Top 10 Twisted Horror Film Moments

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.

The following top 10 list is spoiler heavy and contains detailed plot elements from the following films: Hellraiser, The Mist, The Sixth Sense, The Wicker Man, The Ring, Seven, Saw, Angel Heart, The Blair Witch Project and Sleepaway Camp

10. Hellraiser (1987)

hellraiser_top10filmsAt 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, Film, Stephen King, Frank Darabont,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)

The Sixth Sense, M Night ShyamalanIn 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)

the-wicker-man_top10filmsOne 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)

the-ring_american_top10filmsOne 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)

Morgan-Freeman-Brad-Pitt_SevenWhile 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_film_top10filmsSaw 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)

Angel Heart, Robert De Niro,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)

the-blair-witch-project-ghost-story-filmThree 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)

sleepaway-camp_top10filmsThis 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.

Written and compiled by Dan Grant.

Over to you: What are your fave Crazy/Twisted/WTF moments in horror films?

About the Author
Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

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  1. DerekB Reply

    Not really a horror movie but one that always scared me as a kid was Planet of the Apes. The WTF moment has to be when – WATCH OUT, spoiler coming – Heston discovers the Statue of Liberty.

    Nice number one though. Sleepaway Camp messed with my head – especially that ending.

    • Dan Reply

      Definitely one of my favourite twists. It’s shocking in how much it feels like a punch to the stomach when it arrives and Heston sinks to his knees.

  2. Hooksies Reply

    Seven! It crippled me. What a way to end a fantastic thriller.

    Another for me would be the opening of Scanners with the head explosion. You just don’t expect it and the result is shocking.

    The children tapping on the tent in the Blair Witch also always terrifies me.

    • Dan Reply

      Scanners definitely begins with a BANG!

      The Blair Witch scene in which the tent is seemingly attacked by loads of hands continues to unsettle me every time I see it. I’d say it is my favourite scene from the film (a film I absolutely love).

  3. Ted S. Reply

    Yup, totally agree about Sleepaway Camp’s ending, that scene freaked me out the first time I saw it and I had nightmares. It scared the scrap out me when I was a 13 year old boy, I haven’t seen the movie since but I could never forget that scene.

    Another “horror” film that has a WTF ending was Don’t Look Now, I almost shit my pants when I first saw that movie. Also, I don’t think too many people have seen it but Peter Greenaway’s The Baby of Macon could be consider a horror film, especially it’s shocking and brutal ending.

    • Dan Reply

      Will have to check out The Baby of Macon, Ted. I agree about the ending in Don’t Look Now – the film builds up to it so atmospherically and then, a little bit like the Planet of the Apes twist mentioned in the comments above, it hits you as if from nowhere and is absolutely unsettling – it’s an image that doesn’t fade away when the credits have rolled.

  4. Angelabsurdist Reply

    I just watched THE WICKER MAN today. The clash between civilised religion and paganism and the two men fascinating.
    Anthony Shaffer is a brilliant writer and the way the film was butchered is an atrocity. The fortieth edition restored the film to its original story which is about the Druids’ legendary wicker man and pre-Christian customs (sacrifice of animals, effigies of men).
    There is a sly sense of humour in the film I enjoy.
    A unique film which makes me wonder at the end: who really won or lost?

    • Dan Reply

      It’s one of the best. It gets under the skin, never gives you a clear indication of where it’s heading and then BANG, that shocking climax. One of the best British horror films ever made.

  5. Neal Damiano Reply

    Outstanding list Dan! Nice to see Seven mentioned while not traditionally a horror film, the story certainly is beyond the pale twisted.

    Interesting to see Sleepaway Camp at number one, I think the twisted ending shocked everyone at first view.

  6. CineGirl Reply

    Great choices Dan… Loved that Sleepaway Camp ending. Saw definitely has one of the better twists I’ve seen, it’s a shame the sequels don’t get close to it in terms of its simplistic unpredictability.

    My WTF moment occurs in An American Werewolf in London. After David dreams about the wolf killers he awakens to see the gorgeous Jenny Agutter. As she opens the curtains one of the monsters appears. It’s the jump out of your seat moment on top of another that I wasn’t expecting.

    • Dan Reply

      Good spot CineGirl. There are a number of WTF moments in An American Werewolf in London for me. You mentioned one but the initial werewolf attack on the moors always freaks me out. Landis use of short, sharp cuts and the overbearing screams that fill the soundstage. Then the gun shot to end the horror only to reveal a dead, naked man where the beast should be. Great stuff!

  7. Mark Reply

    Nice list Dan, although I must admit the only one I haven’t seen on it is your number one …. What about Psycho?

  8. Dan Grant Reply

    @Derek B: Planet of the Apes has a terrific WTF moment and when i first saw that movie, that scene shocked he heck out of me.

    @Hooksies: YES!! Scanners definitely has a shocking moment. It was also another film that was considered. It easily could have made the list.

    @Ted S: I am very intrigued and have to admit that I have not seen those two films. I must find them. Thanks for piquing my curiosity.

    Angela: Wicker Man is a film that completely surprised me. I had heard so many good things about it from critics and that set off my warning bells. I find critics don’t appreciate horror so when they sang high praises of it, it left me skeptical. But they got this one right.

    Neal: Always good to see you chime in. Seven is a terrific film and yes the ending of SAC really ruined me for a while in my teens.

    Ciengirl: Yes, another terrific film is American Werewolf in London as well as The Howling, which also has a couple of those moments.

    Mark: Yep, I debated putting Psycho on the list because it is so iconic. Ultimately, it fell just short.

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  9. Rizki Fachriansyah Reply

    ROSEMARY’S BABY dream sequence and the entirety of MISERY.

