THIS IS HOW I SCREAM INTO THE VOID.
Hey, readers, it’s me, again. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t make very frequent use of my blog, and am always working on habits to change this. So, today, I’m writing a brief listicle about something I have a fair knowledge of: stupid shit characters say in horror movies and books. It’s almost like the characters aren’t even genre savvy!
Although I generally write contemporary supernatural fantasy, I usually include horror elements and use a lot of traditional horror tropes and plot devices. This is because I love horror. I read significant volumes of horror literature. I watch significant amounts of horror film. Through these vehicles, I’ve managed to gain a knowledge of what NOT to say during tense/terrifying moments.
(You’ll notice a large volume of capitalized words in this listicle– they’re capitalized to indicate that they refer to tropes/cliches and literary/movie shortcuts. If you don’t know what I mean, already, you’ll figure it out.)
“Let’s Split Up!”
The most grievous sin in the world of horror: splitting up. It might’ve turned out okay for Scooby & The Gang, but in most horror/supernatural situations, it ends with grotesque, anguished death.
PROTIP: if you’re ever in an allegedly-haunted mansion, creeping through dusty hallways and ducking around strained, limp cobwebs…stick together! If you’re exploring the dark, overgrown woods surrounding the way-too-cheap cabin you and your friends rented for your weekend vacation…stick together!
When to say it: literally never.
How to survive: use the buddy system!
“I’ll Be Right Back.”
No, you won’t. This tethers into the “Let’s Split Up!” situations. Often, the person who will “be right back” (LOL) is going to check on a strange sound, or fix a broken generator, or get a spare tire. Sometimes there’s a broken down car and our poor victim (I mean “volunteer”) goes off to get his/her own vehicle for a jumpstart. No matter what the reason is, you can rest assured that this person will most certainly NOT be right back. Ever. At all.
PROTIP: if you’re ever trying to escape a horror situation, and your car breaks down…stick together! Did a masked killer cut the power to your (aforementioned) weekend cabin? Better turn on those flashlights and, I cannot stress this enough, STICK TOGETHER. Is the generator out of fuel during a zombie apocalypse? Maybe that’s the world’s way of telling you to move on.
When to say it: when you really don’t want to be right back.
How to survive: bring another survivor with you, and be prepared to spend a significant amount of time away from the party. You’ll still probably die, but if you’re not alone and you have a lot of patience, you might last a while.
“Most Cops Never See Action.” / “Most Cops Never Draw Their Guns.”
This only applies to cops. If you’re not a cop, feel free to say it! But if you are a cop, using these phrases at any point during the story means you will 100% definitely “see action” and, if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to “draw your gun.” Unfortunately, most horror story killers/monsters are pretty smart about ambushing police officers, so there’s a decent chance you won’t get your sidearm unholstered before being machete’d in half or eaten alive. But good news! If you’re in a haunting scenario (a la Last Shift), your gun wouldn’t have saved you anyway.
PROTIP: don’t be a cop in a horror movie or book, it dramatically reduces your chance of survival. If you are a cop in a horror movie/book, you’ll want to be a (Wo)Man on the Edge, a Loose Cannon, or a Hothead. Being quick to draw a weapon might lead you to shoot one of the other survivors during a self-damning Fall From Grace, but it’ll give you a better chance against the masked murderer or supernatural monster coming for your blood.
When to say it: (1) if you’re not a cop, (2) if you Don’t Fear Death, or (3) you’re a Survivor Girl/Guy from a previous entry in the franchise.
How to survive: once you’ve said this, you drastically reduce your options at survival. You will most certainly see action and need to draw a gun, so just get your gun out now and never holster it again.
“Three Weeks From Retirement.”
Sorry, buddy, but the chances that you’ll be seeing a pension don’t look great. Although this phrase usually issues from the genre-blind mouths of cops and soldiers, anyone close to retirement at the beginning of a story is likely to die by the end. If you’re a mechanic or other blue collar worker, however, it’s likely you’ll Sacrifice Yourself for the Greater Good, so at least your death might have some meaning.
It gets worse. If you’re a cop three weeks away from retirement and you’ve Never Drawn Your Gun…I’m really sorry, I really am, but you’re already dead.
PROTIP: be a Millennial– we’ll literally never retire!
When to say it: you might be able to pull it off if you aren’t a cop or soldier…but the odds still don’t look good. Try to be a blue collar worker, if you can, because then at least you’ll have a chance at Redeeming Your Dark Backstory when you Sacrifice Yourself for the Greater Good.
How to survive: instead of retiring, have a big blow-out with your boss at the beginning of the story and lose your job. Or: hopefully you recently Lost Your Life Savings paying for a friend, family member, or loved one to undergo medical treatment.
“I Think He’s/She’s/It’s Dead.”
To quote Kevin Spacey from Superman Returns…
The masked killer/supernatural monster is never dead. As soon as you turn around, he/she/it is going to get right back up and kill you.
PROTIP: kill him/her/it harder. Do you have a gun? Keep shooting! Did you somehow swipe the killer’s machete? Better act like the Red Queen and get enthusiastic about beheadings! Short of running the thing down with a steamroller, you probably haven’t finished the killer/monster off quite yet.
When to say it: once there are brains and skull fragments all over the floor and/or once the killer/monster has been literally steamrolled.
How to survive: once you’ve sufficiently slaughtered the Bad Guy, remember to Set the Corpse Ablaze.
“It’s Probably Nothing.”
Next to “Let’s Split Up!” this is the dumbest thing to say. It’s almost never ‘nothing,’ in a horror story. The scratch at the window, the strange sound outside, the ruffling foliage…none of that is ‘nothing.’ Oh, do you think It’s Just the Wind? Hahahaha, I hope you like getting murdered!
If you’re in a strange place and think you maybe saw a ghost…assume you saw a ghost. Did your doorbell ring but then nobody was at the door? Better get ready for a nightmarish struggle for your very existence! If you’re hanging out at that creepy cabin with your friends…pay attention to strange twig snaps and unexpected bush ruffling. Oh, and the generator never just runs out of fuel.
PROTIP: JUST ALWAYS ASSUME IT’S PROBABLY SOMETHING.
When to say it: if you’re in a romance story or a literary tragicomedy. I mean, you’ll still be wrong, but you (probably) won’t end up dead because of it.
How to survive: assume it’s probably something, retreat from the area, and ALWAYS USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM.
So that’s it for my lame clickbait listicle. I hope you’re all a little smarter, now. And, if you’ve already said some of these things recently, just remember: death is inevitable, and hopefully it will be over soon.Share This: