Fun science fact of the day: The part of your brain that controls memory, decision making and affects the “flight or fight” response is called the amygdala. I mention this because in your typical Hollywood horror movie, all the characters, without exception, have impaired amygdales, which would explain much of their bizarre behavior. It seems like if there’s a choice between a decision that will preserve the character’s life and one that will endanger it, the horror movie character will, without exception, choose the latter.
There’s an Internet quiz titled, “If I Were an Evil Overlord,” and in that spirit, I humbly present, “If I Were a Horror Movie Character…”
If I were a horror movie character, I would avoid spending time with people who have any kind of Tragic Past. Individuals in particular I would avoid include college students who survived a car crash when they were in high school, arrogant people of all stripes because they are clearly over-compensating for being vile and are in need of comeuppance, and elderly recluses who’ve lost a family member or friend, or who have survived a gruesome accident and are disfigured in some way. Also, bypass anyone who has lost a beloved child in a horrible unexpected way because the odds that they have not come to terms with the event and moved on are high. All these people tend to be magnets for the supernatural rearing its eerie head and deciding to take revenge. You do not want to be dragged into anything like this.
Secondly, I were a character in a horror movie, I would avoid going anywhere alone, even if it is just to the bathroom in the middle of the night or during a party. If I hear or see something suspicious, I will remain firmly where I am and not advance cautiously saying things like, “Hello? Anyone there? Are you playing a trick on me? Well, you don’t scare me, you AHHHHHH!” Better yet, I will take off running in the opposite direction and not stop until I was safely surrounded by other people in bright light. If I hear a cat meowing but can’t actually see it, I will also escape as fast as possible because the odds are that there is a psycho killer nearby have just rocketed. I will also avoid inanimate objects, such as music boxes, that suddenly start moving by themselves for the same reason. Instead, I will use the wonderful modern invention that everyone possesses these days called a cell phone and either record the incident or preferably call the authorities.
A note about bathrooms: They are catnip for the supernatural. Find some other way to achieve cleanliness that does not involve sinks or bathtubs. A sponge bath may not be as refreshing, but it beats getting grabbed by a disembodied hand or stabbed when you step out of the shower.
Third, I would take all warnings that I should stop messing with whoever is orchestrating all the horror seriously. If I happen upon what appears to be a message in blood scrawled on a wall or mirror ordering me to “Stop” or “Danger!” I will calmly walk away in the other direction and not investigate further. I will avoid exploring places that are either extremely high or low, such as basements, tunnels, sewers, parking garages and clock towers because these places are magnets for psycho killers to hang out. I will not make the mistake of thinking that arming myself with a flashlight and crude weapon, such as a kitchen knife, is all I need to navigate such places with my limbs and psyche intact.
Fourth, I would make sure that I was a) fully up on all life-saving self-defense moves, and b) carry some kind of weapon on me at all times. I will not deceive myself that these tactics will save my life in themselves, but they may buy me time for additional help to arrive if I must fight for my life.
Fifth, if I do sense that I’ve become involved with a situation involving the supernatural, I will not make a beeline for whoever is closest and babble at them about how I am in Grave Danger because the odds that they won’t understand and think that I am unstable are sky high. Instead, if I do choose a confidant, I will present my case in a sober manner, using evidence I have accumulated to drive my point home. This might not work either, but it will probably be more effective than the first way.
Additionally, I would make sure that I was white because as Kumail Nanjiani points out in “The Big Sick,” if you’re a character of color in a horror movie, your arc consists of breaking into a deserted building after hours and hearing a cat. The odds of you making it to the credits are nil, unless you are the actual protagonist.
Last but not least, I would also make sure I was male because if you’re a woman in a horror movie, your odds of needing someone to swoop in and save you in the nick of time are quite high. Relying on other characters to save you is usually not a good idea because they are often equally dim. Also you have to spend a good chunk of the movie scantily clad, regardless of the weather or time of year, so the odds of your catching pneumonia by the end (if you aren’t killed first) are excellent, too.