Akemi has decided she wants to invite some friends over for a movie night next week and asked me to recommend a good horror film.  I thought about it and realized that my favorites, the ones that left a lasting, unsettling, impression, always did two things well: they built to a horrifying climax and then punctuated it with a chilling final scene. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.  And, nowadays, most every horror movie aspires to that shocking closer, the twist or heart-stopping surprise that will have the audience jumping out of their seats.  Unfortunately, modern audiences are pretty savvy.  They’ve caught on to what have become the expected cliches (The killer is just playing dead!  It was all a dream/NO IT WASNT!  The ghost/killer/demon appears in the mirror!) so spooking them has become a lot harder.  Still, occasionally, they do succeed in burning that last terrible image into your memory.  What follows are a few of my personal favorites…

2

[REC]

This Spanish entry into the found footage sub-genre delivers some great scares in the form of a television reporter investigating the mysterious outbreak at an apartment building.  Our intrepid reporter ends up on the wrong side of a quarantine and, pretty soon, she becomes the story.

1

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

A rare SF entry to this list, this film tells the tale of a near-future Earth under attack by alien life forms capable of assuming human guise.  The paranoia and suspense are ratcheted up as survivors attempt to stay one step ahead of the suddenly all-too-familiar invaders.

1

FREAKS

An unsettling film on many levels, this black and white shocker is set in a circus where a scheming opportunist runs afoul of the wrong folks.

1

CARNIVAL OF SOULS

Many movies have since mined the same twist, but Carnival of Souls was the first one to do it – and, more importantly, the first I saw do it. A woman survives a car crash and soon after finds herself the target of bizarre forces.

1

BURNT OFFERINGS

I have a soft, terror-filled spot in my heart for horror movies from the 70’s, particularly this one.  Oliver Reed, Karen Black, and Bette Davis are the unfortunate family members charged with the caretaking of a gothic estate.

1

DARK WATER

A single mother discovers a water stain on the ceiling of her apartment. Her curiosity about the upstairs tenant leads her to learn of the disappearance of a little girl…

1THE SENTINEL

Another 70’s entry and another one involving a young woman moving into a suspect apartment.  The ending kept me awake for nights – and scanning tenement windows for staring nuns.

1JU-ON

A Japanese twist on the haunted house motif.  When I first sat down to watch this movie, the person who was with me at the time was so freaked out she made me turn it off.  If this movie taught me anything, it’s that in addition to checking under your bed before you go to sleep, you may also want to check under your covers.

1

THE SHINING

A classic full of wonderfully chaotic/terrifying imagery: the blood, the twins, the woman in the bathtub, the guy in the pig mask and, of course, that final haunting photo…

1

SPOORLOOS

A man, desperate to find out what became of his missing, learns too late he should’ve left well enough alone.

1

CARRIE

Another classic, and one of the first to teach us:  It aint over ’til it’s over!  And even then…

1RINGU

The remake was surprisingly good, but nothing beats the original – and the first time Sadako makes her big appearance.  This movie will make you think twice the next time you consider peeking down that dark well.

1

DON’T LOOK NOW

A family mourning the death of their daughter visits Venice.  As a serial killer stalks the city’s dark canals by night, the grieving father believes his recently deceased daughter, in her tell-tale red raincoat, is visiting him from beyond the grave.

1THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

A trio of teens get lost in the woods – and horror ensues. Groundbreaking at the time, it has been oft-copied, but none have come close to capturing the dread of that final image.

So, those were my picks.  Weigh in with your thoughts and selections!

40 thoughts on “April 13, 2013: Scariest Endings!

  1. As I read the post, I WAS going to say that I was delighted that I hadn’t seen any of these horror shows. I was sure that I’d only ever seen one horror movie in my life and I was positive that It’s Alive wouldn’t have made your cut. However, when I got to Carrie I realized I’ve actually seen TWO horror pics in my life and I’m not happy about it…

    After I saw It’s Alive I had to barricade myself in bed completely surrounded by my carefully placed stuffed animals (absolutely no spaces allowed) for MONTHS so that nothing could climb up the side of my bed to get me… it would have to go through my stuffies first… I guess I figured they would give the battle cry to wake me up… Lol!!

