Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Seven Deadly Sins of Horror (300th post)

Okay. I tried to play nice. Said I wouldn't slag off other movies. But enough is enough.

No more bad horror movies. I won't stand for it.

It is not the 1950s anymore. It's 2006. There are things you can NO LONGER DO. You don't see UFOs on wires in science fiction movies anymore, so why should we put up with the horror equivalent? We've all seen a lot of horror movies, we don't fall for the same shit that we used to. And yet writers and directors persist in treating us like fucking kids who've never seen a slasher movie before. Come on. We're adults. We're not stupid. So today, I bring you the Seven Deadly Sins of Horror, the sins that must never be committed again. I know, I know, there are many more horror movie sins than these, ones you really shouldn't be doing - but the ones here are the absolute worst of the worst, sins that there can be no excuse for. Filmmakers, consider yourself put on notice - you are all now expressly forbidden from putting ANY of the following in a horror movie:

7 - The grabbing hand: How many times have you sneaked up on a friend, walked silently right up behind them, and then suddenly grabbed their shoulder? Without intentionally trying to freak them out? And then been surprised that you scared them? Never. And yet it happens in horror movies all the time. There are no deaths coming up, but it's been 7 minutes so they need a fake scare. Oh my God! A killer! Oh, wait, it's just his friend grabbing his shoulder. It's ridiculous. Same goes for the cat scare, although I really shouldn't have to say that in this day and age. Sure, sometimes we still need the fake scare trick, to build up the tension, keep the real horror off screen for a while, but you've got to do something different.

6 - Sudden attacks of deafness: If you're in a building with someone, and they wander out the door, they will still be able to hear you if you call out to them. Especially if you then go wandering around, panicking, and screaming out their name at the top of your voice. They *won't*, however, completely fail to hear you, then suddenly appear out of nowhere and make you jump, usually by grabbing your shoulder (see above). Unless they're deliberately trying to scare you. If someone vanishes and doesn't respond to shouts, then they'd better be dead or unconscious.

5 - Magic, psychic killers: Oh thank goodness, the large breasted girl has managed to put some distance between herself and the killer. Oh look, she's found a car - and it's unlocked! And the keys are in the ignition! And the engine has started, first time! Hooray! She's going to escape! I hope that the killer hasn't somehow magically teleported into the back seat, where he will suddenly pop up to stab or garrotte her. I'm sure that won't happen though, because he'd need the aforementioned teleporting skills, plus the ability to psychically predict which car she would choose. And it would make no sense to hide in the back seat, wait until she starts driving, and *then* attack her. So he probably won't do that. Oh. He did.

4 - Cars that get scared: Oh dear, the car suddenly won't start - how inconvenient, being that I am, at this very juncture, being chased by a monster. Yes, the same car that drove me ALL THE WAY UP the fucking mountain, and has been working for YEARS, has chosen THIS PRECISE moment to break down, just as I'm trying to escape - as opposed to, say, Act One, for example. How come the car never breaks down just *before* the horny, doomed teenagers leave for their road trip? If a previously healthy car suddenly won't start, it had better be because the killer has mangled it, or stuffed a dead body into the engine.

3 - Sudden attacks of clumsiness: Run! Run like the wind! Run from the killer! Oh, you fell over. Well done. Because able-bodied adults fall over ALL THE TIME, don't they? Yes, I know you need the killer to catch up for the sake of the plot, but do something else. Throw a locked door, a trap, a speeding car in the way, anything. Just don't have them fall over. It's lazy and stupid. Same goes for someone hiding, trying to stay quiet, who just happens to knock over a display stand filled with 500 metal plates. If I ever need to hide from a killer, I'm going to be as careful as I possibly can, thanks. If the character who falls over is female, you lose even more points. If she is subsequently helped up by a male character, then your bus to the 1950s is leaving shortly, be on it.

2 - Miraculous recoveries: Can we please retire this one? Please? "He's dead... oh no, he's alive!" Having the killer pop back up was a genuine surprise when Michael Myers did it in Halloween, but guess what? That was nearly 30 years ago. It's finally time to end that tradition, it's been done way too often. Come on. We need a new thing. Just leave it alone. Right, I'm finished with this paragraph. No I'm not! Booga booga booga! Okay, I am now.

