5 Tropes That Remind You You're Just Watching A Movie

Movies generally try to present their story as being real, even when it's some fantastical bullshit like Dragonheart or Rudy. Well, except in films like Deadpool, where the character is aware that he's fictional, but that could be said of any Ryan Reynolds film. Still, most movies do try to keep things grounded. Yet they also keep doing stuff that only makes sense if an audience is watching. For example ...

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5
Ghosts Perform Scares For The Camera

It's 3:14 a.m. and the haunted house you keep telling your family is perfectly safe wakes you up with the sound of screams and the fresh scent of bloody stumps. You get up to drown the torment with powerful sedatives as usual, but right as you close the medicine cabinet and turn away, a terrible misshapen visage like an a*****e made of half-cooked hamburger meat appears! s**t! The entire audience jumps. But not you, because you didn't see it. So who the hell was that ghost scaring?

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All too often in horror movies, there's a creepy scene in which a ghost will appear in a bathroom mirror, or walk past the end of a hall, or appear behind the door in a way that's visible to people watching the film but goes totally unseen by the characters in the movie. How is this a thing? Here's a terribly blatant example from The Woman In Black.

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That face just shows up next to Harry Potter there, but he can't see it. Who can? You and me. "Oh s**t!" we exclaim. But no one in the movie does, because no one saw it.

If we're to believe that the malevolent spirit in a horror movie has the ability to appear and disappear at will, as is generally the case, then why would it ever appear in a way that the people in the movie can't see? Does it need to cross the hall to set up a better scare? Was it hiding just out of view in the bathroom mirror because it needed to check its hair before it ate a soul? This seems needlessly complex. The heights of that complexity are stomped a new mud hole by Netflix's The Haunting Of Hill House.

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This entire video exists to point out all the secret s**t in that show. There are dozens of scenes with hidden ghosts in them. Hidden ghosts. Ghosts that are just there for eagle-eyed viewers or dedicated YouTubers to find. The people in the show never see them, thus telling us that the afterlife is so goddamn boring that you just loiter in the background of the world of the living for no reason at all.

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Obviously, the real reason that ghost was hiding in the salad crisper that our hero never even opened was to scare us in the audience. And that's cool -- a horror movie that doesn't scare anyone is just A Star Is Born, so you need those jumps in there somewhere. But it also shits all over the idea of the ghost when it does goofball stuff which, in the context of the film, serves no purpose whatsoever. And it's in nearly every single ghost movie made in the last 30 years. The entire Paranormal Activity series is pretty much predicated on this. The whole first half is just s**t moving around a house for no reason at all. The afterlife is going to intensely frustrating, if horror movies are to be believed.

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Related: 25 Little Things In Movies And Shows That Are SO Distracting

4
Disguised Characters Reveal Themselves For The Camera (And No One Else)

Mystique is a very important member of the X-Men because of her uncanny resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence. She wasn't really super important in the comics until the movies came out and people realized "Hey, that blue lady's naked!" and they ran with it. Her power is super cool and all, except the whole thing is given away by her eyes, which constantly flash yellow. If anyone was looking at disguised Mystique when that happens, they'd put a bullet in her head. But no one is looking, so why the hell does she do it all the time? Because the filmmakers are afraid we can't wrap our heads around the idea of a shapeshifter, so they need to remind us every single time one is onscreen.

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Movies love the idea of a disguise, but hate the reality, because the reality hides the star. For years, conventional wisdom held that superheroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man could never get their own movies because the main characters hide their faces, and who wants to pay to see a mask? (You'll notice how often Spider-Man and Iron Man remove their masks in those movies. And for further shame, go watch Steel, which was supposed to be about a man in full-body metal armor and turned into Shaq at a BDSM masquerade ball.)

This is the same reason Ethan Hunt can't wait to yank off his rubber face and show you how much he looks like Tom Cruise in a Mission: Impossible movie, or why Harry Potter and friends have to leap out from their invisibility cloak the moment they enter the Psanctum of Psoriasis. Realistically, you'd probably want to stay disguised as long as humanly possible, because it's the thing that's stopping people from murdering you to death. But in movies, you need to let the audience see that pretty face of yours so they don't get bored by things like plot and logic.

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Related: 37 Incredibly Distracting Things Hollywood Won't Stop Doing

3
Characters Tell Each Other Things They Already Know

Exposition is a sticky wicket in movies at the best of time. We're getting to see maybe two hours' worth of a story that could arguably be the culmination of a character's entire life. That's why you never see James Bond with diarrhea. We just don't have the time. It's also why characters have to say s**t that no real human would ever say to someone else. It's the only way to get info to the audience. Consider every single time you've seen some criminals outside of a job and the leader says something like "We go in, we get the money, no one gets hurt." Is that when you say that? On the way in? Didn't think to include that in the dry run last week or anything?

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For all the awesomeness of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, it had to condense a ton of book into, well, a ton of movie. But not as much movie. So you get things like Saruman in his tower narrating Gandalf and the Fellowship as they head to Moria, with Saruman saying that Gandalf knows what the dwarves uncovered deep in the dark of the mine, meaning the Balrog. Except who the hell is Saruman talking to? He's not actually talking to Gandalf. Gandalf isn't even there. He's literally talking to himself in the most expository way possible.

