Feb 01 2012
by Remy Carreiro
(All movies discussed are a few years old, and so there are a few spoilers. Beware)
You know that moment, as a viewer, when you are watching a movie and are so engrossed by it that the world could be on fire outside of your window and you would have no idea? When a movie flows so well, it is like you are hanging on its every word? Well, how about when that momentum gets fisted by a terrible ending? As a viewer, few things are worse than a poor finish to what seemed like a great movie. It shits on everything that came before it, and kills the whole experience. There is no genre where this is more prevalent than horror. The reasoning behind this is not always what you think, though. In some cases, the director’s initial vision gets royally screwed by producers and film companies, who want to make sequels and leave films open ended. There is also a distinct difference between international horror films and their American counterparts.
A friend once asked me to sum up the difference between international horror and American horror films. In typical, long-winded Remy fashion, I said “In real life the cops get to the serial killer right AFTER he kills the person. In movies, the cops get to the killer right BEFORE. International horror films aren’t afraid to be more like real life.” I really feel that to fully understand the difference, you only need to see the real endings of some films. The European releases of films seem to always get the initial vision that the writer and director intended. By the time we get it here in America, it is watered down and left open-ended. What inspired me to write this piece were some comments left on Unreality by some very keen readers who informed me that Martyrs was getting an American remake. Oh No….no, no. This CANNOT happen. This will not end well. Well, actually, it WILL end well, and that is the problem.
Without saying too much, the whole point of Martyrs is the ending. The torture, the controlled insanity, the brutality of it all, is used as a key plot component at the end of the film. Some viewers don’t make it to the end, and at times, I don’t blame them. There is something undeniably sickening about watching a pretty French girl get punched in the face for nine minutes straight by a burly man ( yes, that happens, and it is probably the nicest thing that happens to her in the course of the film, to put it in perspective.) BUT when you make it to the end of Martyrs, you get a payoff. It is bleak and nihilistic, like most French horror (Inside, High Tension, Frontier), but horror should be bleak and hopeless. It is horror. Not some Rom-com starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston. Give me hopeless, I can take it.
The reason I am starting with Martyrs is simple. I am begging you horror fans to see it NOW. Daniel Stamm, the director of The Last Exorcism ( another decent horror movie ruined by a bad ending ) has outwardly said he intends to make this movie with a less bleak ending. Wait a minute, you are remaking a film whose whole plot revolves around an intense explanation point of an ending, and you are changing it? That is the movie equivalent of your friend setting you up with someone they tell you is amazing for two weeks straight, then you meet them and they have an attached twin, half mutated and growing out of their side. Wait, that is a terrible example because that would actually be kind of cool. You know what isn’t cool? Remaking Martyrs and changing the ending. It is like repainting the Mona Lisa to look like Mona from Who’s the Boss? Oh wait, that is another terrible example, because that too, would be incredible. Dammit. No more metaphors.
Not seen: Me shitting my pants.
So for a perfect example of switched endings, we take a look at the brilliant Aussie horror flick: The Descent. This movie is SO GOOD. Honestly, it has everything that makes a great horror film. Compelling characters who evolve and who you actually care about. A setting so intense and claustrophobic, lesser directors would have centered the whole movie around it. Add into that some terrifying humanoid creatures who can see with echo location and the spot on direction of Neil Marshall ( who wowed me with Dog Soldiers a few years earlier ) and you have a perfect horror film. Honestly, it is pretty much perfect. Until the last two minutes. Seriously, it jumps the shark ( not so much that I don’t still consider it a good film though, unlike some of the other movies on the list ). It even throws scenes away that it used to build up to the ending of the film ( the birthday cake hallucinations, anyone? )
But after seeing it, I heard rumors that the director hated the ending. What? That told me he had a different one in mind. Yes Neil. I hated the ending, too. It felt tacked on and forced and very American to me. So I found the original ending and watched it and THAT made the film perfect. It was bleak and hopeless. Exactly what you think the end result of a situation like that would be. It tied up loose ends in a way that felt honest and real. But we didn’t get that vision. We got the vision where the hero makes it out alive. Then we get a cheap jump scare. Then we get credits. But you wanna be freaked out? See the (spoiler) ending where the hero doesn’t make it out of the cave. She only THINKS she did. Now that is an ending that sits with you. And honestly, it fits. And wouldn’t you know, they DID end up making an absolutely terrible sequel that revolved solely around the worse of the two endings. Way to shit on a good movie, guys. Do yourself and Neil Marshall a favor and see it how he intended.
“Did I just kill my husband and then rock myself back and forth for ten hours?”
Paranormal Activity was so overhyped, that I honestly