What tropes/clichés are you fed up with in films?

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
5,944
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
This is a lame excuse for me to rant.

I know it’s my fault, because I almost exclusively watch only horror and Science Fiction, but I’m really starting to get fatigued — no wait a minute — furious wasting my time on lazy films.

I’ve just started watching a very atmospheric horror film about a lighthouse in New England. Three minutes into the film and a bird has already smashed into the window; ten minutes into the film and three more birds have done it. Could somebody please explain to me what is meant to be so scary about a bird flying into a window? Apart from the fact that it so rarely happens, it’s a living wild animal… How can that be scary in any way? How can a living animal have any loyalty, or influence from a supernatural or evil, unnatural agency?

Dropping keys when you’re running from a werewolf, or some other big bad; not being able to find your keys; falling down for no reason; not being able to start the car; nobody answering the front door, even though they’re in; somebody wearing headphones and not hearing a cry for help…it goes on and on and on.

These things might work a few times, but it seems to me that nowadays every horror film features one (or all!) of these.

And that brings me onto jump scares.

Although I’m not a particular fan of jump scares as they rarely have anything to do with narrative or character — if the jump scare is germane to the McGubbins rather than just some cat jumping out, or a tin falling off the shelf etc, I have had enough. Over the past couple of years I’ve started watching English language films with the subtitles on just so I can keep the sound down because I’m so sick of hearing ‘mumble mumble mumble’ and then a crash of some kind of jump scare nearly giving me a heart attack.

Then there is the trope of father, struggling, after the death of his wife, or the divorce, and having to look after (usually) a small girl.

One thing that I very rarely have any problems with are independent or foreign language horrors. Even the cheapest found footage ones seem to have an edge over the Hollywood drivel that we are fed these days.

I recently went to the cinema to see the adaptation of Stephen kings, The Boogeyman.

I was excited because it featured David Dastmalchian and I expected his character to be the protagonist. The opening 5 minutes are so dark, and promise an original direction that within 10 or 15 minutes is discarded, and the whole thing goes off in the direction of every single other horror film, featuring some supernatural entity in the house.

I think the main cause of this is the evolution of the action horror, as opposed to the slow build horrors of yesteryear. It seems to me that horror films, especially the ones from Hollywood, now have to have some kind of action element, following something like Jurassic Park, or alien than an actual horror. Robert Wise’s 1963 The Haunting, is a great slow burn.

Having said all that, I wanted to reiterate that I really have enjoyed some fantastic horrors over the last 10 years, but they have been (more often than not) Spanish language. One of the most scary horror’s I’ve seen in a long time, certainly since Session 9, is an Argentinian film called Aterados, which is translated to ‘Terrified’ in which it’s not a house that is haunted, but every one on the street. There are two jump scares that spring to mind in that film, but they are pertinent to the story.

I’m also fed up as gays as being represented as 1) super fashionable; 2) arch; 3) there to be a GBF to some young lady 4) camp, or clearly ‘gay’ — but that’s not really a problem with horror :D
 

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
1,241
Buried underground in a box, waiting to be dug out. This particular one the box was only a foot down below the surface. During the waiting time, grains of sand were coming in from a leak after the box had been kicked by the person inside the box who was portrayed as becoming increasingly desperate even though they went from being desperate to less desperate as the waiting went on. I would have been impressed if they had kicked the end of the box out and gotten daylight, which at that depth seemed possible. As it was I fast forwarded it to the rescue scene. There was a camera in the box transmitting a signal to the internet out in the middle of nowhere which meant a wifi signal. The super hacker (there is always a super hacker side kick) did not supply the rescuer with any kind of signal tracking device and they knew it was out in the desert in the middle of nowhere. Would have made it easier to find the camera signal right off the bat instead of running around looking for the laptop sending out the signal and then searching the area around the laptop for an air pipe sticking out of the ground. Granted, the camera could have been hardwired to the laptop, but the laptop was in a shed (out in the middle of nowhere) with a sizeable solar panel on the roof, which was how the laptop was located.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
26,353
Location
UK
When the villainess is a leather-clad dominatrix. Because there's nothing more evil than a woman in control of her own sexuality.