Imagine your mom going out for groceries as you look through the fridge, saying s**t like, "Yes, Mother, you know full well how much I hunger for Hot Pockets. Will fate smile upon you this day, or must I smite thee for thy freezer-born insolence? We shall see!"

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Let's make fun of the X-Men again for a second. Look at this!

"As everyone knows, the existence of mutants was first discovered shortly after this ancient overhead projector I'm using was made." So yeah, that's a teacher telling a classroom where mutants came from, complete with images from the last movie, because a "Previously on X-Men" segment seemed hammy.

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Blade Runner was ostensibly an amazing science fiction movie, but it still can't shake the need to include useless scenes of exposition like this:

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If Deckard is an experienced Blade Runner, a man whose job is to literally hunt and kill replicants, why is his boss explaining to him in detail what a replicant is? The only person in the room who doesn't know this information is the audience, so this was the best way they had to tell us. It'd be like dragging Bobby Flay into your office to show him a YouTube video on how to make tacos, because let me tell you, super-chef Bobby Flay is well aware of how to make tacos.

Related: 22 Unbelievably Distracting Details In Movies And TV Shows

2
Sci-Fi Language Rules Make No Sense In-Universe

Quick, what does "qapla'" mean? It's Klingon, if that helps get your linguistic nerd-juices going. The word means "success," and you'd say it the way you might say "good luck" to someone who has a bum for a forehead. Fun! Now explain how anyone can say that word in the Star Trek universe if everyone has a universal translator embedded in their noggin.

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The reason aliens communicate so easily on Star Trek is the universal translator. It's not just a computer on the Enterprise; it's an actual thing embedded in the heads of people. There's an episode of Deep Space Nine in which Quark travels back in time to Earth and his translator goes wonky, so no one knows what he's saying until it's fixed. That means it translates what you say for others and what they say for you. So how can any Klingon ever say any words in their own language? It happens all the time on Star Trek. The reason is to add some flavor to the whole "alien" thing, to show that they have their own habits and customs and language, even if it shits all over the efforts they went through to circumnavigate that whole thing.

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In the same vein, you have to wonder about the questionable conversations that occur between R2-D2 and C-3PO. Artoo can only communicate via a series of hilariously sassy beeps, and the only person who seems to know what he's saying is Threepio. And sometimes Luke. And maybe Chewbacca? But in an effort to loop us in, Threepio kindly narrates both sides of their conversations pretty much all the time in a way that doesn't make any sense if it wasn't a performance put on for an audience. Most of their conversations unfold like this:

R2-D2: Bleep boop beep bop blurp!

C-3PO: What do you mean you shot a meth dealer in New Mexico just so you could keep porking his old lady?

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Threepio constantly has to tell us what Artoo said because most of us don't speak bleeps, and then he adds his anal-retentive commentary on top. He's both halves of a comedy sidekick duo.

If you want to get super confusing, you can look at Jabba the Hutt, who gets subtitled for some reason, but who also has a dong-headed fellow translate for him when Luke shows up. And yet this is the case when he speaks to Han:

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Related: 29 Famous Movie Scenes With Glaring Mistakes

1
Characters Obsessively Keep News Clippings Of Their Own Recent History

If you watch a lot of horror movies, you'll start noticing a fun trend in the opening credits, wherein they toss out newspaper clippings that talk about missing teens or the number of Bigfoot muggings on the rise. The newspaper is the poor man's exposition tool, but it's also a questionable souvenir in many films. After all, who the hell even gets the paper anymore? And why were they saving these specific clippings?

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In the movie Misery, crazy ol' Annie has a crazy ol' scrapbook of her crazy ol' self that James Caan finds at one point. It's basically a slapdash history of the character up to that point. There are clips about her being in nursing school because that makes the paper, and then stuff about her being kind of a crazy murderer they called the "Dragon Lady." Now, does Annie strike you as the kind of person who wants to be reminded she's a baby-killing dragon lady? That doesn't really fit with the character, so why did she keep those clippings anyway?

A Quiet Place was a really good movie for the most part, but it does feature this scene:

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Man, that sure is a lot of newspaper headlines just to tell the characters in the movie the most basic information they have known for a long time. That scene takes place on Day 472, and that count is sketchy at best. Is that from when s**t got bad? The attack seems to have been a slow process, judging from the missing person posters earlier in the movie, as if the monsters eased into killing everyone. And obviously the media had time to print and circulate papers for a while, so the threat wasn't so bad that anyone cared about the paper boy, at least for a few days. So safe to say this information was out there for quite some time.

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Nonetheless, Jim still needs to have "survive" written on a whiteboard, in case anyone forgot, alongside "they can hear you." Well, no s**t. I don't want to piss in anyone's cornflakes, but pretty much everything can hear you, from skunks to mimes. That was a terrible headline.

Unbreakable has a similar scene when we finally confirm that Mr. Glass is actually Mr. Glasshole.

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Yep, he saved all those clips of his nefarious deeds. You can almost forgive this one because it's an unofficial comic book movie and he's playing at being a comic book villain. But at the same time, if he really had any interest in getting away with anything, maybe making a Wall of Guilt that only serves to tell the audience what's up was a bad idea.

For more, check out 5 Dumb Movie Tropes They Need To Bring Back:


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