SINedelphia 2013: Horror tropes

We polled our writing staff as well as some local horror-inclined film lovers to answer some questions about their perspectives of the genre. Our third question:

“What is your favorite horror trope?”

Eric Bresler, Editor & Founder,
I’ve always liked it when creatures are summoned via the reading of passages from scary old books.
Jill Malcolm, Cinedelphia Contributing Editor
Haunted houses. Ghosts. Also demon children. Combine the house, and the ghosts of some demon children playing with Victorian dolls and you’ve hit the trifecta for me. There is something about making a child the source of evil in a story that always resonated with me. Children possessing an innate innocence along with a lack of a fully developed moral compass is one of the more frightening ideas you can play with in my opinion.

Ryan Silberstein, Contributing Editor

I love the “rules” for slasher films, and even more so when they are used as meta-commentary on the genre itself. While Scream and Cabin in the Woods are easily the most obvious examples of this, walking that fine line between parody and homage, one of my favorites is the Boy Meets World episode “And Then There Was Shawn.” Read an oral history of the episode here.

J.T. Alvarez, Cinedelphia contributor

With no shame, I fully admit to being a huge zombie fan. I’ve loved zombies since before loving zombies was the thing to do. Further, I’m that jerk who is a zombie purist, meaning that unless it’s the shambling, slack jawed Romero zombie of yesteryear (not counting either The Land of the Dead or The Island of the Dead), I’ll have nothing to do with it. I love the notion that a thousand zombies just pile up against the walls of a house until the structure gives under their weight and collapses rather than the zombies that sprint or are borne of some type of bio-chemical agent that reanimates dead flesh. I’ll take mysterious origins and slow walking over rage viruses and track stars any day of the week.

Lucas Magnum, Cinedelphia contributor and author

My favorite horror trope is probably the idea of inner darkness and its otherworldly parallels. This was best explored in Barker’s Hellraiser and its first sequel. Something about monsters that symbolize our ugliest traits and most perverse desires is something that is as old as storytelling itself, but when done well it always feels fresh.

Kyle Harter, Cinedelphia contributor and filmmaker

The traditional Axe Murderer.
Aaron Mannino, Cinedelphia contributor

I don’t know that I have a favorite trope. In fact, I tend to dislike their application. I only respect that the horror genre finds the most excuses to revisit upon itself. There are more sequels than are ever necessary (often times the original is barely acceptable), but there is a kind of venerable – albeit pathetic – desperation to stay alive as a piece of cultural material within endless reincarnation.

Madeline Meyer, Cinedelphia contributor

As I said I love shark movies but I’d have to rate zombie movies pretty high up there as well.  Re-animator is my favorite.  Everyone always thinks I’d say vampires because my favorite show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I’m loyal. I’m a one-vampire lore kind of gal. Although Let the Right One In rules as well.


C.S. O’Brien, Cinedelphia contributor

“There’s something really scary about a guy with a knife who just…snaps.” -Scream 4

Though I think I’d give up rather easy in a slasher film, I love watching them, all those salacious teenagers getting picked off one by one. Another favorite trope of mine is that of the supernatural. It is more emotionally relatable than some guy chasing you with a knife.  

Robert Skvarla, Cinedelphia contributor

I both loathe and love “The Last Girl.” I loathe her because when handled improperly she perpetuates an unfair image of the horror genre as misogynistic. She’ll act as a lazy vehicle for horror filmmakers to exploit as a means to cheap sex appeal and negligent character development. You’ll find this in most low-budget slasher films released after 1980, although it existed long before that sub-genre codified the trope. That said, I also love her because when handled properly she can represent a form of empowerment for a group traditionally neglected by horror films. Horror isn’t usually seen as being inclusive of women, in part because of the trope, but it has a long tradition of strong female characters, from Alien, through Scream, and up to The Cabin in the Woods, that transform “The Last Girl” in a way that shows the genre can be more than deranged rednecks hunting scantily clad teens.

Samm Deighan, Editor, Satanic Pandemonium

Anything subversive and weird.

Andrew Repasky McElhinney, filmmaker, host of Andrew’s Video Vault (

I really like horror movies that avoid tropes of the genre. That said, I find all slasher movies pretty amusing and somewhat socially cathartic. And to like slasher movies is to delight in their repetitive (and non-original) formulas.

Liam O’Donnell, Philly native and Cinapse contributor

Though not every slasher movie is my favorite horror movie, it is one of the few set ups that one can nail pretty easily. So many tropes can be screwed up or done ridiculously, but the simple killer with a sharp object who we don’t see till the end is just a nerve wracking experience still. Yes, sometimes the notes are played too close to Halloween, but when someone gets a little jazzy with it fun can be had.
Chuck FranciscoHorror Host at the Colonial Theatre

The drunken teenage party at the abandoned generic horror location is a personal favorite of mine. There’s just something about stupid debauchery coupled with reckless promiscuity leading to wanton slaughter that hits my nostalgia pleasure center right in the solar-plexus.

Final Girl-feature

Dan Tabor, Geekadelphia and Cinapse Contributor

I guess it would have to be the “Final Girl,” because I think nothing can be more dissected and say more about the horror genre than that one simple trope. I really find the psychology behind it to be pretty fascinating and who doesn’t want to watch a woman kick ass in a horror film?

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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