Top 5 Horror Tropes I would like to see end.
Have you ever sat and watched a horror film and thought “this seems oddly familiar…” Before you called deja vu, mandela effect, or alternate universe, it may just be that you’ve seen something really similar before. There are so many tropes that are carried across the genre that are beyond parodic at this point. Here’s my top 5 horror tropes that need to stop.
The race to the 18
We get it, no one ever pissed themselves with fear at a U, or PG (with the exception of Watership Down - that’s absolutely terrifying). That doesn’t mean that a horror film desperately needs to scramble for the tippy top of the film ratings chart. A film with a UK 15 rating may include ‘strong threat and horror. A sustained focus on sadistic threat is unlikely to be acceptable.’ I think that, broadly speaking, this gives adequate scope for a ‘scary’ horror film to exist in.
I do understand that the push for an 18 rating is largely a marketing tool, after all, we expect an 18 to be scarier than a 15, so why wouldn’t they do it? Perhaps it’s time to break this mold and aim for better stories rather than a higher age rating.
The teens in the woods
Would you like to play a game? Not a Jigsaw-y type game though. Make a list of all the horror films you can think of where a group of teenagers go somewhere isolated area, where they’re picked off one by one by a killer. Ready? Go!
I bet you can name quite a few, I know I could. This is one of the most common setups to a horror film, and i’m not 100% sure why it isn’t long gone from our horror movies. I suppose the most obvious answer is probably the most damning, which is that it’s easy. The target audiences for horror film tends to be teenagers, so they may be able to relate to the characters a bit more, there’s the potential for male and female sex appeal to be put on screen - and let’s not kid ourselves, there are executive decisions made to have scantily clad women running around, with little to no actual agency. Really? In this day and age is it really necessary? It’s formulaic at best, predatory at worst.
I’m a little snobby about my horror films, I should declare here, and one area where I want to take a stand is against the pseudo scare. You know, where our main character is getting ready, suddenly we switch to another angle filmed by a shaky-cam. Next thing we know there’s a shrill stab in the soundtrack and BAM! It’s just their friend come to check up on them. I don’t just hate these because I have the fight or flight (typically the latter) instincts of a vole, but they’re so cheap. People are naturally made to respond to jump scares, and exploiting that fact every 15 minutes just seems like the easy way out to stop you actually having to try and scare them with the movie itself.
Take the stand with me, and let us together signal the end of the dominance of the pseudo-scare in our horror cinema! Who’s with me?!
The poor life choices
Do you ever watch a horror film and think, “who the hell in their right mind would do that?”. I know I certainly do. From the people who decide that it’s okay to move into the haunted house where all previous occupants have been brutally murdered, to the inquisitive teenager, stumbling around in the dark to go and make sure that 100% that sound wasn’t the killer. Seriously, taking into account the way people are likely to actually react to adverse situations is a good way to make your horror film that much more believable. I know that if I hear a bang downstairs, I’ll curl up under the bedsheets, because that is clearly the safest place to be, and my only experience with going to haunted houses was when I was a cameraman, and the cameraman has to be killed last, right?
I’m absolutely sick of religious symbolism being a cop-out for developing a decent universe for your horror film to exist in. We see this all the time, particularly in paranormal films, where the desperate family will turn to their local priest who either does or does not save them from the supernatural aggressor. I’ve already had a rant about satanism as an unquestionable evil in news media, and the same can be said about horror films as well. Belief and appreciation for the devil is always a shorthand way of saying - this dude’s evil. I’m no satanist, but I loathe lazy assumptions.
So there we have it, my top 5 tropes I would like dropped from horror films. Did I miss anything out? Let me know @darken_corridor on twitter!