And the NUMBER ONE thing that you must NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER use in a horror movie again, ON PAIN OF DEATH:

1 - Characters who don't kill the killer when given the chance: I really, really thought we'd laid this one to rest, but apparently not. Imagine you're the character in the movie, and some crazy guy has repeatedly tried to kill you. It's terrifying, your life is in danger, he WILL kill you if he can, probably torturing and raping you beforehand, perhaps wearing your skin, perhaps eating your internal organs. But oh happy day, you get a lucky break and manage to knock him out, or immobilise him. When he wakes up or frees himself, he will continue trying to kill you, and will probably succeed. But right now, you have a few minutes. Do you (a) kill him, or (b) run away, giving him a chance to come after you again? The answer is, of course, (a). You kill him. By ANY means necessary. Your gun's out of bullets? Smash his face with it. Gun too small? Sharpen it and stab him with it. No gun? Hit him with a chair. Drop heavy objects on him. Set him on fire. Run him over. If you have nothing nearby, just fucking jump up and down on his head until the skull cracks, then keep jumping until it splits all the way open, then keep jumping until it's a bloody stain on the ground. You're fighting for your life, wouldn't you do whatever you could to save yourself? Sure, the killer can have the upper hand all the way through the movie, more weaponry, traps, that's fine. But if a character gets a chance to kill the killer, they had better fucking kill him, and make sure he's dead, preferably by decapitation, head-smashing, dismemberment, or exploding. No excuses. None. End of story. This is an INSTANT movie destroyer, because it yanks you out and makes you realise that it's just a plot contrivance to keep the story going for longer, while the whole audience is screaming "kill him!" in frustration. But some filmmakers are under the mistaken impression that it's okay, that we won't notice the glaringly stupid thing the main character has just done.

And there we have it. If you have the gall to allow any of these in your movie, then you obviously have no respect for us or yourself, and we will be within our rights to hunt you down and gut you like a fish, by Horror Movie Law. People like you are responsible for horror's bad reputation, for review quotes like "of course, we don't go to horror movies expecting a sensible plot". Don't think to yourself "oh, it's only horror, it doesn't matter", or "it doesn't need to make sense", or "only horny 12 year old boys will see it" - it DOES matter, it DOES need to make sense, and although the audience is made up of a wide variety of people, not just male, young and old, even the horny 12 year old boys won't fall for your shit. Times have changed. You'd better change with them, or make romantic comedies instead. Don't say you weren't warned.


Jodie said...

That's why something like Wolf Creek will not be a classic horror movie.

If some guy strings me up and tells me he's going to cut my tits off and rape me for weeks I am going to kill him if I get the chance. I'll jump up and down on his head until it explodes if I don't have a weapon. Or at the very least gouge his eyes out.

Amanda said...

You got me all excited for *this*?!

Okay, blog cardinal sin number one right here... claiming something fantabulous is coming and then not delivering!

Heh. I jest. But I do not have the time to properly comment except to say 'I know! You're so right!' and get on with my psuedo-packing. I say psuedo-packing as I've been doing it for hours now, but the suitcase is still suspiciously empty. I suspect everything I throw into it is sliding into another dimension. I have a twilight zone suitcase.

James Moran said...

Jodie: That's not what you did when I said it to you - then again, it was only our first date, so you probably wanted to make a good impression...

Amanda: Need I remind you of my MASSIVE axe?? Just wear the same outfit every day, and bring lots of deodorant and Febreeze.

Danny Stack said...

Now THAT is the way to do a 300th post!

Hilarious and insightful, who knew?

lou said...

dude, have a slug of whisky or do some yogic breathing before that blood vessel on your forehead explodes. just don't go near shops or you will undoubtedly want to kill shoppers rather than moviemakers.
good stuff though, you're absolutely right. if only people would listen to you... have a great christmas/hanukah/insert relevant holiday here and we're both kinda scared of what you're going to frighten us with in 2007. you go, james!

Anonymous said...

1 - Characters who don't kill the killer when given the chance

Could also apply this to James Bond. I wish they would kill him when they catch him instead of gloating over the fact they've caught him. This kind of hubris doesn't exist anymore...just look at real life...whenever we capture a baddie...Pinochet, Milosevic, Saddam...oh.

Anonymous said...

What also can be annoying:
daft reasons why the police are not called, e.g we can't ring them because our midterms are next week...
or other nonsense..

soulmining said...


Well said James! The car that won't start is my personal pet hate (and yes, why are they always unlocked with the keys already in the ignition?)... and re: point 7) the cat 'scaring' your character - why is it always a cat? Why not a different household pet like a dog or a rabbit or a gerbil?

I think I'd better go and do some psuedo-packing now.

And I'm going to be scrutinising your work to make sure you don't use any of these seven deadly sins!

David Bishop said...

Best antidote to #1 has to be the episode of 24 where Jack Bauer via phone tells his daughter to shot some guy again, just to be sure he's dead. That's the way to do it!

