If you’re a horror film buff, you know how a good scary movie can make you feel alive. A top psychologist claims that “people are driven to see scary movies to escape from the tedium,” which makes sense if you think about it. Few things get the adrenaline running like a frightening flick does – even train breakdowns no longer get our blood pumping as much.

The best horror films combine tension, shock, consistency, and believability to give you the creeps. But not every scary movie manages to achieve that, and there are just some horror movie tropes that need to die. Unfortunately, they keep coming back to life, like zombie with bad make-up.

Here are some of the worst offenders we’ve seen in horror films.


1. Jump scares

The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

A jump scare is a sudden change in visuals that’s usually accompanied by a loud sound. Most of the item, it involves the monster jumping out at the audience or at the victim.

Jump scares aren’t all bad – in fact, we’ve come to expect it as part of the horror movie genre. Which good scary film doesn’t have a jump scare or two in it?

The problem comes when jump scares are used too many times, and the horror film has no other techniques to frighten the audience. It’s a surefire way to shock the audience, but a good horror movie needs a variety of scares in order to truly terrify the audience.

One of the most glaring examples is Shut In, where Naomi Watts plays (spoiler tags) a mother who’s trapped in her house. There are so many cheap jump scares that it feels like the director is literally going “boo!” in your face every few minutes.


2. Characters who insist on going everywhere alone

Dearest Sister. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Dearest Sister. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The fastest way to die, even in real life, is to go into a potentially fatal situation alone. Even police officers have partners, and they frequently call for backup when they’re facing even one dangerous, armed criminal.

Think about it – would you enter a haunted house alone? Even if you did, you can be sure that your friend would message “bo jio!” five minutes after you entered.

Unfortunately, many horror films still have the characters splitting up or investigating supernatural occurrences individually. When you hear the line “let’s split up!” you know someone’s going to die. In most cases, the monster or killer is powerful enough to kill the characters two at a time, so it really doesn’t matter if they split up or not.


3. Characters coming uncomfortably close to corpses

The Evil Within. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Evil Within. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Zombie movies are famous for this.

Picture this. A fresh corpse lies on the floor, and the main character comes in. The corpse is a close friend or relative of the character, but they have no idea whether or not the person is really dead. So they lean in, coming uncomfortably to the corpse’s mouth, so close that they could kiss, and –

RARGH! The corpse awakens as a zombie and bites off the character’s face.

It’s a variation of the jump scare, but the problem is that nobody comes that close to dead creatures in real life. If you saw a dead cockroach, would you put your face within 1 cm of it just to check if it’s dead? The same applies for corpses.


4. Using dream sequences to trick people into thinking there’s a supernatural cause behind the “hauntings”

The Promise. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Promise. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The next time you watch a horror film, read the genre carefully. If the word “supernatural”, “fantasy”, or “science fiction” is not used to describe the genre, then it probably means that the antagonist is a human being rather than a monster.

However, this doesn’t stop such “realistic” horror films into trying to trick you into thinking there’s a monster involved. They’ll use dream sequences, fantasies, or unreliable narrators to depict a “supernatural” element. Then, just as you’re thinking there’s a monster involved, they pull the rug out from under you and show that it was a human all along, and all those “supernatural” elements didn’t physically happen.

The problem is not that it’s misdirection – after all, to have some element of mystery, you need to throw in some red herrings for the audience.

The problem is that fundamentally, a supernatural creature has vastly superior abilities compared to a human being. Your expectations of a nigh-invincible antagonist are quashed when it’s finally revealed that a human was behind the hauntings all along, and the reveal is a bit of a letdown.

The Boy (spoiler tags) was an excellent horror film, but it suffers from this trope at the end.


5. Characters who insist on tempting fate

The Bride. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Bride. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

In pantang Singapore, we’re brought up to be as kiasi as possible. If an action has even the faintest possibility of offending invisible spirits, we’re not going to do it. That’s why everybody actually uses the toilet instead of peeing on trees, despite this being the Garden City.

Even though we often hear stories about people meeting terrible fates after playing the dish spirit game (a game where you summon a ghost to answer a questions via a small overturned saucer), do you actually know a real person who has tempted fate by playing the dish spirit game?

That’s why it’s so totally unbelievable when we see horror movie characters tempting fate by doing inauspicious things, like going to a cemetery in the dead of the night or building a house over an ancient burial plot. Not only is this trope overused, it’s also inconceivable that anyone with common sense would do that.

Ouija (spoiler tags) and its prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil (spoiler tags) shows people doing this twice. I mean, didn’t anyone learn their lesson the first time disaster struck? Yipes.


Horror Film Festival 2017. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Horror Film Festival 2017. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Has reading about all these horror tropes whetted your appetite for some good old-fashioned scares? Then you’re in luck, because the Horror Film Festival 2017 rolls around just in time for Halloween! It’s a cheaper way to get your scares than Halloween Horror Nights and you’ll get to chow down on some popcorn as well.

You can choose from terrifying gems such as:

  • The Promise – a Thai horror film about a pact between two friends gone wrong
  • Dearest Sister – a Laotian horror film about a blind girl who can communicate with the dead
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe – an English horror film about a father and son conducting an autopsy
  • The Bride – a Chinese horror film about a TV producer who picks up something terrible in a park
  • The Evil Within – an English horror film about a mentally handicapped boy who experiences nightmares that might be more real than he expects

If you’re adventurous, watch these films on Halloween itself…


Credits: Golden Village Cinemas