Warning: prepare to be scared… Very, very scared! Top 10 Films joins Dan Grant as he looks at 10 crazy, twisted, “what just happened” moments in horror cinema…
Horror movies are a strange breed of film. They basically prey on our fears and people see them so they can be frightened. Strange that a part of the populace enjoys watching death and pain. Maybe it’s because we all know it’s make believe and because it’s not really happening, that makes it okay. Over the years, dating back perhaps eight decades, we have liked the twist ending, or the WTF moment in horror films. You gasp, you cover your eyes and then you laugh once the film is over. You are safe but damn it was fun to watch it all unfold.
And then of course if the film is really good, you go back and see it again. You want to see if you can now pick up on what you missed. Not all the films on this list are “surprise endings”, in fact, not all of these films are just about the endings. They are just films that had moments that shocked you in the best way possible.
10. Hellraiser (1987)
At the end of the movie, Frank is about to kill his niece, Kristy. Frank has managed to escape Hell, and the Cenobites. The Cenobites, led by Pinhead, form a realm of Hell and take humans into that realm to perform sadomasochistic experiments on them. Just as Frank is about to kill his own niece, the Cenobites show up and inflict the kind of pain on him that you might expect to see in the movie Salo or Men Behind the Sun. What makes this so shocking is the way it is filmed. For a movie with a budget of about $10,000, they got every cent out of the special effects budget to make Frank’s demise look as sickeningly real as possible. Frank is attacked by a myriad of hooks that pierce his skin. They land on his face, his chest, legs, arms and everywhere in between. With Frank in an excruciating amount of pain, he manages to utter, “Jesus wept,” just before the hooks tear him to pieces. Clive Barker wrote the story and directed the film.
9. The Mist (2007)
The Mist left my stomach sore. Based on a Stephen King story, a small town is left in ruins after what looks to be a military experiment gone wrong and some of the survivors huddle together in the local grocery store. They are unable to go outside because whatever is out there, in the Mist, is systematically picking them off one by one. When a small group of survivors make a run for it, they know their time is short and their chance of survival is not good. They decide as a unit that if they are to be taken by the monsters, or die by gunshot, they will die by gunshot. Thomas Jane plays the leader of the group, and at the end of the film, they are out of gas, trapped in the vehicle and the monsters are approaching. The camera pans back and you see the gunshots go off in the vehicle. Jane is left crying as he just killed his son and friends. As the sounds grow closer, out of the mist, the military emerges, basically eliminating the threat. And Jane is left to wallow in his own misery. It left me feeling ill.
8. The Sixth Sense (1999)
In a summer of terrifying horror films (Blair Witch and Stir of Echoes were also terrific), The Sixth Sense might be the most memorable. If you don’t know the twist by now, then you have been living in a small village in Bora Bora for the last 15 years. All throughout the film, young Cole works with child psychologist Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) to get over his claim of being able to see dead people. By the end of the film, in one of the more chilling scenes, we discover that Dr. Crowe is also dead and wasn’t aware of it, until that very moment. This film spawned a litany of copycats but it remains one of the best twist or WTF endings out there.
7. The Wicker Man (1973)
One of the all time great “horror movies” of the 70’s sees an uptight and by the book investigator arrive at a remote British island/colony to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. As his investigation unfolds, he learns that there is witchcraft and paganism at play here. By the end of the movie, he is used as a human sacrifice and placed in a giant Pagan statue of sorts, called the Wicker Man. He is then sacrificed, by fire, along with goats and cows and other living creatures., all to appease whatever god these heathens are worshiping. Christopher Lee has one of his best roles as a complete lunatic named Lord Summerisle. The ending of the film really caught me off guard and as the film ends, you just watch the giant wicker statue burn and you hear the faint cries and moans of those burning in it.
