Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Holy Shit!" endings, Part One

Seeing as how it's the end of the year I got to thinking about endings....
Horror movie endings. Some are so cliched and obvious, but still...the first time you see it it can still be a holy shit moment.
And I like that.

Beware!! Spoilers ahead!!
If you haven't seen one or more of the films listed then perhaps you may want to skip over that picture.

Case in point:

The Others

First off we have the only movie of this entire bunch that I had figured out well in advance. Perhaps it was the fact that I'd already seen The Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes. But the children, yeah - they looked dead. Come on, people.
It only took me a short time after realizing that the kids were deceased until I concluded that the mother was also dead as a doornail.

*The Wicker Man

This was a holy shit moment for sure. Those freaky celtic pagan weirdos. Poor Sgt. Howie! What a way to go. And all you wanted was to find that missing (not!) little girl. To end up a fiery sacrifice to the pagan gods? Not cool. Not cool at all. The movie, however - consummate coolness.

The Silence of the Lambs

Though once Agent Crawford makes the discovery that Jame Gumb is indeed, not where they suspected and Agent Starling is in dire straits, the mystery is all but revealed - but when Gumb opens the door to greet Starling, and furthermore she sees the Deaths Head Moth fluttering on his table, it all goes downhill for her from there. Fantastic.
The final scene where Lecter calls Starling and promises not to call on her (while plotting Dr. Chilton's imminent demise) is just icing on the cake.

The Skeleton Key

I like movies about voodoo, or hoodoo as the case may be. I don't think there are enough films about voodoo out there. Someone needs to get to it.
When The Skeleton Key came out I was absolutely interested, and though I've heard unkind remarks about it, I actually like it and feel it contained just the right amount of creepy bayou atmosphere. I was, however, surprised by the ending. Maybe others saw it coming, but when I finally realized the hoodoo ritual had snuffed out Caroline's life as she knew it and the spirit of the former servant had inhabited her body, I couldn't help but emit a wow or two.


Like I said - not enough movies about voodoo.
Angel Heart missed out on alot of its well deserved glory simply because Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet appeared to have sex (and very well might have) on screen. Adapted from the book 'Falling Angel' by William Hjortsberg, the tale of owed souls and ritualistic voodoo still sits high on my list of mysteries. When Harry finally figures out in the end that he is actually Johnny Favorite gets me every time. And on a side note, Mickey Rourke rocks.

April Fool's Day

This campy mid-80's horror film is near and dear to my heart as one of those films that defines your youth. Be it a guilty pleasure or not, April Fool's Day's infamous twist ending was divine. Some don't like it - saying it was a complete sell out - a Bobby's not dead Dallas spin.
But when Kit hurdles into the living room to find all of her previously "dead" friends relaxing and chatting - and then you find out it was all an April Fool's prank? Brilliant.
But I'd have effing killed them, if I were Kit.


Ahh yes, the hand reaches out from beyond the grave. Carrie's final word (or lack thereof).
Probably isn't a more cliched ending than that one, eh? But the first time you see this movie, there isn't anyone alive who could convince me that it didn't scare the living hell out of them. Simple, effective, fun.

Friday the 13th

On my list of all time favorite movie endings (any genre), Friday the 13th had one of the best finishes in horror history. After Alice slices off Mrs. Voorhees' head and floats off in the canoe, you're thinking it's over. You really are, don't lie. And then WHAMMO! Up Jason comes from the lake. God that was great. When I was 13 and seeing this for the first time that was a major shock. And the fact that Jason was so gosh-darn fugly only added to my terrified glee.
To me, the ending here was far superior to the seemingly better film, Halloween. Wasn't much of a shock to find Michael missing when Loomis glanced out the window. But Jason - shit, that kid was supposed to be dead - and they already surprised you by having the mom be the killer.
I don't care what anyone says - brilliant ending.

Haute Tension (a.k.a High Tension, a.k.a. Switchblade Romance)

The ending of Haute Tension - hell, the last twenty minutes! - is widely criticized as a complete disaster - a cop-out of epic proportions. And certainly, this movie has more plot holes than you can shake a stick at.
But the gore is good, the tension (no pun intended) is blatantly evident, and the cover of Superstar by Sonic Youth is sublime. When it is revealed that Marie is actually the killer and has murdered her friend's family (in addition to a number of others) , it is all you can do to stop yourself from slitting your own throat - or at the least rewinding the thing in your head and saying... wait a damn minute here....

