We horror fans love our movies. We love talking about them, we love reading about them, and many of us even enjoy writing about them. So it makes sense that we would also enjoy films that show the same kind of love for horror that we have. When we think about loving send-ups of the genre, the first one that comes to mind is usually Scream (along with its sequels). This film popularized the idea of meta horror, as it famously features a bunch of kids who talk about and nod to the genre and the tropes it frequently employs.
But Scream isn’t the only film that wears its love for the horror genre on its sleeve. The five films outlined below (that definitely aren’t Scream) show mad love and respect for the genre.
The Monster Squad
As a kid growing up, I was a huge fan of monsters. I loved everything from Frankenstein to Godzilla, so when I found this movie, I was in cinematic heaven. The Monster Squad follows a group of kids who were just like me as a child. They love horror and monsters so much that they have a club to celebrate all things macabre. Their expertise comes in quite handy when a group of real-life monsters descend upon their town.
From the premise alone, it’s clear that this film is an homage to movie monsters of all types. It did the “kids sit around talking about horror” thing almost a decade before Scream, and that more than warrants its inclusion here.
But there’s more to it than just that. While The Monster Squad honors monsters in general, it’s a love letter to the classic Universal Studios monsters in particular. It has Dracula, Frankenstein, a werewolf, a mummy, and a gill-man, all of whom band together to try and take over the world. It’s something like The Avengers for horror fans. This film was made to remind us just how awesome these classic monsters are, and it works. Every time I watch it, this flick takes me back to my days as a monster-obsessed child, and it rekindles my love for those early films that played such a huge role in shaping the horror genre.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Two years before he directed Scream, Wes Craven made a meta horror masterpiece that, in my opinion, is criminally underrated and under-seen. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is the seventh entry in the Elm Street franchise, but it’s unlike any of its predecessors. It takes place in the real world, where Freddy Krueger is just a fictional character (until he jumps from the movies to reality).
This movie shows love for the horror genre in two ways. Most obviously, it’s an homage to Freddy Krueger and the entire Elm Street franchise. Not only are the characters in it pictures from the series, but the movie contains a number of references to the original film. For instance, it recreates the famous “phone tongue” scene, and at one point in the movie, Heather’s hair gets a white streak in it just like Nancy’s hair did in the first Freddy movie. More subtly, New Nightmare also has a lot to say about horror in general. It defends the genre against accusations that it has harmful effects on viewers, and the film’s explanation of how Freddy comes into the real world is a powerful metaphor for the value of scary stories in our own lives.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon follows a documentary film crew as they spend some time with an aspiring slasher named Leslie Vernon and learn all about his chosen profession.
This movie parodies all the slasher cliches we know and love and manages to keep a straight face the entire time. For instance, Leslie trains to be able to walk slowly while still keeping up with his victims no matter how fast they run.
I really appreciated the love this movie shows to the slasher subgenre. It’s so clever and well-done that I couldn’t help but enjoy Leslie Vernon’s journey to make his dream come true. And love the way it honors classic killers like Freddy, Jason, and Michael.
The Cabin in the Woods
More than perhaps any movie ever made, The Cabin in the Woods is a love letter to both horror movies and horror fans. It takes on horror tropes and lovingly pokes fun at the logic (or lack of) used by horror movie characters. The flick follows a group of five college students who travel to a cabin in the woods for the weekend, and soon after they arrive, they’re attacked by a family of zombies.
Just about everything in this movie is an allusion to a horror monster, film, or trope. Whether it’s the behavior of the main characters, the trinkets they find in the cabin’s basement, or the various creatures unleashed in the bonkers third act, you never go long without seeing a meta reference or nod to the genre.
Simply put, The Cabin in the Woods might be the ultimate genre-loving horror movie. It’s hard to imagine a genre fan not getting a kick out of the creative and often hilarious ways the filmmakers find to pay homage to the horror flicks that came before it.
Frankenweenie is a stop-motion animated film about a young boy named Victor Frankenstein who reanimates his dead dog. Director Tim Burton, remaking his short of the same name, pays homage to monsters of all shapes and sizes. Most obviously, the overarching plot and the main character harken back to the Frankenstein story, but it also includes a number of Easter eggs scattered throughout that allude to other well-known monsters.
If you’re looking for a less scary, family-friendly film that shows love for the horror genre, give Frankenweenie a shot. It’s a great way to introduce younger viewers to the world of monster movies. And it serves as a heartwarming reminder of some of the genre’s most beloved monsters.