Lights, Camera, Cliche
Today I want 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 cliches specific to horror films. That’s not to say they never turn up in books, comics or games but they are far more likely to be encountered in the film where the run time is limited.
These tropes have been called out again and again and have even been turned into ‘rules’ for surviving horror movies. Scream was a good film for looking at the ‘rules’ as was Cabin in the Woods (an awesome film go watch it now).
On a slightly less ‘fun’ note a lot of these tropes have negative connotations such as racial (black people usually dying first) and sexist (women constantly being portrayed objectively), I’m trying to keep things light-hearted so won’t be going into this but I didn’t want you to think I was totally ignoring it either. Some tropes aren’t just lazy, they bloody suck.
A couple having sex when they get murdered
Sex sells, so films tend to put sex in there somewhere. Sex is also very life-affirming so is a nice contrast to all the death and murder going on. However, if you were in a life-or-death situation, then horney is unlikely to be at the top of your emotional spectrum.
The sex ending in death trope is prolific to the point where if someone starts it you know how it will end.
Women running and constantly falling down
I understand that this trope was created most likely as a way to raise tension but it’s now gotten to the point where it’s insane. Women, the world over simply cannot run without falling down. The one exception to this film is Jurassic World where our heroine spends the movie running from dinosaurs in stilettos and manages to outrun a T-Rex.
Sticking with the female theme, the final girl is such a well-used trope that it’s beyond boring. Usually the pretty (but not the most pretty), prudish, sensible and responsible character. She will often either be the last one to die or the survivor. She can be spotted a mile off and thus tension whenever she’s in danger is always low.
The car is a piece of shit
Horror films hate cars. Or rather they overuse a mechanical fault to raise tension. Oh no the car, which was either always a piece of junk or was perfect till now, suddenly won’t start! Allowing the threat to get closer and closer and closer.
Cryptic local warning dude
Should the film portray a bunch of too-old-to-be-teens-but-somehow-still-teens going somewhere, maybe camping, or to a cabin, or visiting an old house, or taking a disused shortcut, you can bet there will be a local warning them away.
This local will usually seem somewhat deranged, and often is physically disadvantaged in some way, be it via age, ascetically or disability. The group of too-old-teens will always ignore them, though if the group has a final girl she’ll want to listen to them.