Servalan we could forgive because Blake's 7 was a different era, but we had it over a decade later in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 with Major Kira in the dumb alternative universe episodes, and more recently in Picard season one, which seemed to have been written in the most part by some producer's pre-teen son.

Granted, it's easy to accuse a lot of SF writers of sexism, but I don't understand why they think it's fine to fetishize a female "lead" to be controlled by the male protagonist (after all, she is his sexual reward for winning), but fear a woman whose sexuality isn't controlled. Is there a word for that?

Also, another rant: bad guys almost always look alternative with rock/metal/goth hair styles, clothing, and attitude - underlining that people who look as though they exist outside of mainstream social norms are to be hated and feared. There's nothing harmless about that - ask Sophie Lancaster and partner. From our perspective, the bad guys are actually the ones who promote mainstream social values, not least casual prejudice and mindless consumerism. Am I getting too political? :)
 
Last edited:

Droflet

I don't teach chickens how to dance.
Joined
Apr 15, 2010
Messages
3,856
Location
Australia
The insistence on murdering defenseless Zippo lighters. They could strike a match and throw it onto the petrol-doused stuff, but no, a Zippo must die. And it happens so often that I cringe when a Zippo appears on screen, knowing what's coming. Strike the Zippo and place it near the petrol? No, too easy. Someone should start a save the Zippo campaign. ;)
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
7,632
One thing that I very rarely have any problems with are independent or foreign language horrors. Even the cheapest found footage ones seem to have an edge over the Hollywood drivel that we are fed these days.

I wonder if this is because it being foreign means that weirder stuff might happen? It certainly is with me. If I see that a French film has Isabelle Huppert in it I always think "Uhoh, mad sh*t ahoy..." Even British films seem to work to a slightly different set of rules to American ones.

I also wonder - how can I put this politely? - that some of us here are just too old for some films being made. I don't mean this in a "we can't handle excitement" or tedious "the world's gone maaaaaad" political stuff, just that we know the old tricks and are wise to them. It's something I've seen in SFF, which is closely linked to YA: I'm middle-aged and coming-of-age stories just don't mean that much to me.

In horror at least, I can tell when a film is trying to make me jump or gross me out, neither of which is of much interest anymore. On the other hand, a slow, unsettling film like Lake Mungo works much better on me now than it would have done when I was 20.

Because there's nothing more evil than a woman in control of her own sexuality.

I think that, as a society, we are moving (painfully slowly) away from the idea that a person's morals and personality are governed by their sexual tastes (see also @Phyrebrat 's, comment about gays). I once read a book written in the early 1940s (by a complete bigot, but that's by the by) about Hitler's rise to power. In all honesty, he partly blamed it on the Germans being into spanking.

EDIT - Oh, I'd like to add pretty much anything that happens in a post-apocalyptic story, especially if it's got some form of zombies in it.
 
Last edited:

Stephen Palmer

author of books
Supporter
Joined
Dec 22, 2009
Messages
6,217
Location
Shropshire
I also wonder - how can I put this politely? - that some of us here are just too old for some films being made. I don't mean this in a "we can't handle excitement" or tedious "the world's gone maaaaaad" political stuff, just that we know the old tricks and are wise to them. It's something I've seen in SFF, which is closely linked to YA: I'm middle-aged and coming-of-age stories just don't mean that much to me.
I'm nearly old, and they still mean a lot to me. But, I do agree. Tastes change as the decades roll by. I simply cannot understand the attitude to music of anybody under 40.
 

THX1138

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Mar 11, 2022
Messages
1,436
Location
Land Locked Ocean Dream
I don't like films where the MC's are a top military team and all they do is argue and complain about how each one is smarter and better than the other. And when they fight the bad guys, they are all over the place! But the bad guys always get beaten, no matter how organized and disapplied they are.

Or IT specialists that are scared and panicking all the time, yet they can do hundreds of lines of codes in a blink of an eye, while panicking.

