Horror Movie Clichés

Horror Movie Clichés

I’m an avid horror fan who gets a kick out of watching the creativity that filmmakers push for in films to invoke fear (esp. low budget ones). But having recently viewed all of Horrorfest 2006’s “8 Films To Die For”, horror movies play to certain rules that I can not avoid noticing anymore. These are the things that occur in a typical horror movie:

NOTE: If you believe I am missing any, please feel free to add to the comment box below. If I feel appropriate, I will incorporate in my list. Thanks!


  • In the opening prologue scene, a character is attacked by an unseen force, at which point the camera pans skywards, and we hear the sound of the victim’s screams echoing into the night.
  • The events in the film happen exactly one year later after the horrifying, tragic opening sequence.
  • The main protagonists wakes up full of sweat, from just having a nightmare of the prologue sequence.
  • A character will throw up when arriving at a bloody crime scene.
  • There is always a divorced parent who wants to start a new life with his/her kids.
  • A rebellious, foul-mouthed teenager will defy his/her divorced parent, and will take out his/her stress by picking on a younger sibling.
  • Then the divorced parent neglects the youngest child, in which the child ends up wandering off into a dark forest. The parent yells into the forest,”Where are you, Timmy?!” When the child finally returns in a daze, the parent yanks the child’s arm and says,”Don’t you ever wander off again like that again!” Then the child comes out of his/her daze and screams,”You’re hurting me!” Then the child explains that she was “just visiting her new [invisible/imaginary] best friend.”
  • The cast consists of teenage stereotypes that includes the hunk, his girlfriend, the nice guy, the dork, and the girlfriend’s single (and horny) girlfriend (whom the dork wants to get at, but she’s in love with the nice guy).
  • The characters always stop in the middle of a desert at a rundown gas station to fill up fuel for their vehicle. The gas attendant is malnourished, unkempt, and needs serious dental work. He’s always wearing overalls.
  • A dog barks and growls at an unseen presence. But, the dog’s owner ignores this warning, and yells at the dog,”Shaddup, Fido!”
  • There’s always a drunk, religious freak shouting out biblical verses of the coming of Judgment Day.
  • While driving, someone always wants to take a shortcut. In this event, the vehicle will eventually breakdown.
  • A car driving on a deserted road will eventually swerve to avoid hitting a drifter or hitchhiker. If there is a passenger, he would point and scream,”Look out!”
  • Cell phones have no signals.
  • During one transition of a scene, there is an image of fog passing a full moon. If the filmmaker is creative, there’s the sound of a coyote howling or the silhouette of a bat flying.
  • When a person is quietly waiting in a car, a shadow will appear and smashes the window.
  • The vehicle never starts, especially when impending doom is approaching.
  • There is bound to be the sound of a giggling baby.
  • The dumb blonde will eventually show her boobs. She will fuck some guy. They will both die while fucking.
  • The ghost/killer/monster (or cat) always runs past behind a character with a swooshing sound causing the character to turn his/her head with fear. Or, this also occurs when the character looks out through a small window, causing a character (and audience) to jump back. (a.k.a. “The Pop Out” scene)
  • Most of the time, it’s only a cat.
  • A character in a bathroom is looking at him/herself in the cabinet mirror. He opens the door cabinet to grab medication/band aid/toothbrush. When the door is closed to see the mirror again, the killer/ghost/monster is in the reflection. We never see this character again for the rest of the movie.
  • When a 911 call is successfully made, either the caller ends up dropping the receiver or the receiver gets knocked out of the hand by an attacker. Then we can hear the dispatcher on the phone receiver saying,”Hello? Hello? Anyone there?”
  • If a character is relaxing in a bathtub, he/she will be pulled into the water by an unseen force.
  • No character is ever smart enough to stick together as a group.
  • A female character says,”Please don’t leave me.” Her (potential) boyfriend tells her,”I have no choice, I have to go. I’ll be back. Stay here. You’ll be safe. Nothing will happen to you.” He ends up killed. She will eventually be the heroine of the movie.
  • There’s one character that says,”Stay here. I’ll go check it out!” Then he (it’s always a ‘he’) sneaks up behind the waiting character and scares her (it’s always a ‘her’) as she exclaims,”That’s not funny!” But, he eventually gets killed later in the movie.
