Most things in my life begin with a simple discussion. This particular day it was focused on horror movies. Not just any random horror movies, but ones where the villains win in the end. It was a challenge at first. Some franchises build their entire lore on the bad guy never knowing defeat, I’m looking at you Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.
Right off the bat, I was able to name about 7 movies. I thought to myself, if I can name 7 can I name 10? I soon reached 13, 17, 23, 25, 30 all without the help of the internet. I decided to stop at 30 because my brain hurt. Wow! 30 awesome movies. I didn’t have to reach too far back in time for a classic, 1976 was my oldest. I’m the type of guy who likes a challenge and I love controversy. The best way to do both is to list my personal top 5 best horror movies where villain triumphs over the do-good hero.
Numbers 30-6 in no particular order are: The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven remake), Se7en, The Collector, Nightmare on Elm St, Event Horizon, Freddy vs. Jason, Jeepers Creepers, The Blair Witch Project, Omen, Lawnmower Man, Cloverfield, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of a 1000 Corpses, Silence of the Lambs, Evil Dead II, Dead Silence, Autopsy of Jane Doe, Paranormal Activity, Oculus, The Mist, Drag Me to Hell, Scream, Skeleton Key, The Thing, Final Destination…
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well that about covers everything.” or “Arthur (insert movie title) isn’t a horror movie.” or “Arthur you forgot about (insert movie here)” But you would be wrong, on all counts. This is my list. Go create your own list, so I can disagree with you.
Before I get into my top 5, I have to fill you in on how I judged these top horror masterpieces. Three criteria used for this assessment: 1. Overall quality of the movie (quality of the actors and actresses, script, special effects, cinematography, etc.) 2. Wow factor of the villain winning. Did I stand up in the movie theater or in my own home and say, “Wow, I did not see that coming!” 3. Did the villain winning make sense. Don’t jerk me around Hollywood. I can tell when the writers were lazy. Without further ado…
Number 5: Dawn of the Dead
This movie is a zombie classic. If you haven’t seen this movie, stop reading my mindless rambling and go watch this movie right now. People are dying within the first 5 minutes and all hell breaks loose by the time you get 10 minutes in. Outside of the movie 28 Days Later, this is exactly how I imagine the zombie apocalypse to be when it finally hits.
The movie is lulls you into a false confidence towards the end. The asshole of the movie dies, there are some good people left and then tragedy. The epilogue of the movie is told throughout the end credits. Snippets of found footage tell a depressing story of the escape vehicle running out of gas, them almost starving, and then arriving on shore with a zombie horde to eat them alive. This was the saddest ending to a movie I had ever seen, until The Mist came along.
To say I was left speechless at the end of this movie is an understatement. I genuinely felt bad for the characters surviving for so long, just to be torn apart. It was obvious where the true ending was heading as the epilogue progressed, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch. I felt helpless and I thought to myself, what would I do differently? I still don’t have a good answer. The end was definitely justified and zombies are a force to be reckoned with.
Number 4: The Cabin in the Woods
This movie was strange from the start, but it has a young Chris Hemsworth… wait… what? Yes ladies, Thor himself plays a big part in this movie as a goofy lovable jock. The rest of the cast is filled out with other college stereotypes, except for these office workers? Government workers? Who? About halfway through the movie the real plot emerges. There is a world-wide conspiracy to sacrifice groups of teens to an ancient god to save the Earth from ultimate destruction. In typical horror movie fashion, no one follows their roles, people die, and the movie ends with two people choosing the destruction of the planet over self-sacrifice. This movie is at its best accelerating towards the end of the movie and the end of everything.
The last quarter of the movie the plot is fully out of the bag and it just becomes a race against time and everything else. Once you realize exactly what is at stake, this almost becomes another movie. It is a welcome change of pace and the death of Chris Hemsworth is among one of the all time greatest movie kills ever. (What? Mad you found out here that Thor dies. Tough. I told you from the beginning there would be spoilers) There is one point in the movie where you see several “horrors” on the screen, and they all get a few seconds of infamy.
The ending of this movie is just nutzo. It asks the viewer to stretch their imagination and embrace some wild ideas. Somehow it all makes sense in the end. I’ve went back and forth on if I thought the ending was justified or not, but I respect the directors choice (Bravo Mr. Eli Roth). The first time I watched the end of this movie it was a little overwhelming, but after subsequent watches I can honestly say I cannot imagine it ending any other way.
