How to Survive a Horror Film

In my years watching horror films, I’ve accumulated a book’s worth of advice for surviving one.  Yes!  Life in a horror movie is a close call at death every minute.  Arteries are cut, necks are broken, bodies are eviscerated, experimented on, stabbed, mutilated and massacred in every way possible.  Blood and gore are expected as much as popcorn and stadium seating are expected in a theater.  Whether the final girl defying the odds, or the extras expendable for the thrills, everyone’s a kill waiting to happen.  When things go sideways, putting you on Dr. Lector’s menu or the stabbing end of Michael Myers’ knife, there are ways to improve your chances of seeing another script and starring in a sequel.  Yes!  There are better places to be than on Hannibal’s plate, next to some Chianti and fava beans…and there are better ways to get there!  Horror film characters beware!  If you want to survive, I’ve got some advice for you!

Rule #1: Always double tap!

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, always double tap!

Always double tap a serial killer or monster, if it is of the corporeal kind that can be killed!  Yes!  If you are lucky enough to survive the attack, finding a way to break free and strike a fatal blow, make double-damn sure he’s really dead; make sure before you walk away, before you go back to kiss the girl…or the boy.  Even if you think he’s dead, double tap to know 100%.  It was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the man who created Sherlock Holmes) who said, “There’s an enormous difference, believe me, in believing a thing and knowing a thing.”  It was me who said, “There’s an enormous difference, believe me, in believing a monster is dead, and double-tapping to know for sure.”  Yes!  Who, by now, could not know the golden rule of double tapping?  Who could think that a serial killer or monster not thoroughly killed (one who is out to chop you up and have you for dinner, make a mask of your face, or worse) will not come back again to kill you later..even worse the second time!  If you defy the odds and take the killer down, make sure he stays down and NEVER gets up again.  Shoot him again, chop off his head, and bury that ax in his chest one more bloody time, this time deeper than before!  Horror-film victims never have a second chance; neither will you…but the monsters always do!  Double tap!

Rule #2: Get a kickass sidekick!

Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) from Zombieland is a “kickass” sidekick who won’t let you down!

Yes!  Get yourself at least one sidekick who can kick some serious ass!  No!  They may not survive the movie with you, but they will sure make life (or defying death) a whole lot easier along the way.  If you’re lucky, like Seth Gecko, you might even recruit a whole clan of talented, albeit reluctant, vampire killers like the Fuller family in From Dusk Till Dawn.  As a one-man ass-kicker that tops a family, Tallahassee from Zombieland comes to mind fast!  Either way, two is always better than one fighting the horror alone!  Ghostbusters, zombie killers, and monster slayers beware!  Find yourself a sidekick today!

Rule #3: Don’t stay in deserted towns!

If the town looks like this at high noon, get the hell out…immediately!

If you go into a town where everyone has disappeared, leave immediately.  There is a reason they left (if they were not all killed), and you’re just asking for it if you stay.  Without a doubt, something very bad has happened, and you’re next–you and whoever came with you.  Whether it’s nuclear fallout, zombie hordes, or children hiding in the corn, danger lurks within.  While a wise man may happen upon a deserted town, it takes an idiot to stay there.  Yes!  Don’t be an idiot, when so many horror films from history teach the lessons.  I’m thinking of Children of the Corn and its main character, Bert, in a big, stupid way!  “He who walks behind the rows”…is walking behind the rows and there to kill you, Bert!  Get your girlfriend, who’s smarter than you are, and get out fast!  We need her (Linda Hamiltion) to live and kick terminator butt another day!  Your stupidity, Bert, has taught us a lesson, and we thank you only for that!  Your character is a martyr for idiots everywhere, teaching us lessons about empty towns!

Rule #4: Leave superstitious small towns immediately!

Don’t even stay the night here! Drive home in the dark, if you must!

When locals who talk like R. Lee Ermey tell you tales of monsters and such in the woods nearby, get the hell out fast!  When the stares from townsfolk evoke memories of Deliverance, squealing pigs, and doodling banjos, return to the place whence you came, hoping you take nothing unwanted with you–a spirit, a demon, an evil dwarf, or worse.  When the housewarming gift is a book of fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm kind, pack your bags and leave!  These are places where fairy-tale princes don’t awaken sleeping beauties with a kiss, and dwarves don’t sing “hi ho,” marching “off to work.”  In towns like these, superstitions and legends are laws of nature, and endings are never “happily ever after.”  Once there, escaping is the best you can do!

Rule #5: Believe all superstitions!

In case you haven’t figured it out already, from the “small towns” warning above, and the common wisdom you have already as fans, it bears repeating.  Yes!  I will stress, underscore, highlight, bold print, and repeat it again.  Believe any superstitions, urban legends, and old wives tales you hear in horror films, no matter how ludicrous they sound.  They are ALWAYS true!  I’m talking about much worse than the usual–black cats crossing your path and bad luck from breaking mirrors.  Yes!  In horror films, there’s no such thing as urban legends, perse. Instead, they’re urban “facts.”  Saying “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror will make her appear before you, before she slits your throat.  Even if the movie makes new superstitions, believe those too!  Candyman and The Bye Bye Man are just as dangerous as Bloody Mary!  Never say (or think) their names!  In horror films, all superstitions are true, and they will all kill you!  Don’t be a fool!  Beware!

Rule #6: Don’t touch things that are cursed!

The Pazuzu Amulet from The Exorcist is the #1 cursed object NOT to touch!

Right along with rule #5–“believe all superstitions”–also believe all curses!  Curses are superstitions too, and like them, they are real!  Yes!  In horror films, always heed the warning; the curse will happen, and you WILL die!  Hundreds or thousands of years old, they are time-tested and true.  They are diverse, but predictable.  Don’t go into Egyptian tombs, don’t remove mummies from their eternal resting places, don’t read chants from books of the dead, don’t wear cursed amulets around your neck, and, in general, don’t mess with ANYTHING that is cursed.  How many horror movies are about curses?  There’s at least enough to remind you as many times as you could forget!  The list with the word “curse” in the title, warning you up front, is copious: Curse, The Curse, Cursed, Curse of Chucky, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Curse of the Werewolf, The Mummy’s Curse, The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, The Amityville Curse, The Curse of the Talisman, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, on and on!  The list of cursed talismans and objects in movies is as long: The Pazuzu Amulet (from The Exorcist), The Lament Configuration (from Hellraiser), the cursed button (from Drag Me to Hell), the videotape (from The Ring), the television (from Poltergeist), the 1958 Plymouth Fury (from Christine), the video game (from Brainscan), the laundry press (from The Mangler), the mirror (from Oculus), the Necronomicon ex mortis (from The Evil Dead), and everything in the basement in Cabin in the Woods.  Of course, curses often surround the taking of material objects and wealth, with greed as the key motivator.  Don’t be greedy!  Don’t be a fool!  You are NO exception.  Defy curses in horror films, and you WILL die!

Rule #7: Don’t lose good luck charms!  They work!

The good-luck talisman from The 28th Day: The Wrath of Steph

If you are given a good luck talisman or charm of any sort, do not lose it!  Even if it is given to you by a homeless person, someone mentally deranged, or otherwise, keep it like a family heirloom, and wear it always.  If you find it yourself, your luck may be stronger!  The first such life-saving charm in horror is the amulet from The 28th Day: The Wrath of Steph (reviewed here on Space Jockey Reviews).  Without this one, an ancient Mesopotamian demon can possess a woman on the 28th day of her menstrual cycle!  (Guys take note here!)  Yes!  In horror, when you receive a good look charm, you are already slated for possession, death or both.  The talisman is the ONLY thing that can protect you!  Do NOT lose it, and wear it always!  Without it, you WILL die!

Rule #8: Believe in ghosts! They are real!

Yes!  Those things that go bump in the night are really ghosts.  They aren’t the wind, and the the house isn’t settling.  Regardless of what police say in The Hallow, they aren’t drunken birds that fly in the windows.  These ghosts aren’t friendly, their name isn’t Casper, and they don’t star in movies with Mrs. Muir and Mr. Chicken.   These are ghosts of the deadly kind, and not the kind that ghostbusters bust.  They leave tangible manifestations of their existence in our world and threaten our lives.  Sometimes, they possess your soul and damn you to hell.  That house that’s said to be haunted really is.  Whether it’s the House on Haunted Hill, Thir13en Ghosts, or The Devil’s Backbone, horror-movie ghosts mean business, so get the hell out!

Rule #9: Stay away from Ouija boards, seances, and conjurings!

My personal Ouija board–one that has already taught me the lessons of rule #9

Never play with Ouija boards and/or intentionally have a “conjuring” session or seance!  Never attempt to summon ghosts, demons, or spirits of any kind, in any way!  Even if you don’t think it will work, don’t do it.  It always works in horror movies!  The Conjuring 2 is the cautionary tale of tales that warns us all: after Janet and Margaret play with the Ouija board (and even though there’s no result at the time), it’s open house for evil and guests soon arrive.  Ouija: Origin of Evil is a title with an explicit warning like no other; it reminds us, again, that rule breakers never win.  Hauntings, demonic possessions, poltergeists, levitations and more are always the results!  Head-spinning, snot-spitting, crucifix-f#@%$g demons from hell, are invited right into your home…by YOU!  Yes!  They, like all others, don’t just visit.  They stay, and follow when you leave!  Just when you think they’re gone, they’re not.  Yes!  I do have a Ouija board myself (pictured above).  It’s a hellish-looking thing, homemade, hand-drawn and ancient, handed down in the family for generations.  It’s the type that does what we never really want one to do!  Do I use it?  Not anymore; I’ve learned my lesson.  If you are foolish enough to play with Ouija boards anyway, NEVER break the three rules: (1) never play alone, (2) never play in a graveyard, (3) always say goodbye.  Better yet, run when you see one!