Or like the latest trend, and please forgive me :), that all women are calm and in control while most if not all of the men, including the military ones, are panicking and confused dumb dumbs with that 'Deer in the headlight' look all the time.
 

Swank

and debonair
Joined
Feb 25, 2022
Messages
1,834
Or like the latest trend, and please forgive me :), that all women are calm and in control while most if not all of the men, including the military ones, are panicking and confused dumb dumbs with that 'Deer in the headlight' look all the time.
Hey, that's the mainstay of all household cleaning and over the counter medicine ads!
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
5,726
I agree with horror movies using cheap 'jump shocks' these days. But it seems to be what audiences want.

At one time movie companies would experiment a little more (they had more leeway for a number of reasons) and give the audience what they didn't realise they wanted. Most movies (particularly horror movies) these says give the audience exactly what they are expecting - cheap shocks.

On the face of it, it appears that both movie makers and audiences are happy with the new status quo. But why are audiences so massively down on what they were?

One thing is for sure, Barry Norman (remember him?) would have ripped most new films to pieces with the lack of imagination and predictability.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
26,353
Location
UK
Does the same apply when male villains were the equivalent? Like in Road Warrior or Farscape?

Or the protagonist in Zardoz?
I'm not sure any of those characters are sexualized as lusting after the protagonist? But funny how in film/TV black leather is commonly used as a short-hand for "dangerous person" - cf my second point

Also, another rant: bad guys almost always look alternative with rock/metal/goth hair styles, clothing, and attitude - underlining that people who look as though they exist outside of mainstream social norms are to be hated and feared.
I can appreciate the use of the use of black/white colours as a visual short-hand for "good guys/bad guys" in visual media, but it seems to go beyond that when leather is involved. Not many films challenge that.
 
Last edited:

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
5,726
I agree that the wearing of leather in movies usually suggests that the wearer is dangerous, but not necessarily evil. The same often goes for the colour of clothes. Although these tropes can often be reversed, for example Mr White in Reservoir Dogs, and the hilarious explanation that the boss gives for no one ever getting to choose their own colours (the bad guys would almost kill each other arguing over who got to be Mr.Black!)

But then again, movies have only a couple of hours to tell the story, and simple visual/oral clues as to the nature of characters is much easier than having to spend valuable screen time delving into their backgrounds.
 

Swank

and debonair
Joined
Feb 25, 2022
Messages
1,834
I'm not sure any of those characters are sexualized as lusting after the protagonist?
I didn't realize that you were saying dominatrix looking female villains were lusting after the protagonist. I thought you were saying that dressing them that way was sexualizing.
 

Dave

Non Bio
Staff member
Joined
Jan 5, 2001
Messages
22,592
Location
Way on Down South, London Town
Buried underground in a box, waiting to be dug out.
Being Buried Alive - This is such a common trope, especially when coupled with some disease that causes the individual to be comatose, with a lowered heartbeat, or else to have locked-in syndrome, so as they appear to have been dead when they were buried. The occasions where such diseases (like akinetic mutism) happen in real life must be tiny, and for someone to have actually been buried alive, practically zero. Yet, it regularly crops up in pulp TV detective shows (or else where the corpse suddenly wakes up and walks out of the mortuary.).

I almost turned off the recent, but otherwise quite good, TV drama and psychological thriller, The Woman in the Wall, when
they used it as a limp explanation for why Ruth Wilson had walled the woman up. (It was only revealed close to the end of the final part too.)

I'm currently reading Misery by Stephen King, and it is such a limp explanation, that he actually
has Sheldon use it to bring back Misery from the dead in his second attempt at writing the pulp fiction, book within the book, that he is forced to write for Annie Wilkes.

Apparently, Fryderyk Chopin was terrified of being buried alive, and he was not alone among people of his era, so the idea in fiction began right back then.

Okay, you asked for film tropes and I gave only TV and books, but the TV tropes website here is a long list of live action films if you skip down and click to open that section: List of Films with the Buried Alive trope
Among them, even James Bond and Dirty Harry.
 

Similar threads


Top