20 Tired Horror Movie Tropes (That Still Have Life In Them)

Sometimes, what scared us once will scare us forever.
20 Tired Horror Movie Tropes (That Still Have Life In Them)

We love horror movies. They capture fears beyond our imagination in nice 90-minute packages, allowing us to handle the horrors within our imagination that we have to face in everyday life: unpaid bills, the loneliness of modern life, looming climate collapse, or every new dumb Elon Musk idea being treated as if it was worth billions in taxpayer money. But a love for horror movies also has to deal with its well-established tropes. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to criticize the worst ones, or as we also like to call them, “the scripts for Paranormal Activity sequels.” Here, however, we focus on the glass half full and discuss the horror movie tropes that can still spook us. 

Indeed, the thing about horror movies is that some basic tricks can still be very effective. The new Scream, for example, managed to pull off the exact killer-behind-the-victim trope that the original Halloween did so well, while at the same time calling back to Randy watching that very same scene in the original Scream. That’s like a fourth-dimensional, tesseract-like bundle of tropes all intertwined together, and it totally worked. Also, yes, we liked the new Scream. A bunch of you probably disliked the joke about Elon Musk (the Paranormal Activity 9: The Shyamalan Cut of “geniuses”) so yeah, we’re very proud of our 5cream t-shirt. Anyway, you know what else we like? Awesome, still-promising horror tropes like…

Final Girl

CRACKED.COM TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK FINAL GIRLS 2019's Midsommar took this trope to arthouse levels. Similarly, 2015's The Final Girls and It Follows, as well as 2017's Gerald's Game and Happy Death Day, did wonders with it, but the subversion we enjoyed the most was in the 2017 French action-horror Revenge.

Stationary Found Footage

TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK STATIONARY FOUND FOOTAGE The genre is full of tired tropes. One we really like, however, is when the camera simply stops shaking and we're left with a still image of explicit or implicit horror. Perhaps because it's based on real events, a modern example we love is the final massacre scene in Ti West's underrated 2013 movie, The Sacrament. CRACKED.COM

Slow Burner

CRACKED.COM TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK THE SLOW BURNER Movies that take their time with the horror make the entire, anxiety-inducing trip worthwhile. 2021's Candyman reboot had a quite different pace when compared to the more conventional (if still superior) original, but the final third of 2008's French classic Martyrs is a masterclass in slow-burning dread.

Mid-Film Plot Switch

TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK MID-FILM PLOT SWITCHES We're so used to established genres, that a midway change in genre, plot, or style can feel refreshing and keep us on our toes. Psycho is of course the grandaddy, and Audition and Abre los Ojos go from romcom to psychological horror. Recent examples include/See You, The Perfection, and Mother! CRACKED.COM

Nobody Believes You

TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK NOBODY BELIEVES YOU That moment when the main character is all alone against their threat and nobody believes them is truly a pleasure of the genre. If even their sanity is doubted? Even better. The Invisible Man was already pulling this paranoid, suffocating trope very well, and then the restaurant scene happened. Well done, movie. CRACKED.COM

The skeptic is Proven Wrong

CRACKED.COM FBI TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK THE SKEPTIC IS PROVEN WRONG Ghost Stories, and of course The X-Files during its prime, made great use of this trope. But our favorite example is John Cusack's character in 1408. Seriously, we need more smart horror movies taking their time with a smug skeptic - only for them to be forced to swallow their skepticism.

Creative Monsters

TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK CREATIVE MONSTERS We love when horror movies go the extra mile and come up with new types of monsters with which to scare us. We saw original monsters in recent movies such as Lamb, Sputnik, Impetigore, The Borderlands, and of course, It Follows. CRACKED.COM

Negative Space

CRACKED.COM TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK NEGATIVE SPACE In a word, horror movies can terrify not only because of what they show, but also because of what they don't show. Creep and Midsommar made great use of negative space, but we're fonder of the empty shots in Gerald's Game and especially The Invisible Man.

Harbinger of Doom

TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK HARBINGER OF DOOM Horror movies are inherent masochistic, as we watch them knowing full well things are gonna get ugly. The crusty old man who warns the protagonists not to go any further makes this very clear. The meta-parody of all things horror The Cabin in the Woods had a character literally referred to as harbinger. CRACKED.COM

Depressing Ending

TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK DEPRESSING ENDING Classics like 1988's Spoorloos have depressing endings, but also some of the best horror movies of recent times: Kill List, I Saw the Devil, The Descent, It Follows, The Battery, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Invitation, The Gift, and Martyrs. A well-known example is The Mist, but we recommend the underrated Eden Lake as well. CRACKED.COM


TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK CULTS Being so creepy in real life, it's no wonder cults are an undying horror staple. Our favorite recent horror films about cults are Ari Aster's Hereditary and Midsommar (Aster seems to have a thing for cults as well), but also The Ritual, The Sacrament, The Perfection, and even the uneven yet quite acceptable Wrong Turn reboot. CRACKED.COM

Dark Arcs

CRACKED.COM TIRED HORROR TROPES THAT STILL WORK DARK CHARACTER ARCS Yahya Abdul-Mateen II had a quite dark arc in the Candyman reboot, but our favorite recent example is Florence Pugh's character in Midsommar. Her character had a kind of final girl thing going on, but that final shot opens a whole other dimension for her arc.


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