Horror comedy is a literary and film genre that combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. The genre almost inevitably crosses over with the black comedy genre; and in some respects could be considered a subset of it. Horror Comedy will often use satire on horror cliches as its main source of humour or take a story in a different perspective, like The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
The short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving is cited as "the first great comedy-horror story". The story made readers "laugh one moment and scream the next", and its premise was based on mischief typically found during the holiday Halloween.
In horror comedy film, gallows humor is a common element. While comedy horror films provide scares for audiences, they also provide something that dramatic horror films do not: "the permission to laugh at your fears, to whistle past the cinematic graveyard and feel secure in the knowledge that the monsters can't get you".
In the era of silent film, the source material for early horror comedy films came from stage performances instead of literature. One example, The Ghost Breaker (1914), was based on a 1909 play, though the film's horror elements were more interesting to the audience than the comedy elements. In the United States following the trauma of World War I, film audiences sought to see horror on screen but tempered with humor. The "pioneering" horror comedy film was One Exciting Night (1922), written, directed, and produced by D. W. Griffith, who noticed the stage success of the genre and foresaw a cinematic translation. While the film included blackface performances, Griffith also included footage of a hurricane for a climactic storm. As an early experiment, the various genres were not well-balanced with horror and comedy, and later films improved the balance and took more sophisticated approaches.
- Hallenbeck, Bruce G. (2009). Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History, 1914-2008. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-3332-9.
- Carroll, Noël (2001). "Horror and Humor". Beyond Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays. Cambridge University Press. pp. 235–253.