Ok, we all know that Rosebud was a sled, that Darth was
Luke’s father and that those damn apes turn against and enslave
us on our very own planet. But who cares? Horror/thriller films have been
putting together shocking-head-scratching endings since the genre was
created. In fact, if you go see a horror/thriller that doesn’t have
a ‘second ending’ you’ll undoubtedly feel cheated and
wait until all the credits roll, the lights come up and the theatre ushers
are sweeping popcorn kernels off the floor from under your feet in anticipation
of one last shock.
So here is a list of the Top 10 endings in horror/thriller history:
10) THE SIXTH SENSE
Sure, the film is not truly a horror film. But it has dead people and
enough bone chilling spooks to get a vote from this critic. The ending
which reveals that Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) is actually a goner himself
is one that had audiences gasping and then lining up again and again to
watch the film with a new perspective. It was estimated that in the year
of its release, 1/6th of the films overall gross were individuals returning
to the theatre to watch it all unfold again. Director M. Night Shyamalan
became known since as the Rod Serling of moviedom. Someone who will take
everything you have known or thought you had known over the past two hours
and then twist it in such a way that the drive home becomes an open discussion
on the interpretation of events. The Sixth Sense was his crowning achievement.
9) THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
Like it or hate it for its unsteady camera work, The Blair Witch Project
was a box office surprise about a group of documentary filmmakers setting
out to uncover the truths behind the legend of the Blair Witch. The film’s
tension is slow building and the gore is non-existent, but the use of
a hand held camera makes you believe that you are in the forest alongside
Michael, Josh and Heather – searching for answers – fighting
for survival. By the time the frantic ending arrives and as the camcorder
works its way towards an abandoned room of an old house, you will have
experienced a terrifying evening and a film ending that proves that you
don’t have to spray blood all over the screen to get an audience
An interesting entry into the Top 10. Aliens was James Cameron’s
sequel to the Ridley Scott masterpiece and by some arguments, the film
outdoes the first for thrills and chills. Released in 1986, Cameron’s
vision had the only surviving member of the first encounter (Ripley, played
by Sigourney Weaver) going back to the planet that bared her grief to
fight the alien(s) once more. Coming in at 137 minutes, the film was a
roller coaster ride of fun where no one seemed likely to survive. Then,
just as the music turned soft and Ripley, Bishop and Newt had made it
safely off the planet, the fun really began. Hitchhiking a ride back to
the mother ship was the Queen alien who – while most of us were
putting on our jackets thinking the carnage was at an end – rips
Bishop in two and gets Ripley to yell the infamous line, “Get away
from her, you bitch!”. Their fight was one of the best People vs.
Alien scraps in movie history and the ending was truly worthy of the extra
20 minutes of investment.
7) WAR OF THE WORLDS
Probably the title that will produce the most groans amongst the Top
10, but hear me out. The same ending that was applauded in the 1953 version
was hated in the Tom Cruise remake. The movie built on our fears of invasion
back in the early 50’s. Aliens have come to planet earth and started
to kill indiscriminately. Their ships hovered down our streets and destroyed
everything and everyone in sight. Our weapons against the machines were
futile. Our survival bleak. But then out of the blue, the alien ships
began to peter out and crash on their own as if Godlike forces intervened.
As we are to find out, the aliens were unable to adapt to our atmosphere
and they started dying in heavy numbers. The ending proved to be something
of hope for those that were fortunate enough to sit through the first
film in a darkened theatre. Weapons and armies were ineffective, but humans
outlasted the superior force in the most unlikely of ways. An ending that
might be for most anti-climatic, but look beyond the simple solution.
It was sheer brilliance.
6) THE THING
Talk about anti-climatic. The thing from another planet was a creature
that was able to take human form, and the scientists stranded in the Antarctic
outpost are exhausted from fighting the beast while constantly keeping
an eye out on their fellow man wondering if they were human or an alien
copy. Their numbers dwindle and their survival depends on the destruction
of what has become a rather large and angry entity. Their solution to
the invading presence is to blow up their compound which leaves two survivors,
Childs and MacReady (Keith David and Kurt Russell) out in the cold with
nothing more than their jackets on their backs and the booze in their
belly to keep them warm. Not knowing if either one is 100% human, Childs
asks, “What do we do now?”. “Why don’t we just
wait here for a while… see what happens” is MacReady’s
response. Their plight is implied and the ending is one of the most understated
in horror film history.