    • Dan Reply

      Yep! The dream sequence is pretty shocking. It’s those predatory eyes that unnerve me.

  10. Angel Herrera Reply

    Prefer the Japanese version of The Ring but at least the American remake was passable entertainment. While Sleepaway Camp does fit the bill it’s ending always made me think it was a slasher movie “pretender” trying to outdo its far more accomplished competitors with the silliest of silly endings. That said, there’s some great films on this list (Seven, Angel Heart, The Blair Witch Project, Saw, The Wicker Man and The Sixth Sense).

    My crazy moment is going to be in April Fool’s Day. The twist ending – which I won’t reveal – worked perfectly within a film that didn’t take itself seriously at all.

  11. Dan Grant Reply

    Interesting that Rosemary’s Baby is mentioned. Yes, it’s a great movie but for me personally the dream sequence didn’t really shock me.

    As for Ringu, it’s good but not nearly as good as Verbinski’s, imo. And April Fool’s Day never really impressed me all that much, even with the ending being what it was.

  12. RKO Reply

    …the moment when Jack realises in The Shining he’s hugging a rotting old dead woman.

  13. Richard Reply

    Some great wtf moments Dan, love that Sleepaway Camp ending, threw me for six when I first saw it.

  14. Dan Grant Reply

    RKO: yea that was pretty disturbing in the Shining, another one from that movie was when you realize when Danny is saying REDRUM is actually the word murder, as seen in a mirror…chilling.

    Richard, I know right….the ending is singed into my brain. lol

  15. ArchE Reply

    The reanimated hand in Evil Dead 2.

    The single frame flash of the demon in The Exorcist.

    Ben Gardner’s head in Jaws.

    Samuel L. Jackson’s death in Deep Blue Sea.

    The revelation/twist at the end of the blood scene sequence in The Thing.

    The alien’s hand appearing at the end of Alien after Ripley thinks she’s escaped safely.

    • Dan Reply

      Ben Gardner’s head! Yep! One of the best jump-out-of-your-seat moments ever!

  16. Alice Symond Reply

    I like this top 10. Good selections – they brought back some great memories as I’m a big horror fan.

  17. Dan Grant Reply

    ArchE: All terrific selections. Yes, the Ben Gardner head scared the stuffing out of me.

    Alice: Thanks, I had fun writing it too

  18. Evan Crean Reply

    An interesting mix of stuff I’ve seen and stuff I haven’t. Didn’t mind reading the spoilers by the way, since I have a podcast called Spoilerpiece Theatre where we just talk about whatever we want, free of spoiler warnings. Personally my favorite twist on your list is Seven. Thanks to I Love the 90s, I already knew it was coming, but it still worked. Totally messed up and creepy. Kudos for including Angel Heart, which I feel like is a somewhat obscure film people forget about.

  19. Jez Reply

    Great list. Love The Blair Witch Project and Saw (that was a twist I didn’t see coming).

  20. Dan Grant Reply

    Evan: Angel Heart, imo, is one of the all time under rated films.

    Jez: Yep, I didn’t see the twist either in Saw….pretty shocking when it happened.

  21. Gordon A Reply

    Good choice to include Angel Heart. I agree, underrated stuff.

    My addition would be the entirety of Return to Oz. As a child it was the scariest thing my parents had ever let me watch. As an adult it still gives me the shivers. The whole thing is bat s*** crazy!

  22. sundance kid Reply

    Some classic twists here, well done. As well as many of the above mentions, the alien hybrid reveal in Alien 4 has always made me go wtf!

  23. Dan Reply

    There’s a great scene in the underrated Exorcist 3 where a nurse is checking rooms during the night shift at a hospital. All seems quiet, there’s no one around, and all the patients are sleeping. Paced sedately the scene almost silently builds to a great jump-out-of-your-seat moment when a killer emerges stage-left. It’s a brilliant moment! I always have to prepare myself for this one so I don’t jump a mile!

  24. Dan Grant Reply

    Dan: YES! That scene is one of the best horror movie scenes perhaps ever and it should have been included in this list. I think perhaps it slipped my mind because the rest of the film is kind of forgettable imo but holy crap is that one scene awesome!

  25. Painter Reply

    Good list Top 10 Films! Love these choices.

  26. Addy Martin Reply

    The glass decapitation scene in The Omen.

  27. Antique Cinema Reply

    Ah… The joys of the horror film twist. There have been a few that stand out for me in my many years of partaking in a little “scary movie” watching and, it’s reassuring to see, some of those memorable moments are captured right here. Perhaps my own small addition would be from an English director going by the name Hitchcock… first name Alfred. I’m sure the words “shower scene” will tell you all you need to know about the WTF moment I’m referring to…

  28. Greg Carter Reply

    The chest burster in Alien freaked me out.

  29. ArchE Reply

    The spider walk in the extended version of The Exorcist.

    The melting of the hand and foot by Brundle Fly (aka Jeff Goldblum) in The Fly.

    The reveal of the exterior womb in The Brood.

    The end of An American Werewolf in London – “wtf, is that it!?”

    The nanny hanging herself in The Omen (original version).

  30. Dan Grant Reply

    @ArchE: All excellent choices especially, imo, the nanny hanging herself…that shocked me for sure.

    @Greg Carter…yep, that scene was on my radar as well. Alien is definitely a WTF moment movie.

    @Antique Cinema: Again, yep, that too was on my list. I can only imagine what that must have been like in theaters lol.

    @ Addy Martin……I guess there are a lot of moments that could have been included in the Omen.

  31. Greg Pearson Reply

    Yep – Sleepaway Camp got me! Good number one!

  32. Dan Grant Reply

    Just scanning through some of the comments here makes me realize I should go back and watch some of these films again.

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