JANUARY 21 — Just like comedy, satire is a genre that walks such a tightrope that even the slightest miscalculation, especially in terms of tone, can result in what was a perfectly good film turning bad in the blink of an eye.
Because satire involves targets, tone and tastefulness play a major part in its recipe for success, and when you add on horror into the mix, which itself possesses an already broad range of tones and subgenres, getting things right can be quite the task.
Just look at the miracle that is They Live, director John Carpenter’s raucous and action-packed satire on consumerism, propaganda and weaponised capitalism, and marvel at how misunderstood it was at the time of its release in 1988 and how prescient and brilliant it is now.
That’s why there really aren’t that many satirical horror movies being made out there, especially ones that involve a proper, medium to big budget, because the amount of “control” needed to make sure that the finished product is at least a good film is not something that a committee of studio executives can ever guarantee to funders/shareholders.
But once in a while these do get made, and here are three relatively new ones that I managed to catch in the cinema and on streaming platforms.
Having been a big fan of the 2014 film Housebound, I’ve often wondered about what happened to its director Gerard Johnstone since a follow-up film never arrived (a quick IMDB search revealed that he’s been working in TV).
Even walking into the cinema to see M3GAN, I never realised that I was finally walking in to see his follow-up film. It’s only later, after I was already won over by the film’s sharp script, self-aware sense of humour, and the director’s effortless control of tone (any horror flick that has its evil lead character breaking into song in the middle of an emotional scene will need that) that I realised that it was Johnstone in the director’s chair.
An evil doll/evil toy film that liberally steals from predecessors like the Chucky films, Annabelle and Small Soldiers, M3GAN is a version of these films for the TikTok generation, a satire on our over-reliance on gadgets and of course, the greed of those who make them. But there’s a whip-smart quality to M3GAN that makes me think of Joe Dante, and I think time will prove a friend to this little movie as well.
A screenshot of a scene from ‘The Menu’.
A satire on the upper class is always a welcome thing, and to wrap that one up in the form of a horror movie haute cuisine experience is simply begging to call the film as a form of revenge dish best served cold.
Director Mark Mylod has form with this as his series Succession also trains a sharp eye on extreme privilege. With Triangle Of Sadness and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery both arriving together with this film in quick succession (I know, pun intended), I guess one can say that the bourgeoisie are having a bit of a moment in films right now.
Like the aforementioned films, The Menu also focuses on a bunch of wealthy people in an isolated location, this one involving a restaurant located in an island called Hawthorne, to worship at the altar of Chef Slowik, a legendary master chef who charges a surely exorbitant US$1,250 (RM5,356) per person for its multi-course dinner.
Almost like a horror movie reversal of The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, you will have plenty of fun enjoying the film’s multiple barbs at the uber-rich here, and squirm at the ghastly fate that awaits most of them.
Scare Package 2: Rad Chad’s Revenge
If M3GAN and The Menu played around the borders of good taste with their satire, this anthology horror sequel has absolutely no qualms flirting with bad taste, taking a more meta route with its satire on the cliches of horror films, and mostly landing its jokes quite well.
This one being an anthology film involving five different directors, it’s pretty obvious from the start that this is going to be one of those low-budget indie horror flicks (just like the first film was), so even from the start it’s quite admirable how impressive the practical effects here are, even if they’re quite over-the-top (just like in the first film).
If the first film involved various satirical horror stories being recounted by Chad Buckley, the owner of a video store called Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium, this sequel manages to creatively bring Chad back into the picture by still making it a series of various satirical horror stories being recounted by Chad, but this time at his funeral.
Like all anthology films, there are strong ones and there are weak ones in the mix, but if you don’t mind an overload of meta horror movie references (I’d say this one’s almost like the Scream films on steroids!), you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.