Two horror movie tropes we love (especially when they come with a twist)

THE SACRIFICE GAME - Still 2 - Courtesy Shudder
THE SACRIFICE GAME - Still 2 - Courtesy Shudder /

Everyone who loves horror movies knows that they tend to follow well-established tropes. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; in fact, it gives us the comfort of familiarity. Sometimes the use of tropes works well, sometimes not so much…and sometimes, really great horror movies turn the tropes on their heads.

Remember Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods? That one managed to incorporate multiple tropes, while giving us a new and innovative way to look at them. It still holds up as a clever, well thought-out flick that added something new to the table.

Two tropes that often show up in horror movies:

It’s a holiday, and only a few students are staying on campus during the break – The original Black Christmas used this premise to excellent effect. While most of the sorority sisters were already gone for Christmas break, Jess, Phyl and Barb are still around, so they were perfect targets for Billy. Unbeknownst to the girls, Billy is camping out in the attic, accompanied by the body of Clare, the first one to be killed. Never fully seeing Billy and not knowing why he is on a killing rampage ups the suspense, and the end reveal is excellent.

Tropes used in horror movies
Photo: Black Christmas.. Image Courtesy Shudder /

More recently, Shudder Original The Sacrifice Game put this trope to great use. Students Samantha and Clara, along with their teacher Rose are stereotypically stuck at their boarding school over Christmas break. Four killers show up, and their brilliant plan is to summon a demon to make all of their wishes come true. But a really nice twist turns this familiar trope into something new and different.

Bonus points: The Sacrifice Game also uses another familiar trope for horror movies: the home invasion.

Home invasions are scary for a number of reasons, but mostly because they could (and do) really happen. You can be in your own home, minding your own business, and criminals could conceivably get into your house.

That’s what happens in The Strangers, the chilling tale of a couple staying overnight in a remote home. Late at night, there is a knock at the door. Although the couple do not let the young woman inside, she and her companions begin to torment the two and eventually end up inside. There is no happy ending for this film, which makes it all the more frightening.

In Funny Games, this is another trope that gets a twist, as we meet Georg and Anna, and their little boy Georgie, who have just arrived at their vacation home. When two young men show up, things get really dark really quickly. This film is not afraid to shock the viewer, and it keeps us guessing what may happen next. The twist is that the two men regularly acknowledge those of us watching the film, even rewinding a scene at one point to change the outcome.

There are dozens of other horror movie tropes of course, and perhaps we will explore more of them in a future article. But, for now, I hope you will check out one of the four movies mentioned if you haven’t already.

Black Christmas can be streamed on a number of platforms, including Shudder and Tubi. The Sacrifice Game can currently only be seen on Shudder. The Strangers is streaming on Netflix, and Funny Games is available to watch on max.

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