Planet of the Apes

More sci-fi than horror, of course, Planet of the Apes boasts a famous and surprising ending by any account.
When Taylor sees what's left of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand and realizes he's been home all along - major shocker. Those damn dirty apes!

The Mist

Wow. That's what I muttered when I finished this film. The depressing ending was one of those ones you chat about with your friends at the watercooler - if I actually had any co-workers that watched horror :(
I'd read the Stephen King novella, so I thought I knew what to expect. Not so much. The director of the film changed up the last act, and though it was disheartening, I have to admit it was powerful. When David shoots everyone in the car but himself (only because he ran out of bullets) and then realizes they were about to be rescued it is one of the most heartbreaking moments in a horror film, ever.

Still to come: Part Two....

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Stephanie Fey said...

Odd. I remember figuring out the ending to Sixth Sense but not The Others. I don't think with The Others I was looking for a twist, as such - perhaps that's what made it all the more surprising when it happened! Thanks for the reminder of some awesome endings! Steph x

: said...

THE MIST: One of my favorite horror films of the last 10 years. An underrated masterpiece, IMO.

That ending left my wife and I absolutely *shaken*. I don't think we spoke to one another for half an hour after the movie was over . . . we were just *stunned*. Speechless.


Matt said...

Cool list! I'd like to nominate Sleepaway Camp, The Descent, and Martyrs too.

William Malmborg said...

Matt, I agree with you on Sleepaway Camp 100%. Wow. I so want that last scene as my screensaver for my computer.

The ending of The Others was pretty good. Fooled me. Halfway through the movie I was even bugging my brother and saying things like 'I bet they are dead' just to annoy him, not really believing it myself, and then, well, we were both surprised.

The ending for The Mist was a shocker. I too had read the story and though I knew what was coming. The ending made the movie in my opinion. I sent so many people to the theater after that just so they could see the great 'surprise ending', as I'm sure many other people did as well.

Christine Hadden said...

Matt & William: Sleepaway Camp is coming up in part 2. Wouldn't leave that one off;)

And I agree The Mist was just awesome. The whole movie was good, but the ending - so powerful, affecting, and compelling.

the jaded viewer said...

Sleepaway Camp still haunts me. Why does the screen turn into a green tint?

I thought High Tension rocked until that stupid twist. It didn't make sense whatseover.

B-Sol said...


Franco Macabro said...

Great list of holy shit endings!

The Wicker Man ending, when I first saw that movie I was left in shock!

The message behind that movie is what got to me.

The people of Summer Isle were simply following their rituals, same as a christian might. In the past, christians sacrificed animals to their God, and heck, lets not forget, that Jesus himself was supposed to have been crucified. They killed a man on a cross for the sake of religion, same as the people of Summerisle sacraficed a man for the same reason.

In reality, the film is just helping us see how crazy fanatism is. How it can blind you and make you do crazy shit. The people of Summerisle thought their god was the sun, but in reality, its just the sun. It warms christians and pagans alike. It was only their God in their minds. Still, it is because they believed the whole mythology that they did what they did.

I thought the movie was so powerful. It shocked the hell out of me!

Same with Angel Heart and yeah, hell yeah...The Skeleton Key! I thought I was alone in loving that movie so much! That ending is amazing!

Steven W. Bentley said...

I'm intrigued by your response to Friday the 13th. Really, it's yet another play on the Carrie shock ending. Jason is well-established as being dead, and the final girl has obviously dreamed this, and gone more than a bit off her rocker. The sequel, bringing Jason to life, never worked for me as a result. Excellent Blog.

Christine Hadden said...

Thank you Steven, for the compliment! I suppose the F13 ending for me is sentimental in that I was only 12 or 13 when it came out and was freaked out by that ending. I didn't think about how Carrie got there first with the shock ending, I'm not sure I saw Carrie till after my F13 viewing. Of course later I realized that Carrie was really the original "gotcha!" ending, but by then I was too far gone with my love of Friday the 13th :)

Oh, and yes - the continuity between part 1 and 2, with bringing Jason to life is quite ridiculous, and I lost my love for the series after part 3...