As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been busy moving house of late, which is why I’ve been so quiet recently. But my favourite festival, Hallowe’en, is upon us, and so I decided to pull myself away from my cardboard boxes for just long enough to write a celebratory blog post. I toyed with the idea of writing a serious critical evaluation of the works of Poe or Lovecraft, but rejected it for two reasons: firstly, it would take too long, and secondly, moving house has scrambled my brains and it will be months before I can do, think or write anything even remotely clever again.
Still, while trawling through my blog stats the other day, I noticed that the second most popular post I’ve ever written is this little piece about horror clichés. (The most popular is a post about Turin, which confirms my suspicion that travel writing is more popular than fiction.) That, at least, is what WordPress stats tell me; but then WordPress stats also indicate that this blog has a surprisingly strong following in Uruguay, of all places, so who do you trust?
Anyway, you can’t have too much of a good thing. So here, for your delectation, is “Horror Clichés: Part Two” – with a difference. The difference being that some helpful soul pointed out that using stills from films, as I did in Part 1, probably counts as copyright infringement. I don’t think that a big Hollywood studio would be likely to go after a humble blogger, but perhaps it would be wise not to test this theory. Never mind: with these fabulous illustrations, drawn by my own hand, I’m sure you won’t even be able to tell the difference!
1. The good girl will live. Or at least live that little bit longer.
Our sweet and virtuous heroine is just so – well, so nice. She’s softly-spoken, kind-hearted, and innocent. She’s also very pretty (Hollywood-standard gorgeous, in fact), but unlike another horror stereotype, namely the slutty friend, she values her chastity highly. One thing she really isn’t, though, is an obvious survivor. After all, as her innocence would suggest, she just doesn’t have that much life experience to draw upon.
Surely a being of such childlike purity would be the first to die in the event of a serial killer attack?
Well, no, actually, because cometh the hour, cometh the girl. When things go cataclysmically wrong, our heroine will draw upon hitherto untapped resources of courage and ingenuity. While her friends are dropping like flies (despite the fact that they are, on the surface at least, infinitely better suited to survival), she will live on, and defeat her adversary. Or, even if she doesn’t, she will at least have the satisfaction of being a serious thorn in said adversary’s side until she finally drops dead.
2. Machines are evil
Your car has always been a reliable little runner, ferrying you to and fro without any problems whatsoever. You may have begun to think of it as being a faithful friend. Wrong! Your car is in fact just lulling you into a false sense of security. Because when you really need the sodding thing – when there’s far more at stake than a trip to the supermarket – what happens? Why, it refuses to start, of course!
Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that your car can save you from that axe-wielding maniac or zombie horde. Your car is, in fact, in league with the forces of darkness, and will do everything it can to scupper your escape plans.
Other machines are likewise evilly-inclined: phones don’t work, computers crash and generators fail, just when you need them most.
3. Candid camera
The popularity of the “mockumentary” makes sense, in many ways. As The Blair Witch Project showed, things that would normally count as disadvantages – a small budget, unknown actors – can actually be turned to your advantage. But this is a sub-genre that is beginning to show its age.
What do you do if your house is haunted? Call a priest or medium? Or just give in and move house? Not in horror. In horror, you set up cameras all over the place, as if capturing all those strange occurrences on film will somehow make them easier to deal with.
4. Bungee-jumping bad guys
Broken limbs, stab wounds, a hail of bullets, explosions: nothing stops a bad guy. Even if you think you’ve killed him, he might just be lulling you into a false sense of security by lying still and holding his breath. Turn your back, and he’ll start sneaking up behind you again.
5. “It was all a dream!”
Oh no! Something terrible is happening!
Except it isn’t. Our protagonist is just having a bad dream, you see, but it helps to set the scene. If horror has taught me just one thing, however, it’s that it’s a mistake to disregard one’s dreams, as they are often prophetic. If you dream that something horrible is going to happen, then it almost certainly will!
6. Slow-motion murder
Psychos and monsters love nothing more than to prolong their victims’ torment. It’s not enough to stab, scalp, or chop your prey up into itsby-bitsy little pieces. Oh no! You have to make them wait, too.
This is pretty much in line with what I imagine a psychopathic personality to be like, so it’s not that annoying. What is a bit weird is that the victim never seems to take advantage of the murderer’s languor to make an escape bid. Instead, they just cower in the corner and weep. A word in your ear, victim: now would be a good time to make a run for it.
