- RatedPG13 /GenreHorror, Thriller
Here's the thing about Hollywood horror movies these days: Most of them are cheap thrillers that can scare you as well as the box office with a simple "boo".
For the most part, horror flicks cost a fraction to make compared to other movie genres, but the returns are tremendous.
James Wan’s scare fest, ‘The Conjuring’, for example, is one horror film that toppled tent-pole blockbuster fare such as ‘Pacific Rim’ and ‘Turbo’ when it opened in North America and has made US$318 million (S$426 million) at the global box office. It cost just US$20 million to make.
Its 2014 follow-up ‘Annabelle’, a prequel of sorts, took home US$206 million globally with a production cost of US$6.5 million.
Another example would be writer-director James DeMonaco's sleeper hit, the US$3 million ‘The Purge', which took in US$36 million – or 12 times its production budget – in its first three days at the box office.
So let's just say they are like fast-food fare for movie audiences – devoid of much nutrients and substance, cheap to produce, the recipes are about the same, and yet the demand remains high because they fulfil some kind of craving.
Still, one can take only so much unoriginal offerings. Here are the cliches and tropes in horror flicks that we're sick of seeing.
A shadow passes over the screen quickly
‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death’ (2014)
Did someone smudge the camera? The black splotch moving past the camera, along with a loud sound cue, is a lazy foreshadowing tactic, probably to ensure that the audience hasn't fallen asleep after the early parts of the first half-hour.
Lights flickering along a long corridor
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (2010)
When you switch off a light in a room, somehow it never stays that way. Ghosts appear to enjoy playing with the light-switch, seemingly following the movement of the would-be victim. Maybe ghosts get electrician training in the afterlife.
What's in the mirror?
If the person is having a shave or getting some medicine from the bathroom cabinet, and there's a mirror, you know that the director is going to play a game of hide-and-seek. The face of the serial killer/ghost/spirit will pop up in the reflection, or it might be somebody who just likes to stand behind people. Whichever one it is, it has been done to death.
Running around with camera while the baddie is behind you
‘Rec 2’ (2010)
It's one of the biggest problems with found-footage films. At the end of the film, instead of running for their lives, the victim is running around with a camera, causing nausea to the audience while the baddie is right behind the door or around the corner. We've suspended our disbelief enough. Grab a crowbar, baseball bat, hockey stick, or something else... but a video camera which has a red light at the front indicating its recording and your whereabouts? Little wonder they wind up dead.
Victim getting dragged off-screen
‘The Grudge 2’ (2006)
Another all-too-common tactic of found-footage horror. Not showing things onscreen was meant to let the audience imagine what could be happening. Remember the ear-cutting scene in 'Reservoir Dogs'? Now it just appears to be a ruse to save on the special-effects budget. And annoyingly, it usually takes place at the end of films.
No cell phone signal
There is an entire video about this overused trope (watch above clip). Yes, we understand that there's a need to explain why the victims aren't calling the police or their friends, or tweeting about their creepy encounters, but find some more creative ways to do it. Maybe they were put through to a slack officer on the police hotline?
Let's split up the group
‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2012)
This is a sure way to get more mileage out of your cast and more kills. The group, probably comprising teenagers, decides to split up and go in separate directions. Viewers groan as they try to comprehend the stupidity of the victims while the killer starts picking them off one by one.
The slow-moving killer
‘The Shining’ (1980)
It seems that serial killers stand on some kind of hovermobile to get them to the victim in a flash, but like cats, they prefer to tease and torment their victim before the final kill. Somehow, the predator has an internal GPS map that helps him tail his prey in stealth mode, before he appears right in front of the victim. Endurance training and psychopathic self-control needed for this, and it is also a much-used technique to keep the audience on edge.
Killers /ghosts that won't die
‘Halloween’ series (1978-2009)
Just when you think the movie's over and the ghost has been banished into a little teacup or the killer is dead, the filmmakers bring the killer back for one last scare and "Got you!" moment. And even with that, it still ends on a predictable cliffhanger that begs for a sequel.
Dolls are one thing that you'll definitely see a lot in horror movies, from ‘Child’s Play’, ‘The Poltergeist’ to recent fare such as ‘Saw’ and ‘The Conjuring’. Dolls are creepy, but they just seem so overused in movies these days that they're as scary as the minions from ‘Despicable Me’.