Running upstairs to escape a killer. Locking the only door to a theater during an all-night rehearsal. Pausing while running away from a killer. These are all terrible decisions people make in horror movies.
Some bad decisions make sense – characters do dumb things when they’re under duress, just like real humans. However, there are plenty of other cases where it feels like writers just got lazy and needed to kill off a character so they had them walk directly into a creepy basement where a killer’s hiding.
Some of your favorite horror films probably involve at least one objectively bad decision that doesn’t make logical sense. In the moment, it’s easy to gloss over what are arguably scary movie plot holes, especially if the surrounding action has you gripping the edge of your seat in terror. Even when you notice characters’ awful choices, it can actually make the movie more fun (if less immersive).
For the love of Wes Craven, please stop running upstairs.
Liz Leaves The Rifle Next To Mick In ‘Wolf Creek’
One of the lazier scenes in modern horror occurs in Wolf Creek, an otherwise great film. In the movie, British backpackers Liz and Kristy are on the run from a rural Australian madman named Mick. Early on, Liz gets the jump on Mick with one of his firearms.
Instead of holding onto it while she and Kristy run off or making sure the deed is done, Liz drops it next to Mick and flees. The villain uses this break in logic to regain the upper hand and continue the chase.
Actors: Teresa Palmer, John Jarratt, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, + more
Directed by: Greg McLean
Kristen Goes Back Into The House In ‘The Strangers’
Kristen McKay is easily one of the most frustrating characters in horror history. After surviving an onslaught by a group of masked maniacs, Kristen makes it out of the house and into the surrounding woods.
She actually manages to find a vantage point where she has eyes on every member of the group, and while she can’t fight back and her phone is long gone, she can at least rest easy knowing she’s safe. That is until she goes back into the house and things go downhill.
Actors: Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Laura Margolis, + more
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Shirley Takes A Bath In An Abandoned School In ‘Slaughter High’
Characters are constantly making bad decisions in this movie. Not only do they agree to attend a 10-year high school reunion in an abandoned building, they each fall for their own simple schemes. The easiest trap to avoid is sprung on Shirley, a woman who decides to take a bath in a gross room in an abandoned high school.
In this case, the water’s been replaced with acid, which could have been avoided by not taking a bath in a creepy abandoned high school.
Actors: Caroline Munro, Billy Hartman, Gary Martin, Simon Scuddamore, Kelly Baker, + more
Directed by: George Dugdale, Peter Litten
Karen Doesn’t Throw Chucky In A Fire In ‘Child’s Play’
Halfway through Child’s Play, Andy’s mother, Karen, realizes Chucky is evil. When she discovers he’s a possessed doll, she has a brief moment where she can throw him into a fire and roast the vicious hunk of plastic until he’s no more.
Instead, she just threatens to throw him in the fire, which gives the doll all the time he needs to break free of her grasp and continue his rampage.
Actors: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Dinah Manoff, Jack Colvin, + more
Directed by: Tom Holland
Helen Stops To Make Sure She’s Successfully Escaped In ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’
Helen isn’t the kind of character who survives a horror film. In I Know What You Did Last Summer, the 2000s slasher about a group of friends who are systematically slain by a spiteful fisherman, Helen is the party girl of the group. But she manages to put up a fight and almost get away from the madman during a big-time chase sequence.
He chases her through a warehouse, and just before she can run out of an alley and escape into the safety of the Southport, NC, Fourth of July parade, she stops to take one more look around the dark alley. Her unfounded impetus to turn around and look for the maniac after her is exactly what gets her in the end.
Actors: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, + more
Directed by: Jim Gillespie
Tatum Tries To Escape Through A Doggy Door In ‘Scream’
Tatum is easily the coolest character in Scream. She’s smart, funny, and she’s a really good friend to Sidney throughout her ordeal. So why was she given such a terrible final scene? While taking a trip to the garage to grab some brews, Tatum’s confronted by Ghostface. She gets in some good defense, but instead of finishing him off or running back to the party to get help, she tries to crawl through the doggy door and gets stuck.
Ghostface uses this to his advantage and pulls up the electric garage door, taking out Tatum in the process.
Actors: Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Courteney Cox, Liev Schreiber, Neve Campbell, + more
Directed by: Wes Craven
Darry Checks Out The Pipe In ‘Jeepers Creepers’
Darry commits the cardinal sin of bad decisions when he sees the Creeper dumping someone down a pipe and then decides to investigate. The bad ideas keep coming when he leans so hard into the pipe he accidentally falls inside it.
Once he’s down in the pipe, he finds a pile of human remains, which completely ruins his day/life.
Actors: Justin Long, Eileen Brennan, Victor Salva, Gina Philips, Patricia Belcher, + more
Directed by: Victor Salva
Eric Reads The Naturom Demonto In ‘Evil Dead’
After finding a book wrapped in barbed wire featuring notes that say “DO NOT READ THIS BOOK” written in red “ink,” cool nerd Eric reads aloud from the book and releases a malevolent force into the forest.
With this one action, Eric essentially dooms all his friends. There are a lot of bad decisions in horror films, but this is seriously one of the worst.
Actors: Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Rupert Degas, + more
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
The Family Stays In The House In ‘The Amityville Horror’
When the Lutz family moves into their dream house, they’re immediately met with a series of very scary things that are obviously signs of a haunting. There’s a room full of flies, a voice that says “get out,” oozing walls, and George Lutz becomes an abusive husband after years of being an easy-going family man.
Rather than packing up and leaving the house, the Lutzes stick around and put themselves through a harrowing ordeal – and George almost slays his family in the process.
Actors: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Murray Hamilton, Helen Shaver, + more
Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg
The Kids Leave The Furniture Store In ‘Chopping Mall’
When three robots tasked with acting as security for a shopping mall go rogue, they stick to two basic rules: slay anyone who’s in the mall after close and don’t enter the stores. A group of “teens” who are having a party in a furniture store find out the hard way what happens when they leave the safety of the boutique.
Instead of bedding down and waiting out the night, they decide to run around the mall and fight the robots. Great movie, bad decision.
Actors: Barbara Crampton, Dick Miller, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Gerrit Graham, + more
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Dr. Atherton Goes Into A Barn Full Of Venomous Spiders Sans Protective Gear In ‘Arachnophobia’
Can you really blame Dr. Atherton, the renowned arachnologist who discovers a new breed of spider in the Amazon, for wanting to investigate a barn filled with this new species of arachnid? That’s his whole bag.
In spite of being an incredibly smart guy who knows everything about spiders, Atherton still walks straight into the infested barn without anything to protect him from their bites. To make matters worse, he actively draws attention to himself by purposefully slapping a spider web like he’s learning to play the bass.
Actors: John Goodman, Brandy Norwood, Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands, Frances Bay, + more
Directed by: Frank Marshall
The Group Doesn’t Dip Out At The First Sign Of Trouble In ‘The Ritual’
When four friends go hiking in Sweden to honor the passing of their friend, they stumble upon a tree-god-worshipping cult. If they had turned back when a member of their party fell and hurt his knee, though, none of that would have happened.
An even worse decision? Taking a “short cut” through the woods. If you’re in a horror movie, never take a short cut.
Actors: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Kerri McLean
Directed by: David Bruckner
Everyone Splits Up In ‘The Thing’
The American research team was doomed from the start in John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, but the crew might have fared better had they not kept striking out on their own. Right after they learn the entity is slaying and replicating people, the helicopter pilot, Macready, just leaves for a while.
It makes sense why a roughneck like Macready would want to keep to himself, but his disappearance helps sew the seeds of discontent among the crew.
Actors: Kurt Russell, Keith David, John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau, Wilford Brimley, + more
Directed by: John Carpenter
Glen Puts Himself To Sleep In ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’
By the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Glen and Nancy have watched all their friends get slain in their sleep by Freddy Krueger. For some reason, Glen still decides to put himself to sleep with some TV and a big set of headphones rather than stay up with coffee and NoDoz like Nancy.
Why isn’t he taking this nightmare on Elm Street seriously?
Actors: Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Lin Shaye, + more
Directed by: Wes Craven
Micah Taunts The Entity In ‘Paranormal Activity’
Like the bar fights in Road House, hauntings in movies like Paranormal Activity can be avoided by simply being nice. Upon learning his girlfriend has been haunted by an entity since childhood, Micah immediately goes out and buys cameras and a Ouija board in the hopes of making contact with the spirit.
He fully gets his wish when the spirit steps up its haunting and everyone loses their lives. There’s no way this could have been any worse.
Actors: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Randy McDowell, Ashley Palmer, Mark Fredrichs, + more
Directed by: Oren Peli
Cheryl Investigates A Weird Sound In ‘The Evil Dead’
If you’re in a horror film and you hear a strange noise coming from outside, don’t investigate it. After Ash plays a set of tapes that read passages from the Necronomicon (a huge mistake for sure, but also a necessary mistake in terms of narrative), an unspeakable evil is unleashed from Hell and hangs out in the woods waiting for a host.
Everyone in the group couples up except for Cheryl, who hears a strange noise coming from the woods and goes outside to see what it’s all about. Unsurprisingly, she ends up in a world of trouble.
Actors: Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, Scott Spiegel, Ellen Sandweiss, + more
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Kirsty Runs Into The Attic In ‘Hellraiser’
After meeting the Cenobites in her hospital room and agreeing to prove her uncle Frank is alive, Kirsty returns to her father’s home to put an end to the nightmare in which she’s found herself. Unfortunately, by the time she gets to her dad’s house, he’s already been slain by her uncle, who’s now wearing her father’s skin.
Kirsty doesn’t pick up on this immediately, which is strange. When Frank reveals what’s up, Kirsty doesn’t run out of the house; instead, she runs into the attic, where she finds herself stuck between a lascivious Frank and some very angry Cenobites.
Actors: Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Ashley Laurence, Kenneth Nelson, Clare Higgins, + more
Directed by: Clive Barker
Natalie And Paul Don’t Check Their Backseat In ‘Urban Legend’
After all of their friends are slain in ways that parallel popular urban legends, Paul and Natalie should go through life checking the backseat of their cars forever. But for some reason, after escaping a maniacal Brenda who’s been on a rampage, they simply get into a car without checking to make sure they’re alone.
It’s a blunder that almost costs the lives of everyone involved and something that could have been easily avoided.
Actors: Jared Leto, Tara Reid, Alicia Witt, Joshua Jackson, Rebecca Gayheart, + more
Directed by: Jamie Blanks
Jerry Dandridge Keeps Breakable Windows In His Crypt In ‘Fright Night’
Fright Night‘s finale sees Charlie and Peter Vincent chase handsome vampire Jerry Dandridge to his coffin in the basement. They finally defeat him by breaking the blacked-out windows and exposing him to the sun. The decision to not brick up the windows in his crypt takes place off-screen, but it’s definitely very bad.
This is a real oversight on the part of a centuries-old vampire.
Charlie Doesn’t Drop The Whole Vampire Thing In ‘Fright Night’
Charlie is a classic horror nerd hero. When he learns a real-deal vampire, Jerry Dandridge, is living next door to him and his mother, he immediately starts harassing the creature of the night. Instead of slaying Charlie, Dandridge makes the kid an offer: if Charlie stops bothering him, he’ll leave Charlie and his mother alone.
That’s a pretty sweet deal, and by not taking it, Charlie gets his car wrecked, his best friend slain, and his girlfriend turned into a vampire.
Actors: Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall, Chris Sarandon, Art Evans, Heidi Sorenson, + more
Directed by: Tom Holland
Claire Goes Into The Basement In ‘The Innkeepers’
Claire is obsessed with the ghosts she believes haunt the inn where she works. According to local legend, the area with the most concentrated amount of paranormal energy is the building’s basement, which is a huge red flag.
After finding an expired old man in his bathtub, she immediately walks into the basement – and to her doom.
Actors: Lena Dunham, Sara Paxton, Kelly McGillis, Pat Healy, John Speredakos, + more
Directed by: Ti West
The Cops Ignore A Bunch Of Red Flags In ‘Baskin’
After responding to a call for backup in an abandoned police station in the middle of nowhere, a group of police officers find themselves in Hell. Along the way, they ignore a big collection of red flags that could have easily tipped them off to the ghastly situation.
There are a bunch of creepy eggs, they find a load of chains dangling from the ceiling, and there’s a very Satanic looking party taking place.
Mark Lies Down For A Nap In ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child’
What is it with characters in Nightmare on Elm Street movies lying down to take naps when Freddy Krueger is on a spree? One of the worst decisions in Elm Street history happens when Mark lies down to read some comics and immediately falls asleep.
He winds up facing off with Krueger and getting slashed to pieces. Just stay awake!
Actors: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Wally George, Matt Borlenghi, Whit Hertford, + more
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Wichita Turns On Pacific Playland In ‘Zombieland’
One of the main rules in Zombieland is you have to be quiet in order to keep zombies from showing up and eating your face. Wichita does a really good job with this and more or less survives the zombie apocalypse – until she takes her sister to Pacific Playland and turns on all the rides.
After that, every zombie in the state comes running towards the amusement park. Even though Wichita and Little Rock survive, the whole thing could have been avoided had the characters not made such a bad decision.
Actors: Emma Stone, Amber Heard, Bill Murray, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, + more
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Laurie Strode Pauses To Unmask Michael Myers In ‘Halloween: Resurrection’
As far as bad decisions go in horror movies, this is among the worst. In the opening 15 minutes of Halloween: Resurrection, Laurie Strode dangles Michael Myers off the roof of a mental hospital by one of his legs and steals his knife.
All Laurie has to do is slash him or let him drop, but instead, she pauses to remove his mask to “make sure” it’s him. While she’s acting as a concerned citizen, Michael grabs her and uses the momentum of the breaking rope to end her life.
Actors: Tyra Banks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Katee Sackhoff, Bianca Kajlich, + more
Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
Jay Stops Moving In ‘It Follows’
After learning the truth about the entity from the guy who passed it onto her, Jay and her friends take a long drive to Greg’s lake house, and then they just stop. The whole point of the creature is it never stops. The only way you can get away from the creature is to pass it on or just keep moving.
Why Jay stops on a beach for an extended period of time is a complete mystery.
Dr. Gordon Chops Off His Foot With A Saw Instead Of Using It To Grab His Phone In ‘Saw’
By the end of Saw, everything falls to pieces. Dr. Gordon and his cellmate have discovered that no matter how they try to subvert Jigsaw’s “game,” the maniac is one step ahead of them – and the phone Dr. Gordon has been using to contact his family is just out of reach.
To get the phone, his only option is to cut off his foot with a saw – or is it? The phone isn’t too far out of reach, and instead of harming himself, Dr. Gordon could have just raked the phone towards him with the hacksaw and called his family, the police, or literally anyone. The man did not need to cut off his foot.
Actors: Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Shawnee Smith, Dina Meyer, Michael Emerson, + more
Directed by: James Wan
A Teen Tries To Reason With Freddy Krueger In ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street 2’
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 definitely belongs in the book of bad ideas, but within that bad idea is one of the worst decisions in horror history. In the film, Freddy enters the real world and terrorizes a pool party. Before Freddy can wreck the shindig, an unnamed high school student tries to convince him to chill. He tells Freddy to “calm down” and “relax” after the obviously melted guy with a glove covered in knives appears out of nowhere and makes the water in a swimming pool boil.
Obviously, the guy gets sliced across his chest for his troubles.
Corrine Hides The Key To The Theater In ‘Stage Fright’
While at an overnight rehearsal for a play, one of the actors (Corrine) hides the only exit key for the theater. It’s a weird, innocuous move, but when a mysterious maniac starts offing members of the troupe – starting with Corrine – everyone becomes sitting ducks.
With this one bad decision, Corrine essentially ends the lives of her friends.
Actors: Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Mickey Knox, Barbara Cupisti, David Brandon, Domenico Fiore, + more
Directed by: Michele Soavi
Smitty Gets Himself Blown Up In ‘Event Horizon’
Event Horizon is basically Hellraiser in space, and that’s great, but there’s one glaring error that could have saved most of the crew. Halfway through the movie, Captain Miller suspects Dr. Weir has sabotaged the ship with a series of explosives. Miller radios over to Smitty, the ship’s engineer, and tells him the plan.
Smitty then begins a physical search for the devices instead of using the ship’s internal sensors to find and jettison them into space. Bad move.
Actors: Laurence Fishburne, Jason Isaacs, Sam Neill, Joely Richardson, Kathleen Quinlan, + more
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Karen And Eddy Sneak Off To Skinny Dip In ‘The Burning’
When you’re in the middle of a summer camp slasher like The Burning, it’s never a good idea to break away from the group. It’s an especially bad idea to go skinny dipping and argue about whether you and your camp girlfriend should get busy.
While on a canoe trip with junior high age campers, classic horndog types Karen and Eddy sneak off to go skinny dipping – this is while madman Cropsey is stalking the woods and offing people. After taking a dip in the New Jersey waters, the couple argues over whether they’re going to get it on (they don’t) – then Eddy leaves Karen to get dressed in the woods all by herself.
This doesn’t work out well for anyone.
Actors: Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, + more
Directed by: Tony Maylam
Jay Follows The Entity In ‘It Follows’
After Jay and Greg get intimate, the entity in It Follows makes a beeline for the young man, busting into his house in the middle of the night. Jay, a good person who ultimately makes bad decisions, rushes into the house to warn her friend. This is like diving into shark-infested waters because your friend is snorkeling.
You can’t out-swim a shark any more than Jay can stop the entity from slaying her friend.
Actors: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Linda Boston, Jake Weary, Lili Sepe, + more
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Ray Doesn’t Call The Police In ‘The ‘Burbs’
When new, creepy neighbors move into Ray Peterson’s idyllic neighborhood, he suspects they’re weirdos. Rather than call the police, he decides to sneak into their house and wreck everything.
His decision ultimately dooms the neighborhood when he could have nipped the problem in the bud much earlier.
Actors: Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman, Bruce Dern, Henry Gibson, + more
Directed by: Joe Dante
Pam Runs Upstairs In ‘The Prowler’
The characters in 1981’s The Prowler each make their own series of mistakes while running away from the titular prowler, but sorority sister Pam makes a classic horror movie error. After realizing she’s being followed through her dorm by the villain, Pam runs towards the exit. When she finds the door is stuck, she immediately runs upstairs.
It’s not a great move, but she does survive the scene after escaping through another sticky door and then down another set of stairs. Still, it would have been easier to stay on the ground floor.
Actors: Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Christopher Goutman, Thom Bray, Lisa Dunsheath, + more
Directed by: Joseph Zito