Ruth said...

*** Pan's Labyrinth spoilers ***
Don't you think this qualifies for the no.1 mistake?
**** end spoilers ***

Not calling the police is v. annoying too, I agree with Anonymous. One of the reason why I love Roadkill/Joyride is because the brothers cough to the police the minute they see the salesman in the hospital...

shtove said...

No.1 happened in the Texas Chainsaw sequel (or was it the remake?) - anyway, the heroine had a chance to stick Leatherface with the chainsaw when he was attending to some guy who was hanging from the rafters. But she stayed hidden behind the wall.

Sarah Dobbs said...

If you have nothing nearby, just fucking jump up and down on his head until the skull cracks, then keep jumping until it splits all the way open, then keep jumping until it's a bloody stain on the ground. You're fighting for your life, wouldn't you do whatever you could to save yourself?

I like you, and look forward to seeing more things you've written, because you have all the sense in the world.

As long as, like, some strange twist of fate doesn't end up letting Alexandre Aja or Greg Mclean direct your scripts. Then I'd have to give it a miss, and stab you with a pen.

James Moran said...

Anon: Ah, the Bond movies are exempt from any movie rules. They follow their own rules, which is why I love them so.

Phil: Please do, and call me on it if I go anywhere near breaking them!

David: Ooh! Best 24 moment EVER! Loved that so much, it was so satisfying.

The Texas Chainsaw remake and prequel both break a few of these. As for Pan's - SPOILER: I don't think so, because killing the guy at that point would have made things much worse for the local rebels, it's only later when they've been discovered and escaped that they can kill him. END Spoiler!

Sarah: Cheers - I like to think I'm sensible, despite myself. Don't agree about Mr Aja, haven't seen his Hills remake yet though. As for Mr McLean - he gets another chance, because his next movie features a massive croc attacking people. Bargain!

Sarah Dobbs said...

Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you if you end up with unintentional biro-tattoos.

English Dave said...

And who can forget the ' I don't care how much scary shit is going down, I heard a noise and I'm going to investigate it on my own'

Phillip Barron said...

Great list, but you missed my fave:

When the killer's apparantly dead/unconcious, don't go and check/get something out of his pocket/fanny around in the vicinity, for fuck's sake run away!

We all know number 2 on your list is next, don't fucking stand there and wait for it to happen.

Jools said...

I don't know if it's a feature of horror films, but I can't stand that irate, nerdy businessman type, who barges up to the hero and demands "would someone mind telling me just what the hell is going on here?" He's usually in disaster movies, and either becomes an unlikely hero or gets killed in the next five minutes!

James Moran said...

Dave and Phillip: Yup, they're both annoying, but you could get away with them with a reasonable explanation - I wanted to concentrate on things that instantly break the movie, things there's no excuse for...

Jools: Ah, but I love the guy who demands to know just what the HELL is going on! In fact, I put a variation of him in everything I do - George does it in Severance, towards the end, and it always make me laugh.

Lee said...

That was fun - a fine 300th post. Merry Christmas, you ghoulish bastard.

Optimistic_Reader said...

Thanks for an excellent post! It's a good list of things to avoid in any genre I think - I know I've seen the cat scare in non-horror films and number 3, which is the one that irks me most of all.

Merry Christmas!

shtove said...

I suppose it's appropriate here: Jane Espenson has some good things to say about logic fudging under her Christmas Fudge post -

Anonymous said...

So, zombies and monsters are okay for a horror movie, but a friend grabbing another friend by the shoulder is where you draw the line for unbelievability?

Emily said...

Dude, that was hilarious. You should follow it up with a post about recent horror movies caught using these ploys. Seriously, every sin you listed I could think of at least one or two offending movies. And the #1 sin... SO TRUE. Happy blogging!

ric said...

While not quite a movie-destroying cliché, I could really do with never again seeing someone open a mirrored bathroom cabinet, close it, and then OH MY GOD THE KILLER IS RIGHT BEHIND THEM!

Anyway... nice post!

James Moran said...

Emily: I was going to list offenders, but decided against it, there are plenty of them, no need for me to name and shame. But I will, from now on, if any more movies do it...

Ric: Ah, but I love the bathroom mirror gag! It always works - you just have to play around with it, cause the audience is expecting it too. We did a version in Severance, using it as misdirection, I'd have been gutted if we hadn't had a mirror gag.

