6 Hilarious Secret Rules All Horror Movies Obey
Horror movies are a lot like porn -- as long as it gets the blood racing, we usually forgive the mind-numbing cliches. Like 90 percent of you know every trick in the horror movie playbook, and there have even been multiple films devoted to lampooning stock characters like the dumb bimbo, the token stoner, and everybody's favorite, the mummy-cursed tollbooth worker. But there are a tons of other weird-ass details that are seemingly mandatory for every horror flick. For example, did you ever notice how ...
In Horror Movies, Everyone Drives An Unrealistically Old Car
In the original 1977 The Hills Have Eyes, the heroes are driving a swag camper towed by a 1971 Chrysler Town & Country.
"I told you to pay for the Town, Country, and Hills upgrade."
That's a realistically six-year-old vehicle helmed by a family of future disembodied blood-husks. Now let's look at what they're packing in the 2006 remake:
When you can't afford a Hummer, but still want to burn as much gas as one.
Huh. OK, well that's an $8,000 1990 Chevrolet Suburban towing a $100,000 1988 Airstream. Why in the world are these people dragging around a 20-year-old camper on their family vacation? Why wouldn't they purchase something affordable and modern and practical? I'll tell you why, previous sentence: It's because car production in the horror world stopped somewhere around the Mr. Belvedere era.
"The Van Halen logo airbrushed on the hood always gets 'em hot."
And here's the car from It Follows, which is owned by the 20-something asshole guy who passes the venereal monster onto the main character. This young bro is driving a 40-year-old 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury. If you're wondering, that's not even a cheap car to own. Unless he inherited it, someone in his position would do better driving a 2005 Camry than this high-maintenance mobile museum.
If racial slurs and cigar smoke were ghosts, this would be the Overlook Hotel of cars.
Why do all these millennial jabronis own '70s and '80s cars? When's the last time you knew a 20-something driving around in a dusty grandpa receptacle? I'm not saying it's impossible. It's just extremely weird that horror movies have collectively decided all young adults own decades-old vehicles. I suspect it's because the people who made these movies are fans of classic '80s horror, in which the characters drove these types of cars. But the only reason they drove cars from this era was that they were made in the era. In Evil Dead, Ash drives a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta because the movie was made in 1981. There's no reason Carrie's mom should be tooling one around in the remake from 2013.
This is the 21st century. Carburetors are for lawnmowers and bongs, people.
Again, it's not a plot hole, just a really, really oddly specific thing that happens in every film. And this genre obsession can often border on being hilariously unrealistic. Take the 1998 film Halloween: H20 (which is terrific, you guys) and the scene wherein Michael Myers steals a 1971 Buick Skylark, until it breaks down at a rest stop. In a tense moment, a woman and her young daughter pull up to the same stop and use the bathroom, only to have Myers yank her purse and drive off with her working auto ...
... a 1956 International Harvester Travelall. That's right, this very modern woman and her daughter were apparently taking an afternoon drive in a 42-year-old Johnny One-Eye getaway truck. Just what the hell is going on here? Are they time-traveling gangsters? Is she Jay Leno's wife? This scene could have been ten minutes of the director wanking in an auto museum, and it'd be less strange and gratuitous.
Supernatural Characters All Have The Same Damn Haircut
I'm reasonably certain that the wailing abyss of Hell only has one hairstylist. Take a look at the trailer for the upcoming Voice From The Stone, which is about Emilia Clarke caring for a spooky young boy who seemingly communicates with his dead mother:
"Don't screw with me, you little shit. I've got dragons."
While you're busy rolling your eyes at the "psychic child" trope, there's another dumb attribute that gloms onto this cliche. I like to call it "the Devil's bowl cut".
I'm not sure exactly when looking like one-third of the Three Stooges became synonymous with demonic powers, but I think it was somewhere around the time every horror movie decided all dead girls were required to look like the aftermath of an inkjet factory explosion.
You can't tell me that supernatural monsters with absolute control over time and space have never heard of conditioner.
It seems the phantom world has the same aesthetic requirement as a pool party at Marilyn Manson's. This is further evidenced by the poster for every fucking demonic possession movie made in the last few years:
"It was creepy when the girl crab-walked down the stairs in The Exorcist, that must be all you need for a horror movie!"
So yeah, Satanic mind control is so pedestrian these days. It's almost as bad as the hackneyed and done-to-death scene in which a tollbooth worker sticks his hand into a broken coin receiver, only to pull out a bloody stump, tattooed with ominous hieroglyphics.
The Killer's Mask (Or Lack Thereof) Says A Lot About Their Socioeconomic Status
If you're ever half-naked and running down I-95 from some power-tool-wielding lunatic, try to get a good look at their face. It might help you learn whether they can take a bribe. You see, whether or not you can see a movie murderer's face says a lot about their bank account. For example, if you can see their face clearly, then you're probably boned, because that person can afford terrific lawyers after they eat your genitals.
For the purposes of this entry, we're excluding another person's face in the category of "mask."
Rich, cultured murderers don't use masks. Their mask is the comfort of high society or plain not giving a fuck. Remember John Doe from Se7en? That's the unhidden face of a man with enough independent wealth to pay multiple rents and buy custom knife dildos. Seriously, a good custom deathfuck-belt is going to run you at least two grand for bladesmithing alone. Then you have to find a leather maker who does kink work and takes cash. It's a whole messy ordeal.