    K

  2. Heyyyyy wait a minute… I may have just discovered the initial cause of my chronic life long battle with insomnia….

    K

  3. blair witch is the only movie where I walked out of the theater before it ended as we thought it was terrible. I vaguely remember the general reaction being that you either loved it or hated it.

  4. euuuuwwwww…..this kind of horror is definitely NOT my cuppa. I R a big time coward and wuss. And, not ashamed to admit it.
    Some of the pix above are enuff to give me the shivers….

  5. Oh man, I had to fast forward thru this entry,, too scared,, getting ready for bed. I never watched The Twilight Zone either, yea I know, heap big chicken,,yep thats me.. Hope Akemi’s movie night is a fun one!

  6. I’m not a big fan of horror films. But, I do like the movie Freaks (1932). I didn’t find it scary at all though. So, it might not be what she’s looking for.

    How about Alien or The Thing?

  7. My selections included the Shining, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but I also had a few different ones.

    Christine:
    Yeah, it’s predictable and silly in spots, but as a “car guy”, it’s just fun.

    Ghost Story:
    The whole female-ghost-family-vengeance thing freaked me out at the time (yeah, I dated some psychos in my 20’s…why do you ask?)

    The Woman in Black:
    I first saw this as a play at the Olney Theater in Maryland in the late 80’s and was impressed with how much they leveraged the imagination through a creative use of sounds, sudden breezes, even chilled air. I saw it as a play again in the late 90’s in one of London’s west end theatres. It was as good as the first time. The latest movie was good (and recommended), but I still enjoyed the plays more.

    Alien:
    A spaceship, a scary human eating alien, a psycho android, what could be better?

    On a side note, I’ve never been a fan of the blood-and-gore hacker/slasher films (Texas Chainsaw whatever, the Jason films, Nightmare on Elm Street, et cetera).

  8. Speaking of the Ring Joe. Sadako 3D came out in Japan last year, it’s being titled The Ring 3 when it eventually gets brought over. Something to look forward to at least. I think they’re doing another one too? It’s amazing how Sadako still inspires, inspires some dreadful adaptions, and some decent ones too lol

    I’m really not hugely into horror movies so I can’t offer much in the way of suggestions beyond what you’ve already mentioned Joe.

    That said a movie called The Descent was kinda cool If you like movies about a group of people wondering around a dark cave system with no way out which they ended up in, but they’re not alone, and one by one they start getting picked off by these creature things. It’s really low budget but quite effective. Infact it has a lower budget than the Stargate SG1 movies that were done. They made a sequel too.

    You could always look up The Descent if its of interest.

  9. daphne du maurier fan, so I got Don’t Look Now without really looking at what it was about. I came in the mail, opened it, started reading. it, got to the alley scene, turned the page.. yep another STORY. I thought it was a BOOK not story collection, lol.

    Movie wise.. not into horror at all. Give me mild stuff like the Frank Langella “Dracula.”

  10. Manhunter kept me up for awhile. William Petersen pre-dates Silence of the Lambs. AND Hannibal is a prequel to THAT. It’s the show currently giving me nightmares. 2 eps in & I’m amazed it’s on network TV. ((Shiver))

  11. I love me a good scary movie!!! I love to watch them late at night. I like to start one about 11 o’clock or midnight. Got to get the full effects!

    You’ve got some good selections Joe. I’ll have to watch Ringu and Rec. Think I’ve seen the others except Freaks. I see your Blair Witch and raise you Paranormal Activity. Minus the shakey camera. And I loved Dark Water in the English version too. Just as scary!

    So many good scary movies to choose from. If you really want to scare the pee pee out of Akemi and her friends, watch The Exorcism of Emily Rose. My number #1 pick, based on a true story, it still haunts me today. I guarantee at night she will be cozing up to you…well, nevermind. It is a good court drama too.

