This month, Todd and I celebrate our birthdays. It is also the birth month of one of our horror heroes, H.P. Lovecraft!
What better way to celebrate our birth month than to make it all about ourselves, and by extension, celebrate meta horror films and novels, and a bit of Lovecraftian horror too!
“Meta” is a term that is thrown around a lot, but many people don’t know the proper definition. Dictionary.com helpfully offers the following definitions:
a prefix appearing in loanwords from Greek, with the meanings“after,” “along with,” “beyond,” “among,” “behind,” and productive inEnglish on the Greek model:
a prefix added to the name of a subject and designating another subject that analyzes the original one but at a more abstract, higher level:
a prefix added to the name of something that consciously referencesor comments upon its own subject or features:
a meta-painting of an artist painting a canvas.”
offers other helpful examples as how “meta” pertains to the arts. For instance, a footnote that contains its own explanatory footnote, or a film about filmmakers making a movie which itself is about the film industry, or anything with so many layers of abstraction as to become mid-bending.
Image from tvtropes.org
It’s a common misconception that meta-horror originated in the 1990s, but I’m here to set the record straight, my little cephalopods. The 1990s may have popularized the narrative style in our lifetime, but it has existed for centuries, popping up cyclically when a genre is seemingly in its death throes.
From Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
This is a big problem with horror, which tends to use the same tropes and core narratives over and over. When a genre recycles its own ideas so relentlessly, and overtly pays homage to the films and stories that came before, much of it is arguably meta.
So for my purposes, I’m going to limit my discussion of meta-horror to those works which self-consciously reference academic works about the horror genre, and those works which are determined to rupture reality itself. We are talking about works that make real people into fictional characters, postmodern arguments that fiction is as real as reality, and narratives that cause readers to be lost in a hall of mirrors.
John Trent reads between the lines in In the Mouth of Madness