“I Like My Horror To Hurt”-Why We Need Downer Endings In Horror

11045406_933926833318481_9000854471239750206_nI don’t want my horror films to be wrapped up in a neat little bow, with the final girl/guy walking into the sunset. The survivor who went through hell and walks away is always nice to watch, but more times than not, I want reality, I want to feel the pain of the evil and carnage that our protagonists went through, before being overcome with the reality of the situation. Sure, it’s easy (trust me, REALLY easy) to hate Rob Zombie’s H2, but one element of that film that I did appreciate is that it showed how fucked up people could become, following a traumatic and brutal experience of having someone try to murder them. Films like EDEN LAKE, MARTYRS, CANDYMAN, THE COLLECTOR and films like those end with a punch straight to your gut that makes it hurt. After watching THE STRANGERS for the first time, I found it next to impossible to sleep for almost a week. There was just something about soldiering through a night of terror, just to end up being stabbed to death, next to your loved one. When the wealthy and murderous duo kills the young son in FUNNY GAMES, you FEEL it. Scenes like that one, and various others are important, because they show what horror SHOULD be about.

It’s important to go through hell, and we all live vicariously through our favorite films, whether you admit it or not. I watch JAWS once a month at least, not because of Spielberg’s direction, but because I’m TERRIFIED of the water. I like being scared, because it lets me know that I’m alive and human, and more importantly, that life is not a walk in the park and can be quite horrificĀ at times. There’s an element of denial that my parents have lived their lives in as long as I can remember. Whenever I would ask them life questions as a kid, I’d get “I don’t know” or “because that’s just the way it is”, never telling me that monsters were real, that they lived on the same blocks as everybody else.

Realizing that fact as a child, kept me up at night, and made me confront that fear of (human) monsters and the reality than death is real. It was never the horror films that had someone walk away smiling at the end that really made me think. The films that opted for more realistic, “things are very fucked” endings are the ones that led me to feel normal, they helped show me that there is evil in this world, and they quickly became a dirty secret that I would love to sit through. There wasn’t any false happy endings, forced upon the films by whatever producer would stand over the director and tell them what they need to do, something that is pretty normal in today’s film business. Everything has to work out, the characters have to be fine at the end of the movie, and for the most part, we’re spoonfed a fake reality, and while that works for some, it just doesn’t cut it for me. I like my horror to hurt, to make me think, and to make me feel the actual HORROR that we’re promised by walking into whatever theater or home setup we walk into. Films that like PET SEMATARY, that show us as viewers what playing god can bring: your own destruction. Films like AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR and HONEYMOON, both of which are great examples of giving you that sense of pain and heartache that one could feel in real life. If you were standing over your daughter, knowing that she was the antichrist, would you have the courage to kill her or take her and pretty much usher inĀ the end of the world? If your significant other was taken over by something and you didn’t recognize who they were anymore, what would you do?

Personally, I think we should start embracing films like those more often. Horror was never meant to be friendly, and it was never meant to make you smile and skip through fields of flowers. It was always something that was scary and unsafe. It SHOULD hurt, and it should make you feel like someone punched you in the stomach, all while your relationships crumble, you get kicked out of your house, someone robs you and punches your kid in the face. I know all of that might be a little extreme, but you fright fanatics know what I mean. If I want to feel good about life, then there’s always SAY ANYTHING or ROBOCOP. If I want to go through a huge range of emotions and feel crushed and alive, I’ll take my horror hard, with a brutal, eye-opening punch to the face. The horror genre is easily the best and most effective genre in the world, and its power is unparalleled by any other (if you tell me THE AVENGERS affects you more than the ending of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, I’ll kick you in the nuts) . So let’s all cause some ruckus and get clinically depressed! Let’s FEEL the horror for a change, and reach for the nearest Xanax to help with the aftermath. Let’s make our horror hurt again.


5 thoughts on ““I Like My Horror To Hurt”-Why We Need Downer Endings In Horror

  1. Every story needs its own ending. Some need a downer ending, some a happy ending. If every horror movie had a downer ending it would be as boring and predictable as if all have a hapy ending.

    1. Very true, when something becomes the norm, it loses its effect. What I don’t like though is studio-enforced endings that make everything A-OK at the end, because sadly, that happens more times than it doesn’t.

      1. You’re absolutely right. As I understand, in the US The Descent was cut so it could have a “happy ending” (I never seen that version, only the european).

        But I’ve been thinking some time about this “endings” issue and I think that one of the reasons the horror genre as a whole is so great it’s that you never know what are you going to get. With action/adventure movies, for example, like the James Bond or Indiana Jones movies and things like that, it’s a given that the good guys will win at the end because the reason to watch this movies is how much fun the ride is, a perfect exemple of “it’s the journey, not the destination”. But with horror movies, it can go either way: You don’t know. You can guess, but you don’t really know. The ending of Frank Darabont’s The Mist was really powerful in part because it was so unexpected. Or some times you have a mix of happy/dark ending like in The Babadook.

        And another reason to love this genre are my personal favorite kind of ending: the ambiguous ending. Like the ending of John Carpenter’s The Thing or Prince or Darkness.

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