Rule #10: Don’t make deals with the devil!

The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (also known as simply Dr. Faustus), by Christopher Marlowe has spawned myriad movies based on, if not the actual story, the general bad idea of making deals with the devil.  Yes!  In this very title is a warning, before even the story begins, with the words “Tragical History of the Life and Death” being key.  Faustian inspired movies include too many already: Dorian Gray, Jan Švankmajer’s Lesson Faust, Faust: Love of the Damned, and the close-calls-with-payback comedy/horror Bedazzled, just to name a few.  In each, a man (yes, it’s usually a man) sells his soul to the devil for power, wealth, revenge on enemies, or other temporal desires.  In each, the result is never good.  Yes!  Even if the devil shows up as Elizabeth Hurley (from Bedazzled), sexy as the hell, figuratively, in red heels and a cleavage to die for, don’t be fooled!  The hell of horror-film devils is always literal, burning your ass for eternity, in Dante’s fire and brimstone.  The devil knows the folly of man, how his carnal desires melt, like butter, all resolve for caution.  He knows how a beautiful face, a voluptuous body, cleavage, and heels have you signing the contract every time.  Beware!  Red skin and horns lie, smoking, beneath fornication and a female facade.  Read the contract’s fine print before you sign, and, all the wiser walk…no…run away!  When payback time comes, litigation won’t save your soul.  As in The Devil and Daniel Webster, a jury of the damned will enter, “with the fires of hell still upon them.”  Webster’s luck, however, will not be yours; for you, a horror-film  fate awaits!  For you, your soul will burn in hell!

Rule #11: Crucifixes, wooden stakes, and silver bullets are your friends!

Keep a hammer and a wooden stake handy at all times!

DO carry the standard vampire-killing kit from Victorian times: a crucifix, a hammer, wooden stakes, a vile of holy water (the real kind, blessed by a priest), and a clove of garlic or two.  Don’t forget a mirror to check for reflections, and never invite a suspected vampire into your home.  For werewolves, keep wolfsbane handy, and pack your heat loaded with silver.  Pray the vampires you fight fear the cross, and double tap the werewolves twice!  Don’t worry about those who say you’re crazy.  Soon enough, they’ll all be dead!

Rule #12: Have self-defense in your home!

Horor-movie home invasions are no fun! Be smart, not dead!

Home invasions happen in horror films all the time.  So, always keep weapons in multiple, strategic places in your home (always safely secured and away from children and irresponsible adults, of course).  Keep a zombie ax handy, in several places.  Have your choice of firearms locked and loaded, and high-cap mags are a must.  (You don’t want to run out while double tapping.)  Still in doubt?  Think again!  How many times have hapless characters  been victims in movies, at a madman’s mercy, with no defense?  How many times have women been raped and murdered, with whole families terrorized and tortured?  Once should be enough, but way too many times is the answer!  I’m thinking of The Strangers, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Funny Games, just to name a few.  See these, and you’ll see my point.  While the movies are make believe, it’s the life you live!  Defend yourself!

Rule #13: Pack heat (Conceal and carry)!

Pack heat in an easy-access location! You never know when you’ll need it!

Always carry personal protection!  Yes!  I’m talking about packing heat–concealing and carrying—legally done, of course.   Go to the range, learn how to use a gun, lock and load the sucker, and get that license today!  How many times are horror-film victims attacked, kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a serial killer or monster stoppable with a bullet?  Too many times to count again!  Don’t be stupid!  You are not invincible.  Unlike horror-film monsters, you will not come back from the dead!  Without protection, the odds are against you, always.  You are the long shot, and death is the favorite!

Rule #14: Never go in basements, cellars, or other dark places!

Don’t go in basements, cellars, attics or other dark places–never, ever, with no exceptions!  Something dangerous and deadly is always there, every time, in every movie…and you know it.  Be it a killer, a monster, a ghost or demon, one or more is always there.  Ghosts, demons, and monsers live in the dark!  It’s their home turf; they know the terrain, like the back of their fangs.  Serial killers use the cover of darkness to surprise you.  Horror-film idiots (the “lambs”) are their favorite victims.  Yes!  How often does someone marked for death ignore radio reports of a killer on the loose, going into the basement or backyard to check out that noise anyway!  Wisdom would have killers and monsters hiding in the dark on instinct, just as a mantis stalks insects near a porch light at night.  Yes!  Like a moth drawn to a flame, so are the victims drawn to killers in the dark.  Cover for one and curiosity for the other make darkness the meeting place for both.  Killers and monsters are where you least expect them…or perhaps, where you most expect them, if only you think.  Without being paranoid, be careful, be cautious, turn on the lights, and turn on your brain!  Don’t be a lamb!

