The 10 Best Meta Horror Movies

5. Tucker and Dale Versus Evil (2010)


The common horror set piece of “teens in the woods” gets flipped thanks Eli Craig’s feature debut. In Tucker and Dale Versus Evil, two friends (Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk) are heading up to their new rural vacation home to do some renovations and fish. However, their trip turns deadly when a group of ignorant college students mistake them for psychotic hillbillies.

Tucker and Dale Versus Evil asks audiences a simple question and brilliantly runs with it. Instead of the poor college kids running away from the crazed country killer, what if it was the other way around? What if two incredibly sweet and nice country men happened to get caught up in a gruesome situation because of the vicious college students. It is a wonderful change of pace from the repetitive stereotype presented in backwoods horror and allows for spot-on comedy and interesting characters that viewers will be pleasantly surprised by.

The movie is also full of outrageous deaths and over-the-top circumstances that give the film an amusing wackiness, but it is the film’s two leading men that heavily attribute to its success. Labine and Tudyk are a terrific and lovable duo. The characters are an appealing blend of dumb, smart, and sweet. As a result of this combination, Tucker and Dale’s friendship is insanely believable and their deadpan reactions to the macabre events transpiring continually increase the humor.

Tucker and Dale Versus Evil presents spectators with a unique premise that delivers through the solid acting efforts of its main cast.


4. Funny Games (1997)

Funny Games is a chilling film that will shake audiences to their core. The movie centers around two violent young men, Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering), as they take a mother (Susanne Lothar), father (Ulrich Mühe), and son (Stefan Clapczynski) hostage in their vacation home.

Funny Games may be more disturbingly painful than entertaining but that is exactly what makes the film an emotionally affective horror movie. Haneke forces the audience to participate and really analyze the terror they are witnessing. Through this uncomfortable participation, the barrier between audience and drama is broken quickly.

Not only does the obliteration of the fourth wall occur with dark thrash metal over the opening credits, but the villains constantly ask viewers their input. They even rewind to movie to show audiences what could happen but instead go with the grimmer scenario. Through every choice and acknowledgement of the audience, the antagonists continue to commentate on the consumption of violence and ruin any glimmer of hope viewers may have.

Funny Games is a brutally bitter and aggressive movie that is none the less thoughtful in its intention to disgust.


3. Shaun of the Dead (2004)


Shaun of the Dead is an amazing balance of scares and satire. The plot of the film centers around Shaun, a 30-somehting year old man with an extremely mundane existence. However, his life is turned upside down when a zombie outbreak begins. As the outbreak gets worse and worse, Shaun (Simon Pegg), his roommate Ed (Nick Frost), and his girlfriend Lisa (Penelope Wilton) must do whatever it takes to stay alive and protect their loved ones.

The major element that makes Shaun of the Dead such a good film is its tone. Director Edgar Wright never viciously mocks the Romero zombie movies the film pays homage too. Instead, Shaun of the Dead clearly understands the hard work that goes into making a successful horror movie. As viewers watch the film, they feel a sense of heartfelt sincerity from both the direction and the actors’ performances.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are a wonderful and relatable duo as two average joes trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. They provide audiences with a multitude of laughs and some effective emotional moments. Even the supporting players get their opportunities to shine and connect with spectators. Between all the quotable lines, well-balanced mood, and stellar acting performances, Shaun of the Dead is a triumph as it succeeds in both its humor and horror.


2. Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Cabin in the Woods is a brilliant movie that works by fully embracing the strengths of meta horror. The film centers around five college friends (Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, and Kristen Connolly,) who decide to retreat to a remote cabin for a little vacation. Unfortunately, the group of friends are unaware that they are being watched by a secret organization that is ready to unleash horrors upon them.

One of the main reasons meta horror is so entertaining to watch is its ability to transform the mundane and generic into something insanely amusing, scary, and original. Cabin in the Woods understands meta horror well and winks at the camera without hindering imaginative storytelling. Starting with the main cast, it is important to note that in a far worse movie the characters on screen would be lackluster. The jock would be a dumb macho man and nothing more. The sexually active blonde would die quickly followed right by the death of the stoner and in the end the ultra-innocent final girl would triumph over her tormentor. Luckily, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon are also tired of this formula. Cabin in the Woods purposely uses stock characters found in many subpar horror movies and gives them all brains and distinct personalities. Not only is this character development wonderful to witness but it sets up an amazing twist in the story that cannot get spoiled here.

In addition to the characters, the next accomplishment for Cabin in the Woods is its amazing meta climax with glorious monster mayhem. References to such cinematic gems as The Blob, The Evil Dead, Hellraiser, IT, and so much more are all made and even when audiences think they have had enough, an astounding revelation is revealed by the end of the film. The explanation for all the events in the movie is genuinely surprising and the surviving characters (Along with their final decision) will have viewers sad, cheering, and laughing even after the credits are over.

Without a doubt, Cabin in the Woods is a true work of art.


1. Scream (1996)

Drew Barrymore in Wes Craven's "Scream"

While not Craven’s first stab at meta horror (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is also fantastic), Scream strongly impacted audiences and uniquely modernized the horror genre. In the film, a killer called Ghostface begins a murder spree in the town of Woodsboro. As the teenage body count rises, a reporter, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and a police officer, Dewey Riley (David Arquette) try to solve the case. Along the way, a girl named Sidney (Neve Campbell) and her friends find that they may be in danger of becoming the killer’s next target.

Scream can easily be looked at as a terrifying pop song. First, it is clear the movie aims at a youthful audience. The film does not worry about maturity or sophistication, but it also does not patronize teenage and young adult movie-goers. In fact, Craven gives them credit as he knows many people have seen a horror movie in their lifetime and have become aware of the common and sometimes stupefying tropes. As a result of this understanding, Craven fills the movie with characters who are very aware of the horror genre and refreshingly realistic. The protagonists resist the frustrating cliches by mocking them or actively opposing them and the villain is not a superhuman slasher that cannot get hurt or feel pain.

Scream can also best be classified as “pop” because it strongly relies on pop culture to make the dialogue flavorful and witty. The film unapologetically loves to show off its trendy lingo and references. The movie immediately hooks audiences by referencing a well-known staple of the horror genre or throwing in an easter egg for cult classic enthusiasts.

Even after 25 years, Scream is still an iconic movie that thrives with its self-aware tone.