We watch horror movies for various reasons. Some like the exploration of life through terror-struck metaphors and fantastical situations. Others watch because they simply like to be scared. Of all the film genres, though, horror might be the one where the ending matters the most. It brings everything together, and it either validates or dispels our concerns. If a horror movie cannot land its ending, we feel disappointed.
On the other hand, those times we do get that perfect, sometimes elusive ending in the genre, we are elated. So in the spirit of those horror movies whose finales are absolutely petrifying, here are ten of the scariest endings ever. Please keep in mind there are massive spoilers ahead!
10 The Conspiracy (2012)
Two men choose a delusional conspiracy theorist as the subject for their next documentary. The theorist believes there's a secret society, the Tarsus Club, that worships Mithras and sacrifices a bull in his name.
After the theorist goes missing, the documentary makers infiltrate the Tarsus Club's next meeting. There, one of them is dressed up as the sacrifice in question. The fate of the "bull" is unknown, and the Tarsus Club denies he was ever harmed.
The Conspiracy is an obscure found-footage movie that appeals to conspiracists. The ending will especially alarm anyone who fears secret societies.
9 The Vanishing (1988)
During Rex and Saskia's road trip, Saskia goes missing without a trace. For the next three years, Rex spends his life searching for Saskia. A man named Raymond approaches him, saying he has information on her whereabouts. As it is, Raymond was the one who abducted Saskia. When Rex confronts him, he is drugged by Raymond before being buried alive.
The shocking conclusion in this Dutch thriller is infinitely more bleak than that of the 1993 remake. In comparison, that version is considerably happy. Whereas in the original, we don't get any sort of affirmation that Rex survives his cruel fate.
8 Shutter (2004)
A photographer and his girlfriend notice a recurring, creepy shadow in his pictures. It appears they are being haunted by a ghost, but they can't be sure as to why. It's revealed that the ghost is of a victim who was taken without her consent. And the boyfriend was one of the attackers.
The Thai horror movie Shutter has one of the most fantastic twists. It flips the script and undoes a character's entire story in the most objectionable manner. During the movie, we learn the boyfriend has doubled in weight. Seems like a throwaway comment until a photo shows that the ghost has been perched on the man's back this whole time. Spooky.
7 Lake Mungo (2007)
Not too long ago, Alice Palmer drowned in a lake located in Aratat, Victoria. Her family wants to mourn, but they can't. Only because Alice might still be with them. It appears that Alice is now haunting her family. The reason why, they do not know.
The longer you watch Lake Mungo, the more undone you become. One can't help but feel overcome by the insidious nature of the story. It's an encroaching mix of sadness and horror that remains with you even after the credits roll. For that final shot in this faux documentary — the Palmers standing in front of their house as a familiar shadow watches them from the window — is profoundly eerie.
6 Friday the 13th (1980)
As a new batch of counselors prepare Crystal Lake for the summer, an unseen interloper picks them off, one by one. Has Jason Voorhees returned to avenge his death?
By now, we all know how the original Friday the 13th ends. We're so aware that it's not exactly scary anymore. But try to remember the first time you saw the movie. That precise moment near the ending — Jason leaps out of the water and grabs the lone survivor — is utterly frightening and perfectly choreographed. Very few horror movies have ever made us jump like that since then.
5 [REC] (2007)
A news reporter and her camera operator tag along as firefighters respond to a distress call. At an apartment, a mysterious contagion spreads from tenant to tenant. The afflicted are becoming violent, and there seems to be no escape now that the authorities have quarantined the building.
[REC] utilizes the found-footage style better than most other films within this sub-genre of "real time" horror. The threat level is immeasurable at times as you watch with bated breath. And once that ending does come, you're consumed with sheer dread.
4 The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Three friends venture deep into the Black Hills forest to film a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch. After getting lost in the woods, they can't help but feel as if someone is watching them. Following them.
You either love or hate The Blair Witch Project. But even if you're not a fan, you have to admit that last scene is without a doubt tense. We're left not knowing what happened to Heather, whose camera's POV frames the most ominous scene in the entire movie.
3 Don't Look Now (1973)
When Laura and John's daughter Christine drowns, the grieving couple moves to Venice in hopes of moving on. Laura then meets a psychic who claims she can speak to Christine. John talks to the psychic himself, and she warns him he is in danger. All the while, John has been seeing someone, wearing his daughter's red raincoat, all around Venice. He thinks Christine is still alive. And when he tracks her down, the person isn't his daughter at all. No, this is the serial killer that's been in the news this whole time. The murderer of short stature finally slashes John's throat, thus fulfilling the psychic's premonition.
Don't Look Now was a revolutionary movie for its time. Not only did it use a visionary filming style — such as using the color red and water as significant visual motifs — the film focused on grief in a startling way. Whether or not it's a horror movie is debatable. That last scene, however, is so horrifying. That alone pleads the case of anyone in the "yes, Don't Look Now is a horror movie" crowd.
2 Eden Lake (2008)
A weekend getaway in the woods ends tragically for Jenny and her boyfriend Steve. Their holiday is ended when a group of youthful miscreants kill Steve. Jenny escapes to a nearby house, but the people there are the parents of the teens. One member has even painted Jenny as the aggressor. Finally, we're left to assume the parents deal with Jenny in the only way they see fit.
Eden Lake banks on the fear towards "hoodie" culture in the United Kingdom. It doesn't forego clichés, but the movie is definitely scary in spite of them. The ending seems far-fetched because we want to believe in the best of people. Yet at the back of our minds, we can't help but think, "Hey, this is entirely possible." And that's precisely why Eden Lake is so spine-chilling.
1 Black Christmas (1974)
Close to Christmas, a sorority house is plagued by menacing phone calls from a deranged person. Later, the few residents left in the house are systematically picked off by the caller, who has been hiding in the attic all this time.
Upon learning the calls are coming from inside the house, protagonist Jess goes upstairs in a bid to save her friend. It's too late, though. Jess holes up in the basement before finally doing away with the intruder. Or so she thinks. Jess assumed her boyfriend was behind all of this, but it wasn't him. The police come, sedate Jess, and then leave her alone in the house. Meanwhile, the actual killer lurks nearby.
Horror fans have come around to the first Black Christmas remake after years of decrying it. Despite the turnaround, there is nothing in that movie that is remotely as terrifying as the last act of the 1974 original. Some might find the lack of background on the killer to be irksome, but really, it's that ambiguity — someone you've never met before now wants you dead — that unsettles us.