Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Horror Tropes, they’ve been around since…well since horror movies came into existence. Usually born out of the success of showing up in a well-received movie so studio execs and writers think it has to show up in EVERY OTHER film after that, it’s a part of the genre that for better or worse is here to stay.
So like your houseguest that has overstayed their welcome here are my TOP 5 MOST ANNOYING HORROR MOVIE TROPES (PART 3) and beware SPOILERS for the following movies/series:
Night of the Living Dead
The Walking Dead
Army of the Dead
Truth or Dare
Friday the 13th Franchise
The Sixth Sense
Highway to Hell
One Missed Call
The Wicker Man (2006)
The Amityville Horror (2005)
#5 The Guy/Girl Who’s a D!@k
We’ve seen this so many times it’s practically a given by now. Something is killing people so a group of survivors pull together to try and make it to the end, except one person in the group is a selfish (usually affluent or from high society) narcissist who thinks they know better than everyone else. And because of this at some point they will get some innocent bystander killed off in a horrific manner. Carter Burke in Aliens, Frankie G in Saw II, Harry in Night of the Living Dead, and who can forget Nicholas from The Walking Dead who acted like a leader and a hero until he came face-to-face with a group of zombies and then through his cowardice got poor Noah gruesomely killed.
These types of characters are there for us to have someone to hate, someone who we all want to see die, hopefully in the most painful ways imaginable. But boy am I sick of them! Most modern day horror movies have done away with these types of fools or they’ve tried to make us see them as more than just the douchebags they are. A great example of this was John Malkovich’s character in Bird Box. While Douglas does come across like your typical asshat who only cares about his own survival he does have valid points about trusting the wrong people, a point that is proven when the goody two shoes survivors let the wrong one in (ten points if you get the reference). Still, he’s the exception not the rule, and I for one will keep rolling my eyes every time these types of shmucks pop up in a horror movie.
GOOD USE OF TROPE: Bird Box
#4 The Car Won’t Start/Dropped the Keys
These tend to go hand in hand and they both set me off like nothing else! Now one can argue that if you’re being chased and scared half out of your mind it’s believable that you won’t be able to use keys properly. To that I say pbbbbbbt! (That’s me sticking my tongue out and doing a raspberry btw). I’m sorry but I just don’t buy it.
First of all car keys have to be the easiest keys to use, not just that but it’s usually combined with nothing more than your car alarm fob (unless you like living dangerously and you keep your car keys on the same ring as your house keys, in which case I say you’re a braver person than me). It’s also a large key and easy as hell to insert into the car door. Secondly most cars these days don’t require you to even INSERT a damn key! This is where we get into our next groan inducing trope —the car won’t start. The writers are usually too lazy to even give you a previous scene that showed the car had problems. Instead we are just supposed to believe the car we’ve seen driving perfectly all this time decided it wasn’t that invested in your survival in the first place so it’s not going to take you away from the crazy person or thing that’s trying to end your life.
Cars aren’t the only thing that hate our would-be victims though as locked doors have a similar problem and our protagonist will predictably either drop the keys they need or for some inexplicable reason suddenly forget which key opens the door to the house where they have lived their entire lives. While I can be a bit more forgiving when it comes to this trope (even without Jason chasing me I’ve been known to fumble my house keys) I can’t help but groan aloud when I see someone not only drop their keys but also make the additional mistake of kicking them under the couch/table/car, just when they need them the most. So unless writers can come up with a valid reason for these things to happen, for the love of movie-God please stop doing it!
BAD USE OF TROPE: Friday the 13th (multiple times)
GOOD USE OF TROPE: Cujo
#4 They Were Dead All Along
We have one man to blame for this lazy (and usually predictable) horror trope and that man is M. Night Shyamalan. Ever since The Sixth Sense this stupidity has been popping up all over the place, even in romantic comedies no less (Last Christmas anyone?) and nine times out of ten we can see it coming from a mile away.
Now it’s not that this isn’t a valuable tool to use as when it works it can work like gangbusters, making the viewer immediately rethink everything they saw and heard. It can even make a film worth rewatching. But for the most part this has become one of the more obvious twists that once you’re paying attention you’ll figure out way before the film ends. Which, let’s face it, makes for some pretty boring viewing. And there’s no movie sin bigger than that.
BAD USE OF TROPE: The Uninvited, Premonition
GOOD USE OF TROPE: The Others, Jacob’s Ladder
#2 Road Trip to Hell
Based on at least a hundred of the last horror movies I’ve seen, going on a road trip with a bunch of your friends is the worst choice you can make for a vacation trip ever! It’s almost a given now that any movie that starts with a bunch of young beautiful people loading up their car(s) while happily bantering about how awesome everything is going to be will end up with 99.9% of them dead.
It doesn’t even matter where they’re heading. Going back home for school break? Dead. Driving cross country to see the sites? Dead. Heading to a cabin for the long weekend? Most certainly dead! I’m not saying every movie that starts like this is automatically boring or a waste of time, but the set-up itself has just been done to death. And every time I see it I can’t help but start picking off who I know is going to bite the big one and who is making it back home for Sunday dinner.
BAD USE OF TROPE: The Forsaken, Highway to Hell
GOOD USE OF TROPE: Jeepers Creepers, Joy Ride
Honourable Mention: I Have to Pee
Listen, I totally get not wanting to go in front of everyone; that’s just good manners. But let’s be real for a moment, if you’re in the woods and it’s dark as the devil’s anus all around you, does it REALLY make sense to walk FIVE MILES away from where anyone can see or hear you just to do number one?! It’s dumb as all hell, and extra points off for those characters that KNOW there’s a crazy killer on the loose and still decide the creepy outhouse or the bush that’s way out of anyone’s earshot is the best place to be at that moment.
#1 The Music Spoils the Scare
Music and sound effects are an integral part of any good movie, but when it comes to horror a little silence can go a long way.
Now don’t get me wrong here; I grew up watching Friday the 13th, Halloween and all the other fun horror flicks they threw our way and a big part of what made those films so entertaining were their memorable themes and scores that told you something terrifying was about to happen. But I’m all grown up now (for the most part) and this stuff has gone from entertaining to mostly annoying. The modern trend of creepy music swelling in the background only to be quickly followed by lazy trope Number 4, Annoying Horror Tropes Part 1, the jump scare, does nothing to add to the chills; quite the opposite in fact as we the viewer are on high alert that something is about to happen. Let’s face it, this one-two combo only works on the casual horror fan.
Thankfully most of the talented modern day horror writers and directors like Mike Flanagan, James Wan and Jordan Peele have left this laziness in their rear view mirrors and this has gone a long way in making their movies stand out. Sadly others haven’t got the memo and to this day we’re still bombarded with music in horror movies that work like that one friend who just can’t help spoiling the story for those who haven’t seen it yet. No one likes that guy Hollywood, so can we just have him go take a pee break in the woods? Because we all know how that ends.
BAD USE OF TROPE: So SO MANY but if I had to name a few: Ouija, One Missed Call, The Wicker Man (2006), The Amityville Horror (2005)
GOOD USE OF TROPE: The Innkeepers, The Conjuring, The Shining
So which of these tropes drive you up a wall? And if there’s an annoying horror movie trope that didn’t make this list then you can check out my two previous lists below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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