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Retro Reawakened: Must See Meta Movies for Retro Horror Fans

October 22, 2019 5 min read

Retro Reawakened: Must See Meta Movies for Retro Horror Fans

Retro horror is something that most horror fans have a soft spot for.  It’s the reason we continue to flock to the theater when a new Halloween comes out, and desperately wait for yet another Friday the 13thfilm.  We love retro horror for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that these films are the building blocks for modern horror.  Say what you will about the 80s slasher formula, we still love it today.

Some would argue that there is something to be said about being too much of a good thing.  Horror fans, however?  Bring on the franchises!  We are stoked at the idea of Nightmare on Elm Street 20.  Bring on more Freddy! 

Modern slashers are tricky.  Follow the formula too closely, they run the danger of being called a rip-off.  Deviate too far and the fans feel like it insults its predecessor.  Love for the original is always strong in the horror community.  It’s hard to get in that sweet spot right between having an original idea and executing it in a way that pleases fans.

Enter meta horror!

Meta horror is a way for fans to see their love of retro horror expressed in a slasher, without making fun of it.  It gives an opportunity for a new, original story, but also the chance to write a love letter to horror itself.  It sheds new light on the formulas that retro horror foundation was built upon, while showing audiences who aren’t as familiar with horror why we love it so much.  The plots in many meta films often stray into horror comedy territory, which can be a gold mine of Easter eggs, references, homages and trivia that I love watching for as a die-hard fan.

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy retro horror with a modern twist this Halloween, look no further than these amazing meta horror films!

The Final Girls

You’ll get all the 80s slasher goodness you could ever want in this fun meta slasher.  Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of Nancy Cartwright (Malin Akerman), an 80s slasher legend who has been struggling to find work ever since she became famous for getting chopped down in the cult classic Camp Bloodbath.  She is killed in an accident, and on the anniversary of her death, her daughter and a group of friends are sucked into the movie during a screening.  This movie is a must for any 80s slasher nut, deconstructing horror tropes with many a loving nod to the likes of Friday the 13th.  The film features an amazing ensemble cast, including Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat and Angela Trimbur.   Beyond that, it shows that horror can effectively explore emotions as Max struggles to process her grief over her mother’s death.

You Might be the Killer

Another slasher-based, meta horror, You Might Be the Killer follows Sam (Fran Kranz), who wakes up at his family’s summer camp covered in blood, seemingly the only survivor in a killing spree.  He calls his dear friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan), a hardcore horror fan who guides him through the pitfalls of surviving a horror movie.  At some point, however, Sam must face the obvious; is he really an innocent bystander, or did he have more of a hand in the events leading to the mass murder?  A refreshing change of pace for those who want to see women represented more as horror fans, You Might be the Killer is 80s slasher meets buddy comedy.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

This dark comedy shows the 80s slasher stereotype from the killer’s perspective as a crew follows Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) around.  He bemoans the amount of cardio required, and reveals his tricks to disappearing into thin air when someone turns away for a split second.  We meet his “Ahab,” played wonderfully in a cameo by Robert Englund.  However, the comedy quickly turns black as the documentary stumbles toward its inevitable conclusion.  After all, they are witnessing a prolific serial killer as he prepares to murder again; what exactly does this crew think will happen once they witness it?  Funny and smart with an effectively scary ending, Behind the Mask pays homage not only to 80s slashers, but to the low-budget found footage style of The Blair Witch Project.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Horror comedy meets Wrong Turn in this tale of a misunderstanding gone horribly wrong.  What if the insane killers in the backwoods horror movies are just two guys like Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk)?  They are just trying to enjoy hunting, fishing and turning their newly purchased rickety cabin into a vacation home when some college kids show up to do some camping.  It doesn’t take long before the blood flies and madcap antics ensue.  Do yourself a favor and enjoy this one without watching the trailer first; it gives way too much away and this one is far more fun as a surprise.  While definitely more horror comedy than meta, this one leans into the tropes associated with a middle-of-nowhere slasher hard enough that it has a referential feel to it.  A twist on the abandoned cabin horror that shows that things are not always as they appear in horror movies, and the outwardly creepy are not always to be feared, this one is fun while managing to deliver some surprisingly bloody kills.

Scream 4

I will admit that Scream 4 was not my favorite when it came out.  If you are in the same boat, trust me, it deserves a re-watch.  This is a film clearly ahead of its time.  It sounds a little strange to say if you are of a certain age with me, but Scream is likely soon to be classified as retro as a mid-90s film.  Scream 4 does an amazing job at referencing itself in this film, which tackles remakes with the same deft touch that it tackled slasher, sequels, and trilogies in the three before it.  While the first one made horror history and is often spoken of as the film that rejuvenated the slasher for a new generation, Scream 4 does an amazing job at exploring how the current generation views horror.  It also goes one better and explores how the generation that grew up on Scream (not to age myself or anything), views remakes and is protective of the past.  I think that all of this suggests that it might be time for another slasher renaissance…. who’s with me?!

I hope that these modern films satisfy your craving for a retro twist if you’re looking to switch things up for your October watch list!  Happy Halloween!

Morgan Milobar is a freelance writer, blogger and aspiring novelist. For horror reviews, commentary and more, check out her website at viewfromthemorg.com.