Horror Tropes

I’m a huge Horror Junkie, and there are obvious staples to the genre, and related subgenres.

What are some of your favorite, or least favorite Horror Tropes? Do you notice a difference, based on release dates? Or just wish you’d see something be utilized more often?

Personally I can’t stand scenes where the big bad is antagonized by people who should honestly know better. You know what I’m not going to do? Tick off the baddie who at the moment is being merciful!

In other words, talk Horror to me!


I love horror in isolation, where the characters are cut off from the world - The Thing, Alien, Prince Of Darkness, Event Horizon. I also like the “daylight horror” equivalent of this, where the characters are in the middle of civilisation but isolated by the secret which only they know - Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, They Live, Lord Of Illusions.

Probably my least favorite is torture pörn. I don’t derive any pleasure from egregious suffering, but clearly some filmmakers do.


At this point filmmakers should be fined for using the ‘soundtrack gradually reduces to two seconds of silence before a LOUD SOUND’ thing. Endlessly wearisome.

I like a well timed cut away, particularly if it leaves you with an image that is suggestive enough to really let your mind go to work.


Which The Thing? The first one (which is chronologically the second one) or the second one (which is chronologically the first one)? Or The Thing from Another World which predates both, and has far less horror?

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Either the 1951 (Hawks) or the 1982 (Carpenter) version, both fit the bill. The 2011 (Heijningen) version not so much, I’m lukewarm on that one. Would have enjoyed it more if they had stuck with the original practical effects instead of CGI, but I was also put off by a lot of the actors looking like actors instead of characters.


I agree. It also didn’t help the 2011 version ended without cleaning up some continuity issues it introduced that otherwise should have appeared in the 1982 version (at least one snowcat with a burned alien corpse at the saucer crash site, a potential survivor in another snowcat that just up and vanishes, etc.).

I dug up a PDF of John W. Campbell’s novella, “Who Goes There?” which was the basis for all three film adaptations. I have to say that Carpenter’s version is by far the most faithful of the bunch to the original material, and ends on a much darker note.


Oh wait, my car won’t start.

I keep tripping on things.

Will you stop f#&@*$ long enough to see the bad guy behind you?

Those are my biggest gripes, those got old after the first Friday the 13th


I’m personally not a fan of jump scares. Yes, I know they can be effective when handled properly, but they’re just such lazy filmmaking that most of the intended audiences these days anticipate them.


I really enjoy body horror and cosmic horror, and when those two world collide. Murderous villains don’t have a lot more new territory they can claim/corner and jump scares are old, played out, and cheap. The threat and doom of something unseen, unknowable, is way more scary.


I tend to favor existential/apocalyptic horror – Black Mirror, Aniara, 10 Cloverfield Lane, etc. For me, the more plausible it is, the more terrifying. Stranded far from home, often with no hope of rescue … Aniara is a new favorite and a good example of this. I’ll avoid details to prevent spoiling anything.

Interstellar also kind of scratches that itch (it’d be quite a stretch to call it horror, but the “far from home” quality of it is pretty terrifying).


I do enjoy my Horror seperate from the constraints of the world. I also prefer a steady location for the majority of the movie. I don’t need each scene to take place somewhere else, please and thank you.

I’m always super annoyed when a scene is interrupted or postponed because a random person stops the victim in terror. Just to physically restrain them, shake them, or deny the existence of whatever the big bad is. If someone came running and screaming out of the bushes, covered in blood, I’d run too.

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You are my hero! I’ve always wanted to read this, bookmarking. Thank you!


It’s a great story. There was a recent Kickstarter to put out the novel-length version of the story, Frozen Hell. I backed it and it’s a good read, but more for completists. The novella is the perfect length.

If you want to read another great story that inspired more than one good horror film, check out The Fly by George Langelaan.


Glad to see others have my love of The Thing From Another World. It’s such a nice slow build, which adds so much to the horror element. And I remember as a kid jumping halfway to the ceiling the first time I saw Arness!

I actually have an original lobby card framed and on my wall over my bedroom door; it’s the last thing I see before I switch off the light:

(Aaaand it won’t rotate. Oops!)

As for tropes, I hate the over-the-top gross out factor. I don’t need a 30 second visual of the entrails dragging along behind the monster…in fact, just the sound of the dragging will creep me out more.


Hawks’ directorial style is a big part of why that picture works so well. He’s a master of getting his actors to be natural. The way the character talk with (and frequently over) each other makes it feel more real. Their physical interactions are just as believable, too. Carpenter carries a lot of that same vibe over into his interpretation.


My favorite horror trope is at the other end of the movie: the supposed wack-job who lays out the entire plot and warns everyone about pretty much exactly what is going to happen to them when they ignore the advice of the expert/ex-doctor/ex-scientist/grizzled old man or woman with tons of life experience.


Yes! I picked up on that even as an 8 year old kid; I told my dad I liked the way they talked. You have to pay attention to catch everything, and I like that.


You can tell a horror movie has really done its job on me when I can’t bear to watch it a second time.

Carrie would be one. The Vanishing (not the remake) would be the other, even if it stretches the definition a bit. (I personally think the villain in that one had some kind of off-camera supernatural intervenor, given how fortunate he was. But that’s just me.)

One thing I don’t see enough is stories where someone responds to a traumatic event by trying to immerse themselves in social contact and/or in a busy urban landscape. Usually it’s the other way around. Something bad happens and they deal with it by getting away from everything: that’s the setup for the story. Which is frankly the opposite of what I’d do. I wonder how many horror movies have bucked this trope at all, let alone successfully. (Yeah, it’s cheaper to film a small group than a large one, but you know what I mean.)


I’d add The Descent to this list, which coincidentally also falls foul of this trope:

Prince of Darkness feels somewhat less talked about than a lot of Carpenter’s other works: I do like the inclusion of religious overtones in horror when handled well; I have a soft spot for Stigmata in this category.

I totally get what you’re saying here, and often these days they do feel gratuitous or overly-telegraphed, but a good jump scare can really put a movie over the top for me (the ending of Carrie for instance).


Whoa. Prince Of Darkness has a character named Susan Cabot. Is that a conscious nod from Carpenter to “The Dark Priestess” from Viking Women and the transformed cosmetics queen from the original Wasp Woman ?