Top Ten Haunted House and Ghost Movie Clichés
1. "Some Houses Are Just Born Bad"
This idea was used in the movies "Rose Red," "The Haunting" and the remake of "House on Haunted Hill," and it just makes no sense. It is supposedly to give the house a presence, but the idea is often abused for the sake of plot. There is a belief in paranormal study that houses tend to act as batteries for both positive and negative emotions and that a house with a particularly turbulent or violent history can tend to invoke those feelings in witnesses long after the fact. In the movies, however, the reference is always on the house as if it was its fault.
2. "The Angry Lone Nut Theory"
Most ghost movies always seem to have one person who sometimes turns out to be psychic and often knows too much about the house in question and usually is only available to speed the story along so that the characters don't need to do any research. At times, they even seem to have knowledge of minute info they shouldn't have. Sometimes the accompanying playback just interferes in the flow of the plot or even contradicts the facts established in the present.
3. "I See Dead People"
"The Sixth Sense" actually did it right, but "Casper" is a prime example. Real ghosts don't talk one and one with the living. They usually linger in the shadows and rarely take a form that actually looks human. Two of the most classic haunted house movies, "Legend of Hell House" and "The Haunting," scared moviegoers with ghosts that were never seen. Such occasions like the "Thirteen Ghosts" remake and "The Haunted Mansion" with ghosts on a one-to-one level with the living never happen. There are very rare occasions of witnesses who encountered individuals who later turned out to be ghosts, but these experiences don't last over several hours. Despite this, Hollywood seems to want to perpetuate the idea that ghosts are just people without bodies. (By the way, ghosts are not the dead or the undead. Literally speaking, they are the ghosts of the dead.)
4. "Screw Reality, People Want Special Effects"
Little girls don't get sucked into televisions. Houses don't turn into monsters Flesh-devouring creatures made of shadow don't exist, and neither do alien entities from other directions. Inanimate objects might move, but they don't come to life. Zombies and the living dead don't burst from walls or basements, and ghosts aren't out to kill, maim, slaughter or dismember the living like steroid-powered wrestlers. This is NOT haunted house activity; this is just really bad film-making.
5. "And That's That..."
Some of the time, the house or location ends up destroyed to create a grand finish. In "The Haunting of Sea Cliff Manor," the house burned down. In the "House on Haunted Hill" remake, rooms and halls turned into monsters. In "The Crying Child," the house blew up. "In Lost Voyage," the ship was sucked into another dimension, as was the house in "Poltergeist." The ships were sunk in "Triangle"" and "Ghost Ship." Again, let's look to the classics, "Legend of Hell House" and "The Haunting," where the locations were actually left standing at the end. The location does not have to be destroyed to end the story; this is nothing but a weak plot device similar to killing the vampire in a vampire story just to close the story. Ending the movie with the ghosts exorcised or released from a curse ("The Haunted Mansion") isn't necessary.
These next clichés aren't as notorious, but they deserve a mention.
6. "Wash Your Mouth Out"
Teenagers in horror movies always seem to talk a language peppered with incessant cursing and swearing. Not everyone talks as if they were sailors and truck drivers, and let's not get started on perpetuating the sex, drugs and violence stereotype.
7. "And They Never Came Out Alive..."
Paranormal investigators and bored teenagers investigate reputedly haunted houses all the time, and yet, movie teenagers are mauled, slashed, liquefied and rendered unrecognizable as human beings by creatures in haunted houses. That'll show them not to come back. Think again.
8. "Artistic License vs. Historical Accuracy"
In "Ghost Ship," the Captain tells the story about the Mary Celeste, a ship that was found drifting without her crew or passengers in 1872, and doesn't get any of the facts correct. I can only figure this is how the story was told to him or he was elaborating.
9. "There's Always Time For Porn" or "Movies Running Short, Add A Sex Scene!"
In several low budget movies, especially in straight-to-DVD horror movies, there's a point where someone gets naked or two people just suddenly start having sex for no particular reason. Watch the third installment in the "Night Of The Demons" trilogy or the remake of the first movie, and you'll wonder why they're not in the naughty room in the back of the video store.
10. "What The Heck Was That About?"
The alternate to destroying the location seems to be establishing a twist or nonsensical end that often confuses an already confusing plot. Jack Nicholson's face in "The Shining" photo, the deaths of the entire cast in "Burnt Offerings," Jack Ferriman in general on "Ghost Ship"... Well, if you think no one will remember the movie later, why not make it confusing as well?