5. Characters physically take part in flashbacks.
Used in: The Shining (1980), The Grudge (2004), The Haunting In Connecticut (2009), Insidious (2011)
Haunted houses conceal massive amounts of dark secrets, violent memories, and, more often than not, buried skeletons—why else would the crib be plagued by the undead? That much is understood, yet too many filmmakers insist of showing the audience what exactly happened in the home’s tragic and sinister past.
The most overused method of doing so: placing the main characters back in time, in the midst of whatever homicide or traumatic event happened in the house. It’s slightly less annoying than having the old caretaker dictate the “Once upon a time” exposition in an overlong monologue, but interactive flashbacks mostly show a screenwriter’s laziness, as well as the director’s unwillingness to construct original scares.
In The Shining, the flashback sequence isn’t meant to teach the hero how to defeat the evil, or how to empathize with its plight—Jack Torrance’s supernatural trip to the Overlook Hotel’s golden era motivates him to kill his family. Which proves this list’s primary thesis: When making a haunted house movie, don’t ever try to redo anything Stanley Kubrick did in The Shining. One-upping that film’s mastery is a futile mission.