Horror Movie Clichés
Movie clichés are somewhat inevitable, especially in an industry where ideas are endlessly recycled in the hope of raking in more cash. Perhaps the greatest offender is the horror genre. Most clichés can be traced back to an original film which featured an excellent scene that later film makers felt compelled to copy, for example we have Psycho to thank for endless shower scene murders. Let's take a closer look at some classic horror movie clichés.
The main culprit in this category is slasher films, they virtually always feature a cast of mostly unsympathetic teen fodder and generally include a range of characters who probably wouldn't hang out together in real life. There's the angry dumb jock, the stoner, the cheerleader, the slut, the token minority guy, the fat guy or geek and of course the virginal heroine. Groups will always find a reason to split up so they can be picked off one by one and the bad guy in the group will usually redeem himself with an act of self-sacrifice. Funnily enough seeing your friends brutally butchered is often a big turn on for teens and they love to stop at inopportune moments for a quickie which inevitably gets them killed. Cops are always inept, they never believe the victims and they always turn up too late to help or just in time to get knifed in the back.
For supernatural horrors the set-up usually involves someone returning to their home town after an absence of years. This often ties in with the main guy and girl, usually a cop and a doctor, having had a previous relationship and they are now forced to work together, of course you know they will be in love again by the end of the film. Children, animals and old people can always sense an evil spirit but no one pays them any attention. If there's a priest character then he will always have a crisis of faith.
In monster movies the hero is often a cop, reporter or scientist. If there's a mad scientist or evil government character he will always want to capture the monster so he can study it or use it but his plan will always backfire and usually after he double crosses the rest of the group by locking them in somewhere he'll immediately run into the monster and get eaten.
If the main character gets murdered early on in any type of horror expect a cut to them waking up from a nightmare.
The killers have their own set of rules. In slasher films they can take ludicrous amounts of damage without showing pain, they often have a mother complex and they aren't allowed to run. I'm always reminded of the old Pepe Le Pew cartoons where no matter how fast the cat runs away the skunk just skips along slowly and catches up with ease. Killers also seem to spend a large amount of time moving bodies around and displaying them to scare their remaining victims. Don't stand under a tree or the inevitable drip of blood will draw your view upwards to the body perfectly poised to fall on top of you.
One of the most over used scenes features the killer or monster appearing to be dead and then returning to life unexpectedly. This is made all the more annoying by the fact that the hero or heroine will often shoot or batter the baddie and then as soon as the baddie goes down they drop their weapon and run instead of mashing it up.
Another common trick, especially in supernatural movies is the glimpse of the ghost, in a mirror, over the shoulder of the hero, running past in the background and of course being suddenly illuminated when someone turns their torch on. Ghosts who are trying to convey a message will always do it by terrifying the person they are trying to talk to.
Fake scares are annoyingly predictable and irritating. For example why do cats in horror films hide in cupboards and jump on people who open them? Sound effects suddenly booming are a great way to get the audience to jump without actually having anything scary happen on screen. Sometimes the fake scare is used like the boy who cried wolf, so an annoying male character will scare a girl and then later when it's the killer for real she'll still think it's the joker of the group.
How to Survive
Arm yourself and stay armed, victims in horror films are always dropping their weapons to run away or ignoring guns on the ground, pick up any weapons you find and keep a hold of them.
You should be aware that technology always fails during a horror movie. Your cell phone will be unable to get a signal and if you do get through the authorities will think it is a prank or the phone will go dead when you are about to give your location. Cars are a waste of time too, they break down at the most inconvenient times and if you do manage to start it you are going to crash into a tree five meters down the road anyway.
If you try to rescue someone who has already been stabbed or partially eaten you will end up losing more people in the attempt.
Diversions are another good way to lose people and they seldom work. Usually someone heroically sacrifices themselves setting an explosion or racing for car keys and the remaining group are still stuck in the same situation but one person down.
If you hear a mysterious sound, like growling, do not go out into the dark wearing a skimpy top and panties to investigate. If you are being chased do not run to a stupid location to escape, for example up the stairs, into the creepy basement or into the killer's lair where you'll accidentally fall into a pit of dead bodies. If you are running from a psycho why hide somewhere you'll be easily trapped, why not just keep running?
Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre teach us a few valuable survival lessons. Never pick up hitchhikers. Do not take a shortcut that was given to you by a toothless leering old hillbilly at a deserted gas station. When you do break down, which you inevitably will, and you find what is clearly a serial killer's shack or house do not go inside to look for a phone.
Clichés aren't always a problem and they can be usefully employed but too often they are lazily pasted into films without any real thought. The upside is with the expectation in the audience clever directors can use it to shock you with a surprise turn of events.
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