Warning: Some Spoilers
Over the holidays, I watched quite a few movies with my family, one of which was Barbarian. I’ve seen it before, but what struck me on the second viewing were the horror movie props of the mattress, the bucket, and the camera.
I loved the conversation between Tess and Keith when Tess is trying to explain how terrified she is of that room, and Keith can’t seem to understand her fear. He can’t imagine anyone being scared of a mattress, a bucket, and a camera. In part, I feel that this is a divide between men and women, with women understanding the terrifying implications of such a setup while men might not grasp the fears these things instill in us. (Either that, or Tess has watched a fair bit of horror, and Keith hasn’t.)
In any case, there are several horror movie props that terrify me on a visceral level. Just viewing them puts me in a horror mood. Here are my top four.
Horror Movie Props 1—Stained Mattresses
Stained mattresses make an appearance in many horror flicks. The one that comes immediately to mind is the one in the original Hellraiser movie. Not only do I think of blood-stained mattresses as disease-ridden and gross, but it’s always a question of how the mattress got that way in the first place. Then there’s the American Horror Story Hotel idea that something (or someone) is stuffed inside that mattress. If I spy a dirty mattress in a movie, I know something bad is about to happen.
Horror Movie Props 2—Old Cribs
Going with the bed theme, the next item of fear is a broken-down crib. Cribs are supposed to be sweet, carrying the promise of innocence. But when those cribs are neglected-looking, you know there’s a story behind it. I used an old crib as an image in the cover for my book Restless Spirits because I thought it captured the essence of the ghostly manor. In other places, cribs have showed up in classics like Rosemary’s Baby. Sometimes, they’re posted in passing, such as in Deadstream. The broken-down cribs lend a lot of great atmosphere.
Horror Movie Props 3—Bathtubs
Bathtubs full of water promise all kinds of terrible things. The bathtub scene in Nightmare on Elm Street carved itself into my brain and made me fear taking a bath for quite a while. But at least that water was clean! If you’ve seen Deadstream, you’ll not forget the bathtub full of noxious, vile ‘water’. I had a strong suspicion of what was about to happen when I saw that evil thing, but watching it play out made me very squeamish.
Last but not Least—Chains
Okay, I’ve saved the scariest for last. For some unknown reason, chains scare the life out of me. Especially chains hanging from the ceiling (bonus points if the room is a warehouse). I don’t have a lot of personal experience with chains, other than the winter kind that go on tires, but when I see them in movies I get chills every time.
This atmospheric prop shows up in so many horror movies. Whether it’s Freddie’s lair in Nightmare on Elm Street, or the hanging of Jason Voorhees, chains provide a terrifying backdrop to every scene they’re in.
So what do you think? What horror props scare you the most? Let me know in the comments.
If you’d like to read more of my ramblings or simply catch up on what I’ve been writing, consider signing up for my newsletter. I generally send them out twice a month, and they’re full of freebies and news. If you sign up with the link, you can receive a free copy of my novella, The Devil’s Door.