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10 Movies That Use Horror Tropes Perfectly

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Horror, being one of the more trope-heavy film genres, is often criticized for being formulaic delivery vehicles for excessive gore and nudity. To horror fans, though, the genre is also filled with deep explorations of these very themes, which reverberate across cultures.


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The feeling of being scared is universal, and though the exact details of what scares people can vary across the world, the stories they tell follow common threads. These tropes mean something, and many horror films have sought to examine them in detail. Some try to find the purest form of the trope, while others choose to pick it apart, but either way, the results are scary.

10/10 Nope Puts An Unexpected Spin On The Horror Twis

Nope Jean Jacket UFO Film 2

Jordan Peele’s most recent film, Nope, starts out pretty simply, then, like many horror films, features an unexpected twist that plays on audience expectations. The first section of the film plays like a classic alien sci-fi/horror film. The flying saucer hovering above the protagonists’ ranch seems to be abducting animals in one particular area and exhibiting other odd behavior.

Nope takes a wild left turn when Heywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) figures out the true nature of the now iconic flying saucer, shifting the movie from an alien abduction plot to a creature feature. The film deals with the ideas of expectations and the misleading nature of the human perspective, so this twist plays great.

9/10 Scream Molds Sydney Into A Final Girl

Sidney Prescott killing Ghostface in Scream

To many in the fandom, 1996’s Scream marks a turning point in horror filmmaking. Its strength was its meta-narrative, in which a masked killer, Ghostface, whose murders are heavily influenced by slasher movie conventions. The killers’ plan, borrowing heavily from cultural fears that horror movies push viewers to violence, uses random killings and other red herrings to mask their true motives.

The most important piece of the Ghostface killer’s plan is to mold the film’s heroine, Sidney Prescott, into an archetypal Final Girl. This trope, most commonly associated with slasher films, would provide the emotional arc to the killers’ story, making it believable to the masses.

8/10 Cabin In The Woods Fills In The Gaps

The cast of Cabin in the Woods standing together in the cabin

Many horror films, largely beginning in the 90s, have chosen the meta route for examining horror storytelling, and Cabin in the Woods does this by trying to form a unified theory of scary stories. The main question asked by Cabin is, why do people act the way they do in horror movies?

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Cabin in the Woods depicts how the scary spaces where horror movies happen can still exist in a world with Google Maps. The global conspiracy depicted in this movie facilitates horror scenarios across the globe based on local customs. Within the scenarios, they affect the outcomes through chemical manipulation and more direct intervention, like electrifying a knife so a character drops it.

7/10 Tucker And Dale Are Victims of Rob Zombie

Stars of Tucker and Dale vs Evil

There were a few years when the films of Rob Zombie pushed the idea of hillbilly horror to the forefront of the genre at large. These movies were defined by extreme violence and gore committed by people who live off the grid upon city dwellers who have wandered too far into the wilderness.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil uses this pattern to examine how these stories, and the hate that goes with them, affect people. There is the same ultra-violence that viewers would expect, but it all is the result of a misunderstanding magnified by misplaced hatred. Tucker and Dale ends up being the rare heart-warming entry to horror film.

6/10 Zombieland Is A World Filled With Ringers

ZOMBIELAND 2009 CHARACTERS STANDING TOGETHER

Many horror movies feature a character strangely prepared for whatever supernatural horror has descended. Some satirize this trope by making the prepared hero into a secret coward who breaks at a climactic moment, but Zombieland does something different. It makes all the main characters prepared for, and kind of over the novelty of, a zombie apocalypse.

By removing the frightening edge and suspense of zombie stories, Zombieland is able to focus on the comedic aspects of living in a doomed world. The movie focuses on the emotional bonds that form in terrifying situations, but mostly revels in the bodily destruction one can commit if murder and mayhem are guiltless methods to survive.

5/10 Malignant Brings New Meaning To Inner Demons

Gabriel takes over Madison and attacks in Malignant

Malignant was a surprise to many, especially in its high-concept explanation. There are many versions of the inner demon type story, whether it’s the classic episode of Amazing Stories, “Hell Toupee,” or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but few have taken this concept to the extremes that Malignant does.

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The relationship between Malignant’s hero, Madison, and its villain Gabriel is the one-of-a-kind expansion of a classic trope, which shines especially tight during its jailhouse scene. While its explanation does skip over a few essential details of the film’s villain’s abilities, it does present an enjoyable and unexpected story.

4/10 IT Scares You From The Background

Red Balloon in IT

When viewing IT, it’s easy to credit the villain, Pennywise’s, existentially terrifying portrayal with the film’s atmosphere of dread, but that explanation ignores much of the movie’s power. Bill Skarsgård may be the highlight of the film, but it’s the small inconsistencies occurring around the film’s protagonists, the Losers Club, which make this entry superior to It: Chapter 2.

Before Pennywise devourers his prey, he likes to promote a sense of terror to improve their flavor. He does this by shifting reality slightly in their presence at first, often through the medium of red balloons. Plenty of cosmic horror villains act this way, but in It, the whole town quickly becomes the clown’s sandbox rather than the heroes’ home.

3/10 Hereditary Is Generational Horror At Its Purest

Joan leading Annie Graham in a seance in Hereditary

Many films are distillations of a single specific theme, but few do it as well as Hereditary with its handling of generational horror. The gothic horror of Hereditary, mixed with the unreliability of the film’s point-of-view, delivers a deeply chilling account of a family’s collapse.

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Hereditary is not absolutely clear whether its events are the product of the main family’s long relationship with a demon or its history of violent mental episodes. The movie continually asks the viewer, what is the value of family when it’s also the source of such undeniable pain. These questions have been asked for centuries, but few do it this well.

2/10 Halloween (2018) Explores The After-Effects Of Being A Final Girl

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween

The Halloween franchise is relatively difficult to plot out. With multiple starting and stopping points, full-on reboots, and multiple entries of the same name, it can be a confusing mess at times. There is, however, a strong argument for ignoring all the films between the original and its identically named “legacyquel” from 2018.

Halloween may have previously explored the theme of the after-effects of trauma in H20, but that movie was unable to effectively examine the idea. Halloween (2018) focused on the descendants of Laurie Strode, the main survivor of Michael Myers’ babysitter murders. The film was highly successful in examining how an event can affect an individual, a family, and even a whole town for decades.

1/10 In The Mouth Of Madness Is A Masterclass In Cosmic Insanity

Sam Neill loses his mind in In The Mouth Of Madness

John Carpenter is most commonly associated with his films Halloween and The Thing, which are both horror genre redefining masterpieces, but just viewing those sells the director extremely short. His lesser-known work, In the Mouth of Madness, is essential to the smaller but deeply rooted subgenre of cosmic horror.

In the Mouth of Madness may feel like a Stephen King ripoff in the beginning, but once it really starts moving, it reveals itself as actually borrowing more so from H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s theme of insanity and terror being linked is strong in this film, especially when its very reality begins to unravel, leaving the protagonist with a wild grin and the viewer with a headache.

NEXT: 10 Scariest Kids In Horror Movies

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