• Louisiana Edition •



Iconic Horror Movie Tropes That Have Defined the Genre for Decades

Home » Blog » Halloween's Hottest Trends, Halloween Headlines


The Horror Genre is known for its tropes - the good, the bad, and the downright funny. Many of these tropes have been around well, pretty much since the dawn of the genre, and despite being older than a thousand-year-curse, they keep on delivering to the point where not only are they fodder within the horror movie-sphere, but they've become a pervasive part of pop culture, being parodied, riffed on, and replicated in all forms on media - on the big screen, the small screen, in comic books, and of course, in online memes (we are in the digital age, after all).

It only takes the briefest of glances at TV Tropes' Horror Section to realize that there are more Horror Movie tropes than you could ever imagine - including tropes within tropes...within tropes - it's wild!

Since there are just so many over-the-top Horror Flick Tropes, we've put together a list of some of our favorite iconic horror tropes that have become a staple of the Horror Genre:

  1. "Based on a True Story"...er, Sort Of. - This one's been around for ages. Look no further than Poltergeist, or The Amityville Horror for examples of horror flicks based on "shocking true stories/accounts". When it comes to horror movies that are "based on true stories", the original "true story" serves as more of a suggestion/direction for the film, rather than a blueprint for the film - horror flicks aren't documentaries, after all.

    Many of the "Based on a True Story" Horror Movies are based on older-than-dirt urban legends, too - the ghost bride on the side of the road, the serial killer that uses the local lovers lane as his hunting grounds, the house that's so evil that it compels its residents to murder each other - you get the gist. Generally, there is some grain of truth buried in there - there were murders in the Amityville Horror House, and there were hauntings reported by at least one family that lived there, but the assumptions, embellishments, and over-the-top special effects added by the writers, directors, and crew behind the "true story" horror movies ensure that the "grain of truth" is basically buried under a mountain of horror movie shenanigans.

    But that won't stop the myths from growing, no - if anything, horror movies based on urban legends and "true stories" make those tall tales and horrific happenings even more well-known and iconic.

  2. If The Hero Has a Car or Other Escape Method Early On, Something Will Go Wrong. - This one is pretty simple and generally fairly straight forward, and it's a good mechanism for keeping the protagonists in "the danger zone" so to speak. If the protagonist has a car, the battery will undoubtedly be dead, the tires will be slashed, or something else crazy will be wrong with the vehicle.

    If the car starts? Well, then that's pretty darn suspicious, and generally speaking, one of three things is about to happen:

    • The Villain is in the Back Seat, and is going to pop up and scare the hell out of the protagonist/driver, causing him or her to crash the vehicle (note: if the driver is a "disposable character", they're probably going to die from this encounter, despite the murderer, who clearly wasn't wearing their seatbelt, escaping unscathed).

    • The Villain is Going to Jump Out of Nowhere, and land on the hood of the vehicle, scaring the hell out of the protagonist/driver, causing him or her to crash.

    • Boom Goes the Protagonist. Just as the protagonist/driver is a safe distance away, they look in their rearview mirror (sometimes seeing the villain standing there...suspiciously calm), and the vehicle is blown up, a safe distance from the villain. In this scenario, if the character is of little importance, then they're pretty much guaranteed to be dead, but if they're a main protagonist, they're magically blown away to safety by the blast and are only injured superficially.

  3.  No Matter What, The Villain Will. Not. Die. (And if He Does, He's Comin' Back) - This trope exists for both "in-universe" and "real life" purposes. In universe, if the villain was easy to kill, then well, we wouldn't really have much of a villain, now would we? Horror Movie Villains combine super-human speed, strength, teleportation abilities (or so it seems), and they're basically immortal - not that it's easy for blundering idiots to pick them off, anyway.

    When you combine the blatant ineptitude of basically every Horror Movie Protagonist with the borderline-immortality of Horror Movie Villains, well, that makes for one hard guy to whack.

    Real World? Well, how can you have a sequel if the bad guy is dead? And if he was killed, well guess what? There's always some movie magic hocus-pocus to bring him back to terrorize Small Town, USA all over again.

  4. No Horror Movie is Complete Without at Least One Good Jump Scare. - Ah, the jump scare. The scare you know is coming if you watched even a single horror movie in your life, but still scares the hell out of you anyway - even if it's just in a movie trailer. These are a lot of fun, and in an effort to be less predictable, horror movie writers, directors, and producers have changed up the jump scare over the years, so it's not as straight forward as it used to be - you don't know who - or what - is about to jump out:

    • The Spooky Critter - This could really be any animal encountered by the protagonist when he or she thinks they're about to run into the villain. Frequently, jump scare animals are (a) a cat jumping out of god knows where, (b) a cute & innocent dog that got locked in somewhere and is as spooked as you (and often joins the hero on his journey, or is already the hero's own dog), (c) bats that fly out if the protagonists are in a cave or the woods, (d) a murder of crows dramatically flying and cawing at the protagonist (yes that's a real thing), or (e) some sort of cute woodland creature that disarms the protagonist with its cuteness right before something really terrifying happens.

    • The Murderer/Monster at the Window - Why would you ever look out a window with your face pressed up to the glass when you think there's a murderous villain after you? Apparently, if you're in a Horror Flick, this makes perfect sense, which is why this is one of the most iconic jump scares there is, and it goes as follows: The terrified protagonist puts their face up to a window (which is usually creepy looking, dirty, perhaps with a wooden frame), and just as they do that, the villain pops up to scare the heck out of them. This often begins a long, drawn out, dramatic chase scene.

    • The Little Kid That's Actually Not The Murderer (No, Really). - So, you're a horror movie protagonist, and you think there's a murderer at the door. What do you do? You open that door dramatically, because the bell keeps getting rung, and you wouldn't want to be rude to a serial killer, would you? Well lucky for you, the person at the door is little Billy from down the block who has lost his ball, or a Girl Scout selling cookies, or some other little kid with the best/worst timing ever. The twist? They often point out the murderous fiend that (spoiler) is actually already in your house, standing behind you while you chat up the child.

  5. Camping Out Provides Killers With 1,001 Ways to Kill You. - Boy oh boy, are camping trips spooky if you're in a horror movie. I mean, if you were to believe horror flicks, there's like almost a 0% chance of going camping without being terrorized or murdered.

    • Separate from the group? Murdered.

    • Sleep peacefully in your tent at night? Murdered.

    • Try to share a tent with that cute guy or gal you have a crush on? Murdered.

    • Try to "go get help"? Murdered.

    • Try to call 911 from your cell phone? Find out your phone is dead or has no service, then - Murdered.

    • Tell ghost stories around a fire? Murdered.

    • Hear spooky voices and follow them into the darkness? Murdered.

    • Run away from the killer through the trees? Fall down a bunch, then Murdered.

There's no way around it. If you go camping in a horror flick, you're gonna get Murdered.

What's Your Favorite Tried & True Horror Movie Trope?
Let Us Know in the Comments Below!



There are no comments for this article.

Get the conversation started below!

You must be logged in to post a comment.
Log In / Create Account

Tags: Horror Movie Tropes, Horror Movies, Horror Flicks, Horror Movie News, Horror