In the new release You Might Be the Killer (now streaming on Shudder), Buffy the Vampire Slayeralum Alyson Hannigan plays a collectibles store clerk who uses her knowledge of horror movies to help her friend Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods) figure out who’s killing kids at a summer camp.
By now, the meta-horror movie — the horror movie that tells us it’s a horror movie, in other words — has become its own sub-genre. Here are some of the classics which played with the rules:
META MOVIE THAT LAYS OUT THE RULES:Scream (1996). This is the great grandmother of the modern meta-horror. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s smart, funny slasher also created the know-it-all nerd when it had video store clerk Randy (Jamie Kennedy) tell us all the rules.
META MOVIE THAT MAKES FUN OF THE RULES:Shaun of the Dead (2004). Although horror comedies might deserve their own category, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s romp plays so knowingly with zombie movie tropes that it’s earned true meta-horror status.
META MOVIE THAT THAT TWISTS THE RULES:Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). Two years before he directed Scream, Wes Craven made this seriously creepy movie in which the iconic Freddy Krueger (created by Craven ten years earlier in A Nightmare on Elm Street) haunts both the actor who played him (Robert Englund) and the actress who portrayed his Final Girl (Heather Langenkamp). This is meta-horror done without jokes.
META MOVIE ABOUT OLD RULES: The Monster Squad (1987). Fred Dekker’s loving homage to the Universal monsters centers on a group of kids who love … well, the Universal monsters. There’s almost an additional layer of meta-ness here with the fact that a movie about nostalgic love for old creatures has itself become a nostalgic favorite.
META MOVIE THAT BRINGS OLD RULES INTO THE FUTURE: The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s script put the myth in meta by gathering together evils from all over the world in a monster mash that even stirs in elder gods.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Chuck Russell, the director of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, was so terrified by this puppet of an emaciated little girl which special effects makeup artist Mark Shostrom took 10 weeks to build that he insisted: “We can’t film this.”
BEHIND-THE-SCENES BEETLEJUICE, FAN-MADE FRIDAY THE 13TH & MORE
By Sam Zimmerman
This week’s States of Horror brings us to the streets of Motown and the mysterious Minnesotan waterfall, Devil’s Kettle.Michigan: Intruder/It Follows
Michigan is of course the home of horror legends, the Raimis (Sam & Ted), who co-star in fellow Michigan native Scott Spiegel’s 1989 supermarket slasher, Intruder. A real Great Lake State effort about a night grocery crew being stalked and sliced, Intruder was based on Spiegel’s own experience working at the actual Walnut Lake Market. Maybe the most defining Michigan horror movie is 2015’s acclaimed It Follows, a film that saw Michigan-born directed David Robert Mitchell use stirring and stark imagery of Detroit and its surrounding area to incredible, eerie effect.
Minnesota: Jennifer’s Body
Once based in Minnesota, writer Diablo Cody has set at least three of her films there, including breakout comedy Juno, the dark-hearted Young Adult and what is one of our great high school horrors, Jennifer’s Body. Set in Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota, near the very real, ominous waterfall of the same name (where Satan worshipping emo band Low Shoulder sacrifices Jennifer), the movie boasts Cody’s wit and genre appreciation, as well as Karyn Kusama’s stunning direction. There’s also a distinct Midwestern quirk to the proceedings, which only get funnier and sharper as time goes on.
THINGS WE LOVE
Dollhouses don’t usually contain perfect recreations of bloody, decomposing bodies, but Frances Glessner Lee didn’t make your usual dollhouses. Glessner’s 1/12-scale crime-scene dioramas, which she started constructing in the early ’40s, were based on real-life criminal cases, used to train investigators in the art of observation and evidence collection, and resulted in her being dubbed the “Mother of Forensics.”
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