Saturday, October 22, 2011

The 4 Worst Horror Movie Cliches

Every movie uses some clichés, but horror movies are easily the biggest offender.  A cliché is only good when it is needed and horror movies think it's needed as much as suspense, fear, and gratuitous nudity.  Hollywood seems to be afraid that a horror movie without them would no longer be a horror movie and that the audience is full of idiots who would think the hero is competent and the villain is as intimidating as a dwarf with a pocket knife. That mistaken view on moviegoers would almost make sense if any horror movie ever made was based on reason and logic.  The vast majority don't, so the use of clichés in these movies are about as pointless as the romantic comedy cliché of running onto a plane to stop your lover from moving to Argentina to open a Starbucks.  None of this would happen in the real world, with or without it.

 Coffins? What the hell?  I thought this was about Dracula.

Here are the four worst clichés responsible for making so many horror movies unwatchable or unintentionally hilarious.

The Trip Up 

Everybody knows what this is.  It's when the protagonist....oh shit, THE KILLER IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU! RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!  No no no, don't trip over your own feet.  Get up.  Good, now go through the door's locked?  That door is never locked.  Quick, go through the side door.  Okay, good.  Now just get into the car and...jesus lady, you dropped the keys?  And they slid under the car?  Well drop to your stomach and get them while crying hysterically.  Be quick but you should have enough time.  That killer isn't in much of a hurry since he is chasing you by walking.  Well, it's more of a saunter really.  The killer is sauntering after you.  You find the keys klutz?  Good.  Now just...OH FOR FUCKS SAKE, the car won't start?  Give the car some gas.  No?  Bang your head against the steering wheel and curse at the car like it's your dead beat father who your mother killed this very night twenty years ago.  That worked?  Holy shit, that's weird.  It's like the car did that to you on purpose.  Well, you should be safe now that...oh great it's suddenly raining and you are taking that turn way too fast on these seldom traveled mountain roads, in which, yeah, yeah I think so.  That's you in the car at the bottom of the cliff isn't it?

It's easy to see why writers/directors do this.  They need to keep the hero in danger, otherwise the movie is over before the killer Tim Curry clown is revealed to be a giant spider for reasons only a drunken Stephen King could vaguely remember.   Why movie studios persist on coming up with coincidental crap to keep the hero from running away is lazy writing.  Some creativity would be nice but when so many villain bio's read like this, "Serial Killer:  Crazy dude who is stabby", then creativity might be too much to ask.

Is a killer clown who is also a giant spider the best the "Master of Horror" could come up with?

The Deadmeat Character.

This is the character who has only been in a few scenes of the movie and has had only 3 lines of dialogue.  Obviously, this person is the first to die.  This character has no point in the movie other than to increase the body count.  The audience won't care when they died, because that is there only reason to exist.  So really, this character is an existentialists perfect human.  The question is, will the rest of the cast care when they die?  There are two possible outcomes.
  1. The rest of the cast moves on very, very quickly.  Sure, they might have one scene of mourning, or one "NNNNOOOOO" scream as they witness the death, but 5 minutes later that character is never mentioned again.  The other characters usually don't bother with a eulogy since it would sound like it was written by the bartender who kinda remembers him as the dude who drank wine with ice.  "Rest in peace, uh, guy.  You seemed cool that time you asked me what time it was.  That was fun.  Also, I liked your hat.  Well, I think I liked your hat.  Maybe it was that other dude from Seattle with the cool hat.  Yeah, I think it was him since you had an accent that sounded like...Korean?  I'll just go with Asian.  Okay, yeah, the dude with the hat was not Asian.  Anyway, we will miss you and regret that thing we may or may not have done to you."
  2. Most of the cast moves on quickly, except for that one person who goes insane.  In some movies, the deadmeat character will suddenly have a best friend who reacts to the death more harshly than Kanye West reacting to anything even remotely critical of his music.  The friend usually will grow more and more insane until they jeopardize all the other protagonists or become a bad-ass who goes all out to avenge the death.  Actually, that is a pretty big margin.  There is a 50/50 chance the rest of the protagonists get a MVP or a Ryan Leaf from the insane guy.  They could possibly end up with a combination of both, a bad-ass who is also detrimental to the team.  Listen for key phrases like "I'm gonna have me some fun", mixed in with the jungle fever nonsense.
 "Don't worry guys.  I'll go into that dark corridor with the hissing noises first."
The Edit Jump Scare

There is nothing wrong with a good jump scare (a sudden event designed to make you jump out of your seat with fear) as long as the timing is right and it's in frame.  However, to compensate for poor timing, movie makers will just use the power of the editing room to squeeze a scare in where it doesn't belong.  It's a cut so cheap and unfair, it punches your dick off then forces you to watch it have sex with your girlfriend just to show you what you can't do anymore.

