Horror Movie Endings People Only Pretend To Understand
The horror movie genre is filled with simple plots and easily understood endings. But every once in a while, an intelligent horror movie will sneak up and hit audiences with a provocative finale that spurs multiple theories about its meaning.
Other times, the reach of a director or writer exceeds their grasp, forcing the viewers to unravel convoluted final scenes themselves. Both types of horror lend themselves to near-constant online discussion, providing multiple theories and explanations for the endings people prefer to either write off or take at face value.
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Mother! (2017)Photo: Paramount Pictures
The Ending: After Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) gives birth to a child, her husband, Him (Javier Bardem), snatches it from her hands and allows a crowd of people in their home to consume the infant. Mother hurts herself trying to save her child, then in her rage, she sets the house ablaze.
Him and Mother survive, with the latter’s heart removed and smashed by the former. A new crystal heart appears and a new Mother wakes in an unburnt house, wondering where Him is.
Possible Interpretations: It’s an allegory, where Mother is Mother Nature, Him is God, their baby is Jesus Christ, and the intrusive Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are Adam and Eve. Mother Nature and God become pregnant after ousting Adam and Eve from their home.
God creates a new “poem” that brings even more people into the house He shares with Mother Nature, leading to the demise and ingestion of their infant at the hands of the crowd. Mother Nature sacrifices her home with God and the people inside of it before a new Mother is created with the hands of God.
The film says God created many different homes for people and each time they finish themselves off by wiping out Mother Nature.
Other theories posit it's a story about the perceived tendency of artistic people to blot out everything in their lives that isn’t their art. Or that it’s about men who drain the very life out of their partners in the single-minded pursuit of their goals; once one partner leaves, the cycle starts anew with a different one.
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The Ending: Twins Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) harshly interrogate Mother (Susanne Wuest) to determine if she is an imposter. Instead, she reveals Lukas - seen throughout the film - passed away in a car accident before the events of the movie.
As Mother pleads with her remaining son to free her, Elias decides the woman before him is not his parent. He pushes Lukas’s hand (which only he sees) to set her and the house ablaze.
The trio appears together in a sunny field in the movie’s last scene.
Possible Interpretations: The fire at the end finishes off Elias and Mother, reuniting them with Lukas. Alternatively, the fire only ends Mother who joins Lukas as a figment of Elias’s imagination.
Theories concerning the passing of Lukas often claim it happens in the opening scene on the lake. When Elias sits alone on the raft calling out for his brother, Lukas is struggling unsuccessfully to stay afloat in the water. Others believe Lukas expires when the twins run through the woods and become separated in another early scene.
As for the twins’ belief that the woman wrapped in bandages in their home is not really their mother, one analysis sides with the children. The Mother cannot answer any questions about the favorite items or habits of her sons - or even herself. Her eye color is not verified and Elias finds a photograph of their true mother with her doppelgänger.
Others believe the Mother to be genuine, pointing to her failure to communicate with Elias after the loss of a child and a divorce as the real issue. Her grief prevents her from letting Elias know what's happening or assist him in his own grieving process; it also causes her to seek plastic surgery to remain or become desirable.
The lack of information combined with being left alone to obsess over the loss of his brother and father pushes Elias’s broken mind to suspect the worst.
- 3661 VOTESPhoto: Icon Film Distribution
The Ending: Jess (Melissa George) is in a car accident that takes the life of her autistic son, Tommy (Joshua McIvor) and expels an alternate timeline Jess from the vehicle's trunk. A taxi driver offers the living Jess a ride to the dock where her friends await her arrival before boarding a yacht and leaving on a pleasure cruise.
Jess meets up with her companions, starts another time loop when she climbs onto the yacht, and the group sets sail.
Possible Interpretations: The film presents one of several loops Jess moves through over an unknown period of time. Each time she relives the events, the final outcome appears to be the passing of her five friends at her hand while they search for help aboard a ship. The yacht sinks, but not before they climb aboard the abandoned vessel.
Previous Jess incarnations leave behind lockets, notes, and other clues or instructions to let the present Jess know how she should proceed aboard the ship. One theory speculates the time loop is a giant nightmare Jess has, brought on by the pressure of being a single parent while working to raise an autistic child. Although it seems long and unending to the viewer, the dream is actually quite short and eventually stops.
Another theory points to the story of Aeolus’s son Sisyphus, doomed to forever push a boulder uphill in punishment for breaking a promise to Hades. Aeolus is the name of the ship where the group takes refuge after their yacht sinks.
Jess is Sisyphus and the cab driver is like a grim reaper. She promises the driver a return from the dock, with plans to decline the invitation to go sailing. She then boards the ship and triggers the macabre loops.
Another theory posits the scenes shown after Jess seemingly escapes the time loop are what sets off the repetitive torment. Jess is verbally and physically violent with Tommy, and possibly slays him before taking the cab to the docks and setting sail with Greg (Michael Dorman) and his friends.
Offing her son and leaving on the yacht sets Jess’s eternal punishment in motion. Over and over again she hurts people and attempts to stop herself from committing the act that started the series of events.
- 4956 VOTESPhoto: Entertainment One
The Ending: Amelia (Essie Davis) overpowers the Babadook, saving herself and her son after nights full of horrific events build up over weeks. Surprisingly, the monster the audience thought was gone is shown living in Amelia’s basement. She and her son, Sam (Noah Wiseman), collect worms that Amelia delivers to the Babadook to keep him fed and contained in the basement.
Possible Interpretations: Most see the Babadook as a delusion born of Amelia’s psyche, created by her inability to move past her husband’s passing and forgive her son for being a catalyst for the accident. The monster remaining in the basement where Amelia keeps all her husband's (Ben Winspear) belongings is a visual representation of controlling and minimizing the emotions that consume her throughout the film.
As hinted in the movie, Amelia is the Babadook. She authors the book that appears on her doorstep and terrorizes her son with a descent into madness. This supports the emotional theory as well as a much different possibility: Amelia and Sam lose their lives.
Amelia works at a nursing home where dementia patients are in residence, prompting a joking discussion with a co-worker about how long it will be until the disease takes her. She also hallucinates throughout the film; not only visions of the Babadook, but also a hole in her kitchen wall filled with bugs.
Amelia finds the Babadook book with new pages added, showing her elliminating her dog and son before slicing her own throat. At the end of the film, Amelia snaps the dog’s neck and attempts to finish off Sam. He touches his mother’s face, triggering a foul, black liquid - thought to be the Babadook’s influence - to spew from her mouth.
The theory suggests Amelia succeeds in slaying Sam and actually slices her own throat, spilling out her own essence. The pair witnesses Oskar’s demise once again before Amelia seemingly overpowers the Babadook. The meal of dirt-covered worms is a metaphor for passing on, proving Amelia and Sam are now buried.
- 5331 VOTESPhoto: Amazon Studios
The Ending: Models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee Kershaw) join makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) in eliminating and devouring 16-year-old model Jesse (Elle Fanning). Seemingly completing a ritual, the consumption works favorably for Ruby and Sarah. Gigi rejects Jesse’s body and takes her own life in the process of removing the girl from her stomach.
Possible Interpretations: Some believe the movie is a grim commentary on the state of the fashion world. An ingénue moves to Los Angeles in an attempt to become a successful model while aging predators try to capitalize on her youth by befriending her.
In reality, the people surrounding the young model emotionally or physically deplete her until they have all they want. The destruction of Jesse shown in the movie is a physical account of this process. In The Neon Demon, the people surrounding her actually ingest her youth to prolong their own careers.
Others see Ruby, Sarah, and Gigi as a coven of witches sacrificing Jesse to call forth a demon. During the movie, Ruby washes fake blood from Jesse’s body - an act tied to the preparation of those who have passed. The coven takes Jesse to a hypnotic show that puts her under their spell. A photographer covers Jesse’s body in gold paint for a shoot, turning her into a ritual talisman.
Jesse appears to pull the moon down in another scene, an action used to begin Wiccan rites. During a runway show, Jesse becomes more confident in her appeal and looks. Once Ruby attempts to sleep with her and fails, Jesse becomes food instead of pleasure for the coven.
After shattering herself at the bottom of an empty pool, Jesse is eaten by the coven and Ruby covers herself in the young model’s blood. The demon is summoned to give youth back to the witches, allowing Gigi and Sarah to book a major photo shoot.
- 6861 VOTESPhoto: A24
The Ending: After losing her daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), and husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), in grave accidents, Annie (Toni Collette) is possessed by a demon and pursues her son, Peter (Alex Wolff), through their home. She herds him into the treehouse out back before sawing off her own head.
Naked members of a cult appear around Peter and complete a ritual started by Annie’s late mother, Ellen Leigh, to lock the demon Paimon into his body.
Possible Interpretations: There are some theorists who think Hereditary is really a look at a mentally ill family dealing with loss and grief. There is no cult, there is no demon - there are only unmedicated conditions running rampant.
An early scene shows Annie in a group therapy session where she reveals her father took his own life and suffered extreme depression. Her brother was schizophrenic, claiming their mother attempted to put people in him before also self-immolating.
Annie admits later she awoke from a sleepwalking incident to find herself about to burn her children alive. Throughout the movie, she presents symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression.
Young Charlie appears to have a learning impediment and mourns the loss of her grandmother deeply, while Peter just wants to get loaded and hook up with a girl. When Charlie meets her end via decapitation in a car driven by her brother, perhaps the grief and shock break Peter’s mind as well.
The séance Annie sees and the one she leads may be delusions shared by a family who’s mentally broken, exhausted, and unable to cope.