Friday, April 8, 2011

HORROR MOVIES AND THEIR CURSE OF THE TERRIBLE ENDINGS

WARNING: 
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS TO THE ENDINGS OF
THE VILLAGE
THE HAPPENING
HIGH TENSION
THE LAST EXORCISM
IT

Last night I finally was able to get my eyes on FilmDistrict's newest horror flick, Insidious.  This isn't a review of Insidious at all, but merely another example at an overwhelming trend within the horror genre.  Let me tell you this, I loved Insidious.  I found it to be genuinely creepy, well-casted (Patrick Wilson *drools*), and a very well put together film.  The fact that they managed to make a PG-13 movie scary was very impressive and I thought Insidious was going to jump to the top of my list for the best of 2011 so far.  That was until the ending hit.  There are no words to describe my level of disappointment.  I had been on the edge of my seat for 3/4 of the movie, only to slowly slump back in for the remaining quarter.  I can't really judge the film for it though, not only because the beginning more than made up for it, but also because it seems that a good percentage of all horror movies suffer from a curse of terrible endings.  Maybe the screenwriter didn't have enough time to fully formulate a conciece ending, maybe the budget was cut short, or maybe everyone in the process was just to ADD to even think of one and had to throw one together last second.  Who knows?  All I know is that in one of the most evolving genres in film, we suck at ending our films.

Meet M. Night Shyamalan.  In 1999, people were calling this man the next Spielberg.  In 2011, he's remembered as the man of many twists...many bad, bad, twists.  After the success of his film The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan found himself caught up in the trend of making films with twist endings in order to "shock" the viewer.  The only issue with this was that his endings weren't that shocking.  When it comes to bad horror movie endings, this man takes the cake.  Witness, The Village.  A tale of a community seemingly trapped in a secluded wooded area in the 1800's by mysterious creatures that stalk and kill anyone that goes too far into the wilderness.  Sirens at night alert the people to put themselves on lock down whenever a creature is spotted (a la Silent Hill) and the main question that drug us to the theatres was to figure out what the hell those monsters were.  When I saw that film in theatres, my head was about to explode with nervousness and excitement.  The pacing was wonderful, the creatures were scary, and every plot change was captivating...AND THEN YOU FIND OUT THEY'RE NOT IN THE 1800'S BUT IN THE MODERN DAY, JUST KEPT IN THE WOODS.  Wow...really? I mean, really?  I was dying for their to be something much juicier and riveting, but instead I just get the Amish.  What a freaking letdown.  Not to be forgotten is what critics consider his worst film, The Happening.  I personally enjoyed it, but I also watched this film as a comedy rather than a horror film.  Regardless, the story is about an overwhelming amount of people who seem to be killing themselves in insane fashions.  No one can figure out just why so many people are offing themselves, but it's happening at rapid numbers and people everywhere are harboring into their homes with gas masks on in order to protect themselves.  Pretty crazy stuff, no?  Well, don't worry...IT'S THE FUCKING TREES.  NATURE IS SO PISSED AT US THAT IT'S RELEASING TOXINS AND CAUSING US TO KILL OURSELVES SO WE STOP DESTROYING THE RAINFOREST AND PARKS TO MAKE MORE STARBUCKS.  Yep...trees. The big twist ending was a public service announcement from Al Gore.  You're welcome, I just saved you two hours.

BJ-C, you must be mistaken, clearly the scariest clown in all of horror movie history cannot be on a list of disappointing movies?!  Oh, but it is.  I am one of the most vocal members of the "Stephen King's "IT" is only successful because of Tim Curry" movement.  The mini-series is way too long and filled with way too much reminiscing.  I don't care what you've been doing now, I just want 2 hours of crap-your-pants from the clown from when you were a child, thankyouverymuch.  Pennywise the Clown is the antithesis of evil.  he manifests himself into whatever seems to frighten those around him.  While his usual form is this menacing clown, at the end of the movie he animates himself as a giant spider.  This would be fine and dandy IF THE SPIDER WASN'T THE MOST POORLY ANIMATED USE OF STOP MOTION EVER AND WASN'T DESTROYED BY A FREAKING ASTHMA INHALER.  I'm sorry, but season 1 of South Park had better stop-motion than "IT".  Any sense of fear that was established from the clown was immediately shot away the second that embarrassing display of a spider showed up.  I really don't understand how anyone behind this mini-series could have watched the spider scene and thought that it was good enough work to play alongside Tim Curry's genius.  There's supposedly a movie in the works, which I'm actually okay with if they cast Tim Curry as the clown.  Come on, we saw what happened when they re-cast Freddy Krueger...