Meanwhile, America's middle class of serial murderer has a very specific MO: dressing up only some of the time as a member of the opposite sex.
Strangely, they all own Q Lazzarus albums.
According to both The Silence Of The Lambs and Psycho, neither Buffalo Bill nor Norman Bates are transgender, but rather use female identities to justify killing other people. And this fits into the very odd pattern that the more disguise you wear, the less affluent you are.
Add in the cost of regular machete and chainsaw sharpening, and poor serial killers end up with a lot of overhead.
Leatherface lives on a rotten farm, Jason Voorhees spends his time in a psycho shanty, the goddamn Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer is a goddamn fisherman, and Michael Myers takes his breathy dumps in the barren toilet of an abandoned childhood home. These void-eyed murder machines run exclusively on cube steak and fruit barrels.
The only weird exception is if the horror movie takes place in a world where people are aware of the slasher genre. In that universe, if you see a figure wearing a surprisingly clean murder mask, the smart money's on some entitled young suburban asshat wheezing under the latex.
There's no way these characters don't smell like vape and body spray.
Movie Monsters Disproportionately Hate Certain Jobs
If horror movies had victim job fairs, they would feature only three occupations: photographer/media, fiction writer, and caretaker.
Booth number one would undoubtedly brag about Get Out's picture-taking protagonist, but the hard truth is that most people who pursue this career will end up being vivisected on grainy found footage. The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity 3, [rec], Diary Of The Dead, Grave Encounters, The Visit, Willow Creek, and The Sacrament benefit from giving the people a realistic, documentary-related motivation for keeping those dumbass cameras rolling. Other times, it's simply to make them curious or to cause a good scare. The Ring's main character is a journalist so she will pursue the tape. In Shutter, the ghost shows up in photos, so naturally she haunts a photographer. Oddly enough, it doesn't even have to be a visual medium. Pontypool, The Fog, and Lords Of Salem all feature radio DJs and are great films.
This somewhat intersects with booth number two, because writers will often do spooky journalism research -- such is the case in Sinister and Twixt. That said, if you land the novelist gig, most likely you're trapped in one of the thousand Stephen King stories with a writer protagonist.
Which is not nearly as bad as being trapped in Maine, to be honest.
And finally, when I say "caretaker," I mean pretty much any job that allows a person to sit in an almost empty building. That means you could be a babysitter or counselor like in Friday The 13th, Halloween, The Skeleton Key (old person babysitter), House Of The Devil, or When A Stranger Calls. But you can also be looking after a house or automated toll booth, like in The Innkeepers, The Woman In Black, or Wes Craven's Sarcophagus.
"Hey, I'm caretaking and writing. Extra credit, please."
Like Every '80s And '90s Horror Poster Looked The Same
Did you ever notice that horror films in the '80s were obsessed with the idea that the villain was best summarized as a big scary Mufasa head in the clouds?
For best results, put a house with one light on directly underneath.
To the best of my memory, none of these films actually involved a scene wherein the characters looked up to see a giant looming kisser affecting the climate. And for some reason, it was important to highlight the fact that this would all take place over a house of some sort, as if those of us casually browsing in Blockbuster would be won over by the promise of a non-exterior setting. Maybe people in the 80s were just excited not to see another tollway-themed poster where the booths are drawn to look like rotting mummy teeth. Who can really say?
But this is all a creative masterstroke compared to the visual tragedy that was the 1990s:
Look, everyone had just discovered Photoshop, and we were still getting the hang of the contrast sliders.
Who in the hell thought that this was an okay thing to do? Who watched these films -- many of which are quite entertaining and unique -- and thought to themselves, "You know what gets horror fans hard? Beatles album art." Why are none of them even looking in the same direction half the time? Did they seriously take screenshots from the film and paste them into a half-assed group photo lineup? That's exactly what they did, isn't it? This is the laziest thing our society has ever done, and should have resulted in jail time.
If You're The Hero, You're Guaranteed To Hit A Deer With Your Car
Like going out for a cigarette or taking a shower, there are certain actions that horror movies only show us when it's leading up to a jump scare. Driving is one of those things. And when it happens early on in the film, you bet your ass it will lead to some fawn getting run over like it fucked Megatron's mom. It happens in Train To Busan, Get Out, The Voices, Cabin Fever, A Cure For Wellness, and so on.
Step on a twig half a mile away in the woods, and they all run. Blare your horn and flash your lights on the highway, and they stand there.
Sometimes the deer sacrifice serves to stop the main character in his or her tracks. Other times it's an easy opportunity for a jump scare and a little exposition. And in rare times, it's great storytelling, like when Get Out uses it to set up a later character moment. Maybe it's not always a deer. Maybe it's a dog or coyote, like in The Monster or The Invitation. And sometimes it's the Egyptian god Anubis, like in Clive Barker's Freeway Of Scarabs or Pharoad's Curse.
And isn't that the real horror movie? The insane body count our woodland friends endure for the sake of spookiness? No matter what terror plays out for the film's human characters, it's a sunshine parade of candy farts compared to the army of automotive death machines ambushing our majestic wildlife whilst driven by dipshits on their way to a sandstorm-enshrouded E-ZPass station.
Dave loves horror movies and is on Twitter.
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