5) ROSEMARY'S BABY
A film far more spooky than scary, Rosemary’s Baby was a fascinating
movie going experience in 1968. The film surrounded an average couple
(Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) who move into a new apartment where they
seem to be surrounded by neighbors and friends that are about as strange
as an Access Hollywood episode without a Britney Spears reference. When
the Farrow character becomes pregnant after having a dream about a creature
raping her, everything and everyone seem to get even stranger. After the
birth, we get the ending that both wowed and scared us simultaneously.
By the time Rosemary hears that her child “..has his father’s
eyes”, we are wrapped up in a story about witches and deals with
the devil. Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t hold up as well today,
but this was 40 years ago and the thought of something happening to a
child was unthinkable, and the ending – unimaginable.
4) INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Not the original – although that one had its moments. The 1978
version starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy and Brooke
Adams had an ending that still sends shivers up my spine. As the group
above uncovers that humans are being replaced by copies incapable of emotion,
it is a race for their survival, and one that will end in futility. Directed
by Phillip Kaufman the film captures the late 70’s in true fashion
right down to Sutherland’s tweed jacket. The film took the original
premise and updated it with color and more frightening scenes of bodies
in the process of being replicated. While everyone around them is being
replaced by aliens, Adams and Sutherland hold out hope for mankind’s
survival. But the ending comes as a shock to both Adams and the audience
as Sutherland, while recognized by Adams on the street, turns, points
and lets out an alien shriek that sunk audiences back into their seats
with the realization that the human race was doomed.
3) FRIDAY THE 13TH
The original. The one that didn’t have Jason Voorhees as the hockey
masked killer, but did give him a cameo that simultaneously had audiences
jumping in their theatre lounges. The year was 1980. The place was Camp
Crystal Lake. Unassuming horny camp counselors are picked off one by one
in gruesome fashion. Friday the 13th was not the first of its kind, but
it did usher in two more decades of low budget slasher films trying to
copy the film’s successful template. But for all the stabbing, impaling
and axing of the characters, it was the ending that left audiences with
heartbeats showing through their tight sweaters.
After beheading Mrs. Voorhees on the beach in a gripping slow-motion
action, Alice (Adrienne King) takes refuge from the night of terror in
a boat on the peaceful lake. The music plays soft when all of a sudden
a young Jason Voorhees jumps out of the water and lunges at poor Alice.
It was an unforeseen event in a movie that was full of frightening scenes.
Although we had known that Jason drowned in the water years previous,
no one in the audience was expecting the jolt. The film went on to spark
multiple sequels, each one trying to replicate the original’s shock
ending in hopes of continuing the exploits of our favorite serial killer.
It would be depressing if a Stephen King adaptation didn’t make
the Top 10 somewhere. Carrie fits the bill admirably. After killing just
about everyone on prom night our hero/villain with telekinetic powers
suffers her own fate. The prom night bloodfest courtesy of director Brian
DaPalma was incredibly energized stuff. As the fire erupts and the entrances
are locked securing everyone’s doom, the screen goes red with blood
But for all the blood soaked prom dresses and rented tuxedos, it was
Amy Irving’s visit to Carrie’s grave site in a dream sequence
that had me heading home to quickly do a laundry. As flowers are laid
on the fresh grave a hand immediately pops out of the ground and the scene
did for a 2-D flick what many 3-D films couldn’t. It was as if Carrie’s
hand had thrust out and grabbed our own. The ending was the most talked
about film sequence of 1976 and the film went on to make careers out of
Spacek, Travolta and a future Mrs. Spielberg. Classic!
1) SLEEPAWAY CAMP
Hands down. I remember the VHS box art like it was yesterday. A child’s
shoe being punctured with a hunting knife. But it was the ending that
will go down as one of the most bizarre and shocking in film history.
Earlier, e meet a shy Angela whose parents were killed in a boating accident.
Now living with her aunt, Angela is sent to camp where bizarre things
begin to occur to counselors and children alike. Although as a viewer,
you might believe that Angela might have something to do with the various
‘freak’ accidents, nothing could prepare you for an ending
that still makes me gasp and giggle at the same time.
The 1980’s spawned countless low budget horror films that are
all interchangeable, and for 99% of the film’s running time, Sleepaway
Camp was no different. But, the ending reveals something about the main
character that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. And it comes with
a closing lullaby that makes me wish I could click my heels and go back
to the 1980’s all over again. Joy! You have to see it to believe
it and it clearly takes the gold ribbon as the number one ending in horror