Filmmakers love to reference other filmmaker’s work, and this is especially true of horror. The Scream franchise is built upon movie references and in-jokes. It ushered in an age of meta horror, in which each new movie was self-aware and conscious of the usual tropes and trappings of the genre. But these features were referencing each other long before Scream stepped onto the stage.
Many of these were subtle. While others were picked up on and blossomed out of control. The endings of Jason Goes to Hell and Predator 2 may not count because while they may have been intended to be Easter eggs at the time, they wound up becoming actual build-up for Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, respectively.
The Necronomicon from Evil Dead Appears in Jason Goes to Hell
In Jason Goes to Hell, there’s a scene in which the main character is exploring the Voorhees house when he comes across a few interesting things in the basement, not the least of which is the corpse of his ex-girlfriend’s mother. While he’s down there, he also comes across the leathery Necronomicon from the Evil Dead franchise, the ancient book bound in human skin. It’s not a very subtle Easter egg either; he picks it up and interacts with it. He even flips through it. The book isn’t the only Easter egg in this scene either, as the Arctic expedition from Creepshow can also be seen.
This one has a bit of a history. In Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead, there is a torn poster for Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. It’s almost suggesting “that’s not a real horror movie, this is a real horror movie.” So in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead is playing on the TV at one point in the feature, where the protagonist Nancy immediately turns it off. When Raimi made Evil Dead II, he needed to one up Craven and did so by placing Freddy Krueger’s glove within the film itself. In the fruit cellar, the glove is in the background hanging on the wall. If Freddy’s dream powers weren’t haphazardly explained by Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, it would have been nice to imagine that he had spent some time at the cabin and experimented with the book so that he had a failsafe in case he was, for instance, burned alive by an angry mob. But alas, we’re stuck with the dream people.
This one is really, really impressive. Night of the Creeps is director Fred Dekker’s first movie and he was pretty young when he made it. He’s known for two major 1980’s cult classics, this being the first and the second being The Monster Squad. While the two were made fairly close together, it’s still impressive that there was a reference to Monster Squad in the bathroom stall in Night of the Creeps because Monster Squad hadn’t been made yet. It had been written and probably financed at that point, but there are still so many factors that can delay a feature or stop it from happening all together so it’s very bold for Dekker to actually showcase what his next film would be.
Bride of Chucky takes the cake for horror Easter eggs. It really goes all out. While some of the above movies have referenced one or two others, the evidence locker at the beginning of Bride of Chucky references about as many as possible. In this place where the remains of Chucky are being kept, we can also see Jason’s hockey mask, Freddy’s glove, Michael Myers’ mask, Leatherface’s chainsaw and possibly one of the puppets from Puppet Master in the background. This is a great little wink-and-nod sequence to sort of tie all of modern horror together and also establishes the tone, that this is a movie that’s more than anything meant for people to just have fun with. There’s so much here that all these years after its release, I’m still not sure if I’ve found everything.
Little known fact: the term “Easter egg” as it refers to things hidden away in the background of different movies actually comes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. During the filming, the cast and crew of Rocky Horror had an actual Easter egg hunt, because that sounds exactly like something that would happen on that set. Some of these literal Easter eggs actually make it into a couple visible scenes in the movie. The most obvious one is right under Frank ‘N Furter’s throne, and there are others strategically placed throughout, so look for that the next time you watch.