Anonymous: Zombies and monsters are fine. We're all prepared to suspend disbelief and temporarily believe in zombies/monsters, so we can see where the story goes. It's what happens afterwards that matters. We all know zombies aren't real, but we all equally know that if zombies WERE real, we wouldn't behave like fucking idiots around them. I want believable people acting in a realistic way, otherwise it's just annoying. Just because zombies aren't real, that's NO excuse for total bullshit and characters behaving stupidly. Otherwise you could just write a zombie flick, and say oh, well, zombies aren't real, so I'll have the dad decide to walk down to the cellar for NO reason, and the sheriff is able to fly, and his girlfriend has 8 tits, magic tits, that can shoot lasers. You can't just excuse shoddy, lazy writing by saying "oh but zombies aren't real, so it doesn't matter".

lyhana8 said...

Hey your post is funny, but i'm still waiting the list or really good horror movie. Maybe in the next post ?

Matt said...

You've forgotten two other cliches.

8) Find a way to get a group of young, sexy, teenagers or twenty-somethings alone, isolated from all humanity, cut off from all civilization. And then kill them off one by one. Black guy first, of course.

9) And related. Leave the tough woman to survive to the last because, obviously, no mere male person is strong or clever enough to make it through all the killer's traps.

ben said...

i can say from watching severance that it is both an extremely funny film and a great horror film that doesn't break any of the aforementioned rules, the acting is great, i know a bit of a cliché but you will laugh one second then the next be literally shatting your y-fronts in freight in the next. i give it 10 out of 10, and even the ending which i was half expecting was great, i would even enjoy watching a sequal

*please note i am paid by the creators of said film, umm not*

peace out!, and do your self a favor watch severance you fool

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, I want to get this straight...

So, Bond movies follow their own set of rules (which is why we love them so), but horror movies don't? Now I'm really confused.

There are those of us who love horror movies precisely *because* they are cheesy, cliche and predictable. I like knowing that someone is going to get gutted because two teenagers are having awkward sex in a barn. I like the false scare that foreshadows the 'real' scare. I especially like the falling down while trying to escape, it's primal. Who hasn't had the dream where you try desperately to run, but can't? I'm even fond of the car that doesn't work all of a sudden (although the keys on the visor thing can go.. who does that?)

Horror movies are unreal. A hundred maniacs rape a nun and she gives birth to a killer who tortures children and is subsequently burned to death in his creep shed by all the parents of a small town, only to come back and haunt the dreams of their children. What? Don't take them so seriously, you might pop an artery.

Funny post anyhow. Looking forward to checking out your work.

Graham said...

1 more convention I'm tired of:

Sleazy local real estate developer and/or politician discredits the hero's claims of a monster in the area so that the developer/major can continue to profit from the town.

First started in Jaws:

Sheriff: Dudes! There's a big farkin shark here eating kids and shit!

Mayor: Well, it'll go away eventually! I love tourist's money lalalala i can't hear you!!

Sheriff: .......Damn I hate you.

Ron said...

'So, zombies and monsters are okay for a horror movie, but a friend grabbing another friend by the shoulder is where you draw the line for unbelievability?'

'So, Bond movies follow their own set of rules (which is why we love them so), but horror movies don't? Now I'm really confused.'

A lot of people seem to have trouble grasping this one. It's a basic idea of good sci-fi or any other fantastic fiction that you lay forth the basic 'fictions' that you are going to accept and then once you have accepted your new reality you try to make everything as realistic and creative as you can given those constraints.

Nobody just grabs someone's shoulder from behind unless they think the person is doing something wrong. So that just pulls you out of it since it's such an obvious meta-reference (or sheer laziness).

And you'll notice most of James's suggestions are just about creativity. It doesn't have to be the damn cat every time. The 'Bond in the villain's clutches' is an excellent example since it's rather unrealistic but necessary for the plot that they don't just shoot him in the head - but at least they try to kill him in new and creative ways (almost) every time.

And I think a horror film has less leeway than a James Bond movie. You're watching the Bond movie for adventure thrills and it's okay if you maintain some emotional distance, but for the horror movie to be most effective you really need to draw the watcher in and put themselves in the place of the victim(s). Anything that breaks that link - because the character just did something so stupid you can't possibly imagine yourself doing that, or because it's just so cliche - pulls you out of it.

So horror movies have their check list of things that have to happen, but they don't have to be stupid or trite.

Anonymous said...

Decapitation is very important; if you don't destroy the brain or decapitate the killer, he could return as a zombie.

James Moran said...

