Darkly Funny

It’s Wild-Card Wednesday, the day you throw caution to the wind when you visit my blog.  Today, we’re going to look at the three of my favorite dark comedies.  The multi-talented Jess Witkins suggested this topic some time back.

Dark comedy is a sub-genre of comedy.  It is funny…but in a twisted way. Other terms for this sub-genre of comedy are black comedy and gallows humor.  Dark comedy straddles the line between offensive, tragic, and hilarious.  It’s the only type of comedy I enjoy.

Enough talk.  Let’s do it.

Heathers (1989) starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.  The dark premise: teenage murder and suicide are funny.

The coolest clique at Westerberg High School is run by three girls named Heather–played by Shannen Doherty, Lisa Falk, and Kim Walker.

Veronica (Ryder) is part of this clique even though she hates the Heathers and her role in their schemes.  One day, J. D. (Slater) rolls into town.  Veronica is immediately attracted.  J. D. seems unintimidated by the Heathers or the rest of the ruling class.  In fact, he seems to see them for what they are–a bunch of posturing phonies who will be nobodies once they leave the small world of Westerberg High.

Veronica and J. D. embark on a killing spree to exterminate the cliquish nasties from Westerberg High.  They disguise their murders to look like suicides.  As Veronica asks, are they going to prom or to hell?  Click here to watch the trailer.

Best scene of the movie:

Fun Factoid:  Kim Walker, who played Heather Chandler, delivered the iconic quote, “Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast? First you ask if you can be red, knowing that I’m always red.”  Sadly, Kim Walker later died of cancer.  Her illness started as a brain tumor.  Read more here.


To Die For (1995) starred Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon.  The dark premise: murder in the pursuit of fame is funny.

The mockumentary style film tells the story of Suzanne Stone (Kidman) who really, really wants to be famous.  She marries Larry Moretto (Dillon) to provide her a comfortable lifestyle while she chases her dream.  The furthest Suzanne gets in pursuit of fame is becoming weather girl at the local TV station.

When Larry (Dillon) pressures Suzanne to stop chasing her dream and start a family, she launches a plot to kill him.  Suzanne visits the local high school where she recruits three dorky teenagers for a fake documentary.  She begins a romantic affair with one of them (who is played by Joaquin Phoenix) and manipulates the trio into killing her husband.

The trailer:

Fun Factoid: To Die For is based on the Joyce Maynard novel, which was based on the Pamela Smart murder case.

Moving on.

Bad Santa (2003) starred Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox.  The late greats Bernie Mac and John Ritter also appeared in this film.  The dark premise: an alcoholic, filthy-mouthed, criminal Santa Claus is funny.   And, really, he was.

Willie T. Stokes (Thornton) and his dwarf partner Marcus (Cox) work holiday seasons playing a mall Santa and his elf.  On Christmas Eve, the duo disables the security alarm and robs the mall.  They use the haul to live the rest of the year.

Sound run of the mill?  Here’s a day in the life of this Santa:


This year is different.  Willie’s alcoholism has made him unreliable.  His antics attract the attention of mall security (Bernie Mac), which jeopardizes the caper.  Willie, who cares about nothing and nobody, meets a chubby kid who inspires him to care.  The ending of Bad Santa is hysterical…in a twisted way.

Watch the trailer here.

Fun Factoid: Both Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray were interested in the role of Willie in Bad Santa.  Neither was able to participate due to scheduling conflicts.  Murray was set to work on Lost in Translation and Nicholson was set to work on Something’s Gotta Give.

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