I have spoken a lot about horror movies, and how bad they have become. I have a whole segment of horror movie reviews, and most of the movies I review are bad. The problem is so many modern horror movies are so similar. They repeat the same tired cliches, that either are not scary anymore or were never scary in the first place. They use the same lazy tropes every single time. Now, these do not all happen in all movies, some only happen in certain sub-genres of horror. But they are all annoying, and all overused. Now it is hard to rank these, but I will list them in order of which ones annoy me the most.
10. Every one is a sharpshooter
This is mostly only a Zombie movie thing, but why is everyone deadly accurate with a gun, particularly handguns. I mean watch The Walking Dead, and count the headshots the group gets on zombies. Just watch this scene from season 3 were the characters, most of who had never touched a gun until a few months ago, are all 100% accurate.
So Rick was a cop, and he was fairly close to the Zombies. I can somewhat believe he could get lucky and pull off 100% accuracy. But Carl sniping Zombies from 100 yards away with a Beretta, I call bullshit. NYPD officers have a hit rate of about 18% with their standard issue pistol. I’m to expect some little kid, with only a little firearm training, is going to be deadly accurate from 30 yards? And this isn’t just a Walking Dead problem. In so many zombie movies and shows the survivors will just casually get endless headshots. Its laughable at this point.
This is part of the reason where I like the game The Last of Us. Shooting is not so easy in the game. The gun controls are a bit clunky, and scoring headshots take skill. It isn’t something any jackass can do after picking up a gun for the first time. Writers/ directors use this trope because it looks cool, and makes their job easier, but it is lazy and unrealistic.
9. Everyone is an idiot
So many stupid horror movie tropes are wrapped into this one. Why do they always run up the stairs from the killer? Why do they not finish off the killer when they have disarmed them and they are passed out? Why do they chase after the weird noise? Why are they splitting up when they know a killer is on the loose? I just watched a movie, Wrong Turn 5, where a character says they should stick together, and then two minutes later changes her mind and goes off on her own. The problem is if people in horror movies were smart, writers would have to come u with clever ways to kill them off.
Alien Covenant in a recent horror movie that had especially stupid characters. Oh, there is an egg opening, let me stick my bare face over top of it, no way this could go wrong. There are spores on the wall? I better poke at them even though I do not have a mask on.
John Carpenter’s The Thing managed to be a horror movie with smart characters that still had a high body count. Cabin in the Woods brilliantly satirized how stupid horror movie characters are. But most horror movies, make their cast a bunch of morons, who probably would have died at some point soon anyway by doing something else stupid.
8. Falling Down
Why do white women always falling down in horror movies? This happens way too often, and I do not really understand? Is this some form of weird misogyny? Are horror movie directors trying to make us think women are clumsy? I mean just watch this supercut of women falling down in horror movies, it is insane how often this happens.
Going back to Alien Covenant, because it is an awful movie that has many of these tropes, there is a scene where within 5 minutes, two women fall a combined 5 times. It feels like a sexism thing. Guys do not fall this often, it is only the female characters. It is not that they are wearing high heels, most of the women in this supercut are in sneakers. Why does this keep happening in movies?
7. Little Kid can communicate with the ghosts/demons
A family moves into a house, that seems to be haunted. But one of the younger kids seems to be able to talk with the ghost. At first, the family may think it is just an imaginary friend, but then things start to escalate. A situation that we see in so many house haunting/ possession movies. But I have one problem? WHAT TYPE OF KID WOULDN”T BE FREAKED OUT BY GHOSTS?
Am I supposed to believe all these kids are just super brave and think nothing of a ghost talking to them? Have you met kids? They do nothing but scream, but in horror movies, they always seem to be unphased by scary things. I am 24 years old, and if some ghost started talking to me I wouldn’t talk back, I would run, scream, and possibly wet myself.
6. Family Pet Dies
Why do so many horror movies feel the need to kill the family dog, or in some cases, the family cat? I am not saying you should never kill dogs in movies, but it happens in so many horror movies now, that it is becoming boring and predictable. It is also a cheap way to elicit emotion. See, if you want us to feel bad about a human character dying, you need to develop them, and make them an interesting character we feel empathy for. If you want us to feel bad about a dog dying, you just have to put a dog in the movie.
