If, like us here at No But Listen, your whole life revolves around the delicious feasting upon all things horror, at some point, you need something that’s going to take a little piss out of the genre, you know? Meta-horrors, those horror movies with a knowledge of the genre that set up to subvert what we’re sure we know, are something of a pallette-cleanser after a big binge of the sweet sup of classic horror – something that reminds us of the silliness inherent in the genre, and has a little fun with it to boot.
Aside from the obvious Screams and Cabins in the Wood-ses, I’ve already included some meta-horrors in other entries into this list – which is the only reason that the awesome Behind the Mask isn’t number uno here – but I wanted to make a list dedicated to the very specific sub-genre of all-knowing horror movies to celebrate some of the best of the behind-the-scenes.
- Digging Up the Marrow
I have an immediate soft spot for directors featuring totally-asshole-y versions of themselves in their own movies, which is what initially drew me to Hatchet director Adam Green’s 2014 meta-horror. Following Green and a few studio colleagues after they recieve a set of letters from the mysterious William Dekker (Ray Wise), Digging Up the Marrow is just way more interesting than it has any right to be. Green and company follow Dekker as he purports to have found a connection to another, monster-ridden world, which he calls the Marrow, hoping to find the basis for a potentially interesting new movie. What follows is genuinely unsettling, beautifully put-together, and features some of the most impressive make-up and real effects I’ve seen in ages – not just a solid horror movie in its own right, but a movie about why we are drawn to the darkness that horror offers.
2. Grave Encounters 2
Okay, bear with me here a moment. First off, the original Grave Encounters is one of my favourite haunted house/found footage stories, and yes, you’ll have to give it a watch to make sense of the sequel (not that it’s too much of a pain to do so, given how entertaining it actually is). But the fact that it comes ready-made with this sequel – a fabulously self-aware commentary on the first – is just the best kind of bonus. Following a bunch of film students who, after obsessing over the first movie, decide to try and find out just how much of it was real, it’s gleefully clever and cruel to its wide-eyed obsessives, but delivers some genuine scares, too. Grave Encounters is a great film in its own right, but to make a brilliant meta-movie on the cult impact of Grave Encounters as the follow-up is just an inspired (and effective) idea. What better way to thank the fans who made your first a cult hit than by spending a whole movie literally and figuratively dragging them over the coals for it?
3. Cherry Falls
I’ll be honest: this movie is out there. Out There, out there. But I’ve still got a lot of time for it – following a serial killer in the small town of Cherry Falls who is targeting virginal teenagers (instead of the usual consummated kill count), it’s a madcap dash to lose the V-card amongst early-noughties favourites like Brittany Murphy and DJ Qualls. It flopped in the US thanks to censorship, but got a pretty well-recieved theatrical run in the UK and some parts of Europe – but a limited release meant that it never got the love that other post-Scream meta-horror boom. But it seems to be getting a little more of the cult status that it deserves nearly twenty years after it’s release (with Christopher Landon quoting Cherry Falls as an influence on the wildly fun Freaky) – and I think that’s pretty well-deserved.
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image via The Dissolve)