While there’s nothing wrong with using already-established tropes to tell a story, sometimes they can feel cheap, stale, or overused. And while there's nothing wrong with following horror trends either, sometimes it can take you right out of the story, and even ruin the movie (or franchise).
Here’s a look at some horror tropes and trends that should get the axe.
1. Elaborate backstory
It was recently announced that there’s an It (2017) TV prequel in the works. A prequel to It? The scary thing about the monster is that we don't know much about it.
When we start learning about a villain’s motivation, we humanize them and scarily enough, sometimes we relate to them. Lack of motive and purpose is always more terrifying.
2. Naked old women
In the ‘80s, the horror genre was notorious for its gratuitous female nudity, with studios often giving notes to filmmakers to add more breasts. Nowadays, we’re seeing nudity of all kinds. Recently, horror filmmakers have been using naked old women to scare audiences.
Modern horror films often portray naked old women as evil entities or conduits of evil. In It: Chapter 2, for example, what appears, at first, to be a sweet old woman, quickly turns out to be another form that IT takes. The old woman suddenly appears naked, and then grows larger in size, her exaggerated CGI breasts swinging back and forth.
3. Spooky little girls
This trope has been used so much, seeing a spooky little girl in a horror movie is almost satirical at this point. Hair in front of face? Definitely. Humming a nursery rhyme? Probably. Going from sweet to demonic in three seconds flat? No doubt.
Scary little girls aren’t even contained to just film anymore. They’ve become like vampires and werewolves, a category of monster, where you fill in the blanks. You can even buy nondescript animatronic crawling little girls for your Halloween decor.
4. Dead animals
It’s understandable to want your horror movie to have the right tone, to want to create an awful sense of dread, or to even show the brutality of the "big bad," but can we please find another way than dead animals?
If the protagonist is driving a car on a backroad somewhere in the first ten minutes of a horror movie, they’re going to hit an animal, probably a deer, and most likely, we’re going to have to see it. Or, if a dog is introduced in the first ten minutes, we’re most definitely going to see the protagonist looking for, and then discovering, that dog’s dead body about 45 minutes in.
5. Violence as horror
Over-the-top horror movie gore is fun. It’s what attracts a lot of horror fans to slashers. If a slasher movie has fun, creative, exaggerated kills, it’ll most likely be a crowd pleaser. Lately though, this hasn’t really been the case.
In recent years, as torture porn (think Hostel and Saw sequels) has taken a back seat in the cultural milieu, elevated horror (Hereditary, It Follows) has dominated the horror genre. To counteract these more profound films, a new era of slasher has just emerged, and horror audiences are eating it up.
The gruesome gore of a slasher scratches some sort of primordial itch that elevated horror can’t reach. However, some of this new gore is missing a lot of creativity that we’re used to seeing in older slasher eras. It’s either unoriginal and boring or needless and overly brutal.
6. Fan influence
Giving fans what they want isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, sequels and remakes are a form of fan service to a certain extent. But when a filmmaker is letting the fans decide the story, plot, characters, and everything else pertaining to their horror movie, then we have a serious pandering problem.
If a filmmaker is so wrapped up in callbacks to the original material, creating scenes and characters that will make the die-hard fans point at the screen and say, “Hey, that’s that minor side character from the first movie,” they may be opting for style over substance, creating a story that has no meaning or complexity.
7. Influencer horror
Recently, horror filmmakers have been writing social media influencers into their movies, especially as their main victims/protagonists/heroes. Now, I know not all main characters are supposed to be likable, but these characters are downright annoying, and they're vastly unrelatable. And by adding influencers to the story, there becomes an over reliance on technology, which can make a film age terribly.
8. And cultural appropriation
Cultural appropriation has long been used in the horror genre, playing on the very white “fear of the unknown.” You’ve seen this over and over again in horror films: voodoo, a Romani curse, and a haunted and vengeful Native American burial ground.
Misrepresenting, appropriating, or labeling another culture’s traditions, lore, and mythology as “evil” is extremely offensive, especially when used as something so trivial as a banal plot device.