Dark Comedies are in the same vein as satirical films as they’re very polarizing genres. What would usually be a serious subject in most movies, murder, kidnapping, or rape are usually the focal point of these types of comedies. Heathers was a twisted tale about a psychopath and his girlfriend murdering students around the school. Granted, Heathers has a stronger message behind its teenage angst and body count, but its specialty is shocking deaths in a colorful world. That’s generally the story of most dark comedies. Fargo is arguably the most notable in this regard. Carl Showalter’s death is treated seriously, but then the comedic element comes from when Marge discovers Gaear Grimsrud putting Carl’s body through a woodchipper. Often, the black humor is a smack in the face under such dark pretenses and absurd situations. While Deadpool isn’t an outright dark comedy, him murdering people with glee is a strong example of this. You can also include Dopinder stuffing his brother in the trunk. By now, you understand the concept of black humor, but this type of genre doesn’t exactly have a strong market in the mainstream media.
Sure, both Deadpool movies surpassed the billion-mark combined, but again, Deadpool isn’t primarily a dark comedy. Horrible Bosses remain the top-grossing dark comedy of all time, garnering $209 million worldwide. Classics like Fargo ($60 million), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ($159 million), and Natural Born Killers ($110 million) didn’t do too bad at the box office, while other dark comedies flopped at the box office. Obviously, the natural conclusion is that these movies just aren’t attracting a wide array of audiences, thus the reasoning studios are hesitant to greenlight most black comedies that don’t feature name talent or directors. However, why is that audiences don’t particularly care about this genre in total? The two Deadpool films are universally loved despite most of their black humor. Horrible Bosses was a fun romp that audiences enjoyed laughing with. The key thing isn’t that audiences don’t particularly enjoy laughing a dark comedic situation, it’s the fact that these types of films are more political on the surface. The Deadpool features are just fun superhero escapism that you don’t take seriously in terms of themes or messages. Same thing can be said about Horrible Bosses.
Mallory and Mickey from Natural Born Killers are murderers. There’s no nice way to put it. However, the film isn’t a mindless depiction of violence as both of the protagonists grew up in a very abusive home and it’s depicting how violence can have drastic effects on one’s mental health. Heathers is about suicide, abuse, the dangers of popularity, and how the anarchy of high school drama cycles on. J.D. isn’t a murdering psychopath for fun. He’s deeply affected by his mother’s death, and it drives his motivation to hurt or in Veronica’s case, control others. There are definitely other mental issues going on with the young man as suicide alone doesn’t particularly spark someone to go on a murdering spree, but that moment triggered something dark for the high school kid. The list of important social themes can go on and on, but the reality is that it touches a nerve with audiences. Behind the over-the-top characters and joyous body count is a dark mirror of modern society that can often hit too close to home at times. I’m not saying that audiences can’t take or understand important social commentary, but most of the time they simply want to escape from the reality known as the real world. During the time when movies would detail the “black experience” (Queen & Slim, Black & Blue), which is a studio or executives’ way of chronicling the pain and suffering from some cops or other forms racism towards blacks, there were a lot of backlash towards these types of movies because it appeared that Hollywood was cashing off the trauma that African Americans go through. Dark comedies aren’t in the same vein as those type of movies, but they still strike a chord with many viewers.
Another good reason is a bit simpler than the previous, and it’s due to the fact that we’re following deplorable people. Wade Wilson/Deadpool is a deplorable human being. He kills with joy. Officer Dixon from Three Billboards is a racist. Jerry Lundegaard is a scammer who let two criminals kidnap his wife. While these characters are softened out because of the many layers of who they are, we’re still following a cast of unlikeable people many viewers would hate in real life, no matter how charming or funny they come across. Dark comedies are a niche, meaning that only a certain group of people are willing to laugh along with the grim horrors of a fake world.
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