It's your duty to recycle...right?!
In this increasingly media-literate age, we're encouraged to think of films in particular as a representation of real life, when in actual fact there are often "truths" particular only to the movies. Whilst most of us are not paranoid about body-stealing aliens or the likelihood of our neighbours becoming werewolves or vampires, there are still conventions and moments we have become used to seeing within certain films.
Yet, without these conventions, would it be a lesser experience? Here's my short guide to the bits we love to see AND love to hate:
*John Wayne might have been good ol' Uncy Ethan in "The Searchers" but in the last thirty years or so Cowboys have become hell-bent on revenge (just about ALL Clint's movies in the Western years right up to Unforgiven), psychopathic vampires (Near Dark) or metaphors for Death Himself (The Big Empty). "This is the return of the Space Cowboy", indeed!
*If a hero goes to jail in a period movie, he always has a friend/associate who handily dies so he can swap places with him in the body bag (Count of Monte Cristo, Mask of Zorro)
* In the future, everyone wears leather (The Matrix, I Robot). Ditto people back from the grave and out for revenge (The Crow) and Vampires and Werewolves (Underworld, Angel, Buffy et al). Those undead sure do have style...
*Gangsters can kill people and bury them under swimming pools etc with no fear of DNA testing, witnesses squealing or the victim's family ever coming looking for them (Sexy Beast, Lock, Stock)
*Serial Killers are invariably cultured individuals (like Michael Wincott in Metro or Kevin Spacey in Se7en) who listen to classical music and read the classics, including The Bible (of course).
*If a hero is hanged in a movie his neck never breaks, giving his girlfriend or friends time to haggle with the executioner (The Mummy) or Robin Hood et al to cut the rope with an arrow from afar (Prince Of Thieves).
* Despite being clever enough to pick off nearly EVERY person within a climbing party/village/starship or cruise liner crew, big scary monsters can ALWAYS be fooled into swallowing dynamite (Tremors) or being made to stand still long enough to be blown up (Deep Rising) or chucked out of space ships (Alien and Aliens). Alternatively, a fatal encounter with a hero/ine and a flare or grenade (The Cave) can do the trick too.
* If someone admires/loves someone else openly within a thriller, that's because they're secretly obsessed with them and want to kill them and/or take their place (Copy Cat, Fatal Attraction). The same goes for women hired as nannies (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle) or destitute young females taken in by happy families (this has its own genre on cable!). If antagonists are concerned at all for the protagonist and offer to help them, that's because they've got one of their relatives under surveillance by a hired hitman (Red Eye).
* If a woman is perfect, that's because she is a mermaid (Splash), a fairy (The Dark Crystal), possessed by evil spirits (Ghostbusters) or secretly obsessed with you and wants to kill you (see above!)
* If a man is perfect, that's usually because he is the devil incarnate (Dust Devil, Witches Of Eastwick... We already knew that one, right girls?!?)
* If someone in an eighties' thriller is supposed to "double bluff" someone else, they're always exactly who they're bluffing to be, like a Russian Spy (No Way Out)
*When coming face-to-face with an antagonist, it's usually in the pouring rain (Se7en, Matrix Revolutions). Did your Mum ever tell you you'd catch your death?!?
*If someone says "You'll be fine, just hang on", "I can make it!" or "We'll get out of here", they never do. Equally, if someone says, "It can't get any worse", it always does. (The Alien Quadrilogy, Predator, AVP)
*If Tom Cruise is in it, he will invariable change and/or save the world in some way whilst yelling a lot and crying. In contrast, Arnie will not cry but quip throughout and undertake a huge variety of activities, including fighting with invisible space-age creatures or crocodiles (Predator, Eraser), get taken over by evil spirits (End of Days), have half his face torn off and save the world (Terminator 2 - still didn't cry!), give birth to a baby (Junior) or fight little old ladies for the latest toy modelled on Buzz Lightyear (Jingle All TheWay). Oh, he might also almost get blown up by Islamic Extremists (True Lies). Was this some kind of prompt for him, I wonder? Kidding!
* If a hero's best friend does not die, that's because secretly he is BEHIND IT ALL (The Fugitive, The Art Of War)
* Torrents of blood are always all over the victims of sixties, seventies and eighties war movies but never over the doctors treating them (Any Oliver Stone Vietnam movie you care to mention).
And my own personal favourite:
* If in the midst of a medieval-style sword fight, the hero's best friend will die and even though there is sharp metal everywhere, the hero will have time to gather him up in his arms and yell, "NOOOOOOOO!" (Willow, LOTR) In contrast, if the movie is not medieval and in the future, (and especially if the best friend is also a love interest like in Starship Troopers & Matrix Revolutions), she'll be able to miraculously reminisce rather than scream in agony before gargling in blood and THEN carking it. Who said women were the weaker sex? ; )
Any I've missed?