In Horror Flicks, The Cell Phone Always Dies FirstScary movies just aren't as scary when the protagonists can call for help -- so it's up to the filmmakers to kill off the pesky mobiles early on. No signal? Dead battery? Dropped the phone in the toilet/sink/fishtank/pool? There are many creative (and not so creative) ways for filmmakers to cut off communication.
STRONG LANGUAGE ADVISORY: In this video, characters say all of the words that people normally say when they realize that their cell phones are not working (and a killer is nearby).
There's a reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street in theaters, and the new Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), is going to have to contend with something Robert Englund never had to face in the original: cell phones.
If teens in peril can just pull out their phones to call for help, the scary movie just isn't as scary. The result is a new horror movie truism: Cell phones only work until Freddy or Jason show up.
This necessitates the disabling of cell phones. There are four basic limitations in the horror film provider package:
There's no signal. This method is employed in the upcoming film The Human Centipede and in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes.
Limited cell phone battery life. It's even shorter than the life of a teenager in a horror film, especially when you've got chatty friends like the characters in The Roost.
"Whoops! I dropped my phone in the toilet, pool, sink ... " Or you could be like Aaron Yoo in Disturbia and drop your phone in the killer's car.
Plan terminated by the killer ... by destroying your phone or politely knocking it into the sink, as Michael Pitt does before terrorizing Naomi Watts in Funny Games.
For close film watchers, these have all become genre cliches in the time between the debuts of the two Freddy Kruegers. Last fall blogger Rich Juzwiak posted a YouTube video compilation of scenes from these and more than 60 other movies illustrating each kind of disconnect.
Maybe horror movies need to check out the service plan over at the end of the world-armageddon-apocalypse genre. After all, cell phone service was quite robust at the end of the world in the movie 2012. India is about to be obliterated, and a guy on top of a mountain peak (about to be wiped out by a tidal wave) calls his friend to say goodbye. If we can just find out who his provider is, maybe we can save those kids on Elm Street from the next Freddy Krueger.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story should have credited the work of pop culture blogger Rich Juzwiak. Juzwiak's YouTube video compilation of movie scenes, which is embedded on this Web page, was among the sources that journalist Beth Accomando used in her reporting and influenced the selection of clips used in our story.
Beth Accomando is a horror movie aficionado who writes the Cinema Junkie blog for KPBS in San Diego. She enthusiastically shared Juzwiak's video with NPR editors, and the editors decided to share the video as part of the Web version of her story. However, we should have credited Juzwiak's blog on this page, rather than depending on the credit Juzwiak included at the end of his video.
Correction May 6, 2010
An earlier version of this article did not adequately attribute a YouTube video created by pop culture blogger Rich Juzwiak. See the Editor's Note below.