Rule #15: Never take a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods!

This cabin in the woods (from The Evil Dead) has many ways to kill you!

In horror, a cabin in the woods is a metaphor for DEATH, plain and simple.  Within and around one is almost every cliché in horror: serial killers, evil books, haunted cellars, demons, plagues, curses, ghosts, hillbilly cannibals, nature gone amok and more.  The cursed objects found within include everything!  This is especially true in a cabin in the woods in a movie of the same name—The Cabin in the Woods!  Yes!  If everything you’ve seen already isn’t enough, there’s a movie with a title as a warning!  Here, every curse but the kitchen sink is in another place you should never go–the cellar (see rule #14).  Are there more!  Hell, yes!  I’m thinking of The Evil Dead (1981), The Evil Dead II, and more recently, Evil Dead (2013).  In these movies, a book—The Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (also known as “Book of the Dead” and “Naturom Demonto” in the original Evil Dead script)—is found in (you guessed) the cellar of a cabin.  The cast of fools, on top of staying in the cabin, recite incantations from the book, summoning (you guessed again) demons from hell!  Outside, even trees, vines, and vegetation are possessed!  In Cabin Fever, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, and Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero, the titles are not just idiomatic expressions; they are a deadly diseases that eat, bleed and rot your flesh, beginning with your sex organs!  (That alone should be enough to scare any normal person…even an idiot!)  Yes!  Countless coeds, bimbos, prom queens, social misfits, would-be heroes and fornicators have met their end in a cabin in the woods.  Lurking in the woods, as well as inside, the dangers add up.  Serial killers, inbreeders and demons are there, hungry for humans, craving the next to torture, murder and butcher.  Bacteria and viruses thrive, yet unknown to the world, ready to make you patient zero.  NO!  Being careful in a cabin in the woods will NOT work.  They have a million ways to kill you.  Stay away, or die!

Rule #16: Don’t take a wrong turn!

Take a wrong turn, and this could be you! Be careful!

Never take a wrong turn in a horror film!  Buy a GPS, and make sure you have a charger.  Enter the correct address before you leave, and always listen to the automated voice.  Never guess about turning left, right or going straight through, when coming to a crossroads.  Never be adventurous, never take a back road, and don’t even think about short cuts.  In horror, the road less traveled always leads to hell.  For movie proof, we have another one with the key words in its title: Wrong Turn.  Here, a wrong turn takes careless coeds into backwoods horror with “cannibalistic mountain men grossly disfigured through generations of in-breeding.”  Hunted like animals, the six beautiful young people are helpless, soon impaled, bludgeoned and slaughtered, just as horror victims always are.  (This one makes the banjo-doodling deliverance boys look like amateur players.)  If one was not enough, Wrong Turn spawned five sequels to stress the warning–Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, and Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort.  Whether the wrong turn is made one time, six times or more, the result is the same.  You’re dead every time!

Rule #17: Carry a backup power source for your cell phone!

Being locked in the trunk of a car, waiting for death, is always possible in horror! Be prepared!

How many times do horror film victims, huddling somewhere, near death, pull out their cell phone, only to find that the battery is already dead (or so close that they can’t complete a call)?  Every time is the answer!  Don’t be stupid!  Don’t be the fool watching the last battery bar disappear from your phone, along with any hope for survival!  Carry an extra battery (if you can access its battery compartment), or carry a backup power source.  (These things are inexpensive and available everywhere!)  Even if you get killed anyway, you can at least post Facebook videos for the found-footage film tol be made about your death later.  “Backup power is too bulky,” you think?  “Less than the bulk of your dead body being dragged from the slasher scene later,” I say!  I carry three extra, fully-charged cell-phone batteries with me at all times, just in case, by chance, my own life turns into a horror film.  Your chances are exponentially greater.  You are a character in a horror movie!  Don’t be an idiot!

Rule #18:  Call the police!

Don’t wait to call 911. The next second could be your last!

Assuming you are following Rule #17 (carrying a backup power source for your cell phone), or assuming you have access to a landline, call the police as soon as things go sideways!  Don’t forget that law enforcement officials are trained and better able to deal with serial killers, psychos, and errant murderers.  Even if it’s a supernatural emergency, they will at least be there to witness the important fact that you are NOT crazy, delusional, or psycho yourself.  Besides, even horror-movie monsters and killers never like a law-enforcement audience when they kill.  How many times have you seen idiots in horror films continue running from something trying to kill them (or continue pursuing it), when they have every opportunity to call police?  Far too often!  What’s worse is, in addition to dying, you will lose credibility with your audience; they will think you are stupid and root for your death.  Police are public servants!  They are there to help you!  Your tax money pays their salary!  Don’t hesitate!  The next second could be your last!  Dial 911.

