Some time ago, I posted what I called the 13 Rules Of Horror. Since then, a number of new “rules” have reared their heads and demanded their due. So here are another so many 8 More Rules Of Horror, resulting in a nice, Fibonaccian total of 21.
1) Guest Star Syndrome
This applies more to television and starts probably as early as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Twilight Zone and continues in The Hitchhiker (forgot about that one didn’t ya?) and Tales From The Crypt. The recognizable face is often the victim or the antagonist. The latter is particularly true of police procedurals (and if you don’t think those count as horror, check out a few choice episodes of Law And Order: Special Victims Unit). When there’s a guest star, especially a high-profile one, that actor overwhelmingly is the antagonist or at least in some way is involved with the antagonist. Martin Short, Robin Williams, Cynthia Nixon, Carol Burnett, and Henry Winkler are all prime SVU examples. Incidentally, this leads to a corollary rule which is…
2) Comedians Can Be Creepy
Stephen King has mentioned the horror/humor connection a number of times, and just look at that list up there. All of them are and/or at one time were comedians and/or comedic actors. Just in the Law And Order universe, that list just gets longer: Melissa Joan Hart, Bob Saget, Brad Garrett, and so on. In terms of actual cinema, Robin Williams deserves another mention for One Hour Photo and Insomnia. It’s also worth mentioning Jim Carrey, Tim Curry, John Goodman, and Michael Keaton.
3) Victim Zero
I discuss this extensively on its own, but it’s a prevalent enough element to list it here. Lotsa movies have the clueless dude (cuz it’s almost always a dude) who pokes/touches something he shouldn’t and starts off the chain reaction that will be the rest of the movie.
4) Nightmare Double Tap
This isn’t a rule so much as a super-frequent occurrence. The “wake up from a nightmare” shtick got tired pretty damn fast although that never stopped directors from using it anyway. It became increasingly replaced by the nightmare within a nightmare which at this point is also pretty well played out. Character wakes up from a nightmare only to face another jumpscare and then wake up for real. The 2017 French movie Revenge really ups the ante on this one.
5) The Kong Error
I mentioned this in Horror 102. It’s the fact that, in the vast majority of creature features and nature’s wrath movies, the problem is humanity. We either fuck things up in the name of science/progress/pride/greed/late stage capitalism, or we find something and decide to exploit it. Either way, we don’t just leave shit alone. We always think we can control it, destroy it, and/or outsmart it. Why The Kong Error? Because as far as I know, King Kong is the first time this happens, and it almost always leads to…
6) The Kong Effect
That which we fucked up, created without fully understanding it, or found then disturbed turns on us. Death, destruction, mayhem, and other assorted hilarity ensue.
7) The Doomed Parent
This is a character you see early on in a movie. Sometimes they even end up being the protagonist. Probably a good 90-95% of the time, it’s the father. The most common iteration of this is a space mission which typically involves a character soon becoming or having recently become a parent. They are shown in communication with their family, and they are usually dead before the end of the movie, and frequently become one of the first to go. Life, as much as it fails as a movie, is a great example of this. What I love most about this rule is that it flies in the face of entitled parents everywhere. You’re not special, and whatever lurking evil we’re dealing with doesn’t care about you or the fact that you’ve declined birth control.
8) Air Of Mist-ery
Ya gotta go all the way back to The Odyssey for the origins of this one. See, Odysseus and his men get blown off course because of a massive storm after which all the hilarity ensues. Then there’s the tornado in Wizard Of Oz. Well in lots and lotsa horror movies, a scene crops up where one or more main characters go through some kind of mist, almost always as a scene marker for what comes next and/or becomes the focus of the movie. Sometimes it’s just a visual effect in the form of mist drifting across a road/field/etc. It can also be pipe steam in a factory/tunnel/subway/etc. And sometimes it’s a major part of the movie like The Beach House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and of course, The Fog. My point is, be on the lookout. You’ll be surprised how often it creeps into a movie.
And there we are, 8 More Rules Of Horror. I’m just happy I could use the adjectival form of Fibonacci.