With the edit method, you could add a jump scare to anything.  Imagine if you were watching Die Hard, and right before Hans is pushed off the building, the movie cuts to a picture of this...

...and you...feel...violated.  It's like the movie promised you free candy but instead made you snuggle up to a guy dressed like the unabomber.

It's scary, confusing, and makes you question why a supposedly loving god hates you so much, but it doesn't feel like it's actually happening.  The movie betrayed our trust because the jump scare didn't occur in the movies reality.  It's a 4th wall type of scare because it exists only to get a reaction out of the audience, not the characters.  Besides, the characters shouldn't even react because to them, nothing happened.  It's like being worried about an asteroid strike and jumping whenever Jupiter gets hit.  It would be more worthwhile to buy insurance to protect against Viking invasions than for the characters to react to these jump scares. 

Strangely enough, the best example of these jump scares don't come from movies but online "screamer" videos.  If you don't know what those are, then welcome to the internet and here is one below.  Don't watch unless you have a change of underwear and want to hate me for the rest of your life.  (Sound is NSFW and don't watch if you have a heart condition).

What's so scary about a stick-GAH!

The Villain Never Really Dies

It's the last scene of the movie.  The hero has won and is off to safety.  The camera turns around and  zooms in on the dead killers face...OR IS HE!  *Killer opens his eyes.  DUN DUN DUUUNNNNN.   Of course the killer isn't dead.  Hollywood needs to turn this into a franchise and make sequel after sequel until it becomes a parody of itself.  Except for maybe the Leprechaun movies, which was an  unintentional parody of itself since the first installment. 

If a horror movie is going to have sequels, either bring in a new villain or don't kill him in the first one.  There are other ways to have a satisfying climax to your movie and still leave the story open for a proper sequel.  Try trapping the villain in cement, an alternate dimension, or on the cast of Jersey Shore.  Any of these options would leave the villain nice and pissed off for the sequel tentatively called, "The Revenging Killer Revenger."  Or you could actually kill the villain and just have him come back as a ghost.  The killer would be subjected to even more clichés, but at least now it would explain why one of the protagonists has something called a neutron pack.  It's something that the movies lawyers insist was not stolen from another movie, unlike the idea to keep the villain alive in any way imaginable by a 6-year old.

"And then I was like 'pew, pew'.  Then the ghost said 'sorry' and played video games with me"

How the villain came back is always a difficult question for a sequel.  Many movies just completely ignore it and just say, "Hey.  He's just alive alright.  Can't we just leave it at that?  You already gave us your money anyway asshole."  Some movies give an explanation but it's always so completely random and stupid that it would be reasonable to think the producers regularly drink antifreeze, mistaking it for absinthe.  It's usually something along the lines of, "The killer has a twin" or "The Devil decided the killer was too evil for hell".  Then there is magic, which is such an easy Deus Ex Machina tool, that it's surprising every movie doesn't just explain every implausible scenario with magic.  In Independence Day, the audience must blindly believe the alien mothership is compatible with a Macbook.  If it was a horror movie, they could just say the mothership had an old gypsy curse cast upon it when the aliens abducted a gypsy in 1923 and tried to give her a sponge bath.

The worst explanation for why the villain is still alive comes from the movie that just invents a rule that didn't exist in the previous movie.  "The serial killer didn't die because you can only kill him at midnight Friday night.  I know this was never explained before but hear me out.  The bullets actually hit him across state lines and thus, in a different time zone.  Time zones are a big deal when it comes to moon monsters.  Now, if he got hit with the bullets, fell down, then crawled back toward the state he was in, he would be dead.  But, he's alive.  You see, he gets his powers from the Moon, so the shine from the Moon at 11:00am was still strong enough to keep him alive.  At midnight it's not strong enough because of um, magnets.  That is what demons need to die.  Oh yeah, and because he didn't die, he can fly now.  Forgot to mention that.  Ghosts can fly and he's a ghost.  But he's not dead.  He is a vampire, actually."  If any of that makes sense, congratulations, you're insane. Or you make horror movie sequels, which is basically the same thing.

Disclaimer:  This article is satirical and opinionated.  Please don't hunt me down very slowly.  I trip a lot.

Follow me on Twitter.  Like the blog on Facebook.  Contact me at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...