Number one is the basic unwritten rule that pervades almost all horror films. Purity. If you can, be a virgin, because we all know the virgin lives. If you’ve seen it in Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and Scream (1996), you’ve seen it in pretty much all of them. Virgins are practically untouchable in the eyes of killers. They can be battered, bruised, or broken, but just like the killer, they are an unstoppable force of nature that just can't die.
Similarly, if you can’t be the virgin, at least be the person who doesn’t have sex. Do not have sex in a car. Do not have sex on the beach. Do not for God’s sake have sex in the woods. Just don’t have sex. Anywhere. You will get pregnant, and you will DIE.
As the song goes – “If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.” A big, bloody, massacre-filled surprise. Which, let’s face it, should not really be a surprise anymore. Even Into the Woods (2014) tells us not to go into the woods, and that’s a Disney film.
I’m sorry to break it to you but your friends are already dead. You can mourn them and steal their stuff later. Right now your survival depends on your ability to accept that, suck it up and move on.
Give up on your crusade to convince others of the insane goings on in your house, town, or summer camp. You are wasting important breath you could be better using to outrun the killer. People will not listen to you. Not your friends, not your parents, and certainly not your local police. More often than not they are in on it, and will turn out to be the killer. Those who aren’t are instead plagued with a serious case of “oblivious-itis”. There can be a body lying savagely ripped apart mere metres from them, and they will still turn to you and say; “There’s nothing bad going on. It’s all in your head. Go do your calculus homework.”
They might appear like innocent, victimless and doe-eyed little people, but they are either the person who is going to beat you to survival (because filmmakers couldn’t possibly let a child die), or the devil's spawn sent to kill you. Either way, sacrifice the kid and save yourself. This is the Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favour.
Now, the idiot comes in a variety of forms in horror films. They are the person who asks whether you should all split up. The answer to that question is a definitive no. Every time. Have you ever heard the principle that when in a pack, one need only outrun the weakest member to survive? Idiots are also that one guy who puts his ear or eye up to the door when things go silent. It’s a trap. It’s always a trap. There is nothing good waiting on the other side, I promise. And who is the most idiotic of them all you ask? The one that reads the weird Latin Satan-summoning incantation from a book made of human skin, labelled ‘Book of the Dead: Do Not Read’. In the words of Mike Wazowski; “Put that thing back where it came from, or so help, so help me!”
It’s pretty simple, no you won’t. You are not the terminator, and unless you’re a virgin you are not indestructible. Those four words are what we in the know like to call ‘killer-bait’, signalling the most sure-fire way for you to never see tomorrow’s sunrise.
Car, phone, flashlight. In the horror-verse technology is known to abandon you in your most desperate of times. It will end up going all Skynet on you, so prepare yourself. In terms of the car, don’t bother driving it. Even if it was perfectly fine when you arrived something will be wrong. Tyres slashed, brakes cut, engine missing, dude sitting in the back seat. Cars are really just murderous beasts who refuse to start because they want you to die. Phone reception too, is as dubious as those advertisements that tell you it ‘only costs $9.99’. Morse code or smoke signals would be more effective. Lastly, bring a light source that is not a torch. Even those run by solar power will find some way of going dark on you just as the killer approaches. Try glow-sticks. At least that way you can see your death coming in a beautiful blue, green, or red aura.
Whilst I don’t like to be racist, there is a trend that sees minorities condemned to never make it out of a horror film alive. As the saying goes, the black guy is the first to go. Even when he’s not, he is never the one that survives long enough for the final show-down. Neither is the Asian, the Latino or any foreigner really. Especially if you’re travelling outback Australia. On second thoughts, don’t go to outback Australia either. It’s not like there’s anything interesting out there than a giant rock anyway. No really…it’s mostly just desert. And a few kangaroos. That’s it. I’m not pulling your leg. But the Mick from Wolf Creek (2005) might if you’re not careful.
If you see white wispy mist up ahead, head in the opposite direction. Bad things never happen on a sunny Hawaiian beach, but foggy woods just give you that ‘about to be stabbed and mutilated’ feeling, you know what I mean?
There’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night. That seems strange. It must just be Grandma dropping over some midnight munchies right? Don’t open the door. It seems simple enough, but people honestly don’t do it. So repeat after me – Do not open the door. Do anything else. Watch a movie, do your laundry, bake your own cookies, just DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. If it’s really important they will come back tomorrow. In the daylight. And without the axe…
Know how to use a gun. Know how to dismantle, reassemble and load it. Know how to do it with your eyes closed. There is nothing worse than a last minute ‘he’s running at me with a knife but the gun's jammed’ scenario. So many horror movie deaths could be avoided by simple military-level weaponry knowledge. That and how a sawn-off shotgun can blow anyone’s head near clean off. Works wonders for the boys on Supernatural (2005).
Be an Olympic runner. It's not hard. Our bodies are designed for fight or flight, and more often than not the fight side of that equation doesn’t work. Especially not on an immortal serial killer. Do some cardio, and RUN FOREST RUN.
And lastly, the most important tip of all - when the dead guy is dead, he’s not really dead. He’s only playing dead, like a well-behaved dog. Double, triple, and quadruple tap the dead guy. Then dismember the body. And don’t forget to burn the pieces. And whilst you’re at it don’t ever drop your weapon. Even when you think the game is over and done with, and you can finally go and relax for a week in the Bahamas, its not really over. The killer will make a resurgence and soon enough you'll find yourself in the sequel.