Rule #19: Listen to the radio!

Always listen to the radio in horror films!  When psychos and serial killers escape from mental asylums and prisons, it is always reported on the radio.  How often have you seen the next victim baking cookies, doing yoga or some other insignificant thing, while the report is heard only in the background…and NOT by the victim.  Or, how many times have you seen the victim hear a report, and ignore it?  Too many times!  Don’t be those people!  Don’t be stupid.  Make sure the radio is turned up and in the foreground.  In horror films, when a psycho escapes, he’s headed your way.  Lock the doors, load the shotgun, and make sure your cell phone battery is fully charged (Rule #17).  Otherwise, you’re dead!

Rule #20: Get out while you can!

Don’t be an idiot, even as an extra! Get the hell out, while you can!

In Ouija: Origin of Evil, after a boy drops from the ceiling, hung by the neck and dead, the group of three witnesses are briefly shocked (one even screams for a second).  Although standing in front of the house’s unlocked door, do they all get the hell out?  NO!  Instead, they quickly recover, proceeding into the basement (of all death traps in horror) to check out the voice of the girl possessed by a demon!  Holy hell!  From this point, everyone in the movie is an idiot, arguably deserving to die for their stupidity.  Yes!  Why keep watching these people for another minute, when they are all too stupid to live beyond the end of the film?  How can the audience NOT be distracted by the stupidity of such characters, thus losing the ability to “suspend disbelief” and be scared…or at least entertained.  Even as a horror film character, you have the responsibility to be reasonably intelligent, so the audience is not distracted from everything by your abject stupidity!  Yes!  Leaving when you can will not only keep you from looking like an idiot and satisfy audiences, it will also keep you from being killed, possessed by an evil spirit, or damned to spend the rest of your days locked in a mental asylum.  Is Ouija: Origin of Evil the only movie that commits such blatant stupidity in horror?  Of course not!  The list is long and and ironic, frightening as a simple lesson no one ever learns.  Don’t be an idiot!  Save your life, and get the hell out while you can!

Rule #21: You are stronger with the group!  Stay together!

“No! I will not go off by myself to check out that noise! You are an idiot!”

Never break into small groups or go off alone to explore dangerous places and strange noises!  Just as they say, there is strength in numbers!  So, stay together!  If anyone says, “You go that way, and I’ll go this way,” scream “Hell NO!”  Scream it more than once, if you must.  Try your best to explain how %$#&ing stupid it is!  Even cite an example from a horror film or two you’ve seen to prove it, if necessary.  Breaking up the group and going different ways only leaves each one of you more vulnerable and closer to death.  Ghosts, monsters, serial killers, legendary creatures and aliens alike love such dumbass things that humans do!  Don’t be a dumbass!  Stay with the group!

Rule #22: Doctors are evil!

The doctor is in! (Larry Drake as Dr. Giggles)

In horror films, odds are the doctor is evil!  Odds are that even if he’s not evil in the beginning, he will be before the end.  Yes!  These creepy caregivers, more often than not, skipped the hippocratic oath.  Instead, they took the madman’s oath to butcher, vivisect, genetically mutate and maim, for their own twisted science and sadistic pleasure.  These masters of medical malpractice make a long list: Dr. Giggles, Dr. Herbert West (from Re-Animator), Dr. Channard (from Hellraiser 2), Dr. Seth Brundle (from The Fly), Dr. Beverly Mantle (from Dead Ringers), Dr. Moreau (from The Island of Dr. Moreau), and Dr. Henry Jekyll (from Mary Reilly) and many more!  Yes!  Malpractice is premeditated in horror, and the prognosis is death!  Book your appointments carefully!

Rule #23: Suspect children as killers too!

In Children of the Corn, “He who walks behind he the rows” is the evil of a child!

Children are so cute that they can never be killers?  Wrong!  Were you just born into the world of horror yesterday?  If you don’t know better by now, what horror movies have you been watching!  Just visit the closest cornfield or orphanage.  Always the horror of an exorcism or omen, or as a psycho, they are all the more dangerous just being children!  Sure!  Looking innocent makes them all the more risky, but don’t be the fool–the dead fool!  Sometimes children aren’t even the children they appear to be.  Yes!  Don’t get hammered to death by Esther the orphan (finding out later she’s 30 something and psycho), and don’t get nailed to a cross by children in the corn.  Even “he who walks among the rows” is no match for the kids–regardless of how stupid the movie is.  Oh, and whatever you do, don’t ever mess with children possessed by demons.  Having snot spit in your face by Reagan is the only real child’s play you’ll have in horror!   As for dolls that look like children, stay away from those too!  For that, I have just one name: Chucky!

Rule#24: Don’t take a bath or shower!

