Horror Movie Tropes That Never Get Old: Our Favorite Slasher Flick Go-Tos
November 20, 2017 By Cait Russell
Creepy Clowns Are One of the Most Iconic Horror Movie Tropes of All Time.
Photo by: Hersson Piratoba, via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
When it comes to horror movies, there are certain things that fans have come to know, love, and anticipate when watching horror flicks - in fact, there are a ton of themes, twists, and focus points that have become so embedded in the Horror Genre that they're now seen as tropes and cliches. While that might sound bad, a lot of these cliches are what makes the genre so popular, and many of these iconic tropes have in fact become fan favorites over the years.
Here are our top Horror Movie Tropes:
- Dolls Can, and Will, Ruthlessly Murder You If You Cross Them - Ah, the good ol' trope that dolls are in fact living, or can be possessed. Everyone knows dolls are creepy, and the closer they get to that "uncanny valley" territory, the creepier they are. So what does this mean for horror flicks? Well, it should come as no surprise to horror lovers that if there's a doll featured in a horror movie, it's probably alive/evil/possessed, and it will almost undoubtedly by the protagonist if it's featured in the movie's artwork or posters.
This trope was downright perfected by the Child's Play/Chucky franchise, with Chucky being the gold standard for outlandishly evil dolls.
- If Someone or Something Bites You, You're Gonna Have a Bad Time - Whether it's a cute woodland creature, a bug, or a zombie, if something bites you in a horror movie, you're as good as dead, unless of course you're the single A-Lister in the movie, in which case you'll miraculously find an antidote at the last minute.
If you're not the A-Lister? Well, then you're going to suffer an awful fate - you'll either be rabid, transformed into some sort of zombie, or die a hideously painful death where your veins turn blue-black as the venom/poison pulses through you.
- Reading Texts of Latin or Unknown Languages Will Inevitably End Up Summoning Some Sort of Hell Spawn (Bonus Points for Possession) - So, this one is pretty straight forward. A protagonist is in a spooky place - a creepy haunted house, a graveyard, a weird old library, their dead grandma's attic, whatever - and they happen upon a scroll, a letter, an engraved stone, or some other "letter" that's inscribed with a message in a language they're unfamiliar with.
Despite the "letter" often being really ominous - written in blood, sprinkled with demonic imagery, burned, or just looking creepy, the finder of said evil letter always decides the best course of action is to slowly sound out the words written on the page. Typically, this is paired with cut scenes of the soon-to-be-awakened demon beginning to wake up from its thousand-year+ slumber. If you aren't familiar with the words, and they're written on something covered in demons and creepy imagery, why not Google it before reading it out loud and unleashing terror onto your town?
In more modern movies, part of this trope can also include the demon/vampire/monster/undead summoner Googling the phrase after they've already summoned up terror, so why not maybe...you know, look it up before hand?
- If Someone Looks in a Mirror or Out a Window in a Horror Movie, You're About to Be Scared to Death - Even Though You Know What's Coming - It doesn't matter how "prepared" you are, or how many horror movies you've seen, and that's kind of the point of this trope - it provides a good jump scare. Usually, a protagonist slowly approaches a mirror or window, after they've already had some sort of unsettling feeling. They know something weird is happening, but they're not sure what, or, they think they've gotten to safety, but they need to double check.
That's when the mirror and/or window comes into play - they either look into the mirror, where there might even be a dramatic pause before seeing some sort of horror behind them (bonus points for turning around, only to see nothing there), or out the window, only to find that whatever they've been fearing is right. there.
This one is always good for a jump scare, and it also is impressive how quietly, and quickly horror movie villains can move.
- No One Should Ever, Ever Go in the Basement. Seriously. - Basements are an easy trope to take advantage of, so why not? Most homes have a basement, and they're often poorly lit (perfect for hiding), filled with old "stuff" that's often creepy, and in the case of super old abandoned homes, there could even be bugs, rats, and other nasty things that no one likes. So your adrenaline is probably pumping already. Oh, and the only exit, generally speaking, is the single flight of easily-blockable stairs you used to get yourself into this dark, dank terror filled room.
So when you factor in the inherent creepiness of basements, it's no surprise that they're used so frequently in horror movies as the place where "it" happens. Well, what is it? It could be a lot of things - an encounter with a monster/villain/spirit, a grizzly confrontation, or a super close call.
Why people keep going in the basement while they're being terrorized by some sort of evil? We have no idea.
- Never Trust a Clown. Ever. - This one is pretty straight forward. If there's a clown in a horror movie, then you known damn well he's the bad guy before the film even begins to roll. If you grew up in the 90s, then you undoubtedly had nightmares about Tim Curry's Pennywise, regardless of whether or not you saw "IT" - his pervasive presence and performance as the creepy clown frankly set the bar for creepy clowns, and frankly all you needed to see was the Pennywise-adorned VHS Cover of "IT" at Blockbuster to have nightmares.
Clowns in horror movies persist because they're so versatile, yet universally creepy - they could be terrorizing you at a fair that's come to town, they could come out on Halloween to slaughter the innocent, or, they could just be lurking in a sewer drain with a red balloon for an unsuspecting child. They also are a great antagonist for one of the most beloved genres of horror - Horror Comedy, where the drama and gore can be so over the top, they become funny. I guess that means clowns are good for something.
What's Your Favorite Horror Movie Trope? Let Us Know in the Comments Below!