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Bromfield: The Case For A ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Horror Movie

According to “Bob’s Burgers” creator Loren Bouchard, the big-screen adaptation of his cult animated sitcom — due in 2020 — might be called “Horseplay: The Horsening.”

Well, probably not. It’s a classic Bouchard joke: a microcosm of “Bob’s” humor. It’s so absurd as to border on anti-humor, inexorably tied to its characters’ essential traits (Bob’s daughter Tina loves horses and zombies, so a movie called “Horseplay: The Horsening” would be right up her alley). Topped off with a bit of ‘80s-baby nostalgia in how it sounds like one of the low-rent gore flicks alongside which Boucher grew up.

But were Bouchard to actually make a horse-themed horror movie, I wouldn’t complain. One of the show’s unsung traits, which points to a promising potential direction for the impending film, is a sly mastery of horror and an understanding of how the genre works.

Let’s not forget that season two’s “Fort Night,” often ranked among the show’s best episodes, is essentially a horror short. The kids of the show’s burger-flipping Belcher family get trapped in their box fort under the ominously hanging ramp of a loading truck — which not only seals their sole means of escape but could come crashing down at any minute.

Adding to the torment is the psychotic Millie, a classmate of youngest child Louise who could help them if Louise hadn’t spurned her earlier in the episode. We know the kids aren’t going to die, but the stakes are so high and the space so convincingly claustrophobic that it keeps us on edge. It pays off with a brilliant revenge against Millie that deftly snaps the scenario back to comedy.

Many of the show’s most memorable moments are also its most terrifying. In “Housetrap,” the family is stuck in a house with a potential murderer, and while most of the tension is played for laughs, the episode features one of the most chilling shots seen in an animated comedy: the killer stands straight up in the dark behind one of the heroes. “The Hauntening” takes us so deep into a suburban horror scenario that when the curtain is lifted, we remember with a shock we’re watching a sitcom. The fact that it’s all wrapped up in humor does nothing to dull the effect.

The people making this show know their stuff. The best joke in “The Last Gingerbread House On The Left” (named after a ‘70s horror classic) involves a guy who looks eerily like the half-dead grandfather in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” until he wakes up in his wheelchair with a start.

If you’ve seen the movie, the laughs come from recognizing this; if you haven’t, they come from how he opens his eyes with a start and huffs “Huh?” Likewise, a traumatic memory of Bob’s in “House of 1,000 Bounces” is taken verbatim from “The Birds.” If you’ve seen “The Birds,” the humor comes from knowing this, but even if you haven’t, his friend Teddy dryly informing him, “You’re describing a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’should split your sides just fine.

Could a couple scenes and some well-honed horror smarts carry over to a full-length feature? Absolutely. Let’s say the movie actually ends up being called “Horseplay: The Horsening” and is exactly what it sounds like — horse horror. They could start with the ominous signs: A disembodied clip-clop and a sixteen-hand shadow against the wall. Then they could go into the subplot: something ridiculous involving the parents — maybe them trying to get meat from their meat provider on short notice, I don’t know. We forget we’re in a horror movie for a second, which makes it scarier when the zombie horses actually show up. And then the two plot threads come together and the whole thing explodes into brilliant, comforting comedy.

I want this movie.

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Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield is a writer for the Arts & Culture desk of the Emerald, specializing in music. He maintained the SF Rebirth blog in San Francisco from 2010-2013, and his work has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, KWVA, and the Oregon Voice.