Anon: Okay, hold your horses - horror movies are not cheesy, cliche or predictable. At least, they're not supposed to be. I enjoy watching the old, cheesy movies as much as anyone, because they're flawed, because you know that as soon as someone has sex, they're worm food, because what was scary then is laughable now. That's fine. But I don't want to sit and watch a brand new, modern horror movie, and find myself presented with the same old cheesy shit from ancient, cheesy movies. Times change. If I keep seeing the same thing over and over, it won't be scary, it'll be boring. That's why I made the reference to old science fiction movies - if a brand new movie came out involving alien attacks, and it had really bad special effects, terrible acting, and completely incorrect science - but *wasn't* a spoof - people wouldn't stand for it. But you can watch something from the 50s, and enjoy it on a fun, cheesy level. Same goes for new horror, now. These are things you can't do anymore.

And hey, I love the fake scare before the real scare, it's part of the whole game. But like I said, you just can't do the same old cat jump or hand grab anymore, we've seen it too many times. And I'm sorry, but falling while running, or the car that suddenly won't start, is just lazy writing. If you need the story to keep going, fine, just don't make it so obvious.

Sure, horror isn't real. Obviously Freddy Krueger doesn't exist, could never exist - but if he did, how would people react? Watch the first Nightmare again, it takes that one massive unreal aspect (an undead killer who gets you in your dreams), but then everything else is believable. If Freddy was real, what might happen? Nancy faces it, tries to fight back, and acts like a rational, frightened person. She doesn't fall over, or leave Freddy alive when she has a chance to kill him. She tries to deal with the situation as best she can. The whole point is, I love horror movies - I just don't want to be treated like a complete idiot by the people who make them.

Edit: I've just seen Ron's comment, he said it much better and more concisely than I did. Nice one, Ron!

Anonymous said...

For some of us, horror movies never were scary and never will be. Just fun, surreal entertainment.

James Moran said...

Just an aside, can all the Anons please make up fake names? I'm getting confused which Anon I'm talking to half the time. You don't have to log in, just click "Other", pick a fake name, and stick with it. For my sanity...

Anonymous said...

I know it was better to have the "7" deadly sins than the "9" deadly sins but I think two more instances should have been on your list.

One, when a person enters a staircase, running for their lives from some sadistic killer, and decides to run up the stairs instead of down the stairs. WHY? What the fuck is the benefit to going up? Is there a Hot Air balloon up on the roof? Is the Army going to show up and fill the killer with righteous lead? This is just some stupid scene to keep the story going in a direction that the director wants it to.

And Two, when a seamingly ordinary person living an ordinary life in an ordinary town is confronted with an extraordinary situation all of the sudden transforms into the Kung Fu Rambo. Out of nowhere, they know how to use explosives, guns, knives, how to pick locks, and how to drive a car like the transporter. Its like they downloaded all of these special abilities right out of the fucking matrix. I'm sick of this. The plot of the movie should be "out there" but not how the person reacts to it.

James Moran said...

Okay, the Anon that was never scared by horror: Really? No horror has ever scared you? I'm not taking a pop at you, just curious, I know one or two people that are the same. Have you seen lots of horror? How about Exorcist, Ring, Halloween, The Thing, Alien?

James Moran said...

Anon with the extra two: There are exceptions to your first - Scream, when Sidney complains about silly tarts running upstairs, she is about to run out the front door, but the killer is coming right in, she has nowhere else to go but the stairs right behind her, and she does have an escape route that way. Agree with your second one though, people turning into Kung Fu Rambo is far too silly.

DM said...

Sorry, didn't realize I could just make up the name. I'm the one with bond movie comparison and never really scared.

I've seen all of the movies you mentioned and like them all with the exception of The Ring, which was one of the most boring movies I've ever seen. I actually have more fun with the movies that don't take themselves too seriously. I love Romero and Carpenter, Troma stuff is great. I realize that these are sort of a different sub-genre, but it's just my preference.

I guess there are only so many ways to try and scare someone with a film and the closest I've ever gotten is startled, but it's still fun. You can scare someone with a concept or you can play with the tension, but you have to break it somehow. There are only so many ways to do this. I can see what you're driving at, but I just wanted to provide a different perspective from a more casual horror fan. I would actually kind of miss it if everything in your list was permanently gone from horror movies.

Here's one thing I wouldn't miss: redundant sequels. I saw 'Saw 3' when it was 'Saw.'

-MO- said...

(I'm the "2" more Anon) I agree that Scream and a few other movies are the exception, but for the most part it always seems to be an irrational decision based on nothing. If the monster is coming up the stairs, then yeah I guess your not going down the stairs to go outside only to trip on your way to car that wont start.

