Spooky season is coming to a close, so this is my last chance to share a Halloween-themed post on my blog before we transition (at least in the States) to the season of Thanksgiving.
I don’t read a lot of horror, but I have seen many horror movies and have read books with elements of horror in them. I am not a fan of gore in movies at all; I prefer horror movies with mystery and haunted houses, where tension is high but eviscerations are kept to a minimum. I am also prone to scream at jump scares for some reason. Now before I get off on a tangent, let’s dive into some tropes that I enjoy in this genre:
#5: Look Behind You!
One of the most unsettling tropes in horror is the moment when the character is looking one direction, and behind them we see a vague outline of a humanoid entity, or a face that wasn’t there before, or a flash of movement that shouldn’t be there. That is when I look at whoever is watching the movie with me and point, because yikes! Nobody likes the sensation that someone or something is watching them from behind. Sometimes when I am home alone and let my mind conjure these scenarios, I almost believe something is behind me and have to quickly turn to disprove it before I spook myself. *shivers*
#4: Stay Out of the Basement
This concept could apply to any room or area that is off-limits. I like the mystery and intrigue that accompanies this trope. Why is it forbidden? What’s down there? Throw in some creaky stairs, cobwebs, and little-to-no light, and I’ll be thoroughly spooked. Just… hurry and get out of there as fast as possible before the door shuts itself, pls.
#3: Children of the Corn
Children are small and innocent, so when they start acting strangely, like going silent, staring at corners, singing nursery rhymes, or playing with knives, a red flag immediately springs up in my head. When the natural order begins to turn on its head, you know demons are involved.
Silence can be deadly. When the music dials down in a movie, and all I can hear is a character breathing, a door creaking, or a ball bouncing down a staircase, my spine will tingle. Usually this is followed by a jump scare, where I’ll inevitably scream, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be scary. Hereditary (2018) was full of these types of scenes (minus the jump scares).
#1: Fear the Unknown
Most of the time, I desire explanations for strange things that occur in a narrative. If not all of my questions are answered by the conclusion, I’ll leave the theater or close the book dissatisfied. In horror, however, you don’t have to explain everything, and I think some mysteries are best left undiscovered. They can be explained by the end and still be effective, but the reveal better be interesting. Done well, this trope can foster doubt in the audience long after the end credits/epilogue, and leave them lying awake at night wondering what in the world happened. Who was that strange figure at the park? What happened when the match blew out? Use this trope to leave a lasting impression on your audience and keep them guessing who/what was truly behind the horrific events of your story. The unknown keeps the nightmare alive.
What are your favorite horror tropes? What keeps you up at night? Got any horror movie/novel recommendations? Leave a comment below! And Happy Halloween! 🙂