In Wes Craven‘s highly successful movie, Scream, the character Randy notes that there are certain rules to which one must adhere to successfully survive a horror movie. After reviewing the plots of some of the most popular movies in this genre, it appears that dear Randy was indeed correct. There are a handful of actions, situations and spoken phrases that mean certain doom. I often find myself wondering whether or not I could survive in a horror movie. If you’ve also wondered this, here are the five rules I’ve decided we’ll need to follow if we want to make it out alive.


Rule One: Be a virgin.

Not only do you need to be a virgin, but it is generally best to be a female virgin. I’ve observed that at least one surviving character in typical horror movies is a female virgin. In fact, that’s how the term “final girl” came to be. It’s generally up to the only female virgin in the movie to defeat the “bad guy” and save herself and possibly other characters. So, if you want to survive, either be her, or find the final girl and stick to her like glue! (I find the notion of needing to be “pure” to survive ridiculous! It is my opinion that survival should be based on how resourceful, tenacious, brave and tough you are.) Find this trope, or a version of it, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Ring and The Wolfman.

Rule Two: Never, ever, under any circumstances say the phrase, “I’ll be right back.”

You will indeed, NOT be right back. Inevitably, any character unlucky enough to say this phrase for any reason during a horror movie ends up dead shortly thereafter. If you’re in a scary movie, avoid this phrase like the plague. Don’t believe me? See several of the films in the Saw franchise as well as Pumpkin Karver.

Rule Three: Never be a cop or any form of law enforcement.

It is incredibly typical for police officers to die in horror. This is especially true if the officer in question is trying to help the main character(s). Any time a police officer believes a cry for help, they are doomed. (One notable exception to this trope is the Scream franchise — excluding the fourth film.) Learn from the examples of late law enforcers in Child’s Play, Misery and Silent Hill.

Rule Four: Do not, for any reason, visit the following: Elm Street, quiet towns in New York or Maine, lakes, creepy old houses and summer camps.

If you stay away from these places, your survival rate goes up exponentially. (Examples unnecessary, since this simple list covers almost every horror film.)

Rule Five: Do not drink, use recreational drugs or do anything that can be considered a “sin.”

In horror movies, these things mean certain and swift death. Often the characters partaking in these activities are among the first to be killed. In fact, this is an extension of the first rule. If you want to survive, you must be as pure as possible. It is a way of defining good versus evil within the confines of a horror film. The “bad guy” obviously represents the evil, and the “final girl” represents good triumphing over said evil. (Just like with the first rule, the idea of needing to be pure is incredibly overdone. It would be nice to see more movies where the underdog or the bad boy/girl was the hero.) Some particularly memorable examples of this trope can be found in any of the Friday the 13th movies, Flatliners and Scream 4.


There you have it. The five rules that will hopefully help you survive should you find yourself in a horror movie. Have a hauntingly good Halloween, and remember: it is OK to watch horror movies with the lights on!


By Rebecca Stalnaker