The meta masterpiece Cabin in the Woods came out on DVD this week. Along with 21 Jump Street, the film reflects a recent trend in movies that has seen a sharp increase in “meta-film.” For those that may not know calling something “meta” in the realm of fiction basically means that it is self-referential. Sometimes this is done directly, with a character breaking the fourth wall, but it can be much more subtle than that.
Meta film isn’t anything new, but in the past most films in this category have been either horror or comedy, and were not nearly as common as they are today. In the past few years meta films have branched out to all kinds of genres, even being recognized by the academy. Last year The Artist, a silent film about the end of the silent film era, won best picture at the Oscars. Another best picture nominee, Inception, is a usually thought to be a metaphorical representation for the process about making movies. Flashback to 2008, Robert Downey Jr. played an actor desperately trying to earn an academy award in Tropic Thunder, a role which earned Downey an academy award nomination in real life.
Meta film is finally starting to hit the mainstream; Expendables 2 fully embraced that it was a ridiculous action movie and made fun of itself and its stars. Even more straightforward films have moments considered meta. Everything from Mission Impossible to Indiana Jones has featured meta scenes and dialogue.