6. The Ring (2003)
One of the most atmospheric horror films to come out in the last 20 years, The Ring is a remake of the Japanese film called Ringu. In it, if you watch a videotape, you get a phone call telling you that you have seven days to live. From here, the mystery is unravelled as Rachael, played by the stunningly beautiful Naomi Watts, frantically searches for a way to stop it from happening as her son has now seen the tape. When she discovers the dead Samara at the bottom of the well, ostensibly, her soul is now at rest and the curse is broken. WRONG. The scene in question actually got a friend of mine to leave the theater in pure terror, no joke. Samara, the bitch causing all the havoc, is seen, on TV, crawling out of a well, then creeps slowing and ominously towards the TV, so she is getting closer to the audience, and then she comes out of the TV and basically petrifies to death the person watching. I still have trouble watching that scene years later.
5. Seven (1995)
While not a straight up horror film, there’s enough horror elements in here to qualify for this list. The ending especially. Two police detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, have caught their killer, who has based his killing spree on the seven deadly sins. The killer has two victims unaccounted for and he agrees to take them to find the last two victims. As they head out to an isolated wasteland, a van approaches and in it, a box is given to them by the deliveryman. In it, is Mills wife’s head. The killer says he killed her because he was envious of Mill’s life (sixth deadly sin). Mills, then uses his wrath (seventh deadly sin) to shoot the killer. This was all according to plan. Seven is a very good movie, but it becomes great in the last 10 minutes.
4. Saw (2004)
Saw is the story of a killer who is trying to teach people a lesson. He has entrapped two victims in a dingy warehouse and to make matters worse there is a dead man in the middle of the room, blood oozing from his head. The killer has given them an option. The option is not the most pleasant of scenarios as to free themselves, they must cut off their own foot, which is chained to the wall. Along the way, this cat and mouse game sees the two victims try to outsmart their unseen captor, but he is perpetually one step ahead of them. At the end of the film, after one of the victims has cut off his own foot, we discover that the killer, the infamous Jigsaw, played beautifully by then character actor Tobin Bell, is actually the supposed dead man in the middle of the room and he was controlling the game right in front of their noses. The “dead man” rises up, and then locks the other victim in the room, left to die.
3. Angel Heart (1987)
Mickey Rourke plays Harold Angel, a private investigator hired by a “religious loony” named Louise Cypher. He is looking for a 50’s singer named Johnny Favorite. Cypher only wants to know if he is alive or dead. Along the way, Angel finds dead bodies and then a shocking revelation at the end of the film. Angel is Johnny Favorite but has no memory of who he is because he got drafted into the war and got amnesia afterwards. Before, he made a deal with the devil, for stardom. The devil, Lucifer (Louis Cypher) has finally found him after 12 years. We find out when Johnny does and it quite literally sent shivers up my arms.
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Three young adults named Heather, Josh and Mike embark into the Maryland woods to make a documentary about a legend called the Blair Witch. During the film, they get lost and are hunted and teased by some unforeseen force. Josh eventually disappears and at the end of the film, the other two think they hear his voice coming from a dilapidated house in the middle of the forest. Before all of this, we are told of the legend of the Blair Witch. She, it was said, was shy but a cold blooded killer and she would make her victims stand in a corner as she killed them, because she didn’t want to see their faces as she murdered them. When Heather comes down the stairs, she sees Mike standing in the corner, with his back to her. The last shot of the film is her camera being thrown to the ground and we end with her screams on the soundtrack.
1. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
This low budget film came out during the peak of the horror boom in the 80’s and because of this, it was mostly ignored. The Fridays and Nightmares and Halloweens were dominating at this time. But not only is this film frightening, it has the biggest WTF ending of all time in my opinion. Shy and introverted Angela is sent to summer camp. While there, counsellors and other campers end up dead. Angela looks to be one of the potential victims, and like a typical horror film, we will find some bit player in the film as the killer. WRONG! Angela turns out to be not only the killer but she is actually a HE. The real Angela, his sister, died years ago, and his crazy, demented, sick, perverted, BITCH of a mom, dressed him in a girl’s outfit for years. We find out that Angela is a really a boy, when he reveals himself, buck-naked, his member clearly visible, holding the head of his final victim. He is also screeching out some terrible kind of horror movie moan. It’s an image, to this day, 31 years later, that has never left my brain. I’m the real victim here.
There are others that have been left off the list but could have been added. Films like Psycho, Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead (among others) were considered.