Between Castle Rock, the new Halloween, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the hidden ghosts of The Haunting of Hill House, Easter eggs in horror seem to be a major trend in 2018. Though it’s hardly the first time they’ve popped up in horror. Some Easter eggs are well-placed plot clues for the eagle-eyed viewer, sometimes they’re homages to horror fandom, and sometimes they’re a fun volley between filmmakers. No matter their use, a horror Easter egg is almost always fun to spot.
Here are the 10 greatest uses of the Easter egg in horror.
King Kong (2005) – Sumatran Rat-Monkey
The cause of Peter Jackson’s splatter-filled zombie mayhem in Braindead (Dead Alive) is the bite of the Sumatran-Ray Monkey. The film’s prologue explains that the vile creature hails from Skull Island, an animal created from giant plague rats raping small tree monkeys. Skull Island happens to be the very island from which King Kong hails. Jackson brings this full circle in his 2005 film King Kong, when a crate labeled “Sumatran Rat Monkey” is seen in the cargo hold of the SS Venture. Not only is it great seeing a low budget splatter film get a nod in a giant blockbuster feature, but it’s always reassuring to know Jackson hadn’t forgotten his roots.
Land of the Dead – Photo Booth Zombies
Co-writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg crammed just about every zombie homage and reference they could into their zombie rom com Shaun of the Dead. But for all the nods to just about every entry in the zombie pantheon, it was clear that the work of George A. Romero was held in the highest regard. Romero was so affected by this that he asked the pair to appear in Land of the Dead. Wright and Pegg appear as zombies, chained up in the carnival scene where humans can get their pics taken with them. They’re credited as “Photo Booth Zombies.”
10 Cloverfield Lane – Connecting Universe
The Cloverfield universe is unique in that while each are standalone films, they’re connected by a larger mythology that’s only really explained by digging into the Alternate Reality Games that lead up into the theatrical releases of each entry. While 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of a blood relative than actual sequel to Cloverfield, there are Easter eggs throughout that serve as connective tissue, like Michelle stumbling across a letter addressed to Howard from Bold Futura. It’s inconsequential to the main plot, but hardcore Cloverfield fans will recognize this company as a subsidiary of Tagruato, the company ultimately responsible for unleashing the monstrous creature in the original film. The date on the letter also places it before the events of the first film, making this universe’s timeline all the more complex.
Bride of Chucky – Evidence Locker
From the opening moments, the tone is set when Charles Lee Ray’s ex-girlfriend and former accomplice retrieves Chucky’s remains from the police evidence locker. It seems as though all major horror franchises exist within the same universe, as Chucky’s remains are kept with the likes of Jason Voorhees’s hockey mask, Freddy Krueger’s glove, Michael Myers’ mask, Leatherface’s chainsaw, and even the puppets from Puppet Master. Granted, these are all off-brand references (Wisconsin Chainsaw Massacre), but the implication remains on this tongue-in-cheek Easter egg jackpot. This Easter egg wins extra points, considering director Ronny Yu would go on to helm Freddy vs Jason a few years later.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday – Jason vs. Freddy…vs. Ash?
The final moments stole the show of this weird sequel, in which Freddy’s glove bursts out of the ground and pulls Jason’s mask down below. The implications of an epic battle between the two horror juggernauts is a main event fans salivated over. But there’s a much bigger horror franchise that looms over this sequel; the Evil Dead series. There are nods to other films found within the Voorhees home, particularly that of the Crate from Creepshow in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but hero Steven actually picks up and flips through the Necronomicon. More than that, it’s the Kandarian dagger that’s used to kill Jason. This didn’t just tease a Freddy vs. Jason showdown, but a Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash battle. Too bad no one asked permission from Sam Raimi for the use of these props, and he didn’t approve.
Scream – Janitor Fred
In a film that lovingly deconstructs horror tropes and is filled with references and nods to horror films, this particular Easter egg wins, hands down. When Principal Himbry (Henry Winkler) is being targeted by the killer after the school has emptied for the day, he steps out into the quiet hall and finds janitor Fred mopping the floors. Fred is wearing a Freddy Krueger-like sweater and hat, but more importantly, Fred is played by Krueger’s creator Wes Craven. Not only is this cameo a reminder that this wasn’t the first time Craven changed the horror landscape, but that the director also had a major sense of humor. He’ll be forever missed, and Janitor Fred is only one of a million reasons why.
Final Destination series – Death’s Clues
The 2000 supernatural thriller that kicked off a major franchise set the precedent with elaborate death sequences that lent well to majorly effective suspense and tension that had us sinking into our seats. We know that Death is coming to reclaim its victims, we just don’t know when. But Death cleverly tells us repeatedly how each one is going to die. Death doles out clever clues for each death for those that are paying close attention. Example: Evan Lewis meets a gnarly demise in Final Destination 2 when his eye gets impaled by his escape ladder. It’s hinted at over and over, beginning with his fridge magnets spelling out E-Y-E.
Saw – Hospital Bed Reveal
James Wan and Leigh Whannell have mastered the art of dropping Easter eggs since their major horror debut in Saw. Billy the Puppet appears in just about everything from Insidious to Dead Silence, and they often sneak each other into their respective films. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. So, we’re going back to the beginning, in which the duo spelled out the killer’s identity long before the major reveal. In a brilliant misdirect, a flashback scene shows Dr. Lawrence Gordon being approached by detectives in regard to linking evidence found at one of Jigsaw’s games. Gordon happened to be in the middle of discussing terminal patient John Kramer at his bedside. If the detectives would’ve looked down, they would’ve seen Kramer’s designs of the “reverse bear trap” laid out for all to see.
Evil Dead II – Freddy Krueger’s Glove
There’s long-running history of jabs between horror masters Sam Raimi and Wes Craven that began when Raimi included a torn poster of The Hills Have Eyes in his breakout film The Evil Dead. Craven noticed, and returned the nod by having Nancy Thompson fall asleep to The Evil Dead in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Raimi opted to be a bit less subtle when he filmed Evil Dead II, and hung Freddy’s glove in both the cellar and the work shed, in prominent view. That glove never left, either, as it was once again displayed in the cellar in Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Predator 2 – Trophy Room
The cinematic moment that firmly put Predator in the same universe as Alien, and it was glorious. Just before the final showdown between protagonist Harrigan (Danny Glover) and the Predator that’s made Los Angeles its hunting ground, he finds its spaceship hidden underground. The battle takes place in the ship’s trophy room. Of all the skulls on display, the one fans zeroed in on was that of the Xenomorph. Suddenly, we didn’t really care about Harrigan versus Predator. We wanted to see a Predator square off against a Xenomorph. I still do.