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> Do Clichés Make a Horror Film Bad?

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TSdarkslatemedia P
post Jun 3 2019, 03:44 AM, updated 6 months ago

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We’ve heard it thrown around before that modern horror films are simply too cliché and predictable. It’s as if the horror audience have grown all too familiar with its films that they’ve come to a point where they need more from their movies other than cheap jump scares and basic storylines. Today we’re taking a look at some of these “clichés” and see whether having them present in a movie makes them bad or in the contrast, simply have nothing do with the final outcome.

Before we continue, it’s best if we first define the term “cliché”. According Merriam-Webster, a cliché is a hackneyed theme, characterisation or situation. Basically, what that means is when something lacks originality and borrows elements from other films that are often overused and repetitive. In all honesty, this is very apparent in a lot of horror movies today but this is not to discredit those movies but rather to state the obvious. Partially I think this is due to how horror films are written and have to go through the motions in order to deliver the perfect scare.

See, the scares in modern horror movies are usually built this way: it first introduces us to the threat, then it builds up the tension by letting the threat taunt on the protagonist, usually by showing us the after effects of something this entity has done, giving us a sense of how powerful this threat is and finally have the threat do something to the protagonist – frequently done by using a jump scare. To most people, this formula has been overplayed to death and is now known as a cliché.

1. THE JUMP SCARES
One of the first pieces I’ve ever written was called The 7 Cardinal Sins of Horror and I wrote this after seeing the 2017 film Rings. I did this because I reached a point where I was tired of seeing the same mistakes horror movies have been making and never rectifying them – I had to vent and that was my way of doing it. Anyways in that article, I talked about jump scares and how they’ve been overused without delivering a payoff. Jump scares used to be a method used in horror movies to tease a much larger scare. It was treated as the cheapest form of thrill a horror movie could have while having the bigger scare as the final payoff. However, most modern horror films today completely ignore the bigger scares and treat jump scares as the final payoff – this is a problem.

If jump scares are now a cliché and this piece is deciding if clichés make a horror film bad, then yes, jump scares do bring down the quality of a film. Especially now, when every horror movie out there is using this and only this as part of the scares in their “scary movie”. Loud noises are not scary. Someone randomly barging into a room to make his presence known is not scary. These things startle you, they completely take you out of the film for a brief moment as if someone suddenly slid ice cubes into your shirt – it surprises you for a bit, then you go about your regular day. Horror movies are made to invoke fear even after you leave the theatre and yes, they used to do that. Do you remember coming back from a horror movie and being too scared to turn off the lights? THAT is what these movies were built on. Jump scares simply don’t do that.

2. ANNOUNCING YOURSELF TO THE KILLER
Commonly seen in home invasion movies, this is one cliché that is fairly overused to a certain degree. We see this all the time in those films where the protagonist hears something coming from another room and instead of leaving the place, they decide to announce themselves – exposing their location to the killer. This cliché is not as infuriating as the jump scare because it actually serves a purpose in the narrative of the film.

When the protagonist decides to go investigate the situation instead of getting the heck out of there, it creates tension. We would have no movie if they leave, therefore this cliché is somewhat necessary in a horror film. Calling this is a cliché is accurate but it doesn’t make for a bad movie. Movies do this to advance the plot, while it may be the simplest way to do it, it’s still a way regardless. When the protagonist in a film does this, it usually builds up the tension leading into a chase sequence or a kill. Normally, this happens after the group decides to split up, which is poked fun at in 2012’s Cabin In The Woods. This bring us to the next point…

3. WHEN THE TEAM DECIDES TO SPLIT UP
Why do they do this? It always frustrates me when I see this happen on-screen. The team stand a better chance at survival if they decide to stick together but instead, they do the complete opposite. Now this most definitely does not make a horror film bad – in fact, it makes it more interesting. This gives the killer a chance to get creative with his kills giving us some pretty intense moments. With each character broken up at various places, it allows the killer to asses his attacks as they’re left vulnerable.