    One of my favorite ones to watch is The Eye 2. By Chinese film makers, I believe. It is very, very weird. I realized that the Chinese are very superstitious in their beliefs about healing and the dead.

    Want some eye candy with your horror? Watch the Kurt Russell version of The Thing.

    I saw Poltergeist at the theater late one night and was forever looking over my shoulder and snapping my neck, looking around, hearing noises.

    The Amityville Horror, forget the movie and read the book! You’ll be sleeping with the lights on for a year. Same with The Shinning. The book is better.

    An old movie called The Changeling with George C. Scott is a great haunted house scary mystery. Very impressive!

    Check out Session 9. Very scary all the way to the end!

    Don’t forget Deliverance. An oldie but goodie! Although I didn’t think it was that “scary”, a lot of people did.

    I could go on and on…!

  12. I don’t like scary movies. On your list the only one I’ve seen is Freaks – I actually own that one, too. Figures, eh? 😉

    I would say that my list would include the handful of scary/thriller movies I’ve actually seen, such as Diabolique, See No Evil (Mia Farrow), and maybe my absolute favorite, Terror House/Terror at Red Wolf Inn/Folks at Red Wolf Inn – it has a million names.

    http://reel-bad.blogspot.com/2010/03/terror-at-red-wolf-inn.html

    I dare ya to try to find that one! I’ve only seen it once maybe 25-30 years ago and it left such a lasting impression on me that I have never, ever forgotten it. It was just…different. Eerie in such a way that even though it had a rather slow pace it just sucked me in and made me watch it…and remember it. And the ending scared the crap out of me because it was such a ‘sleepy’ movie I never consciously noticed the building tension until it peaked. Good stuff, imho, for a B movie.

    Very tired – visited folks this morning, ran up the road to watch a couple rugby matches, stopped by to see the in-laws, got home just in time to go to a neighbor’s for dinner and an evening spent sitting around the fire, telling tales. I am POOPED!!! 😛

    das

  13. On my list, The Omen and The Omen 3 (The Final Conflict). Scary stuff!

    Just got back from Savannah, GA. My daughter and I (oh, yeah, and Anakin/Michael) went to pick up a dog for a rescue group here. His family gave him back after 3 1/2 years because the daughter moved to California and left the dog with her mother, but the mother doesn’t really want the dog, so the poor thing is stuck in a bad situation now. His name is Stewey, a real Heinz 57 with ears that look like a Klingon Bird of Prey, and he’s about 60 lb, cute as can be, and a very sweet and obedient (mostly) boy. I guess at least they gave him back to the rescue group (unlike so many that just dump them), and he’s now looking for a new home. I want to keep him something awful, but apparently he has some issues with other dogs. We’ll see tomorrow, I’ll carefully introduce him to the gang and we’ll take it from there. Oh yeah, we got back so late we decided to let him spend the night here and somebody will pick him up tomorrow, but meanwhile, Riley and Cody have no idea he’s here. My daughter’s room (and the baby’s) are in a completely separate area of the house, so at least that works for now. If it doesn’t work out, at least I know he’ll be in good hands.

    Had rubbery lobster and crappy clams in Savannah, too. Ugh.

  14. yeah, that original CARRIE was a classic! Saw it at a DRIVE-IN with friends when I was in my early-20s… Best part was when the Hand came up through the grass… 😀

    However, that 1st ALIEN movie was the freakiest for me… Although, it *was* my Boyfriend [at the time, Mr.-I-have-a-degree-in-Cinematography] that yelped & jumped in his seat like a Little-Girl when that Cat showed up! — ahh….good times. good times…

    Oh and that Kurt-version of THE THING!

  15. I love scary movies!!! Unfortunatly, 99% of them doesn´t scare me at all, so when I come across one that does the job, I´m happy! Freaked out of my mind, but happy! ;D I´ve found that the movies that does that, are the ones that let your own mind do most of the work, so you´re freaking yourself out. Which one are those? Blair witch and Paranormal activity. First time I saw those, I had a VERY hard time going to sleep that night, and very scary dreams. To say I was nervous of the dark of the dark is to put it lightly!

  16. I’ve only seen Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Shining and Carrie from your list. My all time favourite horror is The Exorcist shortly followed by Poltergeist. I suppose neither would qualify as having a scary final shot, though. Alien is right up there too although I don’t think of it as horror even though it is.

    I’m a fan of horror (both suspenseful and gory types) but haven’t watched much lately. Thanks for compiling a watch list for me!

  17. Hey Joe

    The only film to scare me through and through was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from the 70’s. There is one scene, where the guy sticks his chainsaw through the kid in the wheelchair…
    Another movie you might want to see is Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve, it’s from the mid 60’s, It might have been because I was younger, but the hallway scene is fairly good. 🙂

    Elminster

  18. I am NOT a horror fan. I’ve never understood why someone would intentionally WANT to scare themselves. Nope…don’t go for scary rides either.

    Now that I’ve said that…my children are huge fans. I honestly believe they enjoy watching my reaction to things. Yes…after forty odd years of avoiding HORROR…I was dragged into it. One day…my son-in-law and I did a marathon his favorite zombie movies. I now LOVE them and he and I touch base with “Have you seen this yet?”

    I can’t watch all horror…but I’m not sure if being scared is the definition of horror. Some movies probably set out to be horror and just end up grossing you out.

    Good luck choosing…there are some great ones. 🙀😬😮😱😖😳

  19. Good luck with the pooch @Deni!

    You have a good list there Mr. M. and other posters added a couple of my old favorites (Alien/Aliens and The Shining). I’d like to add The Thing, Shutter Island and The Sixth Sense. I watch those over and over. I don’t enjoy slasher films anymore but there are a couple of exceptions.

  20. I once saw The Shining because I was told it was good and suspenseful. That was a mistake. I just do not like horror, that’s it. I especially don’t like horror mixed with sci-fi. They are not interchangeable.

    2cats

  21. I admit there’s a number of those that I have never heard of before – I’ll have to see if I can find them to check out. I thought “The Ring” (although I’ve never seen the Japanese version) was extremely creepy right to the end and like you say leaves you with the feeling for a while afterward. (I first read that line as “you’ll think twice before PEEING down that dark well.” Still appropriate, I suppose.) Carrie and The Shining were awesome, of course, but I didn’t really care for much of The Blair Witch Project. The vast majority of it was people wandering around the woods being annoying. The last minute makes up for it, however! That last image of approaching the guy in the corner was absolutely chilling – possibly because we never actually SEE what happened, or why he was there.

    I totally agree, JeffW, about “Christine” – good, campy fun. I loved Alien, but it’s a great example of how the monster can never quite live up to the mind’s image of it.

    BTW, back home after our trip to Grand Canyon and I’m pretty tired!

  22. I’ve only seen three of the movies you chose: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Carrie, and the Blair Witch Project. I liked both Invasion and Carrie; however, I absolutely hated Blair Witch. I found it to be incredibly dull and boring.

    Like others, I would pick Alien and The Thing, as well as Aliens and The Descent. I like the prequel The Thing as well. I also liked The Frighteners, even though it was more camp than horror. Wrong Turn kind was kind of disturbing, also.

    One I really liked back in the day was Trick or Treat. Just can’t beat Ozzy Osbourne as a straight-laced, upstanding citizen preaching eternal damnation for sinners who won’t repent their evil ways.

  23. Not the biggest fan of horror, though I enjoy a good scare now and then. Glad to see you liked Blair Witch; I fall into the loved it crowd. Pity that when I am in the mood to rewatch it I cannot find other takers. I’ll second the Omen; even knowing the evil little twerp is going to live, one hopes against hope for his adoptive father to survive. And seeing the 2nd Doctor killed was just jolting.
    Now, off to prepare for some gaming, then I gots a movie to watch for tomorrow’s review.

  24. I think you are forgetting someone by the name of MICHAEL MYERS…. and his horror classic, Love Guru.

  25. @Tam Dixon: Unfortunately, Stewey has some serious issues with other dogs. We introduced him to Riley this morning and he just wanted to kill her. Riley is a bit of a wimp/princess, so she just got nervous and kept trying to be friendly. I didn’t even bother to introduce the other dogs. Soon-to-be-neutered-Cody will stand his ground, and I didn’t want a dog fight on my hands, and poor Gumbo is old and feeble and I didn’t want to upset him. So, Stewey’s gone to the rescue group. I really hope he finds a good home with no other dogs! He’s actually beautifully behaved and incredibly loving and sweet. He was a pussycat with the baby, too. So sad. 🙁

  26. Ah, the chicken woman from Freaks still gives me nightmares. I try not to watch horror films because I get too scared and either spend most of the film covering my eyes or having nightmares for years to come, it is therefor surprising I have seen 5 of your list and all have left their mark on me. Texas chain massacre was another, taught me not to go see a film just because my friends were going, not to go without knowing anthing about it and never to arrive late and be put on the front row!

  27. Got to be the Wicker Man, one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen…other than the remake which was just terrifyingly bad

  28. I gotta’ add Sixth Sense. I’m sure it would have been a terrible movie for anyone who saw it coming but I didn’t and neither did a lot of people. We may never be so naive again and we got a chance to enjoy it while we could.

    The Ring is my all-time favorite for a movie ending ever. I’d say Ringu, but I don’t think I made it through to the end. I’d just watched or not made it through a different Japanese, haunted by a dead child with the same make-up artist movie and it magnified the intensity of the first appearance scene beyond sanity.

    I don’t usually like horror because I have way too vivid of an imagination and memory for the years and decades that follow. But a great ending will leave me re-living enjoying the twist instead of just the horror so it pays off in that extra way.

    I’m still going to throw away that DVD of The Ring or Ringu (kinda’ hard to tell which through splayed fingers and squinted eyes) just so I’ll stop running across it in the basement. But then it would be in my trash and that would be creepier. I put a note on my calendar to throw away some frozen, snot grade meat on trash day so maybe I should add the DVD. If you don’t hear from me again after seven days after Wednesday, you’ll know what came out of my trash can.

    And I know something that I have no evidence that you know yet and it’s not my business to be the one to say so this might be the end of it.

  29. When it comes to horror, I’m just not a fan of the graphic blood and guts stuff, there’s some stuff I find tolerable, like perhaps a monster attacking someone, or something else and it’s overly quickly but the stabby stab, blood and guts stuff, ew no. But as said, it’s tolerable in some films, although I haven’t seen many at all.

    Anyway I hated that scene in Prometheus when that machine is cutting out the alien from the womans stomach, ugh so graphic..

    This is my least watched genre by a huge margin.

  30. @Ponytail – Deliverance is a true classic. I think what makes it good is that unlike so many horror flicks, it’s something that could actually happen. To this day there are some places in this country that whenever I happen upon them I immediately hear banjos in my head. 😮

    das

  31. Yeah I don’t do horror movies so can’t help out! They make me uncomfortable I would have to say though it’s really the only genre that movies hold up. You could watch a horror flick made 20-40 years ago and still scare the living daylights out of people (well me at least)

  32. Say it ain’t so, Joe. You liked Blair Witch? And why no zombies on this list? Night of the Living Dead, 28 Weeks Later, Zombieland; what have the unliving done to deserve your scorn?
    Yes to The Shining, tho I’d add Damien, the original Fright Night, Poltergeist and Silver Bullet cuz they scared me when I was a kid, but in a fun way. And the Exorcist because it still disturbs to this day.

  33. Hello, Joe.

    From your list, Rec and Bair Witch are also on my horror movie list.
    Pelase clarify something for me: When you mention REC, you do mean the Spanish film, right? Not the american version/copy “Quarantine”?(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_%28film%29).

    If so, have you seen REC 2 and/or REC 3? If not, I recommend at least REC 2.
    Suffice to say that REC 2 plot starts 15 mins after the events of REC, and the original plot explands into the sequel.

    In my opinion, not as scary due to the loss of the “suprise” effect, but storywise good.

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