Six Cliche Horror Movie Victims

Six Cliche Horror Movie Victims

Horrorific content by Brian B. on June 30th, 2020 | Culture |

In my last article, I talked about common horror film clichés and how they can ruin the movie experience. This time around, I’d like to take a look at some common horror film victims. Sometimes, these victims are cliché and they can ruin or weaken a movie. Yet they may also serve a useful purpose in the plot and structure as well.

As is often the case, it comes down to execution. Let’s take a look as some common horror victims and the roles they play.

The Skeptic

Many horror films feature a non-believer, or skeptic, who simply refuses to accept that the evil power or antagonist is real. It doesn’t matter how much evidence they’re presented with they’ll never believe the antagonist is real until the evil force itself appears. Of course, this often happens moments before the skeptic meets a gruesome end.

The skeptic frequently serves the useful purpose of summarizing what our common-sense doubts would be. Let’s face it, many of us wouldn’t believe in a super-natural evil force is haunting us and trying to kill us in real life. We’d come up with all sorts of reasons to doubt its existence. So, the skeptic voices those objections loud and clear, helping draw contrast with the evil at play.

The Authorities

Many horror films feature authority figures that impede the hero’s progress and often unwittingly abet the antagonist. Often, authorities are skeptics themselves, but their willful impeding of the hero and misuse of their authority puts them in a different category than your typical skeptic.

Take the first Terminator movie. The authorities have firm evidence that something crazy is going on, that some evil threat has supernatural abilities (or in this case, super-technological). And yet the cops detain the heroes, attract the evil force (the Terminator, he’ll be back), and get themselves killed in the process.

The Aging Sacrificial Lambs

Some people just want to see the world burn and a high body count often plays in a horror movie’s favor. If nothing else, the bodies piling up drive home just how evil the force is. One way movie directors can rack up numbers is by using elderly, sacrificial lambs.

Take the elderly folks who die in “Arachnophobia” when lethal spiders overrun the town. We needed to see people die, so we knew how dangerous the spiders were.  Unfortunately for some local elderly residents that meant their number was up.

The elderly are often helpless, yet don’t solicit as strong of an emotional response as other “helpless” victims like children. Of course, you feel bad when someone dies, especially someone who can’t defend him or herself and is by-and-large innocent. Yet when an elderly person goes down, at least you know they lived a long life.

The Sinners

Another type of sacrificial lamb, the sinners are people who get killed while doing something “sinful.” These sinners are often the first to go and some horror movies start with one or two “immoral” people getting killed. Someone might be drunk, for example. Or a young couple could be hooking up (outside of marriage! The “horror”!).

Either way, the point is to get a gruesome death on screen, but to lessen the emotional reaction by making it seem like the person (or people) deserved it. The young lady skinny dipping at the start of the first “Jaws” movie is a good example. Those “dastardly” young’ins were boozing and my goodness, they might even have sex. If only they’d been more prudent, they’d be alive.

The Significant Other

Romantic interests add tension outside of the horror itself. Romantic interests also make it easier for us to relate to the characters. Many of us have had crushes, significant others, and the like, so the romance makes the characters more relatable. The love interest also adds extra tension and weight. If he or she dies, it’s not just another person going down, it’s someone of specific importance to both us the viewer and the hero.

The (Often Blonde) Ditz

Last but not least (number wise, maybe the most common), there’s the ditz. Many horror movies feature a ditzy, often pretty (and female) character who lacks the brainpower to survive. Often, they dig their own grave with clumsiness or a lack of basic foresight. The ditz often serves the useful purpose of making us feel bad since they’re typically nice, or at least harmless characters. Yet at the same time, they’re so lacking upstairs that we feel they kind of deserve what comes.


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