Horror Movie Survival Guide

We’ve all seen the films. Some group of idiots reads the wrong scroll or breaks into the wrong secluded cabin in the wrong forest, and the next thing they know, they’re ass-deep in a horror film. Getting out alive can look essentially impossible. Here are a few tips on how it can be achieved, if you’re smart enough to keep your head together, your ammo, close, and your friends closer.

While you’re at it, check out the Ten Handy Tips For Surviving A Horror Movie. It just might save you from the thing that came from outer space.

Good luck out there.

General Horror Movie Survival Questions

Q: What was that noise?

A: Here’s a tip: it wasn’t the wind.

Q: Should I go out there and check it out?

A: Only if you’re looking for a quick, messy, but creative demise.

Q: I really think we should go and check it out.

A: This proves you’re actually not thinking. No, you should absolutely not go and check it out. Going and checking it out will inevitably lead to your horrible death. Funny for the viewing audience, not so much fun for you.

Q: What if we just take a peek out the window?

A: It’s your funeral. And I mean that literally.

Q: Is that you, Johnny?

A: No. It’s not Johnny. It’s never Johnny. Do not date or marry men named Johnny. Do not name your sons Johnny. If your name is Johnny, legal name change forms are cheap. (You can also cultivate an alternate nickname, such as “John-Boy” or “The Johnster” or “Dave.”) It’s not that I dislike the name Johnny. It’s just that you’re basically marked for death.

Q: All right, then, what should I do?

A: First off, dress for success. If you’re female, ditch the impractical heels that you’re almost certainly wearing and get yourself some sensible hiking or running shoes. If you’re not already trying to survive a horror movie, buy some sensible shoes right now, and get used to wearing them. The break-in period differs from shoe to shoe, and blisters are almost as bad as twisted ankles when it comes to getting away. Guys, you’ll also need practical footwear, but the odds of you starting out in three-inch heels are substantially slimmer.

Ladies, there’s a chance you won’t be able to ditch the shoes, or that ditching the shoes will actually be worse than staying in heels (running across a beach covered in toxic jellyfish, for example). I recommend taking a weekend before the dead start to walk and learning how to run in high heels, flip-flops, and any other style of really stupid footwear that you may wind up wearing to the apocalypse.

While you’re at it, learn to run in a variety of outfits, and to do it without looking back over your shoulder. Also, remember that while running in a miniskirt may give the serial killer behind you a good look at your underpants, it’s also a lot less likely to snag around your knees as you run. Shorten your skirt at the first available opportunity.

Q: Are there different survival rules depending on the horror genre or are they pretty much the same?

A: There are variations specific to each horror genre—zombies remain a threat during the day, while vampires are usually only a problem at night; being female during a slasher flick is often a quick ticket to the morgue, while being a scientist in a giant monster movie is basically bad for everyone within six miles of you. The basics stay thankfully the same.

Q: Is it true that women have a better chance at survival than men?

A: Actually, no! Woman has a better chance of survival than man does, because there’s almost always a woman left standing when the credits roll, but there’s a reason that the stress here is on the singular. If you start with five men and five women, you’ll probably have two guys and a girl left at the end. Zombie movies are an exception to this pattern. Sometimes.

Q: What’s your weapon of choice to ensure survival?

A: No weapon guarantees survival, but you have some excellent options available to you, depending on the situation. Machetes, chainsaws, shotguns, and sporting goods are classic weapons in a horror setting. Remember that improvisational weaponry is sometimes going to be your best solution.

If you suspect you may wind up in a horror movie situation, you should have a basic understanding of common household items that can be turned into weaponry. Please remember that friendly fire is just as fatal as the other kind, and don’t pick up anything you don’t have a certain capacity to use. Even if you’re anti-gun, you should still know which end to point away from yourself.

Q: What is the best food to keep on hand in case of apocalypse?

A: The thing to remember is that the apocalypse—whether it be zombies, vampires, zombie-vampires, or all the cars coming to horrible, homicidal life—may go on for quite some time. Perishables are a luxury of a pre-apocalypse world. When you’re making your survival packs, be sure to include only canned goods and things with sufficient preservatives to keep them fresh and tasty for years to come (Hostess products are about to become worth their weight in gold). Your all-organic diet is not going to survive the dead deciding to rise up. Just as an FYI.

This isn’t technically food, but it’s diet-related, so I’m going to sneak it in: also be sure to pack multivitamins and Vitamin C tablets. Modern man has little comprehension of just how horrific scurvy can be. I recommend you don’t take the end of days as an excuse to find out. Water purification gear is also a good thing, although it’s not quite as necessary, as long as the water supply hasn’t been actively contaminated.

Q: When and how is it appropriate to tell your slow, promiscuous, or monster-bait friends that “it’s not you, it’s me, we should see other survival groups”?

A: There is no good time. Sneak away in the middle of the night (but not while it’s your turn at watch, because that would be an asshole move). If they’re really that bad, odds are good they’ll die before they find out that you weren’t devoured, you just ditched them. This will, however, mean splitting the party, so you’ll probably die first.

Q: Does “don’t split up” override “don’t have sex”?

A: Yes and no. Both sex and splitting up are things that should not be done in inappropriate places while inside a horror movie. (Please note that in American horror movies, sex is always inappropriate if you’re under a certain age. I have no comment on this, it simply is what it is.) There are lots of horror movies where consensual sex between adults is unpunished, unless one of those adults had already been infected with flesh-eating bacteria or something, in which case fluid transfer was a really dumb idea.

Splitting the party is never okay. Not even in the bathroom, unless the bathroom has no windows and you’re absolutely sure your monster can’t come up through the toilet.

Q: Is sex ever a good idea for bait purposes (i.e. set a trap, and get it on, to draw the bad guy into a line of fire)?

A: Only if you’re absolutely sure the person who’s supposed to kill the monster isn’t going to get wrapped up in the free amateur porn.

Q: Once you realize that you’re trapped in a horror movie, is it already too late, or can you escape by forcing the movie to switch genres, breaking the fourth wall, using other characters as cannon fodder, or bribing the writers to keep you alive in hopes of sequels?

A: One thing to keep in mind when you’re talking about surviving a horror movie: everyone who’s actuallyin a horror movie is treating what’s going on around them as serious. It’s usually the people who stop to go “ha ha, the aliens have a gun that turns us into giant vegetables” who are the next to die. I don’t care how silly something is, once it’s trying to eat you, you need to show it some respect. Screwing around in hopes of turning the situation comic is a great way to escape the movie…in a body bag.

Q: How do I survive a horror movie without dyeing my hair blonde?

A: Very easily! Contrary to popular belief, the survival stats for blondes in horror movies actually aren’t any better than the survival stats for people with any other hair color, and may, in fact, be somewhat lower, as The Bimbo is always among the first to die, and most traditional movie bimbos are blonde. There has actually never been a horror franchise girl (IE, a female character around whom a franchise was constructed) who was blonde. Buffy doesn’t count.

Q: Is it better to be the Purely Virtuous Woman Who Does Not Compromise (while those of lesser morality get devoured all round me), or the Practical Woman Of The World Who Can Choose The Lesser Evil (while the foolish idealists are zombie lunch, dinner, and tea)?

A: The answer to this question depends entirely on the decade of your horror movie. If it’s the 1980s, the former. If it’s the 1990s, the latter. If it’s anything made after the year 2001, once the word “woman” comes into your description, you’re basically just screwed.

Q: Werewolves: should we get bitten, is it better to go out fighting, or run away to help spread our new genetic gift?

A: Please see the section below, on zombies. Also, if you’re thinking of getting bitten and running around joining the other side of the fight, please do so in a different time zone.

Q: How can the short of stature/lacking of upper body strength survive your average night of the living damned?

A: Run like hell.

Zombie Questions

Q: …do you seriously have an FAQ section about zombies?

A: Yup. I love me some zombies. Zombies are awesome.

Q: Well, um, okay. In case of zombie invasion, where is the best place to hide?

A: Someplace where the zombies aren’t. More seriously, it really depends on the type of zombies you’re dealing with. If you’re dealing with Romero zombies, find yourself a nice shopping mall, lock yourself in, and don’t let idiots convince you to leave. If you’re dealing with viral zombies, avoid hospitals and population centers, and find out as quickly as you can whether animals can be infected.

If you’re dealing with intelligent zombies, you’re screwed.

Q: How many types of zombies are there?

A: For purposes of providing a useful answer, we’re going to include “people infected by a horrible virus that doesn’t actually kill them, but makes them behave in all other ways like a classic horror movie zombie” under the “zombie” umbrella. You’re welcome.

There are essentially four different major types of zombie. The Romero zombie is definitely dead, and it really doesn’t matter why it’s walking around; what matters is that it’s here, it’s hungry, and it’s a mindless eating machine. For examples, see Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Shaun of the Dead. Romero zombies come in both fast and slow varieties (thank you, James Gunn). If a Romero zombie bites you, shoot yourself. It’s the kindest thing you can do.

The viral zombie comes in both living (28 Days Later) and dead (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) varieties. The virus which causes them to seek the flesh of the living/uninfected is almost always man-made, and is yet more proof that we shouldn’t fuck with science, lest science decide to fuck back. I am personally very fond of the viral zombie. This doesn’t make me more popular at parties.

The alien zombie is in some way being controlled by an alien organism. Sometimes the victims are dead (James Gunn’s SLiTHER, Night of the Creeps), and sometimes they aren’t (The Puppetmasters), but they’re basically zombies. Alien zombies are the only ones who aren’t guaranteed to eat you on sight. Oddly enough, this doesn’t make them more popular at parties, either.

Finally, you have the supernatural zombie. These are zombies explicitly brought back from the grave through some sort of whacked-out magical ritual. They may or may not be contagious; they’re almost certainly hostile. Examples of the magical zombie include The Midnight Hour and The Evil Dead. Magical zombies can often be disposed of by breaking the spell that summoned them in the first place. Good luck with that.

Q: What about fast and slow zombies?

A: Sorry. All four major types of zombie can come in either the fast or the slow variety.

Q: Well, crap. Is there a way to tell the difference between a fast zombie and a slow zombie before it grabs and eats my brain?

A: Observing the zombie’s behavior is your only real hope. Early in an attack situation, assume that all zombies are fast zombies, and somehow possess the power to out-run a motorcycle. If none of the zombies actually chase you at anything faster than a shuffle, you can slow down a little. Try not to let your fear of fast zombies cause you to run straight into the arms of a slow zombie.

Q: What is the best weapon to use against zombies?

A: A velociraptor. Maybe eight of them. If you don’t have access to genetically engineered dinosaurs, again, it depends on the type of zombie. Alien slug zombies are best killed at a distance with a shotgun, or with grenades—there’s no reason to fear the debris. Viral zombies, on the other hand, should not be blown up if you can possibly avoid it, as it is totally possible to aerosolize the infection.

If you’re dealing with intelligent zombies, get a tank. I recommend doing it quickly, before you’re dealing with intelligent zombies that have a tank.

Q: If I get bitten by an infectious type of zombie, should I hide it from the rest of my party?

A: Only if you’re a total jerk. Once you’re bitten, you’re already dead, and being shot in the back of the head hurts a lot less than going through massive viral amplification. Admit your condition, say your goodbyes, and die with dignity.

There is one exception to this rule. If you are dealing with viral zombies, and if there is a known treatment, you can put off your noble suicide until such time as you’re past saving. It’s a gamble, and I don’t recommend doing it unless you’re sure the odds of getting to the hospital are good, but it’s possible.

Q: What do I need to remember when the zombies come?

A: Zombies are scary in part because their numbers are, from your point of view, essentially infinite. As long as you’re not the only survivor, they can make more zombies. (And if your outbreak actually involves people getting out of the grave, dude, just give it up.) Remember that the numbers are not on your side, and that freaking out about it really isn’t going to do you a damn bit of good.

Vampire Questions

Q: Is the creepy guy who just moved in across the street a vampire?

A: Outside of a horror movie, probably not. But since we’re discussing ways to survive a horror movie…yes. Odds are good that he is.

Q: How do I keep him from getting me?

A: This gets a bit tricky. First off, do not invite the vampire into your home. This means no general invitations to the neighborhood, no pool parties, barbecues, yard sales, or anything else that could be taken as a general “come on in, the plasma’s fine.” Do not throw a Tupperware party. Also, remember that some vampires can use their human minions to get themselves an invitation. If you don’t recognize the Avon lady, don’t let her in.

If you have teenage children, you may have a problem, as teenagers are traditional targets of the vampire looking for a way in. All the recent books portraying the vampire as your sexy cuddle-buddy don’t help. (Remember, horror movie vampires only want to cuddle your blood, not your body. They are not ideal prom dates.) Explain that the living dead are not welcome in the house. And padlock all the windows.

Q: What else can I do?

A: Take up gardening. No, seriously. Wild roses, garlic, and wild onions are traditional anti-vampire measures in some parts of the world. Get yourself a nice rose trellis and a large herb garden. Heck, plant some wolfsbane in there, too, just in case the werewolves decide that they’re missing out on a great party and drop by for a bite.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Monster Questions

Q: Why are dinosaurs trying to eat me?

A: First off, determine what time period you’re currently in. If your answer is “the past,” dinosaurs are trying to eat you because you’ve gone time traveling like a big dumb-ass, and you’re a tasty meaty treat. Don’t do that. If your answer is “the present,” dinosaurs are trying to eat you because nobody worthy of the title “mad scientist” ever bothers cloning anything cute and harmless.

Since most people don’t have time machines, we’re going to assume the present is your default time period unless stated otherwise. If you are in the past, it’s your own damn fault for traveling backward through time, hence breaking several of the many laws of nature.

Q: How do I survive if I’m in the past?

A: Get back in your time machine as quickly as you possibly can, and go the hell home. If you no longer have access to a time machine, prepare to become part of the fossil record. On the plus side, you can confuse paleontologists to no end. On the negative side, you will be dead. Either way, I really can’t help you any further.

Q: Fine, I’m in the present. Why are dinosaurs trying to eat me?

A: Because you’re made of meat. Dinosaurs are large. Dinosaurs are hungry. Large, hungry things tend to eat whatever they can find, and let’s face it, when you’re the size of a school bus, eating people is a lot more efficient than eating dachshunds. Also, people run and scream, which makes them a lot more fun to chew on.

Q: How do I tell the “want to eat me” dinosaurs apart from those who are much more interested in munching on the nearest redwood tree?

A: First, let’s try this simple exercise: is the dinosaur currently trying to eat you? If the answer is “yes,” then it’s a carnivore. Congratulations. Now run.

If the dinosaur isn’t currently trying to eat you, I recommend finding the nearest five-year-old boy, as he’ll be able to tell you exactly what sort of dinosaur you’re looking at. If all the five-year-olds have already been eaten because they tried to pet the raptors, take cover and watch the dinosaur to see what it does. If it eats a tree, see if you can slap a saddle on that sucker. If it eats a lawyer, run.

Q: Does “big head, little arms” really work as a potential defense against a Tyrannosaurus Rex?

A: I don’t know. Go try it, and report back with your findings.

Q: If I survive a dinosaur attack, do I get to hunt down the creator and make him tell me how to kill them?

A: Yes. Just wait before attacking, as the creator may be an innocent geek whose glorious discovery has been perverted for selfish ends. Hey, it happens.

Q: Is it true that dinosaurs can’t see me if I don’t move?

A: I could start ranting about bad science here, but I’ll spare us both, and just say that no, that is probably not true. Alligators existed in the time of the dinosaurs, and they will happily eat you, no matter how still you hold. Birds, also capable of seeing you when you don’t move. Dinosaurs? Probably not going to care whether you’re moving or not, as you will still be made of tasty, tasty flesh.

Also, even if dinosaurs can’t see you when you’re holding still, a great many of them are large enough to crush you just by walking, and when you’re holding still, you’re not running away.