1. Toys, especially humanoid dolls. It’s been a few decades, but I’ve come to realize I would beat the hell out of Chucky in a fistfight.
2. Exterior shots of old houses, no matter how poorly tended or ill-lit they are.
3. Non-threatening songs played suggestively. “Jeepers Creepers” was the breaking point. If it’s a slow-tempo version sung by a children, I will openly mock your trailer.
4. Children. Let’s get them out of the way here, because they had their moment, but it’s time to reckon that a miniature adult that needs help finding the potty is not creepy. Was Damien creepy in a tiny suit thirty years ago? Yes, but since then we’ve had the time to envision the devil’s son going tux-shopping, and whining, and screaming at the top of his lungs until the babysitter has to run out of Men’s Discount Warehouse without having bought anything. Kids aren’t scary. They just suck.
5. The hero/heroine/stoner-best-friend leans into the unlit house and asks if anyone is there. There’s no response. The house either rumbles quietly with ambient noise, or the soundtrack goads us a little. This was never actually creepy, but you don’t seem to have learned it, so I’m pointing it out.
6. Any lone person standing still on the sidewalk/yard/street, staring up at us. I’d just send some Jehovah’s Witnesses to annoy him until he went away.
7. Festering piles of bugs. Centipedes. Scorpions. Lady bugs. It really doesn’t matter, because any of these in significant quantity will freak out my girlfriend. Now you think that’s great, here’s an item that’s creepy – but it’s not creepy, because she’s raking her nails down my arm and squealing, leaving me not creeped out, but annoyed and bleeding. So, stop that.
8. Skeletons, and this really was an achievement, because there should be nothing more unnerving to a sentient mammal than seeing our insides put outside, dried out, in a calcified signifier of death. But you have placed so many skulls on so many posters, in so many trailers, in so many marketing campaigns, that I actually don’t care.
Brief list of things that are still creepy: we’re not sure if the killer is dead but he’s not moving and we have to get around him, or unlit hallway with open doors (I will sprint to the bathroom tonight, I just know it).