Watch any trailer for a horror film, and you’ll hear the same lines of dialogue repeated over and over again – likely chosen for their visceral, sound bite-friendly qualities, these lines of dialogue have nevertheless become grindingly repetitive, generic placeholders that have in the intervening years transformed into groan/laughter-inducing moments of artistic bankruptcy (welcome to the world of advertising!). While sometimes it’s all in the name of snappy, attention-grabbing ads designed to appeal to the widest (read: dumbest) possible audience (take it from me when I say that Hollywood executives see us “common people” as a bunch of mouth-breathing troglodytes), often it’s indicative of the films themselves – written by lazy screenwriters with blasters set to “autopilot”. Here, then, is my list of the ten most odious, and overused, lines (words?) of dialogue used in horror films today, listed in the sequence in which they would likely be spoken in a typical movie.
Variation(s): “There’s someone out there.”; “Did you hear that?”; “Something weird is going on.”
Normally occurring in the first or early second act just before the shit hits the fan, when the characters begin to suspect something sinister is afoot. The line is usually spoken by one particularly observant character, who is many times reassured by the others around him/her that they’re just being paranoid. Needless to say, the character who utters this line automatically has a greater chance of living through to the end of the movie – awareness, you know.
Variation(s): “Get a grip.”; “You just need to get some rest.”; “You’re talking crazy”; “Do you even know how that sounds?”
Usually the opposite of the character noting “There’s something out there”, the person telling them they’re merely “imagining” the shit normally doesn’t stand a very good chance of surviving to the final reel. In many cases (let’s say 70/30) the person saying this is male, often the boyfriend/husband of the “Final Girl”, and because he’s not as well attuned to the danger lurking right outside their door, he’s convinced his silly girlfriend/wife is just suffering from “female delusions”.
Variation(s): “Don’t go in there!”; “Let’s just get out of here”; “Don’t leave me!”
About 90 percent of the time this is voiced by a female character, when her (normally) boyfriend/husband insists on going out to investigate whatever strange noise or occurrence is presently putting her on edge. Usually he underestimates the danger, or perhaps is afraid but wants to act macho to impress her. Or maybe he’s aware of the danger, but checking to make sure it’s finally passed (it hasn’t). Or, he’s just an idiot. Either way, he almost always disregards her advice (she’s just a woman, after all) and ends up paying either with his life or his dignity as he runs screaming back towards the house or other form of shelter.
Usually uttered when a character spots something totally heinous coming right for them –
or perhaps when witnessing the aftermath of a brutal crime scene or discovering some ominous secret – this is also the last line voiced in about 97% of horror movie trailers, usually accompanied by a sudden black screen, and then a final “jump scare” before flashing the release date and credits. To be fair, screaming “Oh, my god!” is a totally normal reaction when you’re about to get your face eaten off, but can we at the very least lay off it in the ads please? It’s getting really, really old.
Variation(s): “Go, go, go!”; “He’s coming!”; “Look out!”
This oftentimes is screamed just before the quick-edit montage at the end of the trailer, when we are bombarded with a barrage of images of the killer coming after people with a bladed weapon/a girl crawling along a floor/someone screaming as they’re about to be hacked to bits/something jumping out of a dark corner/someone recoiling in terror/possibly a spin move during a dance (just for dramatic effect). In the actual film, this line often serves as a “no shit” moment; as the scary stuff comes right at them, the other characters somehow need to be reminded to run for their freaking lives by another person in possession of an actual working brain. Bitch, you don’t have to tell me twice.
Variation(s): “We’ve got some visitors!”
Falling under the umbrella of “Oh, my god!”, this line is normally dished out when the baddies have either caught up with or discovered the hiding place of the film’s protagonists and are now getting ready to deliver a beat-down. Shouted as a warning (often by a musclebound soldier type wielding a large gun) to the other characters, it’s usually followed by a vicious fight to the death and/or a harried escape sequence through a back/subterranean entrance.
Variation(s): “Suck on this!”
Another victorious battle cry in the vein of “Burn in hell!”, “Eat this!” often involves sticking the end of a weapon in a monster or alien’s mouth before blasting the shit out of them. Perhaps the most famous/memorable example of this is when Michael Biehn screams it at a “xenomorph” in James Cameron’s Aliens, but since then it seems to have become a favorite among the lazy screenwriter set.
Variation(s): “Who are you?”; “What do you want from me?”