If you've yet to experience the film that put Alexandre Aje on the map, make sure you turn it off about 10 minutes before it ends.  Haute Tension/High Tension is easily one of the bloodiest, craziest, most screwed up movies I've seen in the past 10 years.  Unfortunately, the ending is so mind-numbingly terrible, it almost kills everything built up to it.  Two girls go home to stay a weekend with one of the girl's family and have some gratuitous lesbian masturbation, only to be awaken in the middle of the night by a huge trucker with a penchant for using dressers and decapitation weaponry.  The film is a crazy cat and mouse chase game and we're built up to believe there's going to be some intense, gory boss-fight at the end.  That would be the logical thing to do IF THE TRUCKER WASN'T THE MANIFESTATION OF ONE OF THE GIRL'S SPLIT PERSONALITIES.  Yep. She did it. The whole time.  The bigger problem with this is that it doesn't line up.  There's a scene where the trucker is giving himself road head with a decapitated head of a woman.  If the french lesbian was really the killer...how did she do that?! I don't know, I don't care, this movie was ruined for me by a horrible ending.

I'm about to catch some slack for this, but the ending of The Last Exorcism was pretty awful.  The saving grace for this movie was that it's a solid film, very unsettling, and well executed.  The story followed a man trying to destroy the existence of demonic possessions and the working power of exorcisms.  The reason it's called the "last" exorcism, is because it was to be his last.  Believing this poor girl is simply ill or just plain bat-shit, he is remarkably unprepared for what awaits him.  The film really picks up and gets good towards the end of the film, when it takes a very Blair Witch inspired ending and cuts off sooner than we'd hope.  Basically, THE POSSESSED GIRL'S CRAYON DRAWINGS FORESHADOWED THEIR DEATHS AT THE LAST FIVE SECONDS.  Cool. I knew the ending all along, and I just wasted my life on something I figured out two hours ago. Thanks.

Are horror movies cursed or are we as viewers just too damn picky?
I guess it'll go back to that nature vs. nurture debate.
Regardless, we need to start focusing on the endings of our movies more than our stupid intros and false advertising trailers.


12 comment(s):

Rabid Fox said...

Now that you mention it, The Last Exoricism foreshadowing did take a lot of wind out of the sails. When they finally found the sacrificial ritual, all suspense was lost. Still, there was a fun creep factor through most of the film.

As for The Village, I must be one of very few who actually liked it--not a lot, mind you, but enough to refrain from lambasting Sham-Wow. What was that one about the water nymph or whatever she was? Water Witch? Now that was a horrible movie.

Alexandra said...

I agree with all of these more than I can say... The other one that still bugs me is The Mist. A great movie but I don't know what to do with that ending...

Richard of DM said...

I thought the ending of The Last Exorcism was perfect. If this was 1975! I can't imagine that horror movie audience of 2010 were chilled to bone by the presence of a satanic cult. I wasn't scared but I was impressed that they went the old school route. All I could think of was Race of the Devil and The Devil's Rain. And I shamefully admit that I didn't see it coming and I didn't even notice the drawings were foreshadowing anything. Duh.

Pax Romano said...

I think horror movie fans have always been a difficult lot to please. For instance, my late aunt was a big fan of horror films, and I distinctly remember her talking about "Rosemary's Baby" and how much she enjoyed it...until the ending, she thought it was such a let down that the audience came all that way and did NOT get to see the actual baby.

I agree with everything you wrote, except for The Last Exorcism; for whatever reason, that ending worked for me, and was very satisfying.

Planet of Terror said...

I agree with all...except for one. I'm going to defend the ending of The Last Exorcism until I'm blue in the face.

I thought it was the only fitting and logical conclusion. Had it taken the path of every other exorcism flick ever made and she was 'cured' it would have been deemed a ripoff with a cinema verite flair.