7. The falling female
Just picture it. The killer is coming at you, chainsaw revved up to max. Not unreasonably, you turn and start running. Since you’ll often be in woods or old ruins at this point, it is also perhaps not unreasonable that you’ll trip and fall.
In and of itself, this isn’t an unlikely turn of events (though in horror it’s always women who fall over in this way, and never men). What bugs me a bit is that the falling female, instead of getting up again, begins to crawl. You might be able to outrun him, sweetheart, but crawling away is going to be difficult.
8. Hot shots
Imagine the scene. Zombies, inbred maniacs, or vampires have you surrounded. They’re closing in, all slavering at the thought of tasting your still-warm blood. There’s no escape. Luckily, you have a gun. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never used a gun in your life. It doesn’t matter that you’re scared and shaking, and have hitherto shown all the aggression and quick reflexes of a sloth. Because in this extremity, you’ll suddenly be transformed into a crack shot.
9. “I’m gonna run! Er – thatta way!”
The bad guy’s closing in on you fast. It’s time to make one last, desperate bid for freedom, and so you turn and run. Five metres away is a parked car. Ten metres away is a house, where you might perhaps barricade yourself in. Fifty metres away is a dark, forbidding forest. Where do you head? Why, to the forest, of course!
An alternative is when a zombie/monster/murderer is breaking down the front door. In real life you might, reasonably enough, decide to exit via the back door, but not in horror. Oh, no. In horror, you run upstairs, thus effectively trapping yourself.
Could a career as a Hollywood scriptwriter beckon? A career as an artist certainly does not. Oh well … drawing silly pictures with felt tip pens was strangely therapeutic, like being five years old again. If there is some kind of special prize out there for “most hopelessly amateur blog post”, I might well be a contender.
9 thoughts on “Horror Clichés: Part Two”
Thank you, Lucinda!
A great post, Mari. Your future as a book illustrator is assured. Can I sign you up for my next project? Point No. 3 reminded me of ‘House of Leaves’. Have you read that?
Thanks for commenting, Paul. I would be happy to offer my services, if I weren’t pretty sure that my scrawled illustrations would ruin your project utterly! Oh yes, “House of Leaves” – a perfect read for this time of year. I read it some time ago; perhaps I should dig it out again…
I suppose now your stats will say you had a huge following from Bulgaria:)
That’s why it’s always better to use Google Analytics but it comes with a self-hosted wordpress site. Good things have a higher price. However, I was surprised to see you mentioning the copyright infringement, because a few days ago I read a blog post about the british author Blake Morrison, how he quoted in his book famous pop songs and then he received the invoice of 6000 $ which he shared with his publisher. The publisher was enough dull to give him permission to use them! You can read it here http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/may/01/blake-morrison-lyrics-copyright
Actually the article isn’t available any more, just take a short look at the heading.
I also have lines form two of U2’s songs in mt own blog but I doubt that anyone will chase me. However, what’s of a concern is that I have a full length novel with stills from popular songs and Broadway songs. I must find a way to re-edit them in a way it’ won’t be copyright infringement. Curiously, I came across a discussion in Linkedin about an indie author with a book title Don’t Cry for me Argentina. She was asking how to market it but the comments were mostly about… well, you know, Evita movie ‘s song.
I hope you can come back to writing track fast.
Thanks for commenting, Antara. It’s rather funny that the article you mention has been removed because copyright has expired! I very much doubt that the song lyrics reproduced on your blog would get you into trouble, but the content in your novel might, if the copyright holders got wind of it. I think a re-edit might indeed be in order (not that I am by any means an expert in this field!).
I have no idea what happened, but I am no longer getting notifications when you post! I stopped by because you’d been awfully quiet… only to discover you have been blogging all along, and I’m the one who has been awfully quiet!
I love your horror-trope commentary in this post. I got a taste of Halloween in November by showing up here late. Silver lining?
Hello Aniko, and thanks for the comment! WordPress keeps playing its little tricks on me, too. I’m glad you liked the post!
I did do some pretty major housecleaning on blogs I was following, but I would certainly didn’t intentionally select your blog to unfollow. You’re one of my favorites! The only upside to this whole thing is that I now have a cache of (new to me!) Mari posts I get to read! It’s like getting a gift box of fine chocolates!