Often said by characters trapped in the lair of the film’s bogeyman and about to be tortured or killed, “Why are you doing this?” is usually uttered in the midst of panicked screaming and/or desperate crying as the character attempts to understand the meaning behind their capture and imminent murder. When you think about it though, it is a pretty fair question; if I were about to be horribly slaughtered by a psychotic mutant, I’d at least want to know why.
Variation(s): “You don’t have to do this!”
This line has got to be the most odious example of lazy screenwriting, and yet it’s still utilized in almost every single horror film where a trapped prisoner is attempting to reason with the sadistic killer. Often coming directly on the heels of “Why are you doing this?”, “If you let me go I won’t tell anyone, I swear!” is normally a last-ditch (but sadly misguided) step in the bargaining process. Misguided, because I can’t think of a single killer in the history of cinema who has once given his/her screaming victim the benefit of the doubt. You won’t tell the police? Well, why didn’t you say so? I’m actually really tired anyway – let’s just pinky swear on it and call it a night.
Variation(s): “Burn in hell!”; “I’ll see you in hell!”
This line is normally screamed out in the third-act climax by one of the good guys, right before they deliver the “kill shot” to the villain. It’s meant to underscore a moment of catharsis when the tables have turned, but after being used in about 300 million horror films in the last three decades or so, it’s now more likely to inspire guffaws than cheers. Enough already.
So, to sum up:
Heroine, at home with Hero (her boyfriend), begins hearing strange noises outside and sees something flash by the window. Heroine becomes afraid and tells Hero, “There’s something out there”. “You’re just imagining things”, says Hero doubtfully. When Heroine insists, Hero tells her he’s going to step outside to prove to her there’s nothing out there. “Don’t go out there!”, Heroine pleads, insisting there’s danger lurking. Hero chuckles and shrugs her off, grabs a flashlight and steps out into the deep, dark night. Hero walks into the yard (let’s say it’s a vacation home, and they’re isolated) to investigate, and is about to turn around to tell Heroine everything’s fine when he hears a noise. He walks towards it – something in the bushes – and parts the leaves to see Dead Friend That Was Supposed To Come By Earlier But Never Showed Up. “Oh, my god!”, says Hero, as he backs away, in terror. Just then a Scary Thing emerges from the shadows behind him, and in the house Heroine, looking through the window, screams for Hero to “Run!” as she sees Scary Thing growing closer. Hero turns around just as Scary Thing delivers a blow, injuring Hero. Hero manages to survive and runs for the house, Scary Thing in hot pursuit. Heroine opens the door and admits Hero, slamming the door on Scary Thing just before he reaches Hero.
Hero and Heroine catch their breath and quickly lock all doors and windows. The phones are dead, their cell phones get no reception, and their car’s tires have been slashed. Heroine cries in terror, Hero comforts her and grabs a gun. As he’s loading it, there are more noises, this time in the cellar – footsteps. The Scary Thing has entered the house through the basement window. “We’ve got company!”, screams Hero as Scary Thing suddenly charges up the stairs. Heroine runs for her life as Hero points the gun at Scary Thing and – putting it right in Scary Thing’s mouth, yells “Eat this!” and blasts away. Scary Thing is injured but not killed and attacks Hero, while Heroine, newly brave, grabs a blunt-force object and tries to save Hero. She manages to fight Scary Thing off and seemingly kill it, but Hero is too badly injured. Hero dies. Heroine cries. Scary Thing rises up behind Heroine without her knowing and knocks her out cold.
Heroine wakes up in chains and begins to struggle as Scary Thing menaces her and prepares to do bad things to her. “Why are you doing this?”, Heroine screams, to which Scary Thing can only laugh. Heroine tries a different tactic: “If you let me go I won’t tell anyone, I swear!” Scary Thing has no intention of letting her go. Scary Thing approaches Heroine to deliver the death blow when Law Enforcement Officer Who Is There Investigating discovers the scene and fires at Scary Thing, seemingly killing it. Law Enforcement Officer walks up to Heroine and unties her, but Scary Thing isn’t dead yet. Scary Thing rises up behind Law Enforcement Officer and kills him in front of Heroine. Heroine and Scary Thing have a climactic final battle, and Heroine gains the upper hand. Just before delivering the final blow that will finish off Scary Thing until the sequel, she screams, in a moment of unbridled fury: “Go to Hell!” and kills Scary Thing in bad-ass fashion. Heroine gets into Law Enforcement Officer’s car and drives towards town. Sequel tag as Scary Thing is shown to probably not be dead. THE END.