Another thing I think should stop are "surprise" scares that go through the entire movie. These scares are equal to a person sneaking up on you and then screaming in your ear. By the end of The Grudge, I was just tired of jumping all the time. I don't mind being startled but not over and over again for an hour and a half.

-MO- said...

And I do understand DM's perspective (although "The Thing" scared the hell out of me). I have a few friends that never get scared. I think you need to be able to submerse yourself in the story in order to get scared. And its exactly the inability to do that that we are discussing.

DM said...

About being scared.. ever been in a fight or been chased or in any real situation where you actually felt the fight or flight response kick in? If you're actually scared, you don't behave rationally. You're not thinking, "Hmm, the most logical thing for me to do is grab this chainsaw and dispatch the killer thusly!"

Take Wolf Creek (Spoilers may follow): After she shoots Mick in the neck, all I could think was, "That's not a kill shot. Bash his head in with the rifle butt." But to me, this is an indicator that I'm not really scared. There's no way, no matter what we might like to think, that any of us would be that analytical in such a situation. Most of us just don't have it in us to go to town on someone with a chainsaw, even if they were trying to kill us. Also, if every character in every horror movie was able to respond in such a way, they'd all be Ash from Evil Dead.

By the way, even though Wolf Creek contained several items on your list, I still enjoyed watching. My favorite part about it was how they sort of left the possibility of some kind of UFO incident up in the air for a little bit. Although I have to admit that it contained the worst possible example that I can recall of the killer magically picking the right car.

James Moran said...

DM: Interesting, I guess if they don't scare you, then they have to fall back on the fun element, which is an important part of many of them. As for the characters being scared, I can go along with that *a bit*, and I'm sure that in a real situation, I'd be a blubbering wreck, sitting in a corner and soiling myself. But when the fight or flight kicks in, and you're standing over an unconscious person who has tried to rape and kill you, I'd be doing anything to ensure my survival. There's being analytical, and then there's lashing out to try and save your skin... I did enjoy Wolf Creek, but exactly those things pulled me out of it and made me see the plot contrivances for what they were.

MO: I hear you on the surprise scares, usually created by a loud burst of music when nothing has happened. It's a cheap trick, and annoying because it always makes me jump.

Cheers for doing the names, makes it a lot easier!

Joel said...

Thanks for this, very funny and very true :)

Anonymous said...

Wow this actually makes sense. but your right your right beyond the point you should be their's to much of this kind of stuff because "New artists with new brilliant, and unique ideas" make movies with the same crap we saw as kids and yes it was pleasent the first couple times but come on most movies with serial killers THEIR HUMAN...unless their physically mutated and etc. but i totally agree with you

Remote said...

@ DM
You're comment about thinking entirely irrationally while scared doesn't really hold in my opinion. I have an incredibly over-active imagination and have managed to well and truly kick in my 'fight or flight' reaction while riding home at 2am in the morning. Despite being convinced I had something to run from I didn't react entirely irrationally (apart from being convinced something is coming for me while in the middle of suburban Australia) and did the rational thing: get the fuck home as fast as possible while riding down the dead center of the road so nothing could jump be from behind a tree or car or fence or drain etc.

O add that to the list.
10) Running into the creepy dark tangled root forest while being chased by a guy with no projectile weapon. Come on the road is far safer! You're more likely to end up running into someone who doesn't want to kill you as well.

In fact didn't that happen in Severance? they ran into the creepy bear-trap and mine filled forest? Admittedly they would have been shot in the back running down the road so maybe the forest was a better bet.

fudged71 said...

brilliant. i have been waiting for someone to finaly agree with me on horror movie sins. f your new movie is anything like i imagine it, it will be fucking amazing. Its also good to hear some real language coming out of a producer. good on ya'

Anonymous said...

The thing that annoys me most in horror movies is the need for people to hook up and/or have sex...because , yeah, nothing turns me on so much as seeing all my friends gutted right before my eyes.

Ellis Creel said...

I don't have a ton of commentary on this post...except to say that it's absolutely spot-on.

Congratulations for saying what I've never been able to state all at once (or coherently.)

Again, great job!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of these but number 3.

My neighbor tried to kill me once in my own house. I ran from him, opened the front door and then tripped over some chairs in the hallway. When you are hopped up on adrenaline you are focused on 10 things at once and yes, you can trip over somewhat random things.

Hopefully you will never have to encounter that situation to discover its validity.

Michael said...

Damn right man, if I see one more horror movie where the character fails to kill the villian when given the chance for a coup de grace, I will flip out. Characters are acted out as though they have no stones anymore these days...

ChoJin said...

It was quite hilarious.

A french humorist called Bigard has a part in his one man show about horror movies. He describes another sin: Don't ever split in two fucking groups no matter what!

