If you’ve read my stuff before, it would be pretty unsurprising to learn that I love the horror genre. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to love the genuine thought and effort that goes into many of the best works of horror.
But what separates a good work of horror from one of the hundreds of bad ones that come out every year?
In one article I couldn’t go over all the aspects that create this separation, so throughout the month of October I will be going over films that distinctly lack some important quality of horror. I recently went on a shopping trip to a used film store, so I’ve got a nice stockpile of some of the worst horror films I could find.
I want to start out this month by talking about the single thing that all works of horror seem to lack, even many of the best ones, and that is a good ending.
Horror has some kind of allergy to good endings. Even Stephen King, considered to be one of the best horror authors of all time, couldn’t write an ending to any of his books that lived up to the quality found throughout the rest of it. It’s such a common complaint of his works that it has almost become an in-joke.
In the recent “IT Chapter Two” (spoilers by the way), his cameo is entirely made up of him complaining to his stand-in-character about how bad the endings to his books are. You get the impression that he hears this all the time because the you can see a pain in his eyes as he delivers the line.
Recently, I talked about “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” and how its ending was bad. I loved that movie to death, yet the ending felt like a kick in the gut. It made me realize one of the main reasons horror movies have awful endings:
Sequels are more common in horror than any other genre I can think of. There are over a dozen sequels to just about any of the bigger horror film franchises attempting to milk every cent from that IP.
This becomes an issue because the endings of the movies can never truly leave the villain dead. No matter what happens in the film, they will always be there for the next sequel in a year or two, ready to terrorize a new cast.
At the end of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” the cast has succeeded in killing Freddy once and for all. They are headed off to enjoy the rest of their lives … except he then breaks through the front door and drags away a dummy dressed like the protagonist’s mom (one of my favorite examples of bad effects) proving that they didn’t succeed.
Wouldn’t your favorite horror movie be better if the story just ended? We all know that they are going to move with a sound cue as the final shot of the film, but what if they didn’t?
I watched an OK horror film last week, “Creep,” and its sequel, one of the most interesting horror films I’ve ever seen. After watching the sequel, me and Tyler (the original author of BMS) began angrily discussing how awful the ending was and how the movie would be much better if they had stopped it a few scenes earlier.
Before I get into this, watch “Creep 2.” It’s on Netflix and is one of the better horror films I’ve seen in recent years. I will be discussing the ending, so be warned.
The final arc of the film follows our protagonist and antagonist going out to the woods to get the ending to the documentary they have been filming together. Only, the serial killer explains that he has other plans for the ending. They arrive at a grave that had been dug days before in preparation for today, even if the person planned for the grave has changed a couple of times.
He explains that his plan is a double-suicide where they both stab themselves to death and lie in the grave in each other’s arms. The protagonist is having none of this, and after the serial killer stabs himself in the gut a few times, she makes a run for it with the knife.
She doesn’t make it too far and ends up getting caught and stabbed. We then see the killer drag her body into the grave. For a few seconds, Tyler and I were excited because that would have been amazing. If it had faded to black in that one moment, it would wrap the whole story up nicely with an entirely unique ending. Instead, the killer crawls from the grave and talks to the camera for a bit. Meanwhile, the girl is seen getting out of the grave, grabbing the shovel and then bashing the killer in the head to escape.
Later on, we see her riding in the subway only to assumedly see the killer, who is holding the camera, as he is whistling the tune he always does. We were so disappointed by this ending. Sure, it allows for more sequels, but why make sequels and not just more IPs? If the ending just cut with them entering the grave, it would be a strangely realistic ending. Jarring and unsettling, it would stick with the viewer much more than an ending that literally every other horror movie uses.
I think one reason we keep getting these problems is that sequels are almost an expectation at this point. Almost no movie ends with something concrete anymore because they want to be able to make sequels in the future. My big question is do we really want all these sequels? Who honestly enjoyed “Nightmare on Elm Street 6” nearly as much as the original film?
I don’t know the actual statistics behind it, but I doubt that sequels make as much in the box office as a new IP that does well. Just market it along the lines of “From the makers of _” so that people know what quality to expect. Let the stories have definite endings that will stick with the audience instead of the same ending for every single film.
Look, “Creep 2” is a masterpiece, a 10 out of 10, even with the sub-par ending. Go watch it, and I would even suggest watching the original first even though it isn’t as good for the context it provides for the characters. The first one is better in terms of cinematography and shot composition, but the second has such an interesting premise and story that I don’t really care about the decrease in filmmaking skill.
This article was originally written for The University of Tennessee’s Daily Beacon’s Bad Movie Showcase.
Editing done by Evan Newell