Horror film clichés

Horror film clichés

Read an article about horror film clichés to practise and improve your reading skills.

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Reading text

Five horror film clichés

Since almost the beginning of cinema, we have had scary films. Of all the genres that exist, horror is perhaps one of the most conventional. Many horror films rely on specific plot devices, also called tropes, to make their audience frightened. When a trope is used too much, it can become a cliché. But when used well, it can really make us jump out of our skin. Here are some of the most used, and perhaps abused, clichés in horror films.


No matter what kind of house it is, the basement is a scary place in horror films. That's usually where something is hiding or where the evil psychopath has hidden their tools. Basements are always dark and often damp. You can only reach them by a narrow staircase. And basements are always creepy, even when there isn't anything down there.


In older horror films, when protagonists were in desperation, it was difficult or impossible for them to call for help or call the police. Mobile phones have made that situation a bit less believable now. What's the solution to maintain suspense? No phone coverage! If you're a hero in a horror film, it's almost certain that at a key moment, just when you absolutely need to call for help, you will not have any coverage at all. Or your phone battery will die just as you are making the call. Or both.


Horror films love uninhabited places. This could be an abandoned hospital, a scary empty house or a ghost town. There's something about lonely, empty places. What was it like when people lived there? Why did they leave? Maybe it's also that they are so quiet, which can be very scary too. Of course, abandoned places are also handy for horror film directors in that it's more believable that you will have no phone coverage there either (see above).


The hero has been driving for hours. It's night-time and it's beginning to rain. Suddenly he sees a person on the side of the road. Maybe the company will keep him awake? In horror films, giving anybody a ride is asking for trouble. The hero always does it, and it always ends badly.


This horror film cliché was especially popular with horror films of the late 20th century. It starts with a group of teenagers all enjoying themselves, and it ends with everyone dead except one girl. At the beginning the girl is usually innocent, shy and not particularly strong. By the end, she has become the toughest and most resourceful person in the world. The last girl almost always wins in the end.

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Submitted by COUTCHER on Sat, 22/06/2024 - 03:19


I really enjoy horror films from childhood until now .

In fact, the scary part of that actually helps me to face my fears. And even when knowing about the clichés, it's always creepy. On the other hand, when it comes to clichés , darkness is one of them. Most of the frightening actions come about at night. 

Apart from that , there is another trendy, that of using not demons or zombies to murder people by removing their organs but real humans. 

Submitted by sabilaferisya on Sun, 28/04/2024 - 13:52


I enjoy horror films a lot, especially psychological horror. There is something much more scarier when it comes to psychological horror because it doesn't rely on jump scare, rather it relies more on suspense. Whenever I think about horror clichés, something that always comes to mind is that someone will always trip and fall when the character is being chased by a killer or a ghost that results in them eventually getting murdered. I think it becomes predictable and stale, because we are already expecting what was initially going to happen to the character when it gets chased; which doesn't add the suspense, it just makes it worse.

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Submitted by mtg.pao on Mon, 05/02/2024 - 18:07


I liked the reading, I actually fin it very fascinating that there is a logic behind all of these cliches, it also happens a lot when it comes to music, I personally don't like horror films, they give me anxiety, and most of the I find them very disturbing, but I have to recognize that I understand why people find them fascinating... also the music that is composed for horror films is a very important part of the movies, it helps to give us a lot of emotions that are required for the movie.

Submitted by Gallegos_03 on Sat, 20/01/2024 - 16:10


I'm a big fan of horror movies, but to tell you the truth I like the book version better, there they are uncensored and leave everything to your imagination. I must admit that not all movies scare me, they should be a higher category as for example the "hundred feet human", "atrocious" and others.

Submitted by Santipro on Tue, 16/01/2024 - 23:19


The horror films are probably my favorite ones, i usually watch one of this every weekend. I also like the classic clichés, i can think of more than those wich are on the reading, for example, when the monster or the enemy to defeat is strong like a super human, even if the movie says that is a common person, they seem invencible.

Submitted by jmajo on Mon, 11/12/2023 - 15:09


I don’t really like horror films but I recognise lot of the clichés mentioned in the reading text, In a certain point of view, when I find myself watching any of those kind of movies it turns out too predictable to be entertaining, so usually I change the movie or I do anything else.
One other film cliché in the horror genre could be the religious horror movies, because always are about demons, posessions and hero priests.

Thanks for the lesson.
Great site!

Submitted by Vitaliy128 on Thu, 02/11/2023 - 08:03


I absolutely like to watch different horror movies. However, I prefer to watch this kind of genre only being surrounded by my friends because when I watch any horror movies alone, I instantly start to feel scared and pretend that everything that is happening in the movie is real. Thanks for this brilliant article, I've learned some new useful words.

Submitted by arashjahanbakht on Mon, 21/08/2023 - 17:57


Hello teachers! I have a question. Must I wirte that symbol above the "e" letter if I want to use the word "cliché" in the IELTS writing sections? Can I don't consider the symbol?

Hello arashjahanbakht,

You can write the word with or without this (the name for it, by the way, is an acute accent). The word is a French word which has entered the English language and the spelling with the acute accent is the original French spelling. The English spelling is slowly replacing it as the word stopping being seen as a foreign word.

If you want to use an alternative word with a very similar meaning then the word hackneyed is an option.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ma7moud3zim on Sat, 05/08/2023 - 02:41


Actually I wasn't interested in trying the site but when I see the title I have been attracted. Good article..

Also if anyone can help what will be the word for "Convention"?