Learning Experiences in the Horror Genre
Hey! So, today we are going to be falling down the rabbit hole of learning what horror is… I’m going, and I’m taking you with me. I’m learning what I can about a few of the different tropes that are common in horror. If you already know all this, good for you. Keep your hand down, don’t call out answers, and just smile smugly in silence. Don’t ruin it for the rest of the class. For everyone else, let’s start by making it clear. I opened a browser window and headed over to the font of all knowledge in this arena tvtropes.org and looked at what they had to say about the only horror trope that I was absolutely positive I already knew about, “the scream queen.” This is what I found:
- Scream Queens are actresses who become associated with Horror films, Thrillers, and/or Slasher Movies, either through an appearance in a notable entry in the genre as a frequent victim or through constant appearances as the female protagonist.
- While the term is more specifically used to refer to the “attractive young Damsels in Distress” characters, some are more, if not, downright capable of taking care of themselves.
- May be the Final Girl if their characters are lucky enough to survive. Ironically, a good portion of these actresses confess to being scared of horror films themselves.
Yep. Just what I thought. No new news there. I can see why Maggie, the protagonist in our project The Living Fears, sits right on the edge of this trope. She is capable of taking care of herself, but she also does a lot of screaming.
Ok, well then from here, I’m going to go see what I can find about slasher films. There seems to be so much buzz around horror that references this slasher trope that I’m just going to have to find out more about it.
I found this interesting quote while reading, and it got me curious:
“Zombie movies are about groups: outside, the zombies are legion; inside, the humans struggle to work together. Slasher movies are about individuals: one man is doing all the killing, and only one girl will outwit him and survive.”
— Sara Bickley, reviewing The Ruins
C’mon, now. It compares zombie movies with slasher movies, and it talks about the main difference between the two movie types which I didn’t even think about before. The article goes on to talk about how almost every slasher movie has a sequel. Did you know slasher films where not even mainstream films until 1978? The film that put slasher films out there was John Carpenter’s Halloween. That movie and the original Friday the 13th started the slasher film industry, and all the movies made in the slasher genre after they premiered were copies of those two movies and their sequels. And just when the craze started to die down, A Nightmare on Elm Street arrived in 1984 and brought in a supernatural element to the proceedings.
When the final years of the 80s hit, slasher films actually started to die out. But 1996’s Scream, directed by Wes Craven, was almost a parody of what had come before it in the genre. The unlikely twist here was that it was met with a huge financial reward at the box-office. And as we all know, anything that makes money is going to lead to a feeding frenzy in Hollywood. So, shocker, we began to experience a second coming of slasher films, with films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, and Valentine. As tvtropes.org put it:
“These movies stood in rather stark contrast to their 80’s brethren. Good writing and characterization, considered disposable (and usually nonexistent) in the first era, were now all-important, as the plots now focused on the heroes trying to stay one step ahead of the criminals (who often based their murders on famous stories or past events in the good guys’ lives) while also navigating their personal relationships, which – as teenage lives tend to be – were fraught with conflict and melodrama.”
The 90’s were rife with slasher films of varying quality, but as had happened before, the slashers seemed to run out of gas. Everything appeared to be a copy of a copy of a copy, and after some time there was very little of anything original left, aside from the trope that is. (The SAW franchise being a notable exception, but that’s not really dead center in the slasher camp, so I’m skipping it for now.)
As I’m digging deeper into the history of the slasher in film, I’m noticing that most of them just became satire of what had come before sooner or later. There are not very many original movies in this genre from the 80’s 90’s or even the early 2000’s. I wonder why the parodies were getting so popular that others wanted to do their own parodies of the films.
Anyway, moving on, another main trope from the horror genre I will be looking into is the “creepy child” trope because in The Living Fears (shameless plug) two of the main characters fit so neatly into it. I guess it really is a popular trope. Not just for us, but for many other projects all over the landscape of the horror genre. So, by way of a definition, the “creepy child” trope is basically when a piece of horror media has a child (Typically a girl. Sexism? Maybe.) who acts very unnatural. The “creepy child” trope is really popular, in my opinion, because when there is a child in a story people (viewers, readers, listeners) tend to get more emotionally invested in the well-being or outcomes for the characters. This works very well to build up more tension for the audience, and isn’t that what people are in it for really? The tension? The fear? The horror of it all?
There are tons more horror tropes. I just do not have time, in one blog post, to get into all of them. I hit a couple of the big ones I wanted to touch on. I’ll be touching more on this again, I’m sure, and going deeper into it than I did this time. So, check back and see what other tropes I’ve looked into, or maybe even discovered. I’m still somewhat new to the whole world of horror. There’s still so much to discover. My dad keeps saying “We have such sights to show you” and laughing. Maybe he’s just a little too into the whole horror thing. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed going through these different horror tropes with me. It’s been fun, but for now, from me and for Unbrandable Media…until next time.
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