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The Most Upsetting Horror Movie Endings Of All Time

Updated March 22, 2021 5.3k votes 1.1k voters 97.8k views14 items

List RulesVote up the most upsetting endings that were the definition of horror.

The whole reason we watch horror movies is to be, you know, horrified. Even if it's just a little bit, like with a Tim Burton stop-motion musical or something. But while some scare flicks reward us for watching with endings that are cathartic and satisfying - with the baddies getting their comeuppance - others present us with finales that are so bleak and dismal that it's an emotional - almost physical - blow to the gut that’s too much to bear.

Vote up the disturbing horror movie endings that are so upsetting, you had to spend the following day watching nothing but cartoons and funny cat videos.

  • In the final act of the 2007 film adaptation of the Stephen King novella The Mist, our hero David Drayton manages to escape the supermarket he and members of his town barricaded themselves in after overcoming monsters both human and extradimensional. He and a few compatriots make their way through the parking lot to David’s trusty Land Cruiser, where assistant manager Ollie (the real superstar of the film) meets his end at the claws of one of the larger abominations.

    The crew creeps their way to the Drayton homestead, where David tragically finds his wife deceased and webbed-up on the front porch like a gruesome Halloween display. Mustering up the courage to carry on, he keeps driving his four passengers (somehow surviving an encounter with a Godzilla-sized Lovecraftian behemoth) but runs out of gas before finding the end of the mist. After making a nonverbal agreement with the three remaining adults while his son is sleeping, David uses his four remaining bullets to deliver what he thinks is mercy to everyone aside from himself.

    After an obligatory freakout, he exits the vehicle to offer himself up to the nearest unspeakable eldritch beast to end his suffering. But the approaching noise he hears isn’t a creature from the beyond, but a military convoy, armed to the teeth and delivering a fiery end to anything remotely unearthly, taking survivors to a safe zone as the mist begins to clear.

    While it may have been tempting, that particular moment may not have been best to subject David to a stern “never give up” lecture.

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  • The Girl Next Door (not the 2004 rom-com about teens dating former adult entertainers) was based on a killing that actually happened, so you know going in that the conclusion isn’t going to be all bunnies and lollipops. Actually, it’s based on a novel (by Jack Ketchum) that’s based on a real-life case, so theoretically, you could hope for some fictional twist that provides some relief from the unsettling 1950s weirdness on the screen. The gist of the story is that a girl named Meg and her sister Susan, orphaned after a car wreck, are forced to go live with their bughouse-bonkers aunt (played by Blanche Baker), whose horrific behaviors (along with her three sons) would make a Disney stepmother cringe. 

    Aunt Ruth’s emotional torment gives way to the physical kind as her progeny treat Meg like a speedbag and finish things up with a little FGM (look it up if you must) for good measure. Meg’s trials seem like they might finally end in a late-night escape with the help of a sympathetic neighbor boy, but Meg succumbs to her accumulated suffering with her final words being, “It's what you do last that counts.” 

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  • Photo: Wild Bunch

    "Controversial" and "polarizing" are but two words that are good for explaining Martyrs (others are "cruel," "sad," and “barf-tastic”), the extreme 2008 French film about how one might achieve physical transcendence through torment. The “martyrs” in this circumstance are people who are systematically subjected to horrendous acts, from garden-variety beatings to being skinned alive as if they got on the wrong side of Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones, all in the name of putting them into a state by which their tormentors may gain insights into the afterlife.

    The lead characters, Lucie and Anna, are two such martyrs who are under the control of “Mademoiselle,” the ringleader of the operation. After Lucie offs herself as a result of all the unceasing torment, one might hold out hope that Anna might make it through. You’d be totally wrong, though, as she gets the flaying treatment, goes catatonic, and starts whispering some “secrets” to her masters. Not even “Mademoiselle” gets satisfaction, as after she hears what Anna has to say, she promptly ends her own life. 

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  • Before he was the wisecracking Merc with a Mouth in the Deadpool franchise (but slightly after bringing shame upon himself playing a farce of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Ryan Reynolds starred in a critically well-received psychological thriller about one of everyone’s most primal fears: being trapped underground.

    Appropriately titled Buried, the film is about the unfortunate plight of a military contractor in Iraq named Paul Conroy, who finds himself interred in a wooden coffin by terrorists who are looking for ransom money. He does have a lighter and flashlight down there with him (it would be a pretty boring movie if it was just 95 minutes of a black screen), along with a cell phone, knife, and some other sundry items. Sure, the State Department has a “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” policy, but surely an exception could be made for the future star of, um, R.I.P.D.?

    Tragically, nope. After various negotiations and desperate attempts, his rescue team winds up going to the wrong interment site, and Conroy must stoically accept his final, sandy destination as his air runs out. If it’s all too depressing, just watch him play a caveman in The Croods, and you’ll perk right up.

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