Horror movies mess with our minds. They make us jump, scream, and afraid to sleep. Some horror movie tactics are used so often that they’ve become cliché. So, how do these horror movie clichés still manage to scare us even though we’ve seen them a million times before?
The Over-the-Shoulder Mirror Shot
Of all the clichés, the over-the-shoulder mirror shot is the least torturous. It doesn’t mess with your head for longer than a second, and it doesn’t work if you’re hoping that the killer finds the victim in question. It’s just a quick jump that gets your heart pumping and the adrenaline rushing. If the movie is well written, well cast, and well directed, then you will tend to jump just because the character does. Half of the time, however, the character isn’t actually in danger, which actually makes this cliché a bit sadistic. The director decided to add it just because he could. Forget all the other horrors in the movie; the director has made the audience his puppet and he wants the audience to jump – and the audience does. How else do you react to noticing someone behind you in the mirror who wasn’t there before?
Being Lost in the Woods
Getting lost in the woods can be life threatening even if there isn’t a knife-wielding maniac trying to get you. You don’t know what in the woods is dangerous, and because of thickets of trees, overgrown fauna, cliffs, and winding paths, it’s easy for what’s dangerous to hide and stalk. Often, through camera angles, being lost in the woods becomes long and drawn out as we know something can see the character on screen, but they can’t see it and don’t know it’s coming. However, this trick further proves that directors can be sadistic puppet masters because once you know something is going to happen to the character and you’re scared – the director pulls a switch to reveal that the character was never in danger at all. Still, it is the middle of the woods, and you can never be that sure of what dangers are lurking out there.
The Killer is in the Back Seat of Your Car
The killer being in the back seat of the car doesn’t necessarily get you during the movie. You jump when you realize the killer is behind the driver, but it’s often not drawn out and over pretty quickly. This cliché is a particularly mean in that it messes with your head and gets you after the movie. It’s usually dark after a horror movie viewing, and when you get back to your car, do you check the back seat before you get in? How would one actually react if they saw a killer crouched in their back seat ready to kill them? Of course, nobody’s in your back seat, so there’s no point in looking – which is why the victims in the movies always fall for it. Even if you can convince yourself that it’s only a movie, a small part of you still thinks that you’re letting your guard down.
The Killer is in the House
People are scared of being robbed, and that’s just stuff. There is a sense of being violated when someone unwanted enters your home. Now imagine that the person in your house has a really big knife. People call out when they hear strange noises and they check dark nooks and crannies in the movies, and many of us think they’re being stupid. The killer is in the house! But when you’re at home, and you hear a strange noise, what do you do? This is another mean horror movie cliché in that you know to blow it off, but the idea of someone being in the house is so deeply embedded in your mind that you can’t help but think, “But this is exactly how it happened in the movie!”
The Killer Isn’t Dead
This cliché has been done to the point that the reason it scares us has evolved. The first time we see it, the killer is usually alone and his eyes pop open, or he just completely disappears without a trace. Of course, the first time, the reaction is always, “Oh my gosh, he’s not dead! Everyone is still in danger!” By the sixth time we see the same killer terrorizing everybody, we wonder why nobody makes sure he’s permanently dead. Characters get genre savvy, and they do eventually make sure the killer is actually permanently dead at some point. The killer still finds a way to come back, and we realize there is no stopping this inhuman maniac. He is crafty and he will never die. Once the audience accepts that it’ll never be over, they kill the killer again. Then they stick the body of the killer, who the audience knows is still alive, alone in a room with an innocent and unsuspecting victim. The audience sits in nervous dread, waiting for the killer to strike.
Clichés are Not Bad
These clichés are used over and over again in horror movies. While your mileage may vary on how scary they actually are, people are still frightened by them. Why do these horror movie clichés work? Because a small part of your mind wonders how you’d react if the victim on screen was you.
Personal experience and watching a lot of horror movies