When you think about the horror genre there are probably certain things that immediately come to mind. Haunted houses, creaky stairs, flickering light bulbs, they are all common fixtures in the genre. Some of these tropes drive me crazy, and I’ll be talking about them in a later post, but you know what? Some tropes I just love.
1. Creepy children
There is something about a pale skinned child laughing in a dark room that gives me the creeps. Enough so that the monsters in my novel are based on this trope – children in horror are just scary.
Generally children are considered innocent little creatures, so seeing them twisted and almost corrupted creates an unnatural and eerie feeling. Even if they haven’t actually done anything! Combine this trope with some slow nursery rhymes and you’re guaranteed one creeped out reader.
Favourite example of this trope – The Grady twins in The Shining
Mirrors can be found in horror literature, film and even in creepy urban legends. Most people have heard of the Bloody Mary legend, and games involving staring into mirrors in the dead of night have existed for decades if not centuries. So it’s no surprise that mirrors are involved so heavily in the horror genre.
There is something spooky about mirrors, whether it’s the fear of seeing your reflection do something it shouldn’t, or the reveal of something behind you that you hadn’t quite noticed before. And I love horror tropes that bring the horror into the real world.
Favourite example of this trope – 1408
3. Found footage
Yes, I know. Found footage/journal/found document horror is over done and getting pretty stale, but I’d still argue that when done correctly this trope is fantastic. Adding realism to horror in this way adds an extra layer of creepy, especially when producers and authors treat the story as if it were real.
Recently, many podcasts have started using this trope with great results so I’m hoping for a revival in film and literature!
Favourite example of this trope – The Black Tapes podcast
4. The haunted house
Another perhaps overdone trope, but a classic none the less. I love a good haunted house story, whether it’s a giant gothic mansion or a small terraced house in a dingy street. There are so many fresh ways to twist this trope, and it’s also another great one for adding realism. After all, when you’re lying awake in a dark room and hear a creak, it’s the thoughts of the haunted house trope that come to mind.
Favourite example of this trope- House of Leaves
Dolls are just scary, in horror or otherwise. The thought of a doll being actually alive was the primary reason all dolls in my childhood room were placed in a trunk with the lid weighed down.
I do not like dolls. They are therefore perfect for horror.
Favourite example of this trope – The Monkey by Stephen King
What are your favourite horror tropes? Let me know in the comments.