Sam Raimi Just Can't Keep His Horror And Humor Separate — And That's A Good Thing

Sam Raimi is a filmmaker who has not only managed to endure in the business for more than four decades, but has done so effectively by working in a variety of genres. The man got his start working in the lowest of low budget features with the horror classic "The Evil Dead" and helped cement the superhero movie craze with 2002's "Spider-Man." It's a craze he's circled back around to 20 years later with "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," bringing him back to the genre after many years away. He's also effectively directed westerns ("The Quick and the Dead"), thrillers ("A Simple Plan"), and even sports movies ("For the Love of the Game").

One thing that Rami has always done exceptionally well as a filmmaker regardless of the genre that he is working in is injecting a bit of much-needed levity. And yes, this extends to his work in the horror space. It is actually what helps to give him such a distinctive voice when he's working on a horror film and it would be tough to argue against his approach of marrying comedy to genre filmmaking. The results truly do speak for themselves when looking at the entire scope of the picture on a long timeline.

Comedy and horror, cinematic cousins

While "The Evil Dead" was a very serious and straightforward (not to mention groundbreaking) horror film, when presented with the idea to make a sequel, Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and producer Rob Tapert decided to take a different approach. They opted to essentially remake the original while injecting it with a whole lot more humor mixed in with the horror. The result was 1987's "Evil Dead 2," often considered to be the best entry in the franchise and one of the best horror/comedy films ever made. This set Raimi on a path of mixing humor with his future horror endeavors.

So, what is it about horror and comedy that go so well together in the eyes of Raimi? The filmmaker addressed the topic in 2009 while promoting the release of "Drag Me To Hell," another excellent example of blending horror with humor. Speaking with Vanity Fair, Raimi explained that scaring an audience and making them laugh actually share more similarities than one might think.

"Comedy and horror, they're strange cousins. When I'm setting up a suspense sequence, I find it very similar to setting up a joke. They're similar in terms of construction, setup and payoff. There's this built-up anticipation from the audience about what may lie beyond the door, or what the bartender in the joke may say. A scream of horror when the creature leaps out is very similar to the scream of laughter from an unexpected punchline. A scream and a laugh are both involuntary reactions. And also, for me at least, I'll often titter when I'm terrified, because it's the only way I can deal with horror movie moments. I'm a big coward."

Why so serious?

One of the nice things about the horror genre is that it isn't nearly as limiting as outsiders might believe. There are so many different flavors and variations that exist under the gigantic umbrella that is horror, meaning there really can be something for everyone. But one thing that can often happen is that these films can take themselves a bit too seriously. Frequently, the premise of a horror film demands a little bit of acknowledgment. Just look at something like "Wrong Turn." It's a film about backwoods cannibals and what good does it do to take that too seriously? There is a reason so many fans of the genre love "Wrong Turn 2: Dead End," directed by Joe Lynch, who happens to have a similar sensibility to Raimi in this regard.

That is but one example. The point is, Raimi viewing horror this way and marrying it to comedy so often is something mainstream film could use more of, not less. That might also explain why so many of the horror movies he produces, such as "Don't Breathe" or "Crawl," end up becoming big hits as well. Just having his touch, even if it is not in the director's chair, can indeed be a secret ingredient. One can only hope that Raimi finds his way back to horror after he's done playing in Marvel's big sandbox.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" hits theaters on May 6, 2022.