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Literature / How to Survive a Horror Movie

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"I'm sorry to the countless people whose lives I've cut short. The characters who've become unwilling sacrifices to my art: The buxom babysitters. The doubting cops. The overbearing parents and well-intentioned boyfriends. Teens with their whole lives ahead of them. Decent, hardworking adults. All sent to an early grave in the name of box-office gold."
— An apology from Wes Craven

You know the handy rules that Scream (1996) provided us on surviving a horror movie? Well, somebody's expanded them into a whole book.

How to Survive a Horror Movie: All the Skills to Dodge the Kills is a book by horror lover Seth Grahame-Smith (of later Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fame) that details what you should do in the event that you find yourself stuck in a horror movie. In it, you will learn how to perform an exorcism, what to do if you did something last summer, how to persuade the skeptical local sheriff, how to kill a murderous doll, how to survive an Alien Invasion, what to do if you've been dead since the beginning of the movie, how to defeat Satan himself, and many other useful skills. It's divided into six chapters, each devoted to a particular subgenre: an introduction (how to tell that you're in a horror movie, and rules that apply across the genre), slashers, evil inanimate objects, the undead (namely ghosts, vampires and zombies), aliens and beasts, and finally, demonic and religious evil.



  • Affectionate Parody: Of horror movies in general.
  • Asshole Victim: The high school section advises you to be nice to everyone because of this trope.
    The Terrorverse abhors an a**hole, and sooner or later, it finds a way of wiping them from existence.
  • Auto Erotica: The 7th Deadly Sin of horror movies.
    In the real world, sex and cars make great bedfellows. But in the horror world, when someone asks for a long, hard rod in their trunk, hand them the tire iron.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: The section "How to Survive a Night of Babysitting" is on how to avoid becoming this, telling how to vet the job before taking it to reduce the risk in the first place, and how to fortify the home just in case. Oh, and never pick up the phone.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: invokedThese are recommended as last-resort "Ejection Seats"- things that come so out of nowhere that the villain (and screenwriters) are momentarily too confused to disembowel you. Awful and mood-destroying Product Placement, Genre Roulette, jarringly good dialogue (via Shoutouts to better movies) and running to a place too expensive to film in are all recommended.
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  • Black Dude Dies First: Two of the stock characters named in the first chapter are "The Black Guy Who Buys It 20 Minutes In" and "The Black Guy's Girlfriend Who Buys It 24 Minutes In".
  • The Cameo: Wes Craven writes the foreword for the book, in which he apologizes to all of the disposable victims who have been killed off in his movies. A sample forms the page quote.
  • Cassandra Truth: Doubt is the 1st Deadly Sin of horror movies.
    There are two types of horror movie characters: those who believe your story and those who don’t. And while believers are by no means safe, at least they’ve taken the first step down the long road toward survival. Doubters, however, can always count on being dead before the end credits.
  • Cat Scare: Clinching proof you're in a slasher movie.
  • Chainsaw Good: Highly recommended for fighting monsters.
  • Condensation Clue: A strong indicator that a ghost is of the "Attention Whore" type is if it seriously overplays this trope. Death may use this to accept your offer to do The Grim Reaper a favor if it'll spare you, but only if the writer's run out of ideas.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Curiosity is the 5th deadly sin of horror movies.
    Have you ever been in a theater when the girl (in the movie) hears a strange noise and decides to see where it’s coming from? Notice how everyone in the audience starts tensing up as she climbs the stairs? That’s because they know one of the basic horror movie equations:

    Investigation = mutilation.
  • Dead All Along: The book has a very obvious way of testing whether or not this is you. Just ask very specific questions, not vague ones. To several people, not just one.
  • Death by Sex: Downplayed. While it's still a good idea to not have sex in the Terrorverse, the only sex that is guaranteed to kill you is sex in a car.
    • Having one's breasts being touched increases one's Titsonics, which attracts horror movie villains.
  • Defied Trope: The whole point of the book is to teach you how to do this.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: A point that is reiterated throughout the book. Even if you're in another potentially deadly situation, if the alternative is to go into the woods, you're better off with the devil you know.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: You're in the Terrorverse, so duh.
  • Final Girl: Lampshaded, like so many other horror tropes.
  • Genre Savvy: What this book is supposed to make you be. It points out dozens of horror movie clichés, tells you how to defy and subvert them, what to do if you do make that clichéd choice...
  • Genre Shift: One of the "ejection seats" (quick, last-resort escapes from the Terrorverse of horror movies) provided is to start acting as though you were in another movie, such as a wacky teen comedy, an artsy foreign film, a Merchant-Ivory work, or a kung fu movie.
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Referred to as "dual citizens". Very often, they're gas station attendants, homeless guys, or barflies. If this person starts talking about local urban legends or giving you a grisly lesson in local history (i.e. providing the audience with some backstory), listen to him and then run like hell.
  • Hollywood Homely/Dawson Casting: invoked If all of your friends look suspiciously like cast members from Smallville or Gilmore Girls, then your chances of death have just risen tenfold.
  • IN SPACE!: Strong evidence you're in an alien movie. Or possibly a very late entry in a slasher franchise that's been run into the ground.
  • The Lost Woods: See Don't Go in the Woods. In case it wasn't clear: don't go in the woods.
  • Money, Dear Boy: invoked How do you tell if you're in a sequel? One of the ways is that you have the oddest feeling that you're only here for the money.
  • Mr. Exposition: They're "Dual Citizens", people who live somewhere between the Terrorverse and the real world; this is why they themselves haven't been killed by or done anything about whatever evil they're warning about.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Warned against, as horror villains are attracted by breasts; the more of the breast left uncovered, the lower your chances of survival. The breasts being touched reduces your chances even more.
    The only safe boobies are untouched, well-covered boobies.
  • New Media Are Evil: In the "How to Preform an Exorcism" section, it recommends that you remove all computers before starting- the Internet is a haven for smut peddlers and secularist bloggers.
  • Never Split The Party: Independence is the 3rd Deadly Sin of horror movies.
    "We can cover more ground if we split up." You forgot to add "with blood" between "ground" and "if."
  • The Nondescript: Recommended for surviving a horror movie high school, as movie writers tend to think in terms of cliques ('funny fat guy', 'slutty goth chick', and so on).
  • Period Piece: Strong evidence you're either in a flashback to whatever caused the curse/haunting, or in a vampire or mummy flick. No other subgenre in the Terrorverse would risk scaring off teenager viewers by asking them to watch a bunch of Outdated Outfit-wearing has-beens in an historical setting.
  • Perverse Puppet: The "How to Survive a Killer Doll" section, which says that being in a killer doll movie is like "winning the horror lottery." After all, if you're getting your ass kicked by a children's toy, then you were kind of screwed anyway, doll or no doll.
  • Rage Against the Author: The books are basically a guide for how to escape from malicious horror writers who are trying to get you brutally murdered.
    • Inverted in the preface, in which Wes Craven apologizes profusely to all the fictional characters he's killed off or terrorized in his films over the years.
  • Recycled In Space: A horror movie set IN SPACE! is a sign of one of two things. On one hand, you could be in a crappy sequel to a slasher franchise that's jumped the shark, in which case you'll probably survive, since the writers are getting really lazy by this point. On the other hand, you could be in a big-budget alien monster movie, and with those high production values (usually) comes a better script than the average horror movie — and trickier, more inventive writers trying to kill you.
  • Road Trip Plot: Only three things can happen when you go on a road trip in a horror movie:
    • 1. Your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and you're 'rescued' by a stranger who promptly butchers and eats you.
    • 2. You accidentally run someone over, decide to hide the body, and spend the rest of the movie slowly being picked off like scabs.
    • 3. You safely arrive at your destination... only your destination is a log cabin the middle of nowhere.
  • Running Gag: About just how dangerous log cabins and forests are.
  • Russian Reversal: In a Haunted House, you don't gut the interior, the interior guts you.
  • Satan: Defeated by way of Male Frontal Nudity, which doesn't exist in the Terrorverse. Therefore, showing your junk will instantly pull you out of a horror movie.
  • The Savage South: The reverse of this is treated as a truism, in that the best place to go to escape from a horror movie is always "north of wherever you are". If you're stranded in the deserts of the southwest, you'll be partying in Vegas before long. If you're in an evil small town in Maine or the dark forests of the Pacific Northwest, you'll be in nice, polite Canada. If you're on a farm in Pennsylvania, you'll be in upstate New York, which nobody knows exists.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto: invoked Lampooned with regards to horror movies. See Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Self-Deprecation: The general low quality, low budgets, and clichéd writing that show up in many horror movies (especially slashers) are a frequent target of parody. One of the "ejection seats" is great, well-written dialogue, and another is fleeing to a location that's far too expensive for the cash-strapped producers of a horror movie to shoot in.
  • Sequelitis: invokeddiscussed/invoked- it's noted that being the main character of a sequel (the latter in the series, the better) gives a better chance of survival because of the bad writing.
  • Shout-Out: By the boatload, to just about every classic horror movie and to some not-so-classic ones. Some of the scenarios are Whole Plot References to Snakes on a Plane, Children of the Corn, The Sixth Sense, The Ring, and The Exorcist.
  • Shovel Strike: Recomended against- they're too heavy on one end, and you're handing the screenwriter the old "forced to dig your own grave" opportunity.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
  • Summer Campy: The most dangerous place to be in the Terrorverse is at a summer camp. Surrounded by horny teenagers, and in the woods?
  • Teens Are Monsters: Sometimes, if you're in a horror-movie high school, your classmates can be as much of a problem as the villain. There's also the answer to "My child slams doors, screams obscenities and says that he or she hates me" in the Is My Child Possessed section. It's "Nothing is wrong with your child." Nothing related to the plot of the horror movie, anyway...
  • Terror at Make-Out Point: Car sex is a one-way ticket to hell in the Terrorverse.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Machismo is the 2nd Deadly Sin of horror movies.
    Remember, fellow males—in horror movies, testosterone might as well be cyanide.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: If you find yourself in a big-budget production (really?), then odds are good you're in a psychological thriller, not a horror movie. In which case, the only advice the book can offer is that your missing child probably never existed, and that your husband is the bad guy.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: A very easy scenario to survive, with death at the hands of a zombie referred to as "the equivalent of a fighter jet being blown out of the sky by a Nerf dart."


Example of: