Crossfader’s Super Spooky Listicles: Horror Trends That Need to R.I.P.
Horror runs trends and clichés into the ground faster and harder than any other genre. Found footage, zombies, vampires…take your pick. These cycles oftentimes produce plenty of outstanding films and cinematic moments, but, eventually, they need to be laid to rest from overuse. Here are five modern horror clichés and trends that need to rest in peace.
Foreign/Minority Medium Lady
There’s something strange in your neighborhood? Who ya gonna call? Spanish medium grandma! Hollywood has a problem casting minorities, and it doesn’t necessarily help that when they actually do show up in horror movies, they end up as the kooky foreign person that senses ghosts. Think about it. A whitebread family starts to encounter paranormal activity in their home. Obviously, they’re too sensible to believe in ghosts, so they need their housekeeper or local crazy woman to come in and make sense of it all. The family initially resists the advice because they’re rational and that woman is completely nuts. Eventually shit hits the fan and they decide to give that foreign lady a shot. The woman comes in, puts her life on the line for a family she hardly knows, and the demon scrambles back to hell. While this character is Hispanic more often than not, sometimes she’s Indian, or, in the case of 2014’s ANNABELLE, African-American. At worst, it’s kinda racist, and at best, it’s an annoying horror cliché.
Recent offenders: ANNABELLE, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, THE DARKNESS
So, let’s say someone presents you with two different lists of 2016 horror films you know nothing about. The first list features names like THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, THE NEON DEMON, and CARNAGE PARK. The second list features names like THE BOY and THE FOREST. Now, which list of titles are you more interested in? There’s a reason Roger Corman and companies like The Asylum are able to find success, despite their subpar products. Their movies have cool (or at least intriguing) names: SHARKNADO, COBRAGATOR… They don’t need to be that obnoxious, but “THE FOREST” is ultra-lame. I’m going to single out Blumhouse for this offense especially, as of late. Among this year’s releases from the company are: VISIONS, CURVE, THE VEIL, THE DARKNESS, and VIRAL. Do any of those titles get you excited to see the actual movies? From what I understand, Blumhouse simplifies its titles, so that they can easily translate in other territories. Still, you can have a simple title and generate some intrigue. For example: THE WITCH. Nothing too fancy, but it provides some eerie connotations associated with it, as opposed to something like “VIRAL.” The Blumhouse title I’m most excited to see this year? IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE. See, that’s a kick-ass name.
Recent offenders: THE BOY, THE FOREST, Most Blumhouse movies
Lazy Horror Anthologies
Horror anthologies are quickly becoming the new found footage. I’d argue 2007’s TRICK ‘R TREAT reignited the interest in ʼ70s and ʼ80s-style anthologies like TALES FROM THE CRYPT and CREEPSHOW. TRICK ‘R TREAT is possibly the best Halloween-centric movie ever made, and definitely one of the best horror anthologies of all time. Director Michael Dougherty cleverly interweaves its five stories into a larger narrative that packs one hell of a punch. However, in its wake, TRICK ‘R TREAT has left a spate of lazy horror anthologies that are simply a collection of loosely connected short films. Watching anthologies like 2012’s THE ABCS OF DEATH, it’s easy to tell that none of the filmmakers were on the same page when making their segments, resulting in a mishmash of cheap short films with varying levels of production value. Most anthologies today don’t even bother with a wraparound segment. This year’s HOLIDAYS separates its individual stories with nothing more than greeting card-styled titles. Luckily, this year also brought us the terrific SOUTHBOUND, which features overlapping segments that assemble into a competent whole. Let’s abandon the lazy collection of short films in favor of these intelligently put together anthologies.
Recent offenders: THE ABCS OF DEATH 1 & 2, HOLIDAYS
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Playing on a TV in Frame
This one is more of a minor eyeroll. Since the beginning of horror cinema, filmmakers have left easter eggs to other movies they admire in their own works. In THE EVIL DEAD, Sam Raimi features an homage to Wes Craven by displaying a ripped poster of THE HILLS HAVE EYES in one of the cellar scenes. This is essentially an homage to an homage, because Craven did the same poster gag in THE HILLS HAVE EYES, but for JAWS. I’m all for fun little references to horror films of yesteryear, but can we please stop with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? I’ve seen at least half a dozen horror films this year that feature George Romero’s zombie classic playing on a TV in the frame. I understand it’s in the public domain and producers must love not having to fill out the paperwork or pay the fees to clear it, but let’s get a little more creative with our homages. This cliché officially jumped the shark for me with last year’s TALES OF HALLOWEEN, a horror anthology, in which more than one segment featured NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Let’s give some love to other public domain horror classics.
Recent offenders: BURYING THE EX, TALES OF HALLOWEEN, SINISTER 2
Protagonist Dies/Everyone Is Doomed at the End
The protagonist runs away from the unidentifiable creature/force/ghost. The creature/force/ghost strikes that character, who drops the camera. After rolling for a few seconds on emptiness, the camcorder cuts off. Sound familiar? The protagonist never survives in a found footage horror movie. One of the only exceptions in recent years is AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, which I like almost solely because it avoids that cliché. I guess technically a movie can’t be found footage if the character operating the camera lives, but do they all need to end with the camera hitting the floor? The protagonist dying or being doomed cliché has found its way into countless non-found footage horror movies, as well. If a character is going to go to hell and back for 90 minutes just to end up slaughtered or completely wrecked, then what’s the point? You’ll find this problem in many high concept horror films that set up an elaborate premise, but don’t know how to follow through to the end. THE CONJURING 2 has one of the best horror movie endings this year, in my opinion, because it ends on happy note with Ed and Lorraine Warren dancing to Elvis. There’s plenty of set-up for another sequel and not all of the demon stuff is tied up in a neat bow, but James Wan provides us with a satisfying end for these characters, rather than being horribly maimed or immediately facing a new threat.
Recent offenders: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, FLIGHT 7500, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL