What do bad omens delivered by questionable characters, abstinence and a general avoidance of bodies of water have in common? They are three of the key tips to surviving a night of horror, as seen in films throughout the decades.
Not to pull a Randy Meeks, who was the walking, talking tour guide to horror films in the “Scream” franchise until his predictable death in the third installment, but there’s no denying the algorithm to staying alive in horror films. While there have been slight deviations from the rule, by knowing the basics you immediately increase your chances of being the final one by the time the end credits roll.
Here’s what you need to know:
Avoid the big three: sex, drugs and alcohol. The horror genre has long been known to have a strict moral compass, often leading to the immediate and untimely death of any unfortunate characters who participate in one of the outlined sins.
Your only hope to survive through these misdemeanors is to be the infamous “innocent one,” who was either trying one of these sins for the first time or coerced into doing them by a baddy in the film. Those two instances cancel out your karma and keep the horror gods at bay with your safety net of innocence still intact. Or you could be possessed, in which case your inner demon gets to sin as it pleases and you’ll probably die sans exorcism anyways.
Next, water makes you vulnerable. We’ve all watched a movie with a murderous shower scene, which was first made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” and has been redone in the genre countless times. The bathroom is one of the places you are your most relaxed and exposed, and it’s the last place you want to be when entering an almost too perfect motel with a man behind the front desk that gives your gut that “something’s not quite right” twinge. Steer clear of the Norman Bates stereotype.
While you’re at it, add avoiding bodies of water to your list. No skinny-dipping or casual swims are allowed if you want to live past midnight. Whether your insides come out through a pool drain, as seen in the fourth installment of “The Final Destination,” or you’re taking a dive and get bit by something far bigger than a crab (“Jaws,” “Piranha,” that tentacle monster from “Deep Rising,” the Kraken…), you’d better keep your clothes on and your body dry.
Here’s an obvious one that most seem to ignore: never go alone. Killers and monsters alike have the goal of ticking their prey off one by one, so stick in packs. There’s strength in numbers.
This also means you cannot make an exit by saying things like “I’ll be right back,” because once you’ve uttered those dangerous words the audience knows you definitely will not be back.
If you do happen to stumble into a situation where you absolutely must scout the area alone, do not, under any circumstances, ask “Is anybody there?” You’re your own personal victim tracker when you open your mouth and shout your location to the killer, so keep it shut.
The most underrated key to surviving these scenarios is to always listen to the creep in the beginning. I know stranger danger is real, but so is the eminent doom you and your loved ones are about to find yourselves in. When the guy without teeth starts chanting you’re on haunted grounds, put it in reverse and get out of Dodge. He didn’t go crazy without reason. He’s delivering these omens for your own good.
Finally, there’s the three-point rule. When you’re standing on top of a ladder or unstable ground, you need three points of contact to keep yourself from falling. If you’re attempting to kill your antagonist in the final moments, then the same rules apply. One in the head, one in the heart and one anywhere else you can manage to get a shot off or remove a limb.
When you think the killer is dead, know that they’re just waiting to rise again somehow for one last scare. Never assume they’re down for the count unless their heart is in one place and their body is in another.
If you want it to be you standing bloody and victorious for one final wide pan shot at the end of the film, then heed my advice and keep these rules in the back of your mind for any potential dark and stormy nights.