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Classic horror movie clichés to look for this Halloween

Alaysia B. Smith
Staff Writer

The Haunted House

This is practically a giveaway. The haunted house genre takes our most inner fears and turns them into reality. Films that center on a haunted house keep the same set up: a family moves into a new house, inexplicable events occur and then it’s a race against time as the family has to find a way to outwit the haunters. What makes this cliché scary is the mystery of what is haunting the house. For the most part, what’s haunting the house is a vengeful spirit (or spirits) that won’t rest until it claims a new victim.

“Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) looses his sanity while working at an isolated hotel in the 1980 horror classic “The Shining.”
“Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) looses his sanity while working at an isolated hotel in the 1980 horror classic “The Shining.”

Without any twist or turns, this cliché becomes very boring and dull. Fresh ideas constantly need to be added, or the horror movie itself will be nothing more than jump scares and recycled storylines. Classic haunted house movies are “13 Ghosts,” “The Amityville Horror,” “The Evil Dead” and “The Shining.” More recent films that bring something special to the table are “The Conjuring” and “Sinister.” And then there are the films where the spirit just can’t be destroyed or has a more complex agenda, such as “The Grudge,” “The Women in Black” and “Mama.”

A subgenre of this cliché is “found footage”, where movie goers view the film through a camera used by one of the characters. The footage found in the film usually stars dead/missing people that came into contact with spiritual or unknown beings. This cliché is becoming more and more popular with films like “Paranormal Activity,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “V/H/S” and “Chronicle.”

A family is haunted by a demon in the 2010 hit “Insidious.”
A family is haunted by a demon in the 2010 hit “Insidious.”

Demonic Beings

This cliché is much like the haunted house cliché, however as a rule of thumb ghosts haunt places, demons haunt things. Demonic beings are more horrifying than ghosts because they’re evil incarnate sent by the devil himself. They are more malevolent and have one goal in mind: to live in the human world. Other popular goals for demons are to steal souls or to simply create chaos among humans.

There’s usually no clear cut way to rid someone of a demon which makes the situation all the more hopeless. They also hide in unsuspecting places, whether it is inanimate objects or human beings. Spirits and demons tend to overlap in horror films; in the movie “Sinister,” the setting works as a haunted house plot, yet the haunter, Mr. Boogie, himself is a demon. Examples of demonic films include “Insidious,” “The Exorcist,” “Fallen,” “The Rite” and “Annabelle.”

“Nightmare on Elm St.” is a favorite among slasher fans, thanks to the murderous and sarcastic Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).
“Nightmare on Elm St.” is a favorite among slasher fans, thanks to the murderous and sarcastic Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

Slasher Fest

What’s scarier than humans killing humans? Slasher films utilize a psychopathic murderer who stalks their prey and murders them with a weapon such as a knife, hammer, axe, spear, etc. Slasher films are nothing but pure gore and reached their pinnacle of success in the 70s and 80s. What scares people the most is the thrill of the chase and the bloody methods in which the killers murder their victims.

Slasher films are a cliché that is made up of smaller clichés. They focus on a group of young people; there’s drinking and sex involved; the only ones making it out alive are the main female lead and her significant other; and the first one to die are the minorities (gender, race, dumb blonde, etc.) Because of this, slasher films appear more corny and predictable than edge of your seat scary. The only saving grace is the killer itself. Their design, background, and reason for killing can keep the story interesting. “Halloween,” “Black Christmas,” “Friday the 13th,” “It,” “A Nightmare on Elm St.,” “Psycho,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Saw,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Scream” and “Child’s Play” are all slasher films.

Bela Lugosi gave a legendary performance in 1931’s “Dracula.”
Bela Lugosi gave a legendary performance in 1931’s “Dracula.”

Monster Mashes

This cliché is a throwback, but is quickly making a comeback throhugh films that are literally man vs. beast. Monster movies play on the fear of ultimate destruction while also representing the current fears of the culture (The Cold War, 9/11, etc.). Films that don’t understand this basic concept are doomed to fail. Monsters could be hiding in tombs or under your bed, created by an experiment gone wrong, other-worldly visitors, effects of radiation, straight from hell or unexplained phenomena. This cliché also includes zombies, vampires, mummies, dinosaurs, aliens, and werewolves.

Monster films began in the early 1900s influenced by German expressionism, the most famous being “Nosferatu.” The gothic theme became popular in the 1930s, producing “Dracula” and the most iconic monster of all time, “Frankenstein’s Monster.” The golden age of this genre was in the 1950s and the films were called ‘creature features.’ These films combined nuclear paranoia with horror. Famous films from this time were “Godzilla,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “It Came from Beneath the Sea,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “The Blob.” This cliché is coming back with films such as “Jaws,” “Alien,” “Predator,” “Jurassic Park,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Mummy,” “War of the Worlds,” “Cloverfield,” “Pacific Rim” and “Transformers.”