10 Horror Film Clichés You Didn’t Know You Knew

David Girvan | November 18, 2014

How many of these horror tropes do you know?

1. Creepy kid drawings

Children’s drawings were once an effective way of foreshadowing some supernatural horror awaiting a central character, and a good way of ramping up the audience’s general sense of dread. After countless appearances however, the technique has lost some of its punch.

Guilty parties-

Children of the Corn

The Ring

Insidious

Mama

2. The Spring-Loaded Cat


The Cat Scare or Spring-loaded Cat is the horror director’s most reliable tool for making audiences jump, but due to how easily it can be used this device has naturally tired over time. Now cat scares are commonly followed by a collective audience groan, so beware budding filmmakers; use with caution.

3. Weeeeeird Townsfolk
The Weird Townspeople or Town With a Dark Secret trope is a personal favourite of ours. Great for building a sense of unease and mystery, we’re always eager to scrape away at a town’s slightly-too-pristine veneer to reveal the dark secrets beneath…

Guilty Parties-

3. WEEEEEEIRD TOWNSFOLK

The Weird Townspeople or Town With a Dark Secret trope is a personal favourite of ours. Great for building a sense of unease and mystery, we’re always eager to scrape away at a town’s slightly-too-pristine veneer to reveal the dark secrets beneath…

Guilty Parties-

The Village of the Damned

The Faculty

The Stepford Wives

The World’s End

4. Creepy Mirrors

What is it about mirrors that works so well in horror? The genre uses these trusty reflectors more often than any other. The bathroom cabinet clicking back into place to reveal a shocking visitor; the unsettling moment when a reflection doesn’t do exactly as a character does; the hint (or full revelation) that another, terrifying world exists on the other side of the glass. Chances are you’ve seen more than one of these terrifying tricks…

Guilty Parties-

An American Werewolf in London

Oculus

The Amityville Horror

Ouija

5. Make-out Point Murder

Where better to take Darleen on a first date than Lovers’ Lane? A romantic panorama of the city, the gentle evening chirping of crickets, and nobody for miles to interrupt the canoodling… Except for the homicidal maniac slowly creeping up behind your ’55 Chevy with a glint in his eye and something sharp in his hand. Well-worn this set up certainly is, but still well-loved.

Guilty Parties-

Zodiac

The Town that Dreaded Sundown

Cherry Falls

6. The Dream

A well-placed dream sequence can be very effective at generating scares, partly because all the usual narrative rules can be thrown out the window. Dream sequences will commonly be used for moments of stomach-churning body horror, or darkly surreal trips into the depths of a character’s psyche.

Guilty Parties-

Videodrome

Rosemary’s Baby

Carrie

Mulholland Drive

7. Bloody Messages

There’s nothing more mysterious than a cryptic message… Except a cryptic message left in what one can only assume is the writer’s blood.

Guilty Parties-

Hellraiser

Hammer Films

You’re Next

8. Killing a Zombified/Vampirised/Werewolfisized Loved One

This is a cliché seen in almost every modern zombie film, as well as a number of vampire and werewolf movies to boot. When done right, the dispatching of a recently ‘turned’ loved one can evoke a complex response from an audience, regardless of how many times we’ve seen a similar set-up before.

Guilty Parties-

Curse of the Werewolf

28 Days Later

Dracula: Prince of Darkness

28 Weeks Later

 

9. The Ragdolling Spirit

The Anti-Gravity Spirit trope usually happens towards the end of a film, once mystery and ambiguity have gone out the window. Now we know there is something supernatural going on in the house and the malevolent presence no longer cares to hide itself, deciding instead to send characters ragdolling around the house, or spasming into awkward forms.

Guilty Parties-

The Conjuring

The Exorcist

The Babadook

10. The Car Won’t Start

Regardless of how new your car is, or how recently you filled it up with petrol (or gas American friends), there is just no way it’s going to start first time when there’s a killer nearby.

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