1. You encounter a strange, cult-like group that lives in almost total isolation from the outside world. They jealously guard their arcane knowledge and practice some exceedingly cruel rituals. You observe or participate in at least one incredibly awkward sex act. Very strange things happen, sometimes under the influence of narcotics, but you ultimately feel at home there because they give you a sense of family.

2. You find yourself in an opulent but sinister setting that possesses subtle but undeniable links to antebellum slavery. Everyone who has been there longer than you seems to have completely lost the will to live. You are warned by at least one of them to get out. You try to comply but powerful forces keep pulling you back.

3. You attempt to put an end to a manuscript. Yet no matter how many times you get rid of it, a malevolent force keeps returning it to you with increasingly disturbing revisions. Eventually, the manuscript becomes real and possesses you, making you do terrible things.

4. A powerful elder, known to you as The Director, explains that you and your friends must take part in a time-honored rite to appease the Ancient Ones.

5. Your monomaniacal focus and overweening perfectionism push you to the brink of delusional madness and self-harm. The more self-destructive your habits and the deeper your obsession, the more you are applauded by those around you.

6. A group of young, attractive, if somewhat emotionally crippled people, who otherwise seem to have things going for them, have decided upon a secret pact to effectively end their futures. They want you to join them. Dinner parties at other people’s houses are involved.

7. A barely articulated sense of dread follows you wherever you go. Others cannot see it, and it may exist only as a curse, but it often manifests as the presence of an old white person.

8. Carefully hidden from the privileged lives of those on top, a vast underclass toils away below. They are forced to live shadow lives paralleling those of their more fortunate counterparts but with terrible compensation for their efforts. Only those who venture below seem to recognize that this under-class exists, and those who escape from below forget where they came from.

9. The various females around you are far more interesting and do a lot more, but somehow a mediocre white guy ends up as the anointed one of the powers-that-be.

10. You attempt to live an ascetic life according to the strictures of your culture’s rigid belief system. Authority figures regularly berate you, finding you insufficiently devoted. As your future becomes progressively bleaker, a dark voice tempts you with small but wonderful luxuries. You forsake your hard existence in order to live deliciously.

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1. Midsommar (2019), and also your Ph.D. program
2. Get Out (2017), and also your Ph.D. program
3. The Babadook (2014), and also your Ph.D. program
4. The Cabin In the Woods (2011), and also your Ph.D. program
5. Black Swan (2010), and also your Ph.D. program
6. The Invitation (2015), and also your Ph.D. program
7. It Follows (2014), and also your Ph.D. program
8. Us (2019), and also your Ph.D. program
9. Hereditary (2018), and also your Ph.D. program
10. The Witch (2015), and also your Ph.D. program

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Read an interview with Erika Vause about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.