The Grizzly Claw

Hollywood Trope Massacre

Photo Courtesy of Dave Cobb

Photo Courtesy of Dave Cobb

Jesse Herrera, Writer

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It’s midnight in a suburban neighborhood on Friday the 13th. Samantha is alone watching TV and talking on the phone when she hears a loud crash coming from the attic. Of course, Samantha makes the most sensible decision. She hangs up the phone, trots up the stairs to investigate and shouts, “Is anyone there?” Anyone who has watched a horror film can probably guess what happens next.

Familiar scenarios like this can be found in just about every horror movie in existence. Sometimes they are given an original spin and add to the terror. At other times, they’re clumsy cliches used to cover up a non-existent plot. Even classics like The Exorcist, Halloween, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have utilized these tropes.

Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, they have become a staple of the genre. So here is a list of commonly used tropes to stay on the lookout for when you have your next horror movie marathon, and it’s right on time for Halloween.

Modern Witch Hunts

Apparently, most serial killers have pretty lofty morals aside from their penchant for dismembering people. According to this horror trope, that first sip of beer could be your last. In 80’s and 90’s slasher films, any character who drinks alcohol, takes drugs, has premarital sex or isn’t an absolute angel will inevitably meet a hellish demise. It’s as if the Spanish Inquisition time-traveled from the 1,500’s, and donned hockey masks to deliver death sentences to modern-day sinners.

Legends of the Dumb

No matter the movie, you can always count on at least one character to lose all common sense at the worst possible moment. They venture into creepy places like attics or basements to investigate noises that would make the rest of us call 911. They corner themselves upstairs instead of running out the front door. Some drive erratically into a random tree in their only escape vehicle. Even better, others drop their weapon, then walk back to check if the killer is dead. We know you’re traumatized, but really?

Back to the Dark Ages

Power is out, the phone’s not working, and well, anything that could be useful in terms of surviving is suddenly out of commission. This trope has become unavoidable on every movie set in our relentlessly connected current-day society. In the old days, a killer could just cut the phone line. But it’s tougher to kill Suzie now that she has a cell phone, which is probably why an increasing number of horror films are set in the past. The moral is, charge your cell and pay your power bill kids.

Infamous Final Girls

This one is more closely tied to slasher films but is still used enough to appear on this list. As you can guess from the trope’s name, “the final girl” refers to the last surviving member of the group, and surprise, it’s a woman. This cliche may originate from the sexist assumption that since a woman can’t be tough, her survival will be shocking. Yet, after hundreds of films used this trope and viewers began to see women as capable, this outcome was nothing short of predictable.

Bad Building Plans

This is a popular one for paranormal films. From old mansions or abandoned asylums to that secluded cabin in the woods, walking into certain types of buildings mean a character’s days are numbered. Whether the structure is built on a sacred tribal burial ground or on the entrance to hell itself, these isolated spaces always give the killer unlimited options to terrorize the characters without interruption. There is no repair man alive or dead who can fix that.

Tripping Over Nothing

This is by far the longest living, most used trope in horror history. Every single time, without fail, the victim trips at least once while the killer is in pursuit. No matter how coordinated or physically fit, no character is immune to this disability. The unfortunately placed object may vary. A hole, branch, dead body or the character’s own feet may get in their way.  One thing is certain. They will all fall down…many, many times.

The End…Just Kidding

The last character is bloody, exhausted and hobbling away from a trauma that will haunt them for a lifetime. Yet, at least their still alive….cue zombie hand shooting up from out of the ground or serial killer body disappearing from the back porch. They just won’t die! Sadly, neither will this trope. It gives studios the option of a sequel if we spent enough money to see the first film. Yes, it’s greedy, but if we loved the film, we may be giddy to see that demon or killer clown has risen to reek terror for days to come.

Enjoy spotting these tropes during your future horror-movie ventures, but above all else, don’t explore that abandoned mine shafts unless you’re a morally impeccable woman with a fully-charged cell phone and a shady friend, and no matter who you are…please, please don’t go into the basement.

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