So you're a group of 4... and for the most stupid reason ever, you decide to split in two groups of 2... Yeah right.... And of course, when only two of you remain, you decide to split again in two groups ... of ONE!

I can't stand it when they do that...

camille said...

Well, 4) happens. I mean, if you are scared or some like that you can have difficulties to start your car. I understand it :)
But the others and especially the first are so not good. At all.

Biddy said...

Graham: Sleazy local real estate developer and/or politician discredits the hero's claims of a monster in the area so that the developer/major can continue to profit from the town.

First started in Jaws:

Scooby Doo was doing this *way* before Jaws :-D

I do agree with DM though - very few horror movies really scare me properly. I thought I was never going to experience that ABSOLUTE TERROR I got from sneakily watching The Exorcist when I was about ten, until I saw The Others, and thought I was going to have to leave the cinema because I was so completely scared out of my wits. (I didn't, of course, and it *still* makes me scream out loud even after seeing it a dozen times.)

I think it's all the cliches you mention which take the terror away. If I'm expecting the not-really-dead killer to be on the back seat of the car, it's almost a relief when he is, because I've correctly predicted his behaviour and might escape from him. If you had my car start first time, killer-free, only to have him drop out of a tree onto my windshield, *that* might scare me :-D

Fantastic post - thank you.

James Moran said...

Cheers to all the new commenters, the post has been on Digg so that's probably where the flurry of people has come from. Welcome!

Remote: Yup, they did run into the woods, but like you say, the road would have meant instant death by gun.

Anon: Glad your neighbour didn't succeed, must have been terrifying. I agree that people could and do fall over in such a situation, but in a movie it's purely an excuse to stop the character escaping, not because it reflects real life. It's lazy writing.

Anonymous said...

Jodie I totally agree with you, Wolf Creek fails here badly.

That bit where the killer is lying unconcious on the floor at you've shot them in the neck, the girl should have just beat him stupid till dead.

Just leaving him to wake up and do the Head-On-A-Stick (which utterly terrified me) was just a no no.

If I were in that situation and had the chance I'd practically make him de-exist.

Great article!

enomis said...

Hi James,

Nice post, I liked both the content and the style!

Re watching the old, cheesey, cliche-riddled films: the first time a lot of these "sins" were used it was creative - I think Carrie was the first film to do the "it's not dead yet" thing. It's only in subsequent - as you say, lazy, B style films that have made them worthless mechanisms.


johnie1 said...

"Sharpen it and stab him with it", that's the funniest thing i'v read all week.

Top post Sir.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes funny but a very very BAD writing.

Feo Amante said...

Here's an 8th and 9th one.

8. Don't make the minority the automatic corpse and leave only whites as being able to survive.

9. If yours is a Science Fiction Horror Thriller, then use REAL SCIENCE for crying out loud and stop calling your magic supernatural fantasy movie SCIENCE. Either that or go back to Kansas.

We've got this up over at Feo Amante's Horror Thriller,

Twisted DNA said...

Hilariously put! Great post!

Joel said...

Lets not forget another sin, Ugly bald wrestlers who can't act don't make good killers!

Anonymous said...

You really are the greatest!!I just hate those stupid thriller movies.Of course you kill the stupid piece of shit.Thank you my dear friend!!Thank you!!!!

eva said...

You are absofuckinglutely right my dear friend!!Of course you kill the piece of shit when you get the chance.I wish SCREAM will disappear from the face of the...videoclubs!!

Anonymous said...

Trackback from Cunning Quotes

Christian James said...

you couldnt actually be more right - but to be fair how many teen slashers which is in fact what you are mainly reffering to here are actually made ne more ... had you written this say ?? 8 years ago it would have had more relevence.

I do agree tho :)

cheers Christian

p.s if any one knows of any decent none main stream horrors can u let me know because i beleive i have seen %99.9 of them and now bored :( <---- jaja very old so dont laugh ^_-

Anonymous said...

hahahahahah perfect list. just perfect. LOVED IT

James Moran said...

Christian: I wish that were the case, but sadly most of these are still being used in non-teen slashers today - like Wolf Creek, which does number 1 and 5...

theking103 said...

how about when you think youve killed the killer and not only do you not take the chance to make sure he is dead, but you just leave their weapon of choice right there, like in freddy vs jason, she thinks they are dead so she drops jasons machete right into the water where jason is, and guess what next scene jason is alive with his machete, i wonder if hes gonna go back and kill people with it

kev said...

1. If being chased through town, you can usually take cover in a passing St
Patrick's Day parade - at any time of the year.

