Five of Our Favorite Horror Movie Twists & Cliches That Define the Genre
November 20, 2017 By Cait Russell
If You Stumble Across an Evil Looking Ancient Book, Maybe DON'T Read the Evil Incantations Inscribed in It.
Photo by: Boogeyman13, via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Every movie genre has its own special set of tropes, but when it comes to movie cliches, horror reigns supreme. Not only do horror movies embrace the cliches and tropes, they play them up so much that in some cases, they've created new tropes out of old ones. Whether you're a lover of classic horror flicks, suspenseful drama, or you're into the straight up camp horror movies that border on comedy, each "type" of horror flick has its own special tropes that make them what they are.
Here are some of our favorite Horror Film Tropes that just keep on giving:
- The Cruel Twist of Fate for the "Hero" - This trope has been popular for decades - it's been a sci-fi & horror staple since "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", and it's still commonly used in horror flicks today. A great example would be the movie "Se7ven", which has a twist so gruesome, so heinous, that the movie is still seen as one of the best twist endings in modern horror to this day.
The Cruel Twist of Fate isn't necessarily the most commonly used trope, because frankly, it leaves "the hero" with no hope at the end of the movie, which can be a bit of a downer, but when it's done right, boy oh boy does it pay off.
- Unreasonable Amounts of Carnage = Good Film Making - Ok, so, not only is this a Horror Movie Trope, but it is one so pervasive, that it's developed into its own sub-genre, known as Splatter Horror. I bet from the name alone you can tell what's in store for you - knife wielding maniacs, belligerent use of chain saws, ice picks through eyeballs, and gore galore.
Splatter Horror Flicks are an absolute staple of horror, and because of its over-the-top-ness, it often crosses into Horror Comedy territory, a la Living Dead.
- If You Open a Scary Looking Door or Window & The Killer Ain't There, He's Behind You - Simple premise. The hero sees a door, a window, or other hiding spot where he thinks the villain/monster/maniac is, and he approaches slowly, as tension builds, only to dramatically open the door and see...nothing. How is that possible? We were so sure that evil was lurking right behind this door.
I'll tell you why. Because in basically every horror movie with a tangible villain, said villain has lightening-fast speed, and can think faster on their feet than anyone you ever have, or will meet.
Oh - so back to where the villain is, if not behind the door? Yeah he's behind the hero, who is about to be stabbed/attacked/chased the second the door closes again, and we can see the villain in frame. Surprise!
- Ancient Treasures Pretty Much Always Unleash Hell Spawn & Demons in the Hands of Laypeople - Whether it's a tablet from the Great Pyramids of Giza, or an ancient scroll from god knows where, or some sort of cursed artifact from Salem, one thing stands true - if the object is ancient, or heck, even "kinda old", and has some sort of mysterious inscription, then you can absolutely bet that Joe Blow is about to unleash some sort of insanity on the mortal world.
Why on earth do people keep leaving trapped spirits in containers with instructions on how to free them? Did they not have idiots back when the demons were caught? Seriously? I find that hard to believe.
- If You're Climbing or Crawling Away from A Monster, It's Gonna Grab Your Ankle - So, this trope can work out a few ways. If you're the hero, or if you're an A-List Actor, chance are, you'll be able to somehow break free of the grip of whatever demon, ghoul, monster, or murderer has grabbed your ankle as you climb up a ladder, or crawl out of a cave or sewer (or wherever it is you do your terrified crawling & climbing) to get away from it.
If you're an extra, or a disposable character, well, then you are almost definitely not going to be so lucky - especially if it's earlier on in the movie, you're likely going to be dragged to your untimely death as a plot point.
There are actually two more tropes within this trope that come up regularly - the "Lose a Shoe" Trope, where the person being grabbed shimmies out of their shoe or whatever article of clothing the monster is clinging to, and "The Helping Hand" Trope, where the hero comes and lends a hand just as you're about to be dragged off by the monster, and is able to get you freed before you're eaten/possessed/otherwise attacked by the monster.
These are just some of our favorite Horror Movie Tropes - there are countless cliches within the horror genre, many of which even the most casual of horror fans can rattle off, because they've become so iconic over the years (and have been parodied countless times in both TV & Film).
What Are Your Favorite Horror Movie Tropes? Let Us Know in the Comments Below!