Time for a wide range of cliches!
Today I would like to return to one of my favourite topics, Cliches!
As we’ve discussed before cliches can range from phrases to characters, to scenes, and beyond. They are an overused trope and often portray a lack of original thought.
Despite that clearly negative definition, there is a time and place for cliches, particularly around certain characters, as they allow an audience to gain an understanding and expectation very quickly. So, on occasion, a cliché can be a useful tool to impart information quickly. Though it is best used sparingly and if used in relation to characters it should only be applied to very small, very side characters.
With that out of the way, today I want to talk to you about monster cliches!
With monsters being a highlight of the horror genre, certain kinds of monsters have a lot of tropes attached to them. I have already done a few letters on specific monsters, vampires, werewolves, ghosts etc. today I want to talk about a wider range of overused monsters and the even more overused tropes that come with them.
Angels & Demons: Angels and demons are two sides of a very similar coin when it comes to cliches. An angel being a celestial being and a demon being a demonic being, in horror both are usually summoned to earth to fulfil the summoner’s desire. More often than not there’s a sacrificial element to the summoning. though things often go wrong during the summoning and everyone dies.
Big scary animal: This does what it says on the tin, it’s an animal and it’s usually oversized, think most shark horror films, Lake Placid style crocs etc. usually the animal will also be smarter than it should be. Sometimes the animal’s strangeness will be because its prehistoric, other times it will be the result of man’s intervention via science or pollution.
Clowns: This trope is one of my least favourites, it’s super lazy. It’s not difficult to create a scary clown, hell half the time just a normal clown will do. A combination of John Wayne Gacy and Stephen King’s IT have made the clown the go-to scary monster for those who just can’t think of something better.
Anyone who doesn’t live in the city: Again another bugbear of mine, these stories generally involve a city-based family getting lost out in the country and finding a group of inbred county peeps who like to do the murder. I understand how in stories set in the time before easy and fast transport was a thing people could get isolated and isolated communities can be weird, but these days even if you live out in the sticks you’re very unlikely to go hermit crazy. I particularly liked how the Simpsons debunked this trope in the episode Bonfire of the Manatees. Homer visits his ‘country bumkin’ cousins and constantly tries to get them to conform to ‘country’ tropes, moonshine and low intelligence mainly, and they pretty much don’t. My favourite line was ‘Rubes, so many rubes, pounding me with their jet skis, no rubes!’ This trope reminds me of homer and his sheer persistence to force this stereotype no matter the evidence to the contrary.
Body Doubles: This can be an evil twin kind of body double or a more science clone type of body double, or even a supernatural ‘I summoned a demon and it nicked my face’ kind of body double. the trope usually involves an exact physical double of the character acting in ways the copied character never would. It’s often frustrating as no one questions the authenticity of the double, they just assume it’s the main character being a jerk. No one questions, hey so-and-so has done a 180 personality shift for the worse, let’s look into that.
Evil AI: unemotional central intelligence usually tries to wipe out humanity because we suck, or they need our resources. Think The Matrix, Skynet, HAL 9000, VIKI the list goes on.
Mad Scientist: A hangover from Frankenstein this person, like Victor, will be short-sighted, selfishly motivated and usually extremely smart in a scientific sense but dumb as mud in other ways.
Parasite: The monster has a fair few tropes attached to it, it can be a mindless swarm, a swarm but with a central intelligence, a creature which effectively possesses the host and controls them. They are often very similar to the virus kind of monster but visually more threatening as the creator can have fun describing or showing them depending on the medium. Think headcrabs from half-life.