  • When a sound is heard, the lone character whispers,”Fred, is that you?”
  • When a sound is heard, and there are two characters, one will say to the other,”Did you hear that?” And the other’s response would be,”Hear what?”
  • A character is always walking backwards when sneaking away from potential danger.
  • There’s always the light switch that won’t turn on. And the flashlight that goes out.
  • Unlocked doors are locked. Doors that are locked are suddenly unlocked. And there’s bound to be one scene where a door slowly opens with no one entering.
  • All the light bulbs pop.
  • Characters always walk into the darkest areas… and never come out again.
  • There are rats and roaches that run in packs. There’s bound to be one rat/roach hanging off a female character’s shoulder or hair.
  • A character turns around as the camera does a quick pan to the new direction the character is facing, revealing either the killer or one of his missing friends. This is synced with a loud, jarring sound chord.
  • When a character investigates some mysterious noise, he/she is tip-toeing slowly (sometimes holding a golf club, fire poker, umbrella, or some other form of stick) while the film’s soundtrack is absent of any music. As he/she gets closer to the source of the mysterious noise, either a phone rings or someone is knocking on a door loud enough to, literally, wake the dead.
  • When a phone rings, and it is answered, no one is on the other line (except for heavy breathing).
  • There’s bound to be a trail of blood (sometimes in the form of footprints) that the character(s) indiscriminately follow.
  • A character is bound to accidentally get his hand cut when preparing food or forcing a stuck door/machinery to work.
  • The authorities never believe the horror that is happening. And when they finally witness it first hand, they get killed.
  • Why are hospital corridors always empty and the lights are blinking on and off? And there would be a mentally ill person shuffling (mumbling incoherently) from one door and disappears through another.
  • There’s buckets of blood sliding down the walls and stairs.
  • Doctors and scientists always say they “never seen anything like this before”.
  • There’s bound to be a dialogue where someone says,”This can’t be real!” or they scream,”What the fuck is that?”
  • The character that tends to have the most knowledge that can help solve the horrific situation tends to be too afraid to speak, or proclaims that “no one can handle the truth.” But, when he/she, finally speaks, he/she is killed.
  • When the surviving characters finally regroup, one of them is going to say,”We’re all gonna die, aren’t we?”
  • There’s always a 6-year-old child (live or ghosts) holding a doll (missing an arm or a leg), staring with dead set eyes. Then he quietly walks away.
  • The young child’s (who initially wandered off into the forest) imaginary friend will finally be revealed as the killer/ghost/monster.
  • There’s always one female character whose dialogue consists of nothing but whining and screaming (and running). (a.k.a. Scream Queens.)
  • The car, trying to elude the evil pursuer, eventually gets stuck in a ditch. And the driver is screaming,”Go! Go! Go!” when gunning the engine and banging the steering wheel.
  • A character is bound to sprain an ankle, forcing him/her to either hop on one leg or drag the foot as he escapes from the killer/ghost/monster.
  • A tired character falls to the ground while being chased. A friend yells,”Run!” The fallen character says,”I can’t!” The friend continues to yell,”Run!” The fallen character stands up and begins to run again, never to be tired for the rest of the movie.
  • The killer is always wearing a mask. And when he is finally unmasked, he’s disfigured (possibly from burns), missing some teeth, have bulging eyes, and acts as if he has an IQ of a young child.
  • When a victim is being strangled, he/she is able to reach for a weapon (usually a knife or a pencil) with one hand without the attacker noticing. And chances are, the victim will stick the weapon in one of the attacker’s eyes.
  • In the end, there is a dream sequence where the character wakes up acknowledging that it was all a dream. But the killer/ghost/monster appears out of nowhere, and drags the character away.
  • The lone survivor, whom is always female, either did not have sex during the movie, or have no interests in sex, or is still a virgin. But she will lose her virginity in the sequel to someone she loves. This lover ends up dead when the killer returns for another cliché horror movie.
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