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04.16.2008by: Jim Law

Top 10 Horror Cliches That Need to Die

I'm starting to seriously wonder if there's some sort of template available online for shitty horror writers. It's filled with the ridiculous staples of modern horror, suggests cheesy dialogue when you're blocked, and even has a handful of character arcs in it's database for the heroes you want to keep alive at the end. All you have to do is give the characters trendy names, pick a setting, and wait for your Razzie nomination. Finding a good original horror movie to watch lately seems harder than actually making one. Lazy filmmakers somehow convince these popular actors (I'm looking right at you Mrs. Prinze) to sign up, which leads to some money, which leads to a relentless advertising campaign, until finally, our curiosity gets the best of us and we waste an hour an a half of our life. Wanna play a fun game? Read this list and then go rent P2. Every time something you just read happens down a shot of your favourite booze. Just before you die you'll realize what I'm talking about.

10. Bleeding Walls

Typical Set-Up: Haunted House wants people out so it starts leaking blood. It's gotten to a point where this wouldn't even scare me in real life. Sure, I'd be a little pissed about the foundation damage and the stained carpets but as a scare tactic, I probably wouldn't even get off the couch. This goes for paintings, plant life, and statues of Jebus too. The shit just ain't scary. Supernatural beings should stop playing with petty little tricks like this and cut to the chase. Wanna make something bleed, try my nipples. Game over. You win. I'm out.

9. Cats

Typical Set-Up: Shelly hears something in the house. While exploring, a cat explodes from the closet. This is usually combined with the sound editor pumping the volume to 11. This only worked once. The movie was called PET SEMATARY, the cat's name was Church, and she was a zombie-cat. You see, zombie-cats have a different set of rules when it comes to being scary. When Fluffynuts, the family pet, jumps out at you she usually gets caressed and fed for not being evil. When Church, the zombie-cat, jumps out at you she growls something that can only be compared to a record of Satan being played backwards and then rolls her eyes into the back of her head while cleaning herself of the dirt from the grave you just buried her in. One's a cheap scare, the other is just f*cked up.

8. The Last Second Fix

Typical Set-Up: In order to escape (or kill) the bad guy our hero must use some sort of device that won't work until the very last second. You ever notice how villains always get to the elevator just as it closes? Or how the car won't start until he's standing right outside the window? The gun won't fire until he's right on top of him or her? The bomb won't blow up until the last possible chance? You get the point. How many times do we have to go through this during a typical slasher film before there's a pay-off? Have you ever thought "Oh my God, this is it. That elevator is never going to close on time and the lead character is going to die a half hour in."? Never. Quit treating us like idiots. Quit watching HALLOWEEN before you sit down to write and rehashing the same shit over and over again. Just quit. You suck.

7. Crazy Mirrors

Typical Set-Up: Some traumatized loser looks into a mirror to see something scary behind them. When they turn around, it's gone. Think long and hard about how f*cking useless this is. It's as cheap a scare as you're ever going to get. Ignoring the fact that we can all see it coming a mile away, whenever somebody is alone in front of a mirror, what purpose does it serve? If that ghoul was really behind her she'd have to fight it. But it's not. That ghoul must have really had a powerful effect on her. I hope so, it just tried to kill her five times in the scene prior. Her imagination is really off the hook. Seriously? Imagining what happens in a horror movie is real is what's supposed to make it scary, as in - Imagine a zombie-cat latched on to your nut-sack. Now I have to imagine she's imagining something scary. My head hurts.

6. Urban Heroes

Typical Set-Up: Street wise punks fighting bad guys while saying things like "That's what I'm talkin' about." and "Awww, hell no." I'd like to sit down with the guy responsible for having Busta Rymes fight Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION. I'd start off the conversation by saying " Wouldn't it be cool to see a movie where the Bloods and the Crips travel back in time to lay a beat down on some dinosaurs?" Then, before he could respond, I would slap him so hard his face would explode and his dog would die. Watch Nick Cannon in that new DAY OF THE DEAD remake and try not wishing he'd die every time he's on screen. It's impossible. The scariest things about movies that feature these characters is fearing that they survive until the end.

5. Dropping Shit

Typical Set-Up: Jesse has a 30 seconds to unlock the door and escape sure death. This would be much easier if she stopped dropping the f*cking keys. This applies to almost everything useful in a horror film. Bullets, guns, knives, keys, phones, flashlights, they all seem to be smothered in baby oil before the scene starts. It's amazing how stupid and clumsy people get when their life is on the line. When my brother used to chase me around the house for another unjust beating I transformed into a ninja. So graceful and quick I was, with the hand-eye coordination of a sharp shooter and the agility of an uber-monkey. And he wasn't even trying to kill me..... I think.

4. Dreams

Typical Set-Up: Something incredible happens, taking us by complete surprise. Character wakes up. You ever notice some of the coolest moments in film happen during the token dream sequence? Main characters die, monsters reveal themselves, shy girls show their boobs, and then they wake up, reminding us that what we just saw didn't really happen. Why is that a good thing? Sure, it's a great tool for foreshadowing but for the most part it just feels like the director had a really cool idea for a scene and tried to squeeze it in without disturbing an otherwise shitty script.

3. Cell Phones Never Work

Typical Set-Up: The title kind of says it all. As soon as they need it, victim's cell phone implodes. This is the most recent cliché on the list. Due to technology advances directors have found themselves having to deal with the fact that every victim, moronic or not, probably has a cell phone. What to do? Make the battery run out. Make sure there's no reception where they're going to die. Destroy it. One of those three things usually happens in the first act, removing it as an option early on, so I guess if you're out and notice any of these with you're phone you're going to die approximately 45 minutes from that moment. Go home.

2. Stupid Cops

Typical Set-Up: Police show up to make sure everything is okay, missing any and all clues of shenanigans, and promptly leave. Is there anything more frustrating than seeing a clueless cop step over a puddle of blood? Or stop in the doorway of a dark room filled with body parts and then walk away? My favorite is when they blame strange noises on the wind. It isn't only the officers either. How many times have the victims finally got to a phone and then put on hold after dialing 911? Unless the main character is a cop they're deemed useless in the world of horror. They bring us hope for a split second and then fail us again and again by either dying or leaving. Just like my first 10 girlfriends.

1. Uh, He's Not Dead Yet

Typical Set-Up: Good guy kills bad guy, drops their weapon and then realizes the movie's not over yet. The most ridiculous and over-used cliché there is. This is why there's 768 combined Jason, Michael, and Freddy movies. Everybody knows they're not really dead the first time. Everybody knows you shouldn't have thrown that gun away after shooting him six times in the face. Everybody knows he's going to jump up just as you walk by. Everybody knows, and that's why this feels so tired. When I'm in the mood, all this shit can be a lot of fun (see HATCHET) but for the time being I'm still on the hunt for a horror movie that delivers in story as much as it does in scares. Call me when you find one, just make sure your cell phone is charged.



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