Horror comedy is hard to pull off. Usually it ends up staring Bruce Campbell and looking like you have tried to hard to be comedic that you lost all of the edge. There is no scaring anybody now that you made that same joke about the serial killer’s penis for the millionth time. There are of course some good examples of ones that were able to pull off the moniker of both comedic and horrific. Shaun of the Dead and Scream I feel both scare me in places and make me laugh. Both of them also rely on subverting horror conventions (in one case zombie films and in the other serial killer films) in order to make them funny. However these films still have to use these conventions to their advantage in order to make a film worth watching and worth the scares.
Otis can be placed into this category of both comedic and horrific. It involves an over weight pizza delivery guy who kidnaps teenage girls and tortures them to death if they don’t play along with his games. The premise sounds a lot like Hostel or Saw. There are graphic scenes where Otis comes in after one the girls he is torturing talks back to him and he bashes her head in brutally and then accidentally pushes her into a bathtub with a lamp that then electrocutes her.He has a dungeon that looks a lot like the one from the Saw films, it being fake grimy and sewer like. But he is visible and he is very human. His motives are known pretty early on and you feel sorry for him, an emotion that does not happen in the Saw films.
The latest victim he gets a hold of is the daughter of a nuclear family. There is a dad and a mom, a younger michevious brother and the perfect A+ girl student who happens to look like a stripper. But this family is a little bit more sick and weird than what is first set up. As the action unfolds, the family gets a fumbling investigator who hasn’t gotten one clue about the case, despite him investigating all of the murders Otis commits. The wife/mother who is a nurse gets the idea to go after the killer herself. She is backed by her son, but her husband doesn’t want anything to do with it. He is the voice of reason. Reason that soon gets a big bulldozer backed over it when their daughter escapes from the chamber and remembers the address of the kidnapper. They decide that they need to get revenge.
When they get to the house, they find the brother instead of the killer. They mistake him for being the killer and torture him like one of the best Hostel torture scenes. Once they have killed him, they find out from the investigator that they had the wrong guy. What are they to do now?
The comedy mostly steams from the interactions between the family. The reversal of the roles between father and mother, the casting of mostly comedians in the important roles and the absurd conventions they exploit in order to make the film more surreal are what generates the comedy. I love the scene when they sit down the younger brother after he is caught at taping his sister dancing and undressing. Instead of saying hokey dialogue, they just come right out and say that they don’t get him and that he needs to not be so creepy. It is delivered with such a frankness that I laughed very hard. I also like their weapons choices and sons’ various ways to be rebellious.
Otis’ character is mostly one dimensional which makes it tedious when he isn’t hamming it up as the fake quarterback. When he is with his brother, it seems that the character just goes into sleep mode, making Kevin Pollack have to work even harder than he does. They also seem to have blown the budget on creepy lighting and fake blood. I wish sometimes that horror films could be a little more subtle, but that is just me. Although these problems are obvious, the film was still enjoyable to watch.