When it comes to “serious film discussions”, no genres are left out so consistently as horror and comedy, with the few auteur-led examples able to break in under different labels or by straying far from the standards of the genres. Yet both genres have their adherents and provide easier entry into filmmaking than many other genres due to fewer budgetary constraints. A scary premise is scary regardless of how much money goes into the production and a premise that’s lacking can’t be saved no matter how many millions get thrown at it. Similarly, many of the funniest moments come from observations about daily life that can be easily relayed or replicated without need for massive set pieces. The similarities hardly end there though. While screams and laughter are obviously different reactions, both are often achieved through defying expectations about what should follow. They more likely reach for an immediate visceral reaction, providing gratification in the moment, than for provoking thought long after the credits roll. Even the ways the reactions are achieved are often quite similar. Buster Keaton‘s antics provoke laughter as everything goes wrong but could just as easily turn to provoking revulsion if the characters were a little less successful at pulling off their stunts. The famous Modern Times scene in the factory machine would make an excellent torture device if repurposed in a different film. Is the splatter of blood in a horror film or poop in a comedy so different? So, it makes sense that the two genres would be able to marry well, as they’ve done many times in the past and did to excellent effect in the recent Adam Sandler vehicle Hubie Halloween.
Following in Sandler’s late career streak of comedies that traded his earlier angry idiot persona for affable naïve protagonists, the comedian plays the titular Hubie Dubois, a dimwitted Halloween enthusiast at the butt of every joke who must save his town from a kidnapper. It constantly veers between horror and comedy as pranks pulled on Hubie initially seem to be the work of the supernatural or mass murderers before being revealed in humorous fashion to be the doings of kids looking for a laugh, while the actual reveal of the kidnapper is the film’s greatest punchline. Jump scares abound while werewolves and witch burnings populate Hubie’s hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, but so do elderly women wearing shirts emblazoned with phrases like “boner donor”, the contrasts making the jokes feel funnier and the eeriness creepier.
For some though, the greatest horror Hubie Halloween presents may be that it leans fully into the legacy of Sandler’s great but often maligned filmography. The Happy Madison regulars are all here, as is Julie Bowen, in her first pairing with Adam Sandler since the classic Happy Gilmore 24 years earlier, and they bring all the stupidity and gross-out humor that made the earlier films so entertaining. In perhaps the greatest distillation of Hubie Halloween’s attempts to pay homage to both Sandler’s classics and horror classics, Hubie rides down the street, greeting the neighborhood in his friendly fashion before projectile vomiting so intensely it reminds of The Exorcist, but played to comedic effect as shouts of “O’Doyle rules” (a Billy Madison callback) ring out. After a few more serious roles in films from notable filmmakers like the Safdie brothers and Noah Baumbach, Sandler’s return to his roots and entry into horror was a welcome reminder that prestige pics and supposed low brow cinema can stand beside each other in any body of work and that more big names should be willing to have a little fun in the less respected genres every once in a while.