Horror Tropes

The first time it hit HBO in the late '80s or so, I caught Prince of Darkness coming on late one night and watched it without knowing what it was. That last scene messed with my head pretty badly.


That is a disturbing movie, and probably one I won’t watch a second time either. Good film, certainly worth the first watch, but I think it would be harder to repeat. (And I concur that the remake is not much cop. Very Americanised.)

For me the greatest jump scare ever remains the cut in Eraserhead when you discover the “baby” is sick. Nothing signals this moment in any way, and it’s both so unexpected and so visceral that it’s truly jarring.

I wouldn’t put it past him, he absolutely loves name references. A bunch of secondary characters in Escape From New York are named after fellow horror directors, for example. And the town of Hobb’s End in In The Mouth Of Madness is a reference to the rail station Hobb’s End in Quatermass & The Pit, where the terrible mind-wrecking things are found. There are loads more hidden in his work, too.


It’s tributes all the way down. In the cartoon Legion of Superheroes (1st season) there’s a planet called Quavermass 12 which lures unsuspecting spacers onto it and then entraps them in 2-D form.


The zombie film is my favorite horror subgenre, and a personal favorite horror trope is where the characters have a more-or-less surmountable situation, but find themselves overwhelmed by the zombie hordes due to squabbling and in-fighting that tears the group apart and has them eat each other… metaphorically and then literally.


Speaking of zombies, there’s a french movie called “Mutants” from 2009. That I’ve always enjoyed. If you haven’t stumbled across it yet!


Oh, wonderful! I seem to have found it, and I’ll have to give it a try when I have some free time to sit down and focus on it.

So glad you’ve enjoyed that one, and thanks for the recommendation!

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I stumbled across in a movie rental store once. Got home, realized it was in french, but it had subtitles so no worries!

It has a lot of the classic zombie movie staples, but what I found to be a wonderful story.
I give it a rewatch whenever I think about zombies. I hope you enjoy it!


I’m not really a fan of zombies, but that’s a long story.

Anyway, there are exceptions to that. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death has some zombie-ish overtones. I also liked Shaun Of The Dead and I’ve meant to check out Warm Bodies, because its trailer was intriguing. Anybody catch that one?


I’ve felt some zombie fatigue myself. I did watch Warm Bodies once and liked it more than I expected. Despite the presence of undead, I wouldn’t call it horror. More of a character piece where the character happens to be a monster.


Co-signed on the Zombie fatigue, but with that said I enjoyed Black Summer on Netflix more than I thought I would. I put it down to the way the episodes are structured which was a bit disorientating at first, but I eventually found watching how they came together (or didn’t) quite engaging. Plus some good performances.

But if it wasn’t for the formal conceits it does just explore all the standard modern zombie themes; what are the real ties that bind? Who are the real monsters? Man’s inhumanity to Man etc. And I guess that’s my problem with the sub-genre. Dramatically I’m not sure what there is left to explore.

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Love me horror.

Love me slashers inna woods.

Love me practical effects.

Love me gratuitous violence and nudity.

Simple as.

Agree with Stacy here; Warm Bodies is basically a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet with zombies. One of the giveaways is that the male zombie’s name (as far as he remembers) is R, and the lead female’s name is Julie. It’s an interesting departure from the typical zombie movie in that, while there is the requisite attacking and eating people from the zombies, there is also a love story sort of built in, and the “cure” for zombie-ism is drastically different from your usual cure, if one exists in your movies (I won’t spoil it though if you haven’t seen the movie yet).

Personally I am pretty much over the whole “torture porn” genre of horror film; gore for the sake of gore has never been something that scares me. I prefer horror films where the villain may be a serial killer, but he/she’s a SMART serial killer, who is often twelve steps ahead of everyone and while they may get caught eventually, is still able to live rent-free in their surviving victim’s head for the rest of their lives. Other types of horror that I tend to prefer is supernatural or possession films (although I categorically refuse to watch anything in the Conjuring universe of films because I despise the grifters that were the Warrens and do not want to glorify them in any way), and psychological horror, where you’re never sure if it’s all in the victim’s head or not. I’m okay with some of the classic slasher films (Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, but mainly just the original films, not the glut of sequels), but they aren’t my favorites. One of the few exceptions to splatter films, which I normally don’t like but I will happily watch this version over and over again, is Evil Dead and the accompanying sequels. Horror comedy is a seldom-used genre of film that I think deserves more attention.

I will say that some of the tropes in horror have been done to death, which is why I like films where they get turned on their head, like Cabin in the Woods does, for instance.


Personally I love all the old-school Gothic tropes. Huge, dark manor houses or castles, melodrama, romance, dark doubles, literal and/or metaphorical haunting by the past. Plus the costumes tend to be pretty great to look at, too.


Very much a fan of Gothic horror as well. Particularly a good old ghost story.


Ghosts tend to look samey in the last two decades. I don’t know, white skin and milk eyes with eyeshadow doesn’t do it for me. There are exceptions; I liked the floating blood kid from The Devil’s Backbone. Tell me of any exception for weird, imaginative ghost designs.


Ghosts are more conceptually constrained than other movie monsters, so there tends to be less variation. That being said, there are some some clever takes. The “Hiroshima shadow” ghosts of Pulse are really creepy, as is the coalescing “smoke ghost” seen briefly towards the end of The Cabin In The Woods.

Counterpoint: there could be a lot of creative freedom with ghosts because they don’t necessarily need to be tied to silly things like physics, spacetime, the elements, or, well, almost anything. They’re like a visual blank check! Make 'em look like whatever! Just be ready for when the producers in Hollywood say how the ghosts need to look, because they think they know what will fill seats and subscriptions.

Contrast with something like zombies which, sure, their look is signature but hasn’t seen anything switching it up in, like, forever. Hell, they were all shamblers up until 28 Days Later.


Sure, there’s plenty of latitude for creativity, but the vernacular of cinematic ghosts is pretty narrow. They either look like (1) the dead person or (2) a ball of light. And if they appear as (1), then either (a) the living form of that person [possibly relieved of all flaws and aging] or (b) bearing all the marks of their death. These three modalities are what tell the audience “this is a ghost”. I don’t doubt that a clever storyteller will come up with another form, but so far innovation is sparse.

And yes, that icon exists as a fourth variant type, though one very much out of favor now. It was used effectively in a recent movie as an inversion of the icon, but by and large it’s seen as hackneyed now. Just like portraying the devil as a bright red man with horns and a goatee.

I’m not a huge horror movie fan (of the non-cheesy variety), but I think the horror movies I have enjoyed have been more about building dread than showing gore. Movies like The Shining and The Others definitely scared me and I think they’re good movies and the building dread is what makes them so good and so scary to me.

Speaking of horror, I wish someone would make a decent adaptation of The Turn of the Screw.

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