Number 3: The Ring
I’m going to start off by saying that the girl that is found in the closet still freaks me out to this day. The way the jaw is stretched into an unnatural scream, the pale skin, and the disheveled overall look of the body still brings a shudder to my mind. A video tape that kills people. Okay, you have my attention. This was one of the most original movies I have ever seen. The way it is shot blew my mind at every turn. It wove the story together in a way that did not feel forced and I did not feel cheated in the end. I think this was the last movie that I saw where I was genuinely freaked out when I left the theater.
When that creepy girl crawled out of the television I said out loud in the theater, “Oh fuck that!” It’s not that I wasn’t expecting a twist, but it was executed to perfection. The crawling out of the TV and the quick jerky movements became a horror standard for a few years afterward. I’m not afraid to admit that I was a little freaked out when the credits rolled. I stayed up a little later that night and I’m pretty sure I destroyed some VHS tapes just to make sure no “accidents” would occur.
The ending was seamless with the overall movie. The director knew exactly what they wanted for the ending and it was accomplished in spades (Did I just use the phrase “in spades”? God I’m old!). This is a movie that you can only watch a handful of times before the creepiness wears thin, but it is fun to watch others who haven’t seen it in jump out of their skin at Samara’s surprise.
Number 2: The Decent
Claustrophobia, monsters, and the poster looks like a Dali painting; I’m in. That is basically what this movie is about. It is a testament to girl power and a cast that is pretty bad ass. I’ve never been the one to say, “Hey let’s go explore some uncharted caves to see how far back they go!” I read too much H.P. Lovecraft to know how that story will turn out. This movie does a good job of balancing tight spaces with epic openness. I hope they shot some of these scenes in a studio, because being underground with millions and millions of tons of rock overhead is a powerful and scary feeling. Did I mention there are cave creatures? Yeah, these frickin things make Golem from Lord of the Rings look like a perfect next door neighbor. They utilize their cave home to their full potential and wreak havoc on everyone and everything.
She makes it out in the end; Racing against unspeakable horrors and starts to make plans for the rescue of her friends. Oh, wait… nope… she’s trapped in the worst possible scenario. On top of being lost, tired, hungry, and alone, she is also lost. The whole movie keeps you guessing is there just one creature, or a whole hive until the very end. (Spoiler, there are a lot of them!) I watched this movie for the first time at home and went pretty quickly from that was an awesome movie to, oh hell no! I felt so bad for the last surviving girl. There were several sequels that followed (don’t watch them they all suck) none of them were able to capture the magic of the first one.
The shift at the end from kinda happy to bleak as hell was a jolt to be sure. I was accepting of it before the credits rolled. I felt bad for all the girls for like half a second. I quickly came to my senses when I realized that they were the dumb asses that climbed down into Satan’s Sphincter (I don’t remember if that was what the cave system was called) and got themselves in trouble.
Number 1: Saw
I really didn’t see it coming till the end. Even if you had told me that the bad guy wins at in end before the movie started, I would not have been able to predict the end of this movie. This movie spawned a thousand sequels and a thousand more poor imitations. The first movie had only one semi-famous actor in Carey Elwes and introduced the world to Tobin Bell, Jigsaw himself. It was exactly what you would expect from a low budget horror movie, but those traps were sinister. Back when there was only one movie like this it stood alone. It hit at just the right time and became a cultural phenomenon. This is one of the most copied movie styles in horror. Every horror studio in existence has since tried to capture the same magic. Did I mention the traps? Nothing like it had been seen at the time. This was a horror movie ahead of its time.
That ending had me sitting in my seat long after the credits rolled. Not only was I obsessed with what traps I would be able to personally survive, but when Jigsaw stood up at the end and shut the door. I actually cheered for the bad guy. There has not been a scary movie since that captured my attention. I had to wait months for it to come out on video, so I could buy and re-watch it over and over trying to piece the clues together.
The ending totally matched the film in the best possible way. It was a nervous ride the whole way through. A constant guessing game about what it all means, why is this happening, and will the killer ever be caught? I was a little unhappy at how the overall plot evolved through the course of the 70+ movies, but the magic of the first one still remains.
That brings us to the conclusion of my top 30 horror movies where the bad guy wins at the end. Your list may be different from mine and that’s okay. We are adults and allowed to agree to disagree. I’m sorry (not sorry) if I spoiled any movies you haven’t seen yet. I am not open for a debate in the comments section, but I will gladly join you in a discussion.
Until next time. Good luck and happy writing!