Images provided by author. Top: Guy cowering because he’s afraid of the ghost.
October: The air becomes colder, the clouds shroud the sky in a dark hue, and the best of all? Halloween is here! This is the day everyone dresses up as their favorite creatures and characters and kids enjoy going door to door receiving candy. It is a great time of the year. But everyone knows what else comes with Halloween: horror films. Many people, scared or not, love watching a horror film while bunched up in a blanket or in a theater with some friends. It’s just a good way of killing time and a way to have some spooky fun.
But, have you noticed that recently they’ve gotten maybe a little…bland? Many horror movies have begun to feel the same, with newer movies being more and more like each other. This is because some cliches are becoming rampant in the horror genre. From lost footage films to relying on cheap jump scares to cliche character types, the horror movie ring has sort of been dry.
Lost footage for example. When it first debuted with The Blair Witch Project (1999), it was seen as a cinematic original for the way it was filmed. A horror movie presented through found footage of presumed dead missing people felt terrifying because it felt like it was real and authentic. Many movies attempt the same video-taping style, but they have begun to all feel similar or familiar, partially due to unoriginality. For example, the genre is almost exclusively dominated by the paranormal. Gonjiam: Haunted Hospital (2018), As Above, So Below (2014), Lake Mungo (2008), Hell House LLC (2015) are all paranormal movies with a ghost or group of ghosts as their main villains.
In addition, it’s almost odd how exaggerated some chases or falls have become. People seem to fall in horror movies on nothing, or seem to be running in slow motion, or perhaps they have an opportunity to leave but the car won’t start. It’s gotten so out of hand with characters randomly falling, or people losing their glasses, or seeming like they are taking their sweet time running away from a killer or leaving a haunted house, it’s become a running joke on the internet. Look at Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th or Michael Myers from Halloween: they basically just do a slow and steady trot toward someone in a chase scene.
Also, some movies rely purely on jumpscares. It’s excessive. It’s fine if you use them sometimes, since every horror movie should make you jump: It’s what makes a scary movie scary, they are a quintessential part of a horror movie. But, in so many movies they just use the same scenarios to the point that you can now predict jump scares based on situations that are used so often. In the basement or dark spaces like in The Conjuring (2013), opening the closet like in Ring (2002) or turning around or looking up after it opens, or peeking out from under the covers or peering back under them like Ju-on: The Grudge (2002): there are many scenarios where it’s almost painfully obvious that there will be a jumpscare. If jumpscares are the backbone of a movie, there are only cheap scares, and eventually that gets predictable and old. Look at the Insidious sequels, where they just kept adding more jumpscares as the movies went on. In contrast, the first had the right amount to keep someone on their toes.
These are just a taste of horror movie cliches. Am I saying these movies aren’t enjoyable? Of course not. Especially if you’re with someone or a group of friends, watching any horror movie is fun if it is at least scaring you. But eventually if they don’t evolve, they will become less enjoyable.