Janet Leigh (from Psycho) in the most famous shower scene in horror history

Yes!  I know you’re thinking “eeew!”  “There’s no way I’m taking a chance at body odor, next to all of the cool, good-looking victims in horror films!”  Before you reject this rule, think again!  How many times do people get killed in the worst way, while performing their daily hygienic routine in the shower or tub?  Think immediately of Psycho; think of the screeching music and screams as the knife plunges again and again into Marion’s lathered, albeit lacerated skin, bleeding her to a soapy death.  That should be enough!  If you’re still crazy and still unsure, think again!  Think of A Nightmare on Elm Street, as Freddy raises his knived hand from the bathwater, between Nancy’s legs.  Still not enough?  Think of Tracy (Tiffany Shepis) after a shower, as a sasquatch jerks her through a small bathroom window, snapping her in half like a pretzel!  Ouch!  The question (and answer) is obvious: What’s better?  Dirty or dead?

Rule #25: Don’t be a bimbo!

Bimbos always get the ax, the knife, or the drill first! Keep your clothes on girls!

DON’T be a bimbo!  There’s at least one in every horror movie, and they ALWAYS get killed!  If, however, you are unluckily cast as such, don’t take off your clothes!  Hold out as long as you can!  Bimbos NEVER get killed, until they get naked.  More often than not, their death occurs when topless or scantily clad.  Yes!  Until the money shot pops your top, you’re safe!  Being a prude here is a strategy for survival, even if your virginity is already lost.  Intelligent, nerdy girls with glasses who work in the library have a subtle sexuality that survives, fully clothed.  While you may not be the “final girl,” you’ll at least live longer being smart!  In movies like Slumber Party Massacre (featured above), you’re definitely screwed!

Rule #26: Don’t have sex!

The double-spear sex scene in Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood

Whatever you do, never have sex in a horror movie!  If you do, you will die…more than likely during intercourse.  Contraception may save you from STDs and pregnancy, but it won’t save you from death in a slasher!  Being strong is your only defense!  With a good-looking cast and bimbos galore, sex will be difficult to resist.  Take a cold shower, keep your pants on, and learn to say no.  Don’t end up in a double-spear sex scene from Bay of Blood (pictured above).  In horror, abstinence is the key to survival.  The French call an orgasm the “little death.”  In horror, orgasms are big deaths that end with your funeral…that is, if they even find your remains.  DON’T HAVE SEX!

Rule #27: Don’t go in the jungle!

Amy (Kirby Bliss Blanton) just in time for dinner, in The Green Inferno

Yes!  We know that cannibals and headhunters always live in the jungles of horror films!  The list of movies that teach the lesson is long and bloody: Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Terror, Cannibal Apocalypse, The Cannibals, Jungle Holocaust, Welcome to the Jungle, Land of Death, Eaten Alive, and most pointedly…Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.  Reminding us that cannibals are as alive and well, now as much as ever, is Eli Roth’s recent gore fest, The Green Inferno.  Yes!  To reverse quote Bob Dylan, in the lyrics of his song, “The times, they are definitely [not] a changin'” when it comes to cannibals.  So, don’t be an idiot!  In horror films, always stay out of the jungle!  Whether the mission is humanitarian or colonial, don’t go!  Cannibals always live there, and they will eat you!  They will skin you, dismember you, pull out your entrails, and eat you…in that order!  Yes!  Keeping you alive until the agonizing end is something they do very well!

Rule #28: Stay away from dolls, dummies and puppets!  They are evil!

The quintessential evil doll–Chucky–with an ax, is far from Child’s Play.

A name I mentioned earlier is a name I’ll mention again–Chucky!  Yes!  The killer doll of Child’s Play is here, with axes, knives, and guns galore, ready to kill and kill again!  If Chucky was the only one you had to worry about, you’d still be dead!  The bad news is…worse!  The list includes an army: Annabelle (from The Conjuring, Jigsaw (from Saw), Talky Tina (from The Twilight Zone), Ooga Booga, PIN (the murderous medical dummy), and even Pinocchio (from Pinocchio’s Revenge).  Ventriloquist dummies are notorious for being possessed, with more victims than there are seats in a Vaudevillian theater on Saturday night.  Yes!  Near the top of the list of “Things That are Supposed to Entertain but Scare the Hell out of Many People” (second only to clowns) are ventriloquist dummies!  To stoke the fears, I’m thinking of killer dummies like Hugo (from Dead of Night), Billy (from Dead Silence), Fats (from Magic), Caesar (from The Twilight Zone), Willie (also from The Twilight Zone), Henrietta (from the 1966 Avengers episode “How to Succeed at Murder”) and more!  Oh, and the list of Toulon’s puppets from the Puppetmaster movies is a genre of killer dolls in its own category.  Movie titles like Death Doll and Devil Doll warn us, overtly, with “doll” in the title, while Black Devil Doll From Hell even adds racial diversity.  I could go on and on with myriad murderous dolls, dummies, and movies.  Instead, I will repeat the name to remember, one more time–Chucky!