This cliché is present in almost every slasher and in all honesty, I think filmmakers should come up with better reasoning for the team to split up other than simply having it happen. Perhaps maybe have the characters draw out some kind of plan as to why they need to split such as in 2011’s You’re Next .That being said, I really do understand this cliché because without it, we wouldn’t get slasher movies therefore this can stay in my opinion.

4. THE KILLER IS IMMORTAL
Once again within the realms of the slasher genre, the killer is somehow inhuman. Unless mentioned otherwise, the killer is almost always a regular human being – okay maybe not regular but you get what I’m saying. Throughout the entire film, we see the killer being beaten by the protagonist as he takes some pretty hard hits. Sometimes even, we see him fall and become unconscious temporarily. However by the end of the third act, the killer is defeated either by being run over, stabbed, decapitated or even burned alive! Then as the film draws to a close, he somehow comes back to life.

This cliché has pretty much fallen victim into the classic case of the sequel cash-grab. Studios need to make money and would rather bank on a successful film than making something original. This is why the killer ALWAYS comes back alive towards the end of the film so that they could make more movies. Even if the killer dies, he doesn’t. Just like the previous two, this cliché doesn’t bring down the quality of a horror movie as more often than not, it’s only seen at the very end of the film.

5. CONVENIENT POWER OUTAGES
Ah, the convenient power outages that occur to amp up the spookiness! This cliché is notorious for being used in tons of horror films that at this point seem to be something that we can see coming from a mile away. This is most commonly seen in possession movies and is something that most definitely we can do without. The filmmakers nowadays use this as a cheap cop-out for a scare that makes the film lack creativity and drive.

The power outages simply have got to stop happening. I mean, there’s a million different ways to introduce a scare in a film besides turning off the lights. It’s boring, predictable and we’ve had enough of it. This is because we’ve seen this time and time again and it seems like a lazy way to progress the plot. Bring back tension, introduce new creative ways besides having the power cut off. This cliché most definitely brings down the quality of a horror film.

All in all though, I think most horror movie cliches do not make a film good nor bad. They exist because they’ve been proven to work by existing films. However, some of these cliches have been so overdone that I think it’s time to bury it. If filmmakers can come up with great stories, I’m sure that they can also come up with new ways to scare the audience. We deserve better movies and that will never happen if no one ever addresses the issue at hand. Studios are listening to its audience now more than ever and the new Sonic the Hedgehog film is a testament to that. The horror community is one that is supportive toward new entries to the genre and I think that it’s high time that the genre gave us something new.

Do you think clichés can impact the quality of a horror movie? What are some of your most hated clichés in a horror film?
6so
post Jun 3 2019, 08:38 AM

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You are just pointing out horror tropes in generic hollywood studios output. Every decision being made to maximize ticket sales. It's all about trend and narrative formulas. Put the blame on audience's complacency to genre familiarity as their wallet just informed the studios what to produce.

WB, Lionsgates or James Wan and what not will just keep pushing out what has proven to work on the market until it's not profitable or another new trend emerges.

Then you have the rule of exception, The Cabin in the Woods uses every conceivable horror tropes to subvert your expectation. Scream also does that for the first movie.

If you are watching by your definition "cliche" horror movie, you already knew what you are getting into. Unless, a big name auteur directing it or adaptation of a masterpiece source material or someone setting a new trend.

Instead, pondering a meandering question, do your research on the people behind the movie. Blumhouse can get creative with their horror subjects but low budget. A24's annual horror release that has become the hot ticket for indie breakout film directors. If you want original and artsy kind, experiment with european cinema and critical niche films.



ThalaFan
post Jun 3 2019, 12:22 PM

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Neat analysis. Im also wary whenever I watch horror films cuz cheap jumpscares & predictable twist from 1 mile away often takes away the film's entertainment value

Conjurin 2 & Hereditary are only watchable/decent one's that I remember watchin

Those had cliches as well. But nt as teruk as some regional films. Our own harum sundal malam for instance lol. The Ring also same category
6so
post Jun 3 2019, 01:04 PM

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QUOTE(ThalaFan @ Jun 3 2019, 01:22 PM)
Conjurin 2 & Hereditary are only watchable/decent one's that I remember watchin
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Then your knowledge of horror genre extremely shallow. tongue.gif
ThalaFan
post Jun 3 2019, 01:52 PM

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QUOTE(6so @ Jun 3 2019, 01:04 PM)
Then your knowledge of horror genre extremely shallow. tongue.gif
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Im not a fan of horror genre mind you. I'd rather watch action/adventure genre fims instead of spendin my time analysing behind-the-camera thingy😂
markgrynko1472
post Jun 3 2019, 01:54 PM

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Laughed a little because these cliches are totally true!
6so
post Jun 3 2019, 02:22 PM

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QUOTE(ThalaFan @ Jun 3 2019, 02:52 PM)
Im not a fan of horror genre mind you.  I'd rather watch action/adventure genre fims instead of spendin my time analysing behind-the-camera thingy😂
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Then why bother to comment? Lol....
ThalaFan
post Jun 3 2019, 04:11 PM

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QUOTE(6so @ Jun 3 2019, 02:22 PM)
Then why bother to comment? Lol....
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There's diff to being a fan & posting opinions related to discussed topic. I'd suggest ya stop ur attempt at bein elitist with me
6so
post Jun 3 2019, 04:37 PM

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QUOTE(ThalaFan @ Jun 3 2019, 05:11 PM)
There's diff to being a fan & posting opinions related to discussed topic. I'd suggest ya stop ur attempt at bein elitist with me
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Errmmm...perhaps you don't use wording "are only watchable".

Your post implying others who have enjoyed different movies other than the mentioned references does not warrant merit.

Guess you're an elitist as well....lol...

dharmabums
post Jun 4 2019, 10:01 AM

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You want horror tropes that need to go... This one really need to disappear:

Ever since Ringu, almost every supernatural female ghost has been a woman with long hair almost covering the face and wearing white (usually accompanied with jump scares). That's just lazy if i must say.
TSdarkslatemedia P
post Jun 4 2019, 06:01 PM

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QUOTE(6so @ Jun 3 2019, 08:38 AM)
You are just pointing out horror tropes in generic hollywood studios output. Every decision being made to maximize ticket sales. It's all about trend and narrative formulas. Put the blame on audience's complacency to genre familiarity as their wallet just informed the studios what to produce.

WB, Lionsgates or James Wan and what not will just keep pushing out what has proven to work on the market until it's not profitable or another new trend emerges.

Then you have the rule of exception, The Cabin in the Woods uses every conceivable horror tropes to subvert your expectation. Scream also does that for the first movie.

If you are watching by your definition "cliche" horror movie, you already knew what you are getting into. Unless, a big name auteur directing it or adaptation of a masterpiece source material or someone setting a new trend.

Instead, pondering a meandering question, do your research on the people behind the movie. Blumhouse can get creative with their horror subjects but low budget. A24's annual horror release that has become the hot ticket for indie breakout film directors. If you want original and artsy kind, experiment with european cinema and critical niche films.
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Hi, that was kind of the point of the post. Most of the cliches that I've stated are from mainstream horror, therefore I get where you're coming from. However, these are the kind of movies that get the most attention from the masses and overall giving modern horror a bad rep. The problem starts when these horror tropes start seeping into the independent films and passion projects. Cinema in and of itself is greatly influenced by other films, be it mainstream or not. I do praise studios like A24 and Blumhouse for bringing something new to the masses and of course the Jennifer Kent's of the world for creating depth in their films.

Here's where it starts getting a little convoluted - the question being asked was does having cliches in a horror movie make it bad and truth be told there's no straight answer for that. Most of us would give it a pass if the final product is great (e.g The Conjuring, Sinister, the first Paranormal) but should the film be nothing but a blatant cash-grab with no artistic value, then these cliches become more apparent (e.g. Truth or Dare, Ouija, Slender Man). So, does that mean that we should embrace these horror tropes and call it a day or expect filmmakers to do better?

Whatever your answer is, one thing's for sure - once you start noticing these tropes in a film, you can never un-see them.

Hope you have a great day!
-Luke
TSdarkslatemedia P
post Jun 4 2019, 06:02 PM

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QUOTE(ThalaFan @ Jun 3 2019, 12:22 PM)
Neat analysis. Im also wary whenever I watch horror films cuz cheap jumpscares & predictable twist from 1 mile away often takes away the film's entertainment value

Conjurin 2 & Hereditary are only watchable/decent one's that I remember watchin

Those had cliches as well. But nt as teruk as some regional films. Our own harum sundal malam for instance lol. The Ring also same category
*
Hi, yes sometimes it's pretty obvious to see where the movie's headed before we even get to the 2nd act. Yes, local movies have to do better and there has been a few great ones. I recommend checking out "Dukun" and "Munafik 2" if you haven't already, they're pretty good!

-Luke
TSdarkslatemedia P
post Jun 4 2019, 06:03 PM

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QUOTE(markgrynko1472 @ Jun 3 2019, 01:54 PM)
Laughed a little because these cliches are totally true!
*
RIGHT! It's starts to get a little annoying at times!

-Luke
6so
post Jun 4 2019, 07:09 PM

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QUOTE(darkslatemedia @ Jun 4 2019, 07:01 PM)
Hi, that was kind of the point of the post. Most of the cliches that I've stated are from mainstream horror, therefore I get where you're coming from. However, these are the kind of movies that get the most attention from the masses and overall giving modern horror a bad rep. The problem starts when these horror tropes start seeping into the independent films and passion projects. Cinema in and of itself is greatly influenced by other films, be it mainstream or not. I do praise studios like A24 and Blumhouse for bringing something new to the masses and of course the Jennifer Kent's of the world for creating depth in their films.

Here's where it starts getting a little convoluted - the question being asked was does having cliches in a horror movie make it bad and truth be told there's no straight answer for that. Most of us would give it a pass if the final product is great (e.g The Conjuring, Sinister, the first Paranormal) but should the film be nothing but a blatant cash-grab with no artistic value, then these cliches become more apparent (e.g. Truth or Dare, Ouija, Slender Man). So, does that mean that we should embrace these horror tropes and call it a day or expect filmmakers to do better?

Whatever your answer is, one thing's for sure - once you start noticing these tropes in a film, you can never un-see them.

Hope you have a great day!
-Luke
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Grrr...you are missing the point! First of all, it's movie tropes and not cliches. It's a tool in the arsenal of film makers. It will never be rid off as long as people continue to practice film making. There's good or bad usage of it and pointless to call it out to be eliminated. Like I said before, cinema goer voted with their wallet to buy into blatant cash grab movies. Instead of throwing a loaded question to camouflage your dissatisfaction, try convince those people who like those movies you deemed unsatisfactory to change their mind. When you are successful at it, perhaps the hollywood bigwigs will listen to you and ban all these unnecessary horror movie tropes.

I don't fault Jordan Peele for using jump scares and "idiot victim" tropes in Us. Do I need to boycott Tarantino for appropriating genre movie tropes as part of his stylistic identity. It's all about how the movie tropes being used in context. It is not my place to stop people from enjoying movies that not on my wheelhouse.
oucheev
post Jun 19 2019, 02:10 PM

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QUOTE(dharmabums @ Jun 4 2019, 10:01 AM)
You want horror tropes that need to go... This one really need to disappear:

Ever since Ringu, almost every supernatural female ghost has been a woman with long hair almost covering the face and wearing white (usually accompanied with jump scares). That's just lazy if i must say.
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The female ghost with long hair is no longer scary. Nowadays, whenever I see such ghost, I find them more funny and always have this question at the back of my head "What shampoo do they use?" biggrin.gif
Menth1985 P
post Jun 20 2019, 07:06 PM

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Not necessarily. It is hard to be original especially when there are already plenty of horror movies so it's highly likely to see one or more cliches. Depends on the execution I suppose, but among your examples, I just think that number 2 is stupid. Baffles me everytime!

 

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