Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The End of the Horror (?)

Just fair warning, this blog post is going to be discussing the endings you commonly see in Horror stories. As such, expect more than a couple spoilers.

(That's Blade in the background.)

It can be quite a journey from the start of a Horror story to the end. People die, pain and suffering is endured, and fears can be faced. But just because you've made it to the end doesn't mean it's over. In a proper story, the rest of the book is just a build-up to the final battle. It may be a challenge of lasting through the final assault, or finding a way to kill or drive off the beast. 

However, one of the things I enjoy most about Horror, is that the ending, commonly isn't the ending. Even when it is, it's rarely happy. I think that makes Horror fiction a closer representation to the real world more than any other genre, even taking into account the hideous monsters that roam about.

Even after the "Good" ending, in a horror movie, friends and family (and housepets) likely need to be buried. The next stop after the credits finish rolling is likely to be the nearest hospital. Houses and vehicles will likely need repair or replacing. And you can't leave out all the blood that probably needs to be cleaned up. That's not even discussing the years of therapy and anti-depressants any survivors will undoubtedly need.

(Cabin in the Woods)

And that's the best possible ending. Second to that is the survivors just managing to drive off the horrors for a while, or just being lucky enough to escape it's path. The Friday the 13th series is the perfect example. While the body count might be up into the double digits, the main character manages to avoid, escape, or even kill Jason long enough to get out of town. There is no way to permanently kill Jason though. Inevitably, he rises up to torment a new group of nubile young teens. 

A lot of Horror stories end with the victims merely escaping the monsters that plague them, not necessarily defeating them. Even if there isn't a sequel, the movie ends with the monsters still out there to continue indulging their dark appetites. While the survivors simply try to heal, forget and live out their lives. If they can.

(Stephen King's The Mist)

Then you have the true Horror ending. The one where everyone dies, the monsters rule the Earth, and nothing will ever be the same. The kind of ending where even if one of the character's survives, death would be kinder. Stephen King's The Mist is one good example. Escaping the town, only to find the Mist covers farther than they can travel, the father makes the ultimate sacrifice, being the one to take the lives of his loved ones, and then finds he doesn't have a bullet left for himself. He falls out of the car and screams to the Heavens, only to watch the army finally roll by. 

Nightmare on Elm Street does this every time as well. Although they put a twist on it, letting you think the kids have won a reprieve before revealing there is no escape from Freddy's blades. Freddy Vs. Jason pulls the same trick, with Jason walking out of the lake with Freddy's severed head, only to have Freddy wink to the camera before the credits roll. 

Many of these endings do set up for sequels, but many also don't. (Or they don't make enough money for the studios to sign off on a sequel.) The best ones plan out a Horror ending, with no intention of continuing the story, because sometimes we just need to know the monsters are out there and what they're capable of. 

Because Horror stories are supposed to scare us, and what is more frightening than to know there really is no stopping the monsters that prowl the darkest corners of our imaginations? 

What are your favorite Horror endings? Cabin in the Woods? Alien? Feel free to share in the comments below! 

~ Shaun


  1. I preferred the ending to The Mist in the novella - I found it to be much more impactful and bleak. It's one of those cases where they change something, trying to be clever, and I just sat there asking the screen "Why? Why ruin it when you'd been doing so well?" I'm sure some people prefer that new ending but I felt conned. I read The Mist back in my teens, and watched the film specifically to see it play out. Got to the last layer of chocolates and found they'd been switched for something else. Polystyrene, maybe.

    1. Gah, sorry for the delay, but did you know Stephen King actually LOVED the change the director made to The Mist?

      "Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last 5 minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead."

      Oh, wait, that means me. Well, shit.