How to Survive a Horror Movie

Written by Grae Westgate

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Halloween is upon us. The season of the witch. The infamous Michael Myers sequel that somehow managed to omit the iconic killer. Yup. We’re talking horror movies, and, perhaps more importantly, how to survive in the ever-increasingly likely event that you find yourself in the midst of some supernatural goings on.

Of course, we’ve already been warned of the key rules by the late great Randy Meeks; don’t have sex, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, and under no circumstances tell anyone that you’ll be right back. ‘Cause you won’t be right back. You’ll be dead.

But sometimes these rules aren’t enough to get you through a whole horror franchise, so, in celebration of the spookiest time of year, we’ve put together a handy survival guide to make sure you live to see the next Paranormal Activity instalment.

1. Be Pretty (but not too pretty)

Attractiveness is definitely a pre-requisite for being in a horror movie. If you’re not above a 7, chances are you’re the comic relief (more on that later), or you’re in the audience. So, should you find yourself being stalked by a masked serial killer, take a look at your friend group. If you’re the Neve Campbell to a specifically nineties Rose McGowan, or Jennifer Love Hewitt to a Buffy season two Sarah Michelle Gellar, chances are you’re safe. If you’re the hottest one in your group, then sorry hun, you’re going to be third or fourth on the kill list.

2.Don’t go into the Woods

Look, a Spring Break vacation to your uncle’s cabin in the woods may sound like a great idea. Pack up the vista cruiser with beer and condoms (along with the mandatory bong) and hit the road for party central. But here’s a better idea: just don’t. That little woodland retreat is likely to be home to demonic entities, ghosts of deformed locals, or even trees that drag you into the forest to rape you.  Stay home instead. Study. Get a part-time job and start saving for college. Nothing bad ever happens there.

3. Don’t go to College

College attracts people from all walks of life, and, for some reason, it attracts the crazies even more so. If you’ve already been in a horror movie in high school and managed to survive, chances are that your sequel is going to take place at college. Is one or more of your fellow survivors at the same college? Then you’re definitely screwed. Of course, if this is your first rodeo, you’re probably safe. Unless, of course, you’re a film student doing a project on urban legends, or the member of the hottest sorority in campus.

4. Get out of the Damn House

One of the most infuriating tropes in the horror genre is that of running upstairs instead of out of the front door. If the killer is in the house, then get the hell out of there. Of course, your estranged brother may have stretched cheesewire across the doorframe in a “guessed it in the first act” twist, but, nine times out of ten, just leave. The killer’s not going to gut you in the middle of the street.

5. Stick Together

This goes for any horror survival situation. It doesn’t matter if you’re solving mysteries at a haunted amusement park or simply trying to outrun a chainsaw-wielding maniac; do not, under any circumstances, split up, otherwise, you’re going to get picked off one by one. Safety in numbers, stand back to back, and stick to well-lit areas. Though, upon saying that, never stand with your back to a TV news van.

6. Put the Book Down

If you do happen to find yourself in your uncle’s cabin or in an old Chinese junk store, just put the book down. Don’t read it out loud, especially if it’s in some ancient language that you don’t recognise. This rule extends to ancient artefacts, Ouija boards, strange puzzle cubes, or anything that would look happily at home on Marilyn Manson’s mantelpiece. It’s going to summon a demon, and no one needs that.

7. Get Possessed

This may, at first, sound counterproductive, but if you’ve already been stupid enough to read that book and unleash hell, one of the safest situations to be in is that of the possessed victim. Sure, you’re going to be vomiting bile and bending about more than a contortionist at P.T. Barnum’s, but when it comes to demonic entities, being the host is almost a sure-fire way to make sure you at least get through the experience alive. Reagan, Emily Rose, and even Anthony Hopkins in the exceptional The Rite all knew it was the way forward. The exception, or course, is if you happen to be standing anywhere near a window when the demon jumps in. In that case, you’re just biding time until the demon resurfaces in a mental institution. Again. And again. And again.

8. Make Sure You Have Both Parents

If you’re from a broken home, then you are scientifically ten times more likely to be victim of a serial killer. Or be a serial killer. Carrie White. Jason Voorhees. Norman Bates. Billy Lumis. That crazy girl from The Loved Ones. Child abandonment causes serious deviant behaviour. Folks, stay together; if not for yourselves, then for the children. That said, don’t stay together too much, otherwise we end up with a Sawyer situation. A family that slays together, stays together.

9. Put the Camera Away

In recent years, it’s become something of an obsession for those who find themselves stuck in a horror movie to start filming everything. Personally, I blame Heather Donahue. Whether you’re the victim of some paranormal activity, experiencing a few grave encounters, or simply giving the devil his due, you’re going to need both hands. So put the camera down and pick up the phone. That said, you’re in a horror movie, so no matter where you are, you don’t have any signal, so use those hands to grab a weapon. Unless you’re making a Behind the Mask documentary (man, that was a good film…).

10. Don’t be the Comic Relief or the Film Buff

This is where I say goodbye, dear reader, as, frankly, I know I’m dead. My jokey attitude and encyclopaedic knowledge of movies might just about get me through the first film by the skin of my teeth, but even if I make it through round one, I’m screwed when it comes to the sequel. I’ll probably make it to the final act and, if I’m really lucky, I might get a pity snog from the attractive Asian nerd before we both get massacred, paving the way for the showdown between the killer and the Final Girl who, let’s face it, I’ve been in love with since pre-school. But hey, I was probably your favourite character, and whoever they cast as the comic relief in the sequel, threequel and the eventual one further down the franchise where the killer winds up in space, is always going to pale in comparison. And if this does happen to be my last hoorah, don’t panic; I’ve given my goth sister a VHS with the rules to survive the rest of the franchise.

Happy Halloween y’all. Stay safe!


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