How to Survive a Slasher/Splatter Horror Film Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Survive a Slasher/Splatter Horror Film

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A line-up of horror suspects.

Slasher and splatter1 horror films, as suggested by the genres, usually involve characters being murdered/tortured/chased/transfigured in the most imaginative and bloody ways. It is also possible to see that the characters always seem to have one fatal flaw - they always succumb to apparent stupidity when faced with the cause of their demise.

There is a running pattern throughout these films; if only our heroes and heroines noticed it before they ended up being ripped to shreds by a knife-wielding psycho in a clown mask/machete-wielding bloke in a hockey mask/supposedly dead maniac with a penchant for fedora hats and red-green striped sweaters…


  • Never be called Tina. Anybody named Tina always finds themselves at a sticky end, be it dragged across their bedroom ceiling while being slashed to death in their dreams, stabbed on a holiday resort, murdered by people in masks etc.

  • Seemingly innocent names of radio stations, television channels and the media always give a hint to the person instigating all the deaths, so have a pen and paper handy during all commercial breaks.

  • Alliteration kills.

Mind, Body and Soul

  • Do not go under the delusion that 'only you can save the world!'. There are plenty of people willing to help - as long as they haven't been killed off already.

  • Be aware that knife/axe/weapon-wielding maniacs always attack those who believe that such maniacs only exist in films. So - never be the one to say 'But that kind of thing only happens in the movies' or you will certainly be convinced otherwise in a most distressing and terminal way.

  • Popular media-parodying slasher movies can offer good advice. For example, these famous three rules are a must-know if you want to have a shot at survival2:

    There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to survive a horror movie. First, you can never drink or do drugs. Second, you can never have sex. Big no-no. It's a sin. It's an extension of number one. And last, you can never, ever, ever under any circumstances say 'I'll be right back,' 'cause you won't be back.
  • Make friends with caffeine. This is because sleep is not an option.

  • The dreamworld is just as dangerous as the real world, so learn the art of lucid dreaming.

  • Sharp objects and soft skin do not go together. Avoid contact at all costs.

  • Hold your carnal urges until after the bloodthirsty maniac has been disposed of, please? Stopping for a quick, reassuring cuddle will only shorten the distance between you and the killer, and probably leave you and your partner breathless.

  • In fact, preserve your virginity or die.

  • Walking about naked or wearing only your underwear is not good for your health. Neither is showing off your breasts and cleavage. Exhibitionists in general do not survive past the first half- hour. The only person to ever get away with walking around in her underwear is Ripley in the Alien movies - and even her luck ran out eventually.

  • No matter how bad things get, never cut your own (or anybody else's) limbs off. Especially your hands. They will come back to haunt you.

  • While running away from the monster, you will trip over several times regardless of the ground's surface. Meanwhile, the monster will always catch you up even though it is simply shambling along. Taking this into account, sensible footwear is always the wisest option.

  • Personal hygiene must be put on hold until the killer has been disposed of. Do not even think of having a shower or a bath. In fact, never step inside a bathroom - especially one in a motel.

  • Anyone who moans is trouble. Depending on the interpretation of the word 'moan', loud-mouthed people who continually bitch will be given something serious to moan about, while those who emit low, gut-wrenching moans are probably dead (or undead).

  • If you don't know what it is, don't touch it.

  • Fickleness is a folly. If you pick a door to go through, then go through that door. If you change your mind to go through another, you will meet a sticky end.

  • Never trust what you hear, as voices can easily be faked using little voice machine boxes (or even witchcraft).

  • Translucent ghosts generally bring helpful news, or they take over your body and go on a killing spree. Solid-looking spirits get straight down to the job and kill you. Horribly. Best avoided in either case unless they're someone you used to know and trust.

  • If some time in your past you happened to sell your soul to the Devil, you are definitely screwed.


  • If you are a member of the local police force, armed forces, FBI, secret service, or are a private detective, your life will be abruptly cut short. Especially if your character name is 'Third Trooper'.

  • Pay attention if you are a methodical teenager who is shunned by your 'way-cool' peers because there is something about you that is slightly twisted or too 'far out' for their liking. Don't worry about what they think - there is a chance that you will be the eventual hero/heroine and save the day. Failing that, you will be the killer of those 'way-cool' peers - and get away with it. Bonus!

  • If you are the methodical teenager's parents, then you should listen to them more often. More often than not, they are telling the truth when they say that they know who is killing off their friends. If they themselves are the killer, a lot of needless death could be avoided if you'd just show them a little tolerance and affection - rock music isn't all that bad really.

  • If you happen to come across an undead minion that is rampaging all over your local town, then shoot/cut its head off. That usually does the trick. But keep your distance anyway - some of the critters can be mighty persistent.

  • Treat unidentified telephone callers who ring repeatedly in the same way as you would treat somebody who knocks at your front door repeatedly trying to sell you double-glazing. Lock the doors. Phone the police. Do not step outside at any point.

  • Be part of a happy family with no skeletons in the closet, as families with dark, horrifying secrets tend to find themselves at the centre of all the trouble. Who knows, that locked-away mad relative or the target of the vigilante parents may return to haunt you.

  • Watch out for that friendly, generous and sympathetic neighbour. The kind where someone always says '...he was so quiet, such a nice man...'

Electrical Equipment, Household Items and Impromptu Weapons

  • When in the bath, never surround oneself with electrical equipment because you might get a (fatal) shock if the TV/radio happens to 'fall' into the water. You can watch that TV programme later, or even better, record it for future viewing like everybody else.

  • Never trust the phone on the hard line as it will undoubtedly cut out in the middle of a conversation due to a well-timed lightning bolt or the intervention of the killer, who has somehow added a pair of garden wire-cutters to his/her utility belt.

  • Always invest in a mobile phone - and never have a pay-as-you-go account because you need enough credit to inform others that you are being chased by a knife-wielding maniac.

  • Learn how to use a weapon properly. An incentive would be to learn how to keep hold of it, rather than dropping it in fright and allowing your would-be killer to use it against you.

  • If you are missing some sharp cutlery from the kitchen, it will turn up later, embedded in somebody else's body. Almost as soon as this is discovered, you will become the prime suspect for the murder, by the way. Sorry 'bout that.

The House and your Vehicle

  • Never leave windows open so people can crawl through into your house. Especially when you are asleep.

  • The wardrobe is not a suitable hidey-hole.

  • Always check behind the door.

  • When outdoors and in the car, the maniac will inevitably be on top (or, in rare circumstances, clinging to the underside) of your car as you chug down the quiet lane. Remember - this is the real reason why speedbumps were invented.

  • Check that all the passengers in the car are the ones that you are meant to have with you. Always check the back seats before you get in.

  • Running up a set of stairs to the bedrooms leaves you at a dead end and open to a messy death.

  • Running down a set of stairs to the basement/cellar leaves you at a dead end and open to a messy death.

  • Look, if you're going to use stairs it's sensible to work out where they lead in advance. Just stay away from stairs, fool!

  • If you are looking to live in a cabin in the heart of the forest - just don't.

  • When entering a darkened area, looking out for danger, don't forget to look upwards early in the process. This is the direction from which the danger will come (trees, catwalks, ceilings, are all areas where dread killers tend to hang out).

  • Whimpering, whining or screaming tends to give away your hiding location.

  • Finding a safe place to hide is not always a wise choice, unless it is a coffin.

The Soundtrack and Incidental Music

  • Often the orchestra decides who is going to die, and just how horribly. If the string section is squealing in rhythmical discord, then a knife is sure to follow, in a similarly rhythmic fashion. If you have a choice of routes, and one route brings on the choirboys, there could be something of a supernatural nature at the end. Major keys signify you've found something very useful (possibly the thing that will vanquish the killer); minor keys always mean you're in grave danger.

  • The killer is always graced with his/her own entrance music. For example, if you hear something that sounds like 'cha-cha-cha, ha-ha-ha', get out now, because that bloke in a hockey mask is coming for you.

  • Do not enter any dark doorway when the ominous music is playing. Stay out in the open, where you can swing your machete freely. Unfortunately, this allows for the killer to show his skill in beheading people, Anne Boleyn-style.

