I intend not to portray myself as a pretentious horror fan who will nibble on your ear about the off-putting stigma and negative press of the genre. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is as enjoyable theatrical comedy as you can ask for and strikes a healthy balance between Cage the Madman and Cage the Really Good Actor. This feature was born out of a healthy post-screening conversation with another Los Angeles critic who asked the filmmakers about the current “meta modern” boom within superhero cinema and mass-released films like “The unbearable weight of a massive talent”. My thoughts immediately turned to ‘Scream’, ‘Cabin in the Woods’, ‘Scream 4’ and a few other horror titles that held their promise years before as theatrical releases alongside successful competitions. The question again became why horror wasn’t mentioned, and why the genre is only publicly credited when someone takes issue with “nasty” gore, “evil” storytelling, or other complaints from afar.
Again, this is not a dig at the question-seeker! It’s just the starting point of a conversation in my mind, given that “Cabin in the Woods” rewrites the book on meta execution. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon ingeniously rationalize horror tropes left and right using their approach to tie-wearing bunker technicians responsible for increasing hormonal drives, rampaging killers, or any other overused slasher standard that has been at least once mocked as ridiculous. April 2013 was a momentous month between Joseph Kahn’s Meta Breakfast Club slasher comedy “Detention” ushering in 90s nostalgia and “Cabin in the Woods” which went bankrupt as the perfect meta freak – there’s nearly a decade. Not to mention movies like the “Scream” series and the aforementioned titles that came out before “Cabin in the Woods.”
Perhaps there’s a discussion here of how meta-humor in storylines can be mislabeled as “unserious” take on material versus the over-seriousness of blockbuster productions at times. Horror fans can be a tricky bunch when challenged, but we also hugely love to have fun and understand how what we love can be seen as ridiculous (well, most of us). Something like “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” pokes fun by reversing recycled slasher structures where backcountry mountaineer murderers hunt teenagers in a way that says, “Isn’t this all a little goofy?” Who yes it is! Horror has found evolutionary success through those obscure reimaginings where, say, Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are seen as your “Wrong Turn” backyard variety buddies by dumb youngsters who keep killing each other in panicky defensive fits. . It’s sensationally silly to even type the premise of “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil,” and yet the idea is one of the funniest horror comedies since it came out in the 2010s, because the ability of the horror to laugh at itself remains unprecedented.
Arguably, horror films are the easiest to “meta-tize” since tropes quickly become glaring or content commentary can be easily portrayed as violence. Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” was ahead of the popularization of 70s/80s slash-and-kill after the OGs “Black Christmas” and “Halloween.” In 1960, Powell implicated the public by giving his killer a video camera weapon that captured the women’s last expressions of fear before death. It’s a repulsive and touching mechanic later shaped by 2013’s “Maniac” remake that uses nothing but a perspective shift to voyeuristically comment on viewing habits that include such sinister obscenity. Powell executes a damn sharp narrative about a genre he excels at, where meta-story becomes a superbly wielded double-edged sword.
As a condensed conclusion, I’m here with another story about how the horror genre is worth more than some might predict. Suppose you don’t like the evil games of Ghostface, the carnivorous mermaids or the high school imitation of Cinderella. In that case, there’s a reason you might not know how horror filmmakers have normalized meta storytelling to revive new genre trends. Popular culture will always recognize the mainstream over the outcasts, which doesn’t diminish the impact of horror — there will always be those who share in its triumphs. In that case, let’s not forget how Wes Craven created a “meta” with the edge of a hunting knife in Drew Barrymore’s unfortunate introductory victim. Before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man, Nicolas Cage looked at the trophy room of a crazed Cage movie prop fan, and Schmuckerberg insisted that the Metaverse would be our future reality. Once again, we must acknowledge the horror of having a few bloody traces ahead of the game – all hail the continued exploration of meta-killings.