Old and 10 horror movies ruined by their endings

Old movie poster, photo courtesy Universal
Old movie poster, photo courtesy Universal /

It’s always frustrating to see a movie that for most of its running time is terrific and a great ride and then comes a horrible ending. For horror movies, it’s worse as revealing a nonsensical plot twist or a cheap jump scare can ruin all the thrills and chills that came before it. Some can survive as Psycho is still a thrill even if the last five minutes are exposition. The ending of The Mist is debatable, but Stephen King himself says it works.

Yet there are some movies that were terrific as horror films, looked to be sharp and on their way to cult classics, only for the ending to leave you baffled. Some were because of nonsensical turns, others just stupid attempts at a twist, but these ten horror movies could be so much more well-received if the ending wasn’t so bad.

Caution: This article contains SPOILERS for several films. 

10 horror movies ruined by their endings


M. Night Shyamalan has problems sticking the landing (Signs, anyone?), but this was still amazing. The movie mostly follows the plot of the original French graphic novel as tourists at a beach resort check out a secluded beach. They soon realize they’re trapped and that for every hour, they age years. It’s thus a dark and thrilling ride watching them dealing with kids becoming adults in hours and facing mortality with some gruesome bits like breaking bones.

The climax has the two surviving children seeming to drown while in a tunnel. It then cuts to M. Night himself watching it all as it turns out a pharmaceutical company is using the beach as a case study for their work. Bad as that is, just as the hotel manager is about to send a new family to the beach, those kids show up alive to expose the entire plot. Leave it to M. Night to once more ruin what could have been a fantastic film with a nonsensical ending.

The Happening

Speaking of M. Night, The Happening may actually top Old in terms of an ending ruining a fun concept. This 2008 film was R-rated for edge with people suddenly going mad, killing themselves and the early tension is well done. Even the revelation that somehow the plant life of Earth is striking back at humanity could still have worked if Shyamalan had stuck the landing.Instead, he fumbles it badly.

With time looking like it’s running out, main characters Elliot, Alma and Jess head out together, ready to die as a family. Instead, the toxin vanishes as soon as it appears. Months later, they’re shown living together with the news talking about how these “Happenings” will be common as a mass suicide takes place in Paris. So, a lame bit of the main characters living and no explanation for what happened, arguably M. Night’s most frustrating climax ever.

High Tension

This 2003 film is notable for two things. First, it shows the French can make a slasher film as compelling as anything by Americans. Second, for an ending that divides people twenty years later. Marie and Alex are best friends hanging out when an intruder kills Alex’s family and abducts her. Marie chases him as the guy kills a store clerk as Marie chases him, with a very well-done battle and showdown before Marie returns to a  terrified Alex.

Here’s where the movie pulls the rug out as the police watch tape showing Marie killing the store clerk. The woman is a nutcase in love with Alex and is the true murderer who stalks her across the field. She almost kills her before Alex subdues her. The final scene has Marie in a mental hospital reaching out to Alex with an ending whose plot holes are unforgivable.

The Devil Inside

Ending a movie with a bad twist is one thing. Ending it on a ridiculous title card is something else. This 2012 film is a great found footage thriller as a woman is convinced her mother was possessed when committing murders. She thus undergoes some exorcisms herself to try and solve it.

The movie amps up the tension and jump scares and ends with Isabella possessed to kill her friends in a car crash and wander off. That would be bad enough, but then a title card tells the audience that to learn more, they need to check out a website. So the movie had no real ending, a big letdown from the tension of before.


The first feature film shot entirely on a computer screen, Unfriended has a set of friends talking on video chat when they’re joined by someone who has the name of Laura, a classmate who killed herself a year earlier. One by one, each person gets a message threatening them with their secrets and being forced to kill themselves. The fact it’s shown via video screen makes it feel tighter and scarier as the group falls into paranoia.

It comes down to Baire, shown to be the nicest of the bunch, crying at how she felt bad losing her friend. Laura mocks her by showing it was Blaire who filmed Laura’s behavior at a party that drove Laura to suicide, turning people on the Internet against Blaire. She shuts the computer off before being attacked by Laura’s ghost. It’s both a cheap jump scare and undermines the anti-bullying message to mar a good setup.

I Am Legend

Blame test audiences for ruining what could have been a great ending to this 2007 film. Will Smith plays a lone survivor of a deadly plague that transformed people into seemingly mindless zombie-like monsters. The original conclusion had Smith attacked by the creatures in a lab while trying to cure one of them. Smith realizes that these creatures are intelligent in their own way and he’s been the monster slaughtering them without mercy.

It was a great turn, with Smith giving up his quest for a cure. But the test screenings didn’t get that, so it was changed with Smith blowing himself up in a senseless sacrifice. The original ending would have fit so much better with Smith realizing he was the “legend” of a monster in this world.

Happy Birthday To Me

For most of its run, this 1981 film is a great homage and borderline parody of the 1970s slasher films. One by one, various members of a high school sect are picked off in gruesome ways, with suspicion falling on Ginny. Even Ginny herself worries she’s suffered a breakdown and is killing her friends in blackouts.

It builds to Ginny killing her father only to reveal another Ginny at the table. The killer peels off a Scooby-Doo-style mask to reveal she’s Ginny’s best friend Ann, ranting that she’s Ann’s half-sister as their father’s affair ruined Ann’s family. The two fight it out, with Ginny stabbing Ann just in time for a police officer to show up and think Ginny killed everyone. Supposedly, the original ending was to have Ginny as the killer, which would have made more sense than this crazy imposter twist.

The Descent

There’s two endings for this cult movie and neither of them really works in the end. Six female friends go on a hiking trip in the mountains only to be caught in a landslide, trapping them inside. They’re then attacked by strange creatures residing inside that pick the women off one by one as the others try to escape.

The U.S. ending has Sarah escaping the cave and driving in a car only to see a bloodied Juno by her. The UK ending has Sarah waking back up in the cave, having dreamed of her escape. She then sees her late daughter offering her a birthday cake, Sarah smiling as we see the crawlers closing in on her. The first ending looks too trite and a cheap scare, while the second is more nihilistic and neither right for the gripping tale we saw.

April Fool’s Day

For much of its running time, this movie is a great old-styled 1980s slasher film. A group of high school friends head to an island mansion where harmless pranks soon escalate into murder. The woman who gathered them, Muffy, has been killed and replaced by her psychotic twin sister, who’s picking off the others. Buffy gives chase to Kit, who races into the main room…

And there are all the “victims” alive and well. Muffy reveals this is a dress rehearsal for her plans to turn the mansion into a resort hotel for murder mystery games and everyone else is helping her out. Then a final fake-out seems to have Muffy killed, but that’s also a trick. The double fakeouts were out of nowhere and mar an otherwise fun campy slasher film.

Lights Out

This 2016 film has a terrific hook as a family is hunted by a spirit that can only reveal itself in pure darkness. Thus, the tension is whenever lights flicker and the struggle to find enough lighting to keep it at bay. The direction, acting and writing are sharp and make it a thrill to wonder how the main characters will survive.

The film is a clear allegory for depression and the logical idea is that it shows main character Sophie defeating this demon and emerging for the better. Instead, realizing how they’re linked, Sophie shoots herself, thus ending Diana’s threat. In short, it says death is the only solution for such a struggle, a terrible message that ruins this movie.

Which of these horror movies do you agree was ruined by the ending? Would you add more to the list? 

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