Most horror films are notable for their scares. However, some of them are famous for going a step further and ending with a twist. In a lot of cases, it feels forced and contrived. But when it works, it elevates the movies into the realm of horror classics. These are some of the greatest horror movie twist endings.
NB: Spoilers are included for each entry on the list.
15. 10 Cloverfield Lane
After a car accident, Michelle wakes up in an underground bunker with two men. Howard says that there was a massive chemical attack which has made the air unbreathable, and their only shot at survival is to stay inside. However, Howard is controlling and more than a little scary, which makes Michelle and the other man try to escape.
Spoiler: Michelle escapes the bunker and discovers that there is an alien invasion. This is probably the reason why JJ Abrams was so interested in the movie; it loosely fits the world of Cloverfield.
After the death of their unborn child, John and Kate choose to adopt a child. When they visit the orphanage, they are attracted to a young girl called Esther. They adopt her, but a number of incidences soon occur. This makes Kate suspect that there might be something evil about Esther.
Spoiler: They discover that young Esther is really a 33 year-old woman with a disorder that stunts her physical growth. Because of this, she has spent her life pretending to be a little girl so people can adopt her, then seducing the father and trying to sleep with him.
Adam Stanheight and Lawrence Gordon wake up in a filthy bathroom, chained to pipes at opposite ends. In-between them are a corpse, a revolver, a saw and a tape recorder. They soon learn that the “Jigsaw” serial killer has captured them, and they are forced to complete his sadistic puzzles to stay alive.
Spoiler: The corpse in the middle of the bathroom rises and we learn that it’s Jigsaw, who is actually John’s patient. Saw is superior to its sequels because of the twist ending and the contained setting; which was largely due to the budget.
In the town of Woodsboro, Sidney Prescott becomes the target of a masked serial killer called Ghostface. As the body count rises, Sidney and her friends try to outsmart and survive the killer by discussing the rules of horror movies.
Spoiler: Sidney discovers that Ghostface is actually two guys: her boyfriend, Bill, and her schoolmate Stu. They reveal that they killed her mother one year ago because the mother was having an affair with Bill’s father.
In a film filled with deconstructions of the horror genre, Scream did a great job providing a twist ending unlike previous horror movies.
11. The Mist
After a powerful thunderstorm, David Drayton takes his son into town to get supplies and food. While at the supermarket, a heavy mist rolls in and traps them. They try to escape, but there are otherworldly creatures in the mist that keep them in. Meanwhile, a zealot in the supermarket starts to demand a sacrifice, believing that this is the Armageddon.
Spoiler: When David, his son and a few others escape the store, they discover that his wife is dead. They soon run out of gas and, with no hope left, he shoots them instead of letting them endure horrific deaths from the creatures. However, the mist soon clears and military people arrive, saving people. If he had waited a bit longer without pulling the trigger, they would all have been saved.
10. The Orphanage
Laura fondly remembers when she was a child in an orphanage. Now closed, she convinces her husband to buy it and help her turn it into a home for sick and disabled children. One day, her adopted son, Simon, goes missing. He is suffering from HIV, so when six months later he is still missing, he is presumed dead. Laura, stricken with grief, starts to believe there are spirits that might be helping her to find Simon…or not.
Spoiler: Laura discovers that Simon is dead. The first night she went looking for him, she moved pipes against a wall and effectively trapped him. He died from falling and breaking his neck.
9. Carnival of Souls
Mary Henry and her friends are challenged to a drag race. They accept, but they are forced off a bridge. Mary is the sole survivor. After recovering, she moves to Utah and works as a church organist. However, she starts to have visions of a mysterious phantom, and they get stronger. The visions draw her to an abandoned carnival just outside the town. It is here that she must face her past.
Spoiler: Mary died in the accident, and she has been dead throughout the movie. The police find the car, along with Mary’s body.