We all know those scenes. The parts of scary movies when characters make fatal mistakes that are just plain dumb. Worse, they’re predictable because they seem to happen in soooo many scary movies. Here’s our list:
1. Splitting Up Into Different Groups.
Everybody knows sticking together is better. So when people break up into different groups, it can feel like the movie maker is underestimating us. No good ever came from splitting up – so what makes this time different? Oh, imagine that, it ended up being a bad idea…again.
2. Assuming the Bad Guy is Dead (No Double-Tap)
So just because the “bad guy” is on the floor and not moving – we should all just assume he’s dead? Do movie makers really think we didn’t see it coming when the killer shows up again for a surprise attack? Nobody is fooled. Stop doing that.
It would be awesome if the victim just bashed the bad guys head in until it was mush. Seriously, not only does it show that the character is smart, it’s more consistent with reality and shows they take initiative. I love when main characters are more badass than weak victim.
3. Not Backtracking Properly
Being lost is bad enough, but that’s not nearly as bad as not even trying to backtrack to safety. I get frustrated when characters are in a life-or-death-situation and make stupid decisions simply heading back to safety. Sure, people might make poor decisions under duress – but it just happens too much in movies. Characters are either getting lost in the woods, lost on the highway, running toward a less safe place, or just not taking their time backtracking.
As a matter of fact – if a movie character is so dumb to get lost in the woods from a minor backtracking error, then I start to hope that they get mauled by the monster in the movie. Dumb people in scary movies should just die. The movie editor spent all this time making me like the main character – now I suddenly hate the character because he/she is too dumb to flee in the right direction.
4. Talking and Making Unnecessary Noise at Inappropriate Times
I always cringe when movie characters start screaming for help at times when the bad guy is looking for them, essentially giving away the potentially free victims location. Generally speaking, silence is the best policy when a killer is nearby, unless you actually want to distract them for some reason.
Or, another good one is when a main character knocks over something that loudly clanks on the floor, only to make the killer aware of the victims location. How about this – shut up and stop moving. Problem solved.
5. Being Overly Negligent and/or Clumsy
Tripping and falling while being chased, dropping the keys when trying to start the car, leaving obvious traces of ones whereabouts, etc.
All of these cringe-worthy character fumbles can be really frustrating. I know, I know – they are possible in the odd case that this impossible scenario happens, but tone it down on the characters clumsiness.
6. Not Sticking to Plans
Maybe if the group hadn’t split up into separate groups (like I previously suggested), they wouldn’t need to make new plans like “meeting at rendezvous point” in the first place. But I digress.
Not sticking to plans seems to come up frequently in movies. Typically plans in horror movies veer off course when the weakest link in the group is too clumsy, or maybe something small throws everything off course, or possibly the enemy outsmarts the group and throws a kink in their plans. Who knows.
While I think this is the weakest of the offenses in horror movies, it still comes off as frustrating when the victims willingly don’t stick to plans.
7. Long Discussions & Voting Mid Crisis
We’ve all seen it. Someone is being attacked or tortured and their friends have a small window of time to save them. Meanwhile, the friends are trying to decide in the next room what they should do. It’s as if the character that is being tortured would really appreciate their friends hesitating to come to their aid.
Sometimes in desperate situations just getting in there and kicking some ass is the best option. If my internal organs were being extracted by a flesh eating alien, I would surely prefer my friends take action sooner than later.
8. Investigating Creepy Noises/Rooms
Hmmm…I wonder what that sound was in the other room…? WHO CARES, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! That is how I feel during scenes where main characters make irrational decisions to investigate a sound or “interesting” room.
This is probably the most common cause of suspense. While I love suspense, I don’t like when it happens because characters are dumb.
9. Not Grabbing a Weapon.
This is a huge offender in horror movies. The victim has a chance to grab a weapon for protection – but instead chooses to run, hide, or fight without any weapon at all. The order of weapon preference goes like this:
- Big Gun (think shotgun)
- Small Gun (think handgun)
- Irregular Weapon (crossbow, flamethrower, grenade, etc)
- Long Sharp Metal Object (think sword)
- Short Sharp Metal Object (think knife)
- Any Long Blunt Object (think baseball bat or metal pipe)
- Any Short Blunt Object (think hammer or a rock)
Even if a character doesn’t know how to use a gun, they could probably get their hands on something – anything. Why fight with hands when an object, any object, will inflict a lot more damage? Plus, it’s so much cooler when a character gets a few good shots in with a weapon – if I wanted to watch someone flailing their arms at the enemy, I’d watch cartoons. Wait – even cartoons are cooler than that.
10. Letting the Least Intelligent Person In the Group Make The Decisions
Decision making in movies is a crap shoot. Individual characters often make big decisions that they shouldn’t and groups of people often vote on other decisions that they shouldn’t. I’m not one to make these decisions, it’s up to the screen writers.
But please stop letting the least experienced, high, drunk, stoner, youngest person make decisions for the entire group. It’s too predictable that something is going to go wrong when this amateur starts calling the shots.
Sometimes I think that scary movie screen writers started drinking the same koolaid. It’s like many of them read Scary Movies 101 and started piecing together shoddily written movies with dumb characters. Plus, as part of the audience, my relationship to the main characters depends on the characters being smart. I want to be smart – therefore I want to associate with smart characters – therefore my relationship with the characters diminishes when I feel the character is too dumb. I dunno – maybe this is too much movie psychology.
What makes movies scary is when the scary thing is out of the control of the victims – not when the victim lacks common sense or is just plain dumb.
What do you think?