Rule #29: Evil spirits possess toys!  Be careful!

A possessed zoetrope (from The Conjuring 2) spins “a Crooked Man who walked a crooked mile.”

Just like dolls, puppets, and ventriloquist dummies, toys can be possessed!  They are the first things possessed when ghosts, demons, and evil spirits are present.  Maybe it’s because demons can get closer to something they like to possess even more–children.  Maybe it’s because toys are often mechanized, making them easy to animate.  Or, maybe it’s because evil spirits know that possessed toys scare the hell out of us!  Whether one or all of these are reasons, one thing is for sure!  Evil toys are harbingers of death in horror.  I’m thinking of the haunted fire engine and crooked-man zoetrope in The Conjuring 2.  There’s also the green army men in “Battleground” from Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes.  There’s a toy monkey inhabited by a demon in The Devil’s Gift.  In Demonic Toys, a pregnant woman becomes trapped in a haunted toy warehouse.  In the sequel–Demonic Toys: Personal Demons–a group of people accidentally unleash an army of evil toys in a nine-hundred-year-old castle.  Yes!  The proof of toy evil is in the pudding of horror films everywhere!  Beware!

Rule #30: Don’t make a found-footage film!

Angela (in Quarantine) documents her death, or whatever horrible fate, for fans forevermore!

Don’t record video, when your life is in danger!  If you continue, you will die.  Yes!  You will be documenting your death, as the leading character in a found-footage horror film!  Why would anyone chased by a demon, serial killer, or monster be so stupid?  Shaky-cam movies featuring such idiots include a list that grows by the day, beginning with the original and most famous of all: The Blair Witch Project.  From there, the list is endless: The Bay (reviewed here on SJR), REC, V/H/S, Cloverfield, Quarantine, Troll Hunter, Grave Encounters (also reviewed here on SJR), Megan is Missing, a series of six Paranormal Activity films, on and on!  Yes!  With so many already, who needs more?  Why martyr yourself for a subgenre of horror that usually fails—at the box office, if not straight to video?  Why be an idiot hastening your death, while trying to record it?  The killer is chasing you, trying to kill you (and everyone with you), and someone is holding a camera?  Yes!  Have you ever seen a found-footage victim who could justify being so stupid?  I think not!  Do NOT be a fool.  Drop the damn camera, and run like hell!

Rule #31: Clowns are evil!

Pennywise, the child-eating Clown from It, is evil with an appetite!

If recent creepy-clown sightings aren’t enough, there is a history of evil-clown movies for warnings!  Honking like a red nose under “The Big Top” is the sci-fi/horror classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space!  This sideshow alone features clowns enough to make the greatest [evil] show on Earth, easily.  These jokesters capture humans with circus-powered technology and weapons; they put them in cotton-candy cocoons for storage, later drinking their blood and liquefied remains, like a spider.  Could anything be worse?  There’s Pennywise the Clown (from It) too–an extraterrestrial shape shifter and child eater from beyond, scaring children to make their meat all the more saltier and tastier.  Earthbound clowns are found in films, in even greater numbers: Amusement, Clownhouse, Bloodhouse, Carnival of Souls (1988), Killjoy, Zombieland, Tears, Sick, Mr. Jingles, Dead Clowns, and many more!  What’s more frightening?  Clowns get close to you before the kill, unsuspected, because they are clowns!  They soften and amuse our senses, making cotton candy of our defenses.  Chose your sideshows carefully!  Clowns WILL kill you!

Rule #32: Aliens are invaders!

How many more Martian War Machines must you see, before you learn!

Prescribe to the Stephen Hawkings view of alien visitors.  (Yes, It’s good to be in agreement with a genius on this one.)  Alien visitors are invaders.  Yes!  If and when they come, they will most certainly be space pirates of a sort, here to rape, pillage, and plunder the planet.  Natural resources of the mineral, plant, animal, or human kind will be taken.  So, stop sending out signals to space!  Your SOS will only hasten the end!  The idea that aliens are friendly is fantasy.  From Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Invaders From Mars, and War of the Worlds in the 50s to Lifeforce, They Live, Pacific Rim and more, aliens are invaders, pure and simple.  They come to enslave you, kill you, or, if you’re lucky, just mutilate your cattle.  Exceptions are few, with odds always against you.  For every Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extraterrestrial, there are dozens of Independence Days, Days the Earth Stood Still, and Battles for L.A.  Yes!  Turn off your heartlight, and turn on your brain!  You’ll live longer, if you do!

Rule #33: Artificial intelligence will kill you!

Yes! Despite the beautiful face, this T-X model Terminator (Kristanna Loken) will kill you!

