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The Horror Movie Cliche That Makes Absolutely No Sense

Horror, perhaps more than any other film genre, is linked to familiar cliches that audiences have come to cherish as heartily as we ridicule them. We expect the action to occur at night. We know there's a strong chance the car won't start when the protagonist attempts an escape. And we are certain a mobile phone's signal will cut out at the worst possible time. The list of horror cliches is long, and as "Scream" pointed out, it often involves abstinence, avoidance of drugs and alcohol, and the ill-fated statement, "I'll be right back." (No, supporting character, you won't.)

Horror cliches typically fall into one of two categories. The first category involves events and circumstances that fall outside of the heroes' control, like the aforementioned car and cell phone troubles, as well as power outages and stormy weather. The second category usually relies on the protagonists' stupidity, like deciding to split up when we know there's safety in numbers and investigating that strange noise in the middle of the night. As explained below, one of the most insufferable cliches falls within the latter category.

Don't go upstairs!

With near inevitability, a horror movie will include a character who, while attempting to outrun the antagonist, heads upstairs instead of making a beeline for the nearest ground-floor exit. Seeking higher ground may be the best option in a war movie, but it usually spells disaster in a horror flick. What exactly does the character hope to accomplish by going up? Short of a chopper waiting on the roof to ferry them to safety or the antagonist having a debilitating fear of heights, there's little benefit in racing upstairs. Yet, time and time again, we watch in angry disbelief — often shouting at the screen — as the soon-to-be victim climbs the steps. 

So, you made it to the second floor. Congrats ... now what? Are you going to make a daring leap out a window? Or are you going to lock yourself in the bathroom and hope the lock holds? Savvy audiences know that neither the window nor the bathroom offer sustainable safety. By heading upstairs, the character has not only eliminated an easier escape route; they've also managed to ensure that no neighbor, dog walker, or jogger can come to their aid. As much as we love most of the horror movie cliches, watching a character foolishly race upstairs is insulting to both the audience and the character. Perhaps, it's time to retire that particular cliche.