The horror genre has the unique ability to be self-referential while still maintaining its frightening nature. Every now and then a horror movie comes along that will examine the nature of the genre in a fun, inventive way. These movies oftentimes provide a stark look at the genre they lampoon with love.
Here are some examples of movies that turn a satirical eye at their genre. If you have any recommendations or comments on what I have I have listed here, please let me know in the comments below and follow me around the internet with the below links.
In 1996, Scream reinvigorated the slasher genre (and horror movies in general). After its release, a slew of similar movies and cheap knock offs were released but none of them really captured the magic of Scream.
I credit the original Scream with kicking off my love of movies. At the time, I was in elementary school and the movie’s characters really spoke to my impressionable mind. I was too young to really appreciate the self-reflection the movie presented to horror but I loved the way the characters spoke about movies. I knew after watching it that it was the kind of movie fan I would henceforth strive to be.
When it comes to Scream 2, I’m in the (I assume rare) camp of fans that prefers it to the original. There are extenuating circumstances that lead me to that assessment. For one thing, I spent the interim between my first viewings of Scream and Scream 2 rewatching Scream. I can’t begin to calculate the amount of times I watched Scream. It consumed my life to (most likely) an unhealthy degree.
So by the time I saw the sequel, I was floored by how “new” it was. The new setting, the new characters and the new rules felt really good to me. I was like a junkie getting my fix but trying out a new strain of my drug of choice. So the sloppy ending is forgivable to me. Scream 2’s take on sequels was a great, organic evolution from the first movie as well.
Scream 3 is where things take a turn. The franchise established its meta nature well in its first two outings. Scream 3 just took the self-referential aspect of the series and went off the freaking rails. There was a natural progression between Scream and Scream 2. The characters went from high school to college, the discussions went from horror movies to horror sequels. Scream 3 took the setting to Hollywood and the references became way too inside and over the top.
Losing Kevin Williamson as screenwriter was what gave Scream 3 its death sentence. I don’t know what Williamson’s version would have been, but the product we got was awful. I kind of appreciated the way the story wrapped up, but it’s hands down the weak link of the franchise. The incredibly forced Randy cameo doesn’t help matters, either.
Scream 4 was a return to form in many respects. The setting returned to Woodsboro, the story centered on teenagers and the conversation became about remakes. It felt like home for the franchise and, in all honesty, next Shocktober I may just skip Scream 3 and treat the others as their own trilogy.
Scream 4 isn’t a “great” movie though. It’s got its issues and its weak actors. I mean, there’s a one liner at the end of the movie that is laughable and cringe worthy. Not to mention, the script actually contains the line: “Well, it’s a Stab fanatic clearly. Working on less of a Shrequel and more of a Screamake.”
But I respect it for bringing the franchise back down to Earth and for bringing some of the charm back. It also helps a lot that Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby is probably my second favorite character in the entire franchise (Randy, of course, being number 1).
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Behind the Mask took me entirely by surprise. The movie follows a documentary crew as they cover budding serial killer Leslie Vernon, a man living in the shadows of the greats like Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. The movie tackles the genre in a fascinating and entertaining way. Leslie explains the intricacies of being the villain in a slasher movie with such genuine tones filled with hopeful glee that it’s incredibly hard not to love him and the movie.
The movie takes the audience through every aspect of the slasher movie through the perspective of the killer. This is achieved by making the documentary crew Leslie’s audience. It makes for a very fun first and second act.
The movie really comes together after a thematic turn that kicks off the third act. It blends together the comedy and horror in a way that is really satisfying and sure to make Leslie Vernon a legend.
Much like what Scream did for the slasher genre in the 90s, The Cabin in the Woods has taken the trope of teens in a cabin cliché and revolutionized it. From the opening scene with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, you just know something is strange. When the clarity sets in and you gain an understanding of what’s happening, the movie becomes far more entertaining than you would expect it to be.
I won’t give any details, but I will say that under the right viewing conditions, this movie is highly rewarding and a fantastic send up/dissection of what makes its more straightforward contemporaries so enjoyable.
I just watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil for the first time last night and I was floored. The movie isn’t so much a horror film as it is a comedy and an exercise in perspective.
The incomparable Alan Tudyk plays Tucker, a man with a vacation home. He and his friend Dale (Tyler Labine) take a trip to the vacation home to fix it up. What happens next is an ironic twist on the traditional cabin horror movie that is equal parts shocking and genuinely hilarious.
Like The Cabin in the Woods, to give away anymore plot details would be a grave mistake for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie. But if you’re looking for really good comedy that plays on familiar horror tropes, don’t count out Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.