2. All beds have special L-shaped top sheets that reach up to armpit level
on a woman but only waist level on the man lying beside her.

3. All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.

4. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off - even while scuba diving.

5. The ventilation system of any building is a perfect hiding place. No one
will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other
part of the building without difficulty.

6. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German officer, it will not be
necessary to speak the language. A German accent will do.

7. The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window of any building in Paris.

8. A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will
wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

9. When paying for a taxi, never look at your wallet as you take out a note
- just grab one at random and hand it over. It will always be the exact

10. If you lose a hand, it will cause the stump of your arm to grow by 6

11. Mothers routinely cook eggs, bacon and waffles for their family every
morning, even though the husband and children never have time to eat them.

12. Cars and trucks that crash will almost always burst into flames.

13. A single match will be sufficient to light up a room the size of a
football stadium.

14. Medieval peasants had perfect teeth.

15. All single women have a cat.

16. Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.

17. One man shooting at 20 men has a better chance of killing them all than
20 men firing at one.

18. Creepy music coming from a graveyard should always be closely

19. Most people keep a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings - especially if any
of their family or friends has died in a strange boating accident.

20. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involved
martial arts - your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one by
dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their

21. During a very emotional confrontation, instead of facing the person you
are speaking to, it is customary to stand behind them and talk to their

22. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your room will
still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish.

23. Dogs always know who's bad and will naturally bark at them.

24. When they are alone, all foreigners prefer to speak English to each

25. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their
arch-enemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley systems,
deadly gases, lasers and man eating sharks that will allow their captives
at least 20 minutes to escape.

26. Having a job of any kind will make all fathers forget their son's
eighth birthday.

27. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red
readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off.

28. It is always possible to park directly outside the building you are

29. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

30. If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into
will know all the steps.

Suellen Pareico said...

Severance is a dark comedy movie. My first horror movie was The Elephant Man by David Lynch.

Grim Jestor said...

i do not know if anyone will ever read this comment, but much respect for finally writing down all of the reasons why i avoid watching anything which bills itself as a horror movie. i know to expect a pathetic, unrealistic story, and endless repetition of old cliches. if i want to be frightened, then i will read a well-written novel, and let my own imagination fill in the details that the author leaves out, if necessary. hopefully, when i watch your movie, it will be worth seeing, because upon reading your post i do intend to at least take a look at it.

-the grim jestor always grins-

Breathless said...

For some, horror movies have the complete B movie feel and Hostel had some freshness, which made me want to visit Amsterdam with a drill in my backpack! Wolf Creek is another gem, but I agree with jodie, it will not be known as a classic horror movie.


Watch Movies Now!

Provident 360 said...

In my opinion, UFOs in the Bible are angles and are referred to as a cloud, fire, star, etc.

Oli said...

Ok, so I missed the boat on this a little, but I'd like to add my own personal bete noire in the horror genre: movies that are all in people's heads.

Okay, Jacob's Ladder is good. Identity put a nice new spin on it. But enough. If I sit through one more movie where it turns out to be some crazy coma dream, I'm going to slip into one myself.

Offendors: The I Inside, Reeker, Dead End. Yes, I just spoilt these movies for you. Thank me. Now you don't have to watch them.

Stewart Sternberg said...

This was a great post. I stumbled on your blog and glad I did. I cheered reading this. Especially #1. Watching HEROES recently, I watched in amazement as one of the protagonists had the chief villain lying unconscious at his feet and then FAILED TO TERMINATE THE MOTHER!!!

Experimental Mania said...

oh how true you are..
ya im studying horror film..
and i mean fine when it's a film before the 1980's perhaps..
it's still okay to use these cliches..
but now...
it's been done to death!

great post..loved reading through..
stumbled upon your blog through google...cheers!

Anonymous said...

You are rocking! :)))

Actually I'm laughing every time when I see those silly horror movies.

Anonymous said...


Silver Bell said...

One of my favourite movies is Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses... Off the top of my head I can't think of any of the 7 deadly sins in it, though correct me if I'm wrong. Correct me too when I say Otis (Bill Moseley) is hot in it... Dont know who's brain I've inherited to think that but its true.

Anyway, reading this post makes me realise how difficult its gonna be to write my Horror SciFi and Fantasy assessment for uni and it actually be any good. Better get on with it then...


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Kaykiie said...

Awesome, I've thought all of these when watching 'horror' films!

Another one: Killer enters house - victim.. RUNS UPSTAIRS?!? WTF GET OUT OF THE HOUSE YOU MORON!

:P Great post