There have been some movies that used this trope effectively. When the cat dies in Pet Semetary, it isn’t just to make us sad, but also to set up the Pet Cemetary, how it works, and what happens to things that are brought back. There have also been moves that avoided this trope. Jason Voorhees ran into a couple dogs through the Friday the 13th series, and never killed either of them. I guess Jason isn’t so evil a monster that he would kill a dog.
Unless movies can come up with a smarter way to handle killing the family pet, they should come up with a new way to manipulate the emotions of their audience. Maybe actually do this thing called, write a good story, with characters we care about.
5. Sex/ Nudity leads to death
To be fair, many movies have started to subvert this trope, but it is still mostly relevant. Anyone who gets nude, or has sex, or even is sexually suggestive, gets whacked. The whole trope reeks of sexism and slut shaming.
Thankfully, many intelligent horror movies, like The Final Girls, and A Cabin in the Woods, poke fun at this whole trope. It Follows also handled the sex is death trope in an intelligent way. And even a dumb movie like Zombeavers subverts it, as the final survivor is also the only girl who ever removed her top in the movie. Hopefully, more movies put this trope to the side.
4. No Cellphone signal
Okay, so I will agree that movies have to address the phone issue. The only thing dumber than another horror movie using the no cell service cliche would be a movie just ignoring the fact phones exist. But one would think writers could come up with a better way to deal with it than just having one of the characters say there is no signal. When every single movie does it to justify its existence, it gets annoying.
Find clever ways to get around this obstacle. Maybe our character accidentally gets the phone wet and it stops working. Maybe the killer steals the cell phones. Maybe do anything other than just using the throwaway line that
3. Scare for the audience
Jump scares are one thing, and we will get to them soon. But the trope of the movie monster or villain doing a scary pose for the camera is a different type of dumb. Often found at the end of the movie, the movie killer will not be trying to scare a character, but only the audience. Like what they did here at the end of Sinister.
They would go on to do the same exact thing in Sinister 2. This is only one example. So many horror movies feel the need to have this final scare for the audience, but it is dumb. Are the monsters self-aware? Do they know they are in a movie? Because if not, it makes no sense for them to do this. They are popping out at nothing because the camera does not exist in their world. Stop doing this.
2. Black Guy Always Dies
Do I even have to explain this one? We all know the trope of the black guy, or girl, dying in the horror movie. It is one of the most referenced and mocked tropes. Again I will ask, how is this still a thing? Now the black character does not need to survive every horror movie, that is not what I am asking. But when one can easily count all the horror movies where the black character lives, it is an issue. Can they just have a little bit of a higher life expectancy? Can they not be the first ones to die so often?
1. Jump Scares
No trope is lazier, or more overused, than the jump scare. The majority of modern horror movies are little more than a string of lazy jump scares. Even worse is when they are joined with a sound cue added in post. Yea, if there is a loud noise, and a sudden jolt on the screen, most people will jump. But that is not the same as being scary. It is a temporary scare. It goes away as swiftly as it came.
Sometimes jump scares can make sense. The recent version of IT has many of them, but that is because the villain is actually trying to scare the characters. Plus the movie does not rely on the jump scares to be scary. It can be scary even without them. One of the scariest scenes is when Pennywise comes out of the fridge, and there is not a jump scare in that scene, he does not jolt out, he moves slowly. The villain is well lit on screen, but still manages to be scary.
I like to compare jump scares to fart joke in comedy. A few are fine if used effectively. But when it is all a movie has, then it makes for a bad movie. You did not make a scary movie. Anyone can put a bunch of jump scares together and get the same effect. It is easy. Just make the movie silent for a bit, move the camera around, and then have something suddenly pop up, and add a loud noise in post. It does not take skill to pull it off, it only takes a camera.
Movies even love to pull fake jump scares to set up the real ones. Having a cat, or some other animal jump onto screen, of course with a cheesy sound effect. This is even more frustrating. Just stop it. How about this, every person who wants to make a horror movie, has to go watch a movie like Alien, and then watch Jaws. Watch how both movies build suspense, with only sparse use of jump scares. The monster can be on screen, but it is still scary. Both movies used the less is more technique, meaning they didn’t show the full creature until later in the film. The Xenomorph in Alien is often cloaked in shadow, which built anticipation. We only see the fin of the shark for most of the movie or no shark at all. We will see from the shark’s perspective. Both films also use the score to build tension.Think about how these horror movies crafted horror, and then do not make your own movie. If you did not already know that stringing together jump scares does not make for an effective horror film, then you do not have the talent to make a good horror movie. Do something else with your time and money you hack.