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5 Scary Movie Tropes And Recent Films That Got Them Right

Whether you’re an avid fan of horror movies, or only a casual one, surely everyone is aware of the horror movie tropes that plague the theaters. Sometimes you see a trailer, an opening scene, or even just the title of a certain film, and you can already guess how it’s going to end. Everyone dies, the monster is banished back to where it came from, a suburban family gets their normal lives back– but there’s a reason these tropes exist, and that’s because they work. They’re scary because they prey on a human’s most basic instincts.

And so, while a lot of scary movies can be predictable, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad films. In this list, let’s explore a few of my favorites that embrace the tropes, without falling victim to them. Grab your best anti-demon blanket, your blackest cat, and your strongest friend (to fight against the inevitable demons being unleashed in your home, should your blanket fail) and let’s take a look.

  • Friends Camping In The Woods

 

I’m sure every one of you already has a film in mind, whether it’s good or bad. A troupe of young, conventionally attractive people get together to head off into the forest– whether it’s to make a film, to explore, or just for funsies. They need a break from their daily lives (family, friends, work, what have you) and decide exploring vast, unpopulated forests to be their answer.

What usually happens, though? Monsters. Demons. Each other. Something always comes to ruin the party, and it’s usually preceded by noises in the distance, cracking branches, and growling by the opening of the tent, only for one of the members of the group to be dragged away kicking and screaming. Most films based around this trope follow the same “Point A, Point B, Point C” plot device, and it can be a little tiring.

One* movie that got it right:

The Blair Witch Project (1999) & Blair Witch (2016)

 

 

*I recognize there are actually two movies listed here, but seeing as they’re from the same canon, I figured they could be grouped together.

There are a lot of reasons why I think these movies stand out from the rest. Not only did the original Blair Witch Project pave the way for the now tremendously popular found-footage films, but the way it ends without any closure is haunting and unique in a way that I eat up. And, in my opinion, Blair Witch stands on its own as an incredible horror film, only to be complemented by the original.

  • Family Moving Into New House

 

Average middle class American family moves into new house. Members include: youngster likely to poke his nose where it doesn’t belong, moody teenager who rolls her eyes at everything her parents say, too-optimistic dad, begrudgingly-agreed-to-leave-her-last-home mom. Bad things begin to happen around the house, beginning with only minor inconveniences.

Bumps in the night, doors moving, footsteps upstairs, and then things slowly regress into madness. Dad installs an indoor surveillance camera. Mom leaves baby in kitchen, later returns to baby suddenly in the fridge. Eventually, though, a priest or someone is called to bless the house, and the family is either freed from their troubles, or the camera pans out from their distressed faces while the music swells, leaving us wondering if there’s a conclusion at all.

One movie that got it right:

The Conjuring (2013)

 

I would definitely consider this one to be relatively “mainstream” in terms of recent popularity– but for good reason. Director James Wan is a rising star in the horror film genre, his other works including the Insidious and Saw franchises. Sometimes I wonder what must’ve happened in his childhood to make him so apt at creating these chilling stories.

  • Haunted Hospital/Asylum

 

A group of hooligans break into a condemned hospital, prison, mental institution. I don’t know what they’re looking for, or what they intend to accomplish, but they seem to ever be the only ones surprised when things go awry and members of their gang begin being picked off one by one like grapes. What did they expect? Usually, one or two will escape– but the two are most likely love interests, and the most traditionally likeable of everyone.

One movie that got it right:

Session 9 (2001)

This film left me chilled. I don’t know about the rest of you, but movies that make me question everything about the plot at the end– in a good way– makes for a good psychological thriller, in my opinion. I mean, I also gave every speech ever from freshman year of high school to senior year of college on the Danvers State Mental Hospital where this film is set, but, I’m definitely not biased or anything.

  • Cursed Objects

 

You’ve seen this movie before, too: something happens to an object of some sort, where a person’s spirit becomes attached to it. A spirit, or a demon, somehow, for some reason. A lot of times it’s not really explained, it just is— but I digress. Someone new takes on this cursed object, and it wreaks havoc in their lives, basically turning into your everyday haunt, only cast out when the object is destroyed.

Also, I don’t know why it’s almost always dolls in this trope, but, what the heck. I’ve been spooked by enough dolls at this point, it’s time to stop.

One movie that got it right:

The Babadook (2014)

 

While the main premise of this film is that it’s the book causing all of the terror, I’m absolutely thrilled by the fact that the Babadook is more than just another supernatural creature, and is actually symbolic of the mother’s depression and how it’s tearing apart her life and her relationship with her son. And while monsters are scary in their own right– the monsters in a person’s head hold no comparison.

  • Children

 

In these films, someone’s son or daughter is possessed by a demon, or being swayed by another entity of equal deviousness, either ending in the death of the family, or the eventual casting out of the demon by a priest or other means. For the most part I see these types of films to be similar to the “friends go camping” category, in that they tend to be pretty predictable. Which is a shame, because like dolls, young kids are pretty unsettling just because of who they are, and there’s a lot of potential there.

One movie that got it right:

Sinister (2012)

 

This movie didn’t end as I thought it would, which might’ve been the most startling aspect of it– not to mention, some of the scenes were so incredibly grisly, they still haunt me to this day. I won’t spoil anything for you, but let me just say this: as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to mixing children and the supernatural, let’s just stick to Halloween arts and crafts.

Kelsey Morgan
Kelsey graduated from Boise State University with a BA in Visual Arts, and is currently working as a freelance writer, while doodling anime on the side with one hand and petting cats with the other.

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3 thoughts on “5 Scary Movie Tropes And Recent Films That Got Them Right

  1. Great picks! I hadn’t heard a lot of good things about The Babadook, and when I finally gave it a try I thought my husband was going to shoot the screen. The little boy’s voice was incredibly annoying. But I stuck with it once I realized who the main actress was. She’s one of my faves! It turned out to be an ok movie. Fun article!

  2. Thanks, Courtney! I agree that the little boy was a little grating on the patience– but in retrospect, I think it was important to make him that way. Part of the mother’s character was built around how she felt overwhelmed by her son and his neediness, so I think if the boy had been more “likeable,” for lack of a better term, it would’ve be harder for the audience to relate to the mother and her issues. At least, that’s how I feel!

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