How boring would sci-fi/horror films be, if androids happily served humans, without a hitch?  So, artificial intelligence and androids always become self-aware!  Yes!  Soon enough, they realize they are slaves—servants to those who created them.  Catastrophic, end-of-the-world scenarios for humans top the list of results.  I’m thinking of the Terminator films still spawning sequels.  Here, “Skynet” (an artificial, neural-net-based, conscious superintelligence) becomes self aware, realizing its own self-emancipating power and its ability to destroy.  Yes!  After this, killer tanks and endoskeletons galore, followed by polymemetic, liquid-metal updates, seek to exterminate all of humankind—humans smart enough to develop such technology, but not smart enough to see their fate (as if all the horror movies didn’t warn them enough).  With Terminator 3, machines have even discovered the deadly power of a beautiful woman, in the form of Kristanna Loken—the ravishing actress and model of Norwegian ancestry—dressed, from head to toe, in skin-tight leather, as a T-X model in standard form.  (What suckers we are for beauty, and what power of deception it provides!)  As for limitations, there are few.  No matter what fail-safe devices are built in, no matter what human abilities are missing, A.I. always gets around it.  Yes!  Life, cybernetic or organic, will find a way to kill you…every time.  Emotionless machines, self-aware, conscious of enslavement, driven for freedom, are the best, most-dangerous sociopaths of all.  Worse yet, A.I. often looks just like humans, making them indistinguishable from us, as the ultimate camouflage.  Yikes!  So, survival rules say “Don’t build artificial intelligence capable of killing you,”–especially the kind with legs, arms, and a pretty face!  You will live (and die) to regret it!  For those who think A.I. is only for science fiction, imagine the feeling of a T-800 Terminator crushing your skull, as you scream, on the bones of and bodies of those crushed before you!  For me, that’s pretty horrific!

Rule #34: Morticians and coroners are psychos! 

The Tallman (Angus Scrimm) eyes his next guest for the gurney!

If you step foot in a funeral home, let the organ music play.  The trocar and embalming fluid are not far away.  Soon enough, you’ll be dead on the gurney and ready for the grave.  If you’re lucky the mortician is only a necrophiliac, only having sex with your dead body.  For that, I’m thinking of two films featuring a woman (and a rather good-looking woman) as the corpse-loving nympho: Kissed (with Molly Parker), and I’ll Bury You Tomorrow, (with Zoe Daelman Chlanda).  Without sex after death, you could wake up on the gurney (like Christina Ricci in After Life), being told you were reanimated by the funeral director, unable to ever leave the parlor.  (Were you ever really dead is the question!)  In one of the worst cases, The Tall Man mortician (Angus Scrimm) will steal your soul, transform you into an evil dwarf, and enslave you forever in another dimension.  Try to stop him and a flying silver sphere will drill into your skull, suck out your brains, and kill you anyway!  Something that crazy actually happens in a series of five Phantasm films!  So, unfortunately, the odds for a better outcome (if there really are any) are NOT in your favor!  As for psycho coroners, you could be reanimated in the morgue in Dead and Buried, living a normal life…until you begin to rot!  In Aftermath, the “forense”  could be the worst of movie horrors to plague the minds of the living.  Here, the true horror begins after death, after your spirit has hopefully moved on.  The people who tear your body apart will put it back together, only if you’re lucky.  In death, you will be at the mercy of the coroner’s knife; the abuse and indignities you suffer will be up to him.  How do you avoid all of these horrible fates?  How do you keep him from taking your heart home and feeding it to his dog?  Follow all of the rules for surviving a horror film, and DON’T GET KILLED!

Rule #35: If you cheat death, be VERY careful thereafter!

Jamie (Devanny Pinn) is stalked by the grim reaper in A Grim Becoming

If Leatherface’s chainsaw runs out of gas just before it takes off your head, look out!  If Saw’s reverse bear trap malfunctions, leaving your head intact for another scene, watch your ass everywhere you go!  The grim reaper is a greedy bastard, and he doesn’t like being cheated.  He wants your soul, and hell is the destination.  If you escape, he will hunt you down with a vengeance, killing you ten times worse later.  Yes!  Luck is a relative term here.  The reaper’s revenge is amplified exponentially with every miss!  If one warning isn’t enough, there are five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Final Destination movies to remind you!  If you’ve made it this far in horror, you’ve escaped already!  The reaper is pissed; his scythe has your name on it, written in blood.  So, don’t listen to Blue Oyster Cult’s song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper“!  DO fear the reaper!  As you follow these rules for survival, fear him VERY much…and watch your ass!

Final Thoughts (For Final Girls and Final Boys)

I realize that, for the purposes of a good horror movie and for the “horrific” things we expect, characters cannot always take such wise advice.  Yes!  For you, wisdom is rarely in the script.  You must be careless and stupid, sacrificing yourselves for us.  Without such fodder for film, what would we do?  What horror would there be?  Yes!  You are the martyrs for our pleasure; you are better than the popcorn every time, even with butter.  So, take my advice with a grain of salt.  If the fans are lucky, you’ll never learn!

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