And it’s true that many a classic tale of terror has a structure similar to that of a good joke - a lengthy setup with a payoff hitting home via a punchy closing line. It’s no wonder so many horror comics and TV and radio shows were accompanied by a punning narrator like The Crypt Keeper.
But just like comedy has evolved from the broad strokes of vaudeville, humor in horror has also evolved. Take Clive Barker, for instance. His visionary imagery, unrepentant sexuality and no-holds-barred violence is oft discussed and lauded, but we rarely talk about the man’s abundant wit, most evident in “The Yattering and Jack," an overtly slapstick tale that nonetheless contains all the other elements - visual, sexual and visceral - that Barker’s known for.
When considering which Barker tale I wanted to write about for this little series, I almost went with “In the Hills, the Cites” - which everyone writes about.
But “Yattering” shows Barker’s range and control over his material. The story is both a successful farce and a successful tale of the supernatural. It's further proof that there's not a subgenre of horror Barker didn't master - and fairly early on in his career at that.
Over the 31 days of this month, I'm pointing left, right and sideways at men and women who've written great horror. But great horror-comedy? That's a difficult beast to rein in. Horror, with its gaudy tropes, is easy to parody - Monsters, ghosts and boogiemen, how silly! (Anyone planning to do “The Monster Mash” at this year’s Halloween party?)
But balancing laughs while delivering actual shivers is always done on the edge of a precipice - the stakes have to be utterly serious: such as Jack Polo’s soul or the Yattering’s continued (relative) freedom.
So to put it another way, the Scary Movie franchise might crank out sequel after sequel, but there’s a reason you’ve already forgotten most of the jokes the minute you walk out of the theater or turn off the DVD.
But tell me this - will you ever forget Sean of the Dead or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil?