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The Scariest Things Podcast Episode CXXIX: Tricks, Traps, and Puzzle Horror


ATMOSfx! Woo!
The fifty person game of Russian Roulette in Circle (2015)
Shall we play a GAME? For some of the brainiest horror movies, go to the tradition of tricks and traps horror. The punishment for not figuring out how to win the game is often painful and deadly. And face it, you watch reality TV shows to see people get eliminated, right? This horror sub-trope takes that idea to the next bloody level.

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye! With one leg firmly in the world of childhood games and another leg placed in in torture porn, the tricks and traps subgenre can be playful and relatively benign or might be the most horrifying thing you’ve ever seen. The touchstone film of this genre is James Wan’s breakthrough movie Saw, of which most all horror film fans are aware of. It brought torture horror to the forefront, but infused it with layers of gamesmanship, and an element of bait and switch to keep things extra interesting. It was so successful that it has spawned a series of a whopping eight sequels. People love themselves a lose-lose proposition.

This is a cousin sub-genre to the haunted house movie, which often features characters trapped inside a house they can’t get out of. One of the movies that best exemplifies this is glass mechanical house-trap that is the centerpiece of Thi13en Ghosts (2001) . Another adjacent sub-genre is the horror chase film, established early on with The Most Dangerous Game (1932) in which the protagonists are let loose into the wild and are tracked down and hunted like animals. But, hey, at least they are given a head start! And there is the circle of death competition, made most famous by The Hunger Games (2012), but also more savagely done a dozen years earlier in the J-horror classic Battle Royale (2000) and the Schwarzenegger sci-fi actioner The Running Man (1987).

We have focused our efforts for Episode 129 on the intellectual puzzles. The Rube Goldbergian contraptions, and the psychological deduction conundrums. Or, find your way out of a deadly maze. A watchful villain laying out their inscrutable deadly plans. The primary rule of the tricks and traps sub-genre… solve the puzzle and survive for another day. (Or hour…or minute…)

OK, here we go. Roll for detect traps. (wink for those in the know) Episode 129! Your time starts… NOW.

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