Horror’s Top 5 Cheap Scare Tactics

Deadly Movies | Top 5’s

Horror movies are not just known for their cliches and conventions but celebrated for them. They are in equal measure a hinderance to creativity and a device to meet audience expectation an enjoyment. Anyone who’s seen Scream (1996) knows all too well the plot and narrative devices used by filmmakers to facilitate such devices. One of the signle biggest cliches of the genre can be found in the camera tricks used to extract a cheap, or fake-out, scare from the audience. A scare that is either fake or a scare that isn’t caused by the true evil of the film. The filmmakers use these to highten nerves and expectations for the next scare, and to take you out of your comfort zone. Great fun, and great devices as they are, Hollywood has become rather lazy and uses the same old scare tactics over-and-over again. Here’s some of Deadly Movies favorite cliched scare tactics:

5: Sudden out-of-frame Vehicle:

Culprit: Final Destination's great bus kill prompted many a carbon-copy

Exterior Daytime, busy street sidewalk.

Paul, who earlier that day thought he was beeing followed, has met up with ethnic friend Lamar to have a coffee and laugh about how paranoid he was being. The two finish their no-fat lattes and bro-hug before Paul heads off to the library.

Paul: “Thanks for the chat man”

Lamar: “No problem dude. Just remember, there’s no such thing as an ancient Irish family curse”

Paul: “I know. Hey, wanna catch the game later (no specific game, just a game)?”

Paul says this while backing aimlessly out into the street when…, BANG enter bus/ambulance/truck from out-of-screen traveling at speeds way too fast for a busy city street because, more than likely, this isn’t even a composite shot it’s simple a lazy-ass CG bus that looks like shit if you watch in slow motion.

4: Sudden (often) Nonsensical Character Appearance:

Culprit, Scream: Silly Gale, it's not Ghostface it's just Dewey


Interior Night, suburban house

A young, sexy, vulnerable, frightened female is alone in spooky house. She hears a noise, someone or something is outside. She goes to the window to investigate. Did she see something move, or was it just the wind in the trees? She backs away from the window into the middle of the room, the camera tracks her movement, keeping her tight in frame. Suddenly she backs-up into someone, quickly turning around in terror and…., It’s good old Mark from next door who just popped over to bring that unimportant thing back which he borrowed last week before the movie started. You now know that Mark is either the killer when the reveal comes or that you just got punked by a lame fake scare tactic.

3: Figure in the Doorway in the Background:

Culprit, Halloween H20: Michael spends a lot of time walking past windows and doorways. He's behind you Cool J


Interior Night, living room.

The light switch isn’t working. Suzzy isn’t worried, there’s been a lot of roaming blackouts recently. Suzzy heads to the kitchen to get some candles (show sharp kitchen tool for finale exposition). As Suzzy potters around in the foreground, in the semi-darkness, looking for the candles. A dark figure walks past the kitchen door in the background (pull focus just too late). Someone is in the house. Their silhouette is incredibly well lit considering the lights are out, probably the moonlight somehow. Suzzy doesn’t know it yet, but in about 5 minutes she is about to be in a knife fight with some dude who’s three times bigger than she is.

2: Bathroom Cabinet Mirror Reveal:

Culprit, RZ's Halloween: Michael in the Mirror


Interior, dorm bathroom

Michelle is cleaning her brilliantly white teeth. Wearing hot-pants and a guy’s shirt, unbuttoned (no nipples showing though), Michelle always brushes her teeth wearing stilettos for some reason. Looking into the bathroom cabinet mirror as she brushes, Michelle is safe in the knowledge that she is all alone in the room reflected behind her. Time to floss! Better open the cabinet to get the floss. Michelle opens and closes the cabinet. Still that same old empty room in the reflection. Campus security is doing a great job. Flossing done, time to put the floss back in the cabinet. Oh No! This time when she closes the cabinet a really pissed off man has appeared in the reflection behind her, I don’t think it’s Michelle’s new Drama tutor. Michelle gets brutally macheted to death. He remains take a month to identify.

1: It’s Only a Fucking Cat!

I blame Jonsey from 'Alien' for all It's A Cat fake-outs


Interior, some kind of warehouse or industrial building.

Security Guards Brian and Trent investigate the messy warehouse with torches, someone has reported seeing an intruder in the area. The torch batteries are running out. Trent knew he should have bought Duracell. Brain (the elder securiy guard) tells Trent (new on the job, first shift tonight) how he hates investigating this particular warehouse, seems it has a dark past. Suddenly there’s a noise, Brian and Trent draw their guns. Slowly they move over towards the source of the sound when suddely something jumps out at Trent knocking him to the ground, what could it be? Leatherface? Brundel Fly? Aliens? Jason Fucking Voorhees? …, No, because writers are so lazy that in fact, IT’S A CAT, it’s always the bloody cat. Needless to say both Trent and Brian die in about 85 seconds anyway when the real, whatever it is, turns up.

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