Hardik Mehta's Roohi (2021).


Keywords: Entertainment, Bollywood, Hindi Films, Tamil films, horror-comedy


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