This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
Hearing bumps in the night? Watched a haunted video cassette? Had a phone call from raspy voiced stranger with an eerie warning? Surrounded by flesh eating ex-humans?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the bad news is, you may be trapped in a horror movie. Worry not, we have put together a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts to keep you alive until the credits start rolling.
1. Don’t film everything
In the modern world, fame is the most coveted thing of all; wealth, power and intelligence pale into significance in the eyes of the young, and it seems it’s much more preferable to be known on the street by random members of the public and written about in the gossip sections of newspapers about what kind of shoes you’re wearing or what other vapid fame hound you’re currently bumping genitals with.
With the rise of YouTube, smart phones with video cameras, not to mention so called internet celebrities, it’s very tempting to record everything, upload it to the net and watch the adulation from weak lipped idiots roll in.
Bearing all this in mind, you’re probably planning to record every single second of your next camping trip to the woods/stay in your uncle’s old cabin/look around an abandoned mental asylum, and then upload it to Facebook with lots of comments that end in LOL!
What you’re actually doing is filming a found footage movie. These days, killer things of all types are as obsessed as everyone else by fame and pop up in far more home movies than they used to. Usually just making noises in the background and making people shriek before finally jumping out of a cupboard and chopping your head off. Maybe you’ll be looking over some selfies and see a faceless axeman skulking around behind you, or a disfigured clown waving a machete around. Maybe you’ll capture footage of one of your friends being dragged into a bush, or hung by their leg from a tree and messily dismembered.
The footage you’ll definitely capture, after all the running through woods, hiding in barns, crying, shrieking and terrified snot bubbles is your own death. The ways it could happen are too numerous to go into but found footage films always end with your death. After all, they’re called “found footage films” not “uploaded by the survivor of a nutter with a big knife movies.”
So just do as you’re told and stop filming everything.
2. Heed the warnings
As you approach the beginning of your horror movie experience there’s usually some kind of foreshadowing of the ordeal ahead. This isn’t your subtle, well hidden, film studies type of foreshadowing either. This is weird dreams or visions about dying, strangely relevant TV news reports about killer things killing things, eerily fitting headlines on newspapers, or weird gas station attendants basically saying: “That place where you’re going, oh yes everyone dies there.”
Why not just go home as soon as you get a bit creeped out. Okay, you were looking forward to a weekend at the cabin drinking, smoking questionable cigarettes and listening to terrible music, but just think how much better your life will be with a head. Yeah the jock guy and his airheaded cheerleader girlfriend will laugh at you but who cares? Pretty soon they’ll be nailed to a tree coughing up blood and you’ll be in bed watching a black and white monster movie.
So cosy up and make a dent in your Netflix queue. You know it makes sense.
3. Don’t touch the objets d’art
We humans are an inquisitive bunch; our nature is to check out everything around us, make sure it can’t hurt us, find out if it tastes good, and ultimately ascertain if we can safely have sex with it. So the first thing we do when coming across a new mysterious unknown item, be it a voodoo doll with frightening looking teeth found in a junk shop, an ancient Chinese puzzle box that looks like it’s made from bits of spine, or a haunted colouring book covered in weird symbols, is pick it up and have a good shufty.
Not a good idea.
In horror film world you’re never more than six feet away from a vessel of unimaginable evil, be it in a dusty, junk filled cellar, buried under some floorboards, on sale for a dollar at a garage sale, or locked in a sinister chest in the attic of your new house. Everything is out to get you and get you it shall.
It’s quite easy to spot a vessel of unimaginable evil – they’re generally creepy looking and dusty, haven’t been touched for decades, and upon seeing it one of your number will say something along the lines of “I don’t know Brad don’t touch it, that thing creeps me out.” To which Brad will respond by thumping them on the arm and questioning their sexuality. Our hypothetical Brad will then have a bit of a mess around with the questionable artefact, and release something from the bowels of hell, thus sealing his, and everyone else’s horrible, skinless fate.
You’re a bit of a dick sometimes, theoretical Brad. You really are.
4. Pets are Replaceable
Dogs hardly ever make it through horror films. Come to think of it they rarely ever make it through romantic comedies, action movies, or buddy cop movies where one of the cops is of the canine persuasion. In fact, if you think about it movie dogs are ridiculously fragile unless they are evil movie mutts, and if that’s the case they are almost indestructible. Maybe that says something about the empowering nature of evil, or maybe it’s just a plot device to ramp up the fear factor. Who knows?
Digressions aside, very few pets regardless of species make it through horror films: cats, ferrets, hamsters, or pot bellied pigs, any creature that can be considered cute and could feasibly make some kind of pathetic whimpering noise will be attracting your attention to an air vent or dark hole as soon as a horror movie scenario starts to rear its ugly head.
If your pet has gone missing and there are scared noises, whimpers or pathetic scratching sounds coming from a dark recess in your home, the simple sad fact is that your pet cannot be saved, and if you go to investigate it you will be next, dragged bodily into said cranny and munched down by a giant alien spider, or just stabbed in the face by a deformed hillbilly.
Better to just turn the TV up until the noise goes away and Google pet shops.
5. Turn some lights on
So everything’s gone mildly horrorshow but you’re still not one hundred percent fearing for your life. That’s understandable as most horror movie protagonists don’t understand fear like normal people, choosing to be mildly annoyed at their impending doom until the danger finally dawns on them much too late, and they’re hacked to death off camera by an unseen foe while we watch splats of blood make a mess of the wallpaper. In reality, people are afraid of everything from an unexpected late night knock at the door to the central heating kicking in slightly earlier than usual.
During some part of the plot you’ll probably have to go down to the basement – maybe the boiler is out of order, you need to investigate some eerie noises, or perhaps you just feel the need to be surrounded by crumbling doll heads in the dark, who knows what makes you tick.
It might sound obvious now but please turn a light on. There should be a light switch at the top of the stairs, unless your architect was an idiot, and architects aren’t usually idiots as they have to go to university.
If the fuses have tripped, then it’s a different ball game. Your first instinct will be to grab a box of matches and fumble your way down stairs in near darkness with the world’s smallest light source.
Halfway down the stairs the match will burn your finger and you’ll be forced to drop it. Shadows will stir in the near pitch darkness and everything will look like a monster lurching at you through the darkness. You’ll light another match to find that the monster was just an old coat hung on a nail swaying in the breeze. Relieved, you turn around just as a real monster jumps out of the darkness and pulls your kidneys out through your ears.
It serves you right for not taking a flashlight.
6. Listen to the Oddball
Occasionally in your horror movie experience you might be lucky enough to chance upon an oddball. Maybe it’s a terrifying old lady that smells of wee, a wise old black man with a twinkle in his eye and a fetching hat, or a terribly annoying nine year old computer whizz kid who’s the younger brother of one of your group’s cheerleaders.
Each of these fantastical beings will be able to tell you exactly what’s going on.
The old folks are psychically tuned in to the mysteries of the universe, and this wisdom makes them able to ascertain the precise breed of rabbit zombies you are facing and how best to destroy them with utmost certainty. If your oddball is a child they’ll be able to tell you about the predatory pests through the medium of film science, film science being jargon that sounds authentic enough to regular Joes but can cause real scientists to choke on their popcorn.
Oddball children are usually computer whizz kids too. They can find any information on the internet no matter how obscure, build complex 3D models of their surroundings by pressing a few keys, access any webcam in the world, break firewalls and bring down mainframes with ease. They’re like a Swiss army knife of impossible digital usefulness, so try to use them to your advantage.
Unfortunately for the vast majority of undeveloped characters in your party, the fact that they’re too old/too young/a bit spacey/smell like a toilet will cloud your judgement and you’ll wilfully ignore everything they say until at least a couple of cheerleaders have been beheaded.
Just try to hold back the scepticism for a little while and listen to what they have to say, preferably before the local high school’s cheering squad has to advertise for new members.
7. Tool up and dress appropriately
Imagine if you will. You’re trapped in the locker room of William McKinley High School, the entire cast of Glee all zombified, their once impossibly shiny teeth are now stained red with blood, and human viscera is spattered across the sequin spangled unitards they wore for regionals. They paw malevolently at the door that separates you, and stalk around for people to eat or worse still, sing at. Your only means of escape will be to take down as many of them as possible in whatever violent means necessary.
Obviously this is a dream come true, and you cannot pass up the chance to dismember the world’s most famous group of warbling thirty year old teenagers without threat of recrimination, that would be crazy.
Unfortunately you can’t just go out there and run after Mr. Schuester with a shovel. You have to prepare yourself a little, and this advice goes for whatever horror movie madness you find yourself part of.
Look around your surroundings and put together an outfit that will afford you some protection. Trapped in a school? Why not head for the gym and cobble together some armor made from an American football kit. Under siege in a shopping mall? You should be able to find all manner of things to wear that are tougher than bare skin. Wherever you are you should be able to find something thicker and more tooth resistant than what you’re wearing, so sort yourself out.
Once you’ve done that, find yourself a weapon: a knife, pointy stick, table leg, pool ball in a sock, house brick, sword, baseball bat, plank of wood, large scale model of the Eiffel tower, bong, shotgun or stuffed fox. Basically anything you can get a good swing with, stab through flesh or fire projectiles out of. Anything that can keep nasty things away from your much needed organs is better than wildly lunging at your assailant with your rubbish fists.
And for heaven’s sake once you’ve got a weapon don’t drop it for no reason. What’s wrong with you?
8. Don’t split up
At some point you and your rapidly-diminishing group will be tasked with finding a minor plot point. Maybe it’s a cheerleader that’s wandered off, a can of gasoline to power the generator, or a key to some vehicle that can whisk you away from your isolated location. While you may eventually recover said plot point, the main reason for risking your lives is that there hasn’t been a death for fifteen minutes and the viewers are getting restless.Not long into your search one of your ensemble will say something along the lines of:
“Hey why don’t we split up, that way we can find Britney/the gas can/the keys to the truck quicker and get the heck out of here.”
The person who said that is officially the stupidest person to ever form a sentence and will probably die fairly soon anyway, but let’s try to make sure it’s not on your watch. Splitting up is the worst idea since Twilight sex toys. Even if one of you does find whatever it is you’re all looking for, how are you going to get back together? Call them? There’s never any mobile reception in these films, you know that.
No, all that will happen if you split up is one of your group will be nailed to a shed door, and someone else will find them and scream. If you’re looking for a cheerleader someone will slip in her blood and find her swinging from a tree by her entrails then he/she will be dismembered with a rusty garden tool.
So stick together.
You’ve flailed wildly at your assailant or a group thereof and have managed to get away from their immediate clutches, and now you’re being chased by a flesh eating ghost/wild eyed serial killer/vampire boy band. You do what anyone with a pair of legs and a modicum of self preservation would do – you peg it.
Unfortunately you’re in a horror film so you’ll run like an excited two year old, bumping into things and falling over for a good twenty metres before pressing yourself against a wall and panting as heavily as a chain smoking dog on a hot day. Your gasps for breath can be heard for miles around, so whatever’s trying to kill you turns up in no time at all and impales you to a wall with a javelin through your skull. It’s horrible. The end.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. For a start anyone can run further than that – a morbidly obese slug carrying a pile of encyclopedias could give you a run for your money. You’re not even trying to stay alive. Just run as fast and as far as you can, it’s easy when you remember how dead you’re not and how much you like it that way.
When they do eventually catch up, lash away with the weapon you’ve kept on your person from the above rule and remember…
10. Don’t stop hitting them until they’re definitely dead
Purely for horror-movie protagonists – this advice should never be given to kids who are having trouble with bullies or professional fighters of any kind.
Some creepy mutant dog/gorilla hybrid (for example) springs out at you from the darkness and against all odds you lash out with your weapon and manage to knock it to the floor. You look down at its prone form. This thing has been trying to kill you for an hour now and is extra angry because you’ve destroyed its eggs (or something). Now’s your chance, high on adrenaline your fight or flight response kicks in and you choose… Flight.
Seriously you’re starting to worry us now, is everything okay at home? Have you been having dark thoughts? This bloody thing’s been chasing you for an hour, it’s already eaten a couple of cheerleaders, a jock, and the under-developed character you can’t quite remember, and the first time you get the chance to finish it you run. Why are you letting this thing live?
Unless it’s a twist we didn’t see coming and this monster is your brother or something, you should act now. Smash it in the head a few times, jump on it, reverse a car over it. Don’t stop hitting it until it’s an unsightly pool of grisly lumps with bits of hair poking out of it.
Get revenge for all those cheerleaders.
11. Be the Deus Ex Machina
Well, our time together will soon come to an end. It’s been emotional, remember when you went investigating the strange noises despite the fact we told you not to? Do you recall running away from the creature with a hook for a face even though you could have stamped it to death? Remember facing hordes of zombies armed with nothing but a flip flop?
That’s because you’re an idiot.
Or are you? Maybe, just maybe, you’re a Deus ex Machina.
Perhaps you were the crazy one who ran head first into danger wielding an unexploded hand grenade so everyone else could escape. Maybe you were a selfish jerk that seemed to escape and left the rest of your group to die only to be cornered and presumably murdered off screen. But happily for you, you didn’t actually die and now it’s time for your glorious comeback. If you were a selfish jerk this is the time for your shot at redemption.
The main character has been cornered. She (let’s say it’s a woman) is finally face to face with whatever murderous thing has been killing everyone for the entire runtime. There’s surely no way that she’s going to get out of this, and it’s going to be one of those depressing endings where a death metal band scream at you and splashy red graphics make the credits look like the aftermath of an explosion in a tinned tomato factory.
But no, a shot rings out, at this point if there’s one antagonist he/she/it will fall down dead, then you get to stride up looking all heroic and save the day. If there’s a group of these monsters then you’ll turn up like a boss with loads of police or the army in tow. Maybe you’ll be in a tank, wouldn’t that be cool?
One last thing…
Okay, the credits are so close you can almost hear Trent Reznor tuning his guitar. Congratulations on your continued survival despite the frankly suicidal choices you made along the way. Whether you managed to escape the big bad, kill it, or had a Deus ex Machina do it for you, you’re alive and that’s the main thing.You look back to the place on the ground where your foe fell… and he/she/it is gone!
It wasn’t dead! How did we not see this coming?
I’m sorry to say there’s nothing we can do to help you on this one. Worst case scenario is you’re going to get impaled on something, sorry to hear that, you were the most fleshed out character we’ve met and we’ve grown to quite like you.
If you’re lucky you’ll hear a noise from the darkness and the closing credits music will kick in, which means you’re okay for now but we’ll probably see you being treated in a mental hospital for the sequel.
Best of luck.