  • Any location that involves repetitive synth or piano music is not going to be the ideal place to move, whether that be Georgetown, Haddonfield or the farmlands of Pittsburgh.

The Hero or Heroine

  • You must not have a boyfriend/girlfriend or want one. Those with such attachments tend to lose their loved one gruesomely (or else discover they have a rather nasty sideline in homicide).

  • The hero or heroine is usually intelligent and makes attempts to see the whole picture, despite the fact that several of their friends must be sacrificed in the process.

  • Despite saving the lives of everybody in the end, the hero or heroine always wonders if the decapitated head of the killer is in fact decapitated, and not just hanging off their neck.

  • The hero or heroine always plans their strategy with several back plans to thwart the killer. The act of bravado always occurs through the sneaky back plan that the killer has not noticed.

  • In reality, the hero or heroine is just as psychologically damaged as the killer, and indeed being able to think like a psychopath is often the best way to defeat them.

  • Never believe that the killer is truly beaten. Announcing a so-called 'final chapter/episode/nightmare' is always overtly premature.

The Killer

  • So-called 'mummy's boys' are, in truth, complete nutcases. If you push one too hard, something will snap and they will kill you3.

  • The killer always has a trademark, be it their appearance4, choice of weapon, manner of killing or catchphrase. If not, the killer is somebody who knows you very well and who doesn't want to give anything away.

  • If the killer is silent (or meek and mild) they are very much like the Grim Reaper as they generally are not seen until the last moment - otherwise known as the couple of seconds of grace before you get your head bashed in.

  • More verbose killers have the characteristics of cats. They prowl about the area making you feel very insecure, are generally omnipresent in manner, and always have room for a gloating black humoured comment when they dispose of you.

  • The silent killer is a remorseless one, so trying to make them see the light is a fruitless expedition.

  • The verbose killer can be prone to weakness if they are tormented by personal demons. However, the more successful verbose killer (ie the one who gets a sequel film) is truly deranged and a psychotic maniac.

  • The killer usually has a hidden agenda for their killing spree. They seek revenge because of the evils perpetrated upon them by the hero or heroine's family, as a rule.

  • There is always one weak point of the killer that the hero or heroine manages to exploit.

  • Generally, the killer is more popular with the film public for the way that they stand out than the hero or heroine. With their trademark mannerisms, who can resist their charms?

The Final Chapter/Episode/Nightmare - or is it?

These guidelines would be perfect, if it was not for one, tiny, minor point.

  • Even though the hero or heroine defeats the killer and supposedly disposes of them so carefully that there is no way that they can do more harm, it is premature to think that it is the end, as...

    ...the notorious series of six or more sequels resurrecting the killer always defeats the point of the work of the hero or heroine in the previous film. It's been this way ever since Dracula showed that there's nothing that can keep a good villain down.

The Body In The Library - Further Reading

  • Hollywood has its own take on the world around us - read their laws of life, physics and everything...

  • more about the B-Movie genre, to which many slashers are considered to belong...

  • ...and also, slasher movies are prone to the odd remake or few... including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre...

  • ...or perhaps place a bet on the head-to-head, in the case of celebrated slasher anti-heroes Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees...

  • ...or learn more about one of the horror genre's celebrated actors who has terrorised the people of Elm Street since 1984, the person who makes Freddy Krueger tick - Robert Englund...

1'Slasher' movies revolve around serial killers or murderers and involve sudden violent and/or bloody acts, but a 'splatter' movie is an altogether more visceral experience, focusing more upon ridiculous amounts of intestinal or brain matter rather than just blood.2The following words of wisdom are from Scream, which was intended to spoof the flaws in the slasher genre. However, Scream's cult popularity made it into more of a slasher film itself than a parody, complete with two sequels.3Notable examples being Norman Bates (Psycho) and Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th series).4Silent killers or less verbose killers, such as Michael Myers (Halloween series) or Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) tended to don masks. Talkative characters will tend not to hide behind masks; despite his facial disfigurement, Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street series) sports the old fedora hat and red and green striped sweater as his trademark.

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