I like how the film kept you guessing. Was she cuckoo for cocoa puffs or was she really possessed? I like the little hints that were dropped along the way. And the spiritual implications with both pastors provide an interesting commentary (in my mind) on the current state of religion. But that's a different topic for a different day.

Overall, I thought the Last Exorcism was a flawless film.

Chris Hewson said...

Another movie ruined by its ending is the Swedish vampire movie Frostbitten. It was a fun movie, it had me on the edge of my seat and it just abruptly ends! It seriously felt like the movie was cut off midway, there were several plot threads that are just completely abandoned!

joannapary said...

I love your rantings here, and I totally agree. I liked Sixth Sense and Signs, but Shyamalamalam (I don't even care to spell it correctly) really made some utterly ridiculous films in The Village and The Happening. The latter was downright hilarious in its stupidity.

It's such a shame that It is such a crappy movie because the book is one of my all-time favorites. I think the problem is that there's so much going on in the book that you just can't translate to film, and they tried to put in too much of the 1000+ pages and failed. Tim Curry does rock though. He is the perfect Pennywise.

Speaking of controversial endings, have you seen/what did you think of The Mist? I know some love it and some hate it. Personally I'm a fan.

Luis said...

I too wil defend The Last Exorcism as I though that the ending was VERY good. Yes, the deaths were foreshadowed, but HOW they were going to come about was well told.
For the rest of the films mentioned, I've seen all, but Insidious.
The Village - agreed, the ending WAS a twist and I didn't see it coming but it was a letdown.
IT - having a giant monster for the climax only works if the monster is well made.
The Happening - Started out very creepy but fizzled out.
High Tension - The director is French, so we cannot expect a movie with a plot that makes any sense. For him, it's all about character, not story. I'm not defending the ending, which I hated as much as everyone else, but I understand where the director is coming from.

le0pard13 said...

Fine write-up, BJ-C. I have to agree on many of your points (I've not seen THE LAST EXORCISM, but many keep pointing to its finale as to where fans split off to camps re: the film). M. Night's fall from grace has been nothing short of spectacular (though I remain a fan of THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE). As to IT, Tim Curry indeed is the only thing worthy of watching in the miniseries (King's novel was better, but did he really need 1100+ pages to tell the story? I don't think so). The other thing that always bothered me about HAUTE TENSION (besides the ridiculous ending) was that it followed Dean Koontz's premise for one of his best books from the mid-90s, INTENSITY. Your post was great food for thought.

@ Alexandra: agreed. I'm a long-time fan of Stephen King's THE MIST novella, but that wasn't the author's original ending. I preferred the conclusion in the text for its ambiguity. Director Darabont came up with that one for the adaptation (though, King signed off on it) as a sucker punch for the audience. Everything was great about the film, till that IMO (many of my friends disagree, however).

Emily said...

For me, the problem with The Village wasn't just the ending: it was the fact that the movie existed for no one. The only person that really has any change from discovering the truth is Bryce Dallas Howard, but then she's led to believe there really WERE monsters so ultimately, it was a movie for the dude that worked at the nature preserve--whaddya know, M. Knight himself!

And Stephen King just can't end anything, It notwithstanding.

I didn't HATE the ending of Insidious, but I do think those last 20 minutes lost most of the tension and discipline of the previous hour. Soooo close!

Patrick said...

I've never understood why the ending is supposed to be the most important part of the movie. Why we sit and pay close attention for two hours for a five minute pay off is beyond me.
(Easy and gratuitous analogy warning)
Like only enjoying sex for the orgasm.
This is most likely my own bias, but I cant think of a single horror movie where the ending is my favourite part of the film. In fact, maybe if we as horror's audience (and I do think we are particularly guilty in this case) stopped putting the ending on such a lofty pedestal, there might not be so much pressure to make them so sensational, often leading to overdone and lame results. If a movie can create tense, uneasy, just downright scary athmosphere for a couple hours, I honestly only care that the ending makes sense.
Just thought I'd voice that viewpoint.

lisa markhoff said...

Patrick not only makes an excellent point, but states it perfectly. it is the journey, not the destination that is to be relished. *though i'd appreciate not ending up in a place akin to a landfill outside of jersey city ;-)*

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