10 Things Not To Do In A Horror Movie

Amanda Granato

As anyone who has seen a horror movie surely knows, there are always characters— usually the ones who end up taking some kind of blunt force trauma to various parts of their bodies— who do some kind of incomprehensibly stupid action which inevitably leads to the aforementioned trauma via the bad guy’s weapon. Since the dawn of horror films, minor characters have been viciously mauled, chopped to pieces, sucked into space, exploded to bits, imploded upon themselves, and in every other conceivable way dispatched to the tomb of cinematic deaths. I’ve decided to take pity upon the posterity of the prodigious number of minor characters who could have been saved if only they had been provided with the foreknowledge of their potential mistakes and the basic laws of horror safety.

Rule #1
Never, ever, say “I’ll be right back”
There are scarcely any more cursed words in the entirety of horror movie history than the dreaded “I’ll be right back”. The infamous ‘brb’ has earned itself the well-deserved reputation as death to any character who dares to let it pass their lips. It rarely fails. Any character who finds themselves uttering the ill-fated words will also find themselves in a messy pool of their own ketchup-and-corn syrup based vital fluids a few short cut-scenes later.
Examples: Scream, See No Evil, Strangers

Rule #2
Never follow the scary voice/creepy shadow/otherwise shady looking character
This marks the first of the ‘horror movie values one should keep in their daily lives’, as well as being just plain common sense. There was a reason Zeus gave Pandora the ‘gift’ of curiosity in order to punish mankind. Man can have a crippling sense of curiosity. And in a horror movie, curiosity really does kill the cat. So when the frightening voice beckons from the shadows of the dark alley, luring you to its hiding place with spiteful threats, don’t go. Just walk away.
Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining

Rule #3
Never assume the bad guy is dead. Never.
It never fails. Horror movie makers just love ‘killing’ off the bad guy and giving the impression the characters have defeated the evil and are victorious. And then they turn their backs. Down falls another minor character. There’s a reason why the bad guy is the bad guy. They never die as easily as characters seem to think they will. So be smart. Make sure he’s actually dead before you celebrate.
Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Misery, Saw

Rule #4
Never answer the phone.
If, when you look out your window and you see your best friend, gutted, staining your pool red with his blood, and the phone rings, chances are you don’t want to pick it up. Especially when you consider the person on the other end of the line recently turned your friend into that pile of red on your deck. However, if the situation progresses to this point, you’re already somewhat in a bad spot, seeing as the killer is obviously situated somewhere around your current location. Your best bet would be to grab that knife out of the kitchen, or better yet, that shotgun off the wall, and defend yourself as best you can.
Examples: Scream, When a Stranger Calls, One Missed Call

Rule #5
Never put the knife/gun/cricket bat down. Ever.
Speaking of knives and guns, never, ever, ever, put your weapon down. If you drop it, pick it up. If it’s taken from you, get it back or get a replacement. Soon. The body count in horror history looms high for those who had weapons, lost them, and then were left defenseless while the bad guy hacked them to tiny bits with the blade he didn’t lose.
Examples: Shaun of the Dead, Shrooms

Rule #6
Never ignore the weird things happening.
Another one of the common sense/horror movie values. If you walk into your kitchen one day and see your toddler sliding across the floor completely not of its own volition and a giant, impossible arrangement of chairs that seemingly placed themselves upon your kitchen table, the sensible thing to do would be to move into a hotel and call a priest. Immediately. But no. Horror movie characters with their terrible, twisted, plot progressing sense of rationality usually decide that the most reasonable thing to do would be to ignore the cups, plates, chairs, and tables flying through the living room and the creepy way your child speaks to the TV, until finally something horrific happens. Something like your child getting sucked into some shadow realm through a ravenous bedroom closet. Instead of taking action then, perhaps you should get the hotel reservations before the house starts eating your kids.
Examples: Poltergeist, Paranormal Activity, Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut

Rule #7
Never go into a mental hospital.
Bad things tend to happen in places where bad things already happened. Mental hospitals, especially those of the run down, closed for mistreatment of the patients, or potentially harboring fugitives variety. Most mental institutions of the later era were not known for their kind treatment of patients. Lobotomies, electric shock treatment, and other ‘treatments’- many of which held the potential to exacerbate the condition of the patients- were as commonly used in such facilities as aspirin is used by a person with chronic migraines. No situation involving you and a former- or current- mental hospital is ever good idea; be the reason deranged escaped patients, vengeful spirits, or your own particular brand of mental instability, it’s generally best to avoid them.
Examples: Session 9, Halloween 2, Shutter Island

Rule #8
Never split up. Just don’t.
Imagine that you’re a killer. You’re crouched outside of a house, hidden in the shadows, looking in on your prey. Now through the window on your left, you see a bunch of people, huddled together holding knives, guns, and a variety of other weapons, obviously well -prepared for your inevitable attack. But when you look to your left, you see a lone female (male is also possible, but it defies several clichés) sleeping, crying, or —the most likely option— staring at herself in the mirror. Which target do you think looks to be the more promising?
Examples: Scream, House of Wax

Rule #9
Never disturb the dead. Ever.
For those of you who aren’t aware, cemeteries are places where we humans inter our dead. And for those of you who haven’t caught up on your horror movie history, the dead are generally not a congenial bunch, and they don’t tend to take kindly to an interruption of their afterlives. So perhaps you should think twice when you and your friends decide to take your party to the local cemetery and do all manner of illegal and disrespectful things on top of the deceased. And please, for the love of all clichés, check the history behind the house you purchase. If the residence you’re looking at happens to reside on a hundred-year-old cemetery or is the location where a few small children and their nanny were brutally bludgeoned to death by the butler, you might want to look elsewhere.
Examples: The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, Gravedancers, The Grudge

Rule #10
Never scream. Or make any noise for that matter.
Being sneaky isn’t an easy thing. Being well and truly silent is an almost impossibility. But when running away from a frightening, perhaps deranged or undead, person brandishing a rusty scythe and a nasty temper, being quiet is a necessity. So when a bunny hops out of the bushes and breaks a twig, please, refrain from screaming like a little girl who didn’t get the cookie she wanted. Screaming, talking, yelling, blowing a bullhorn or hitting objects which make a loud noise when struck are all things to avoid. Noises make it all the easier for the villain— who will probably get you regardless of if you’re quiet— to find you and grind you into a puddle of human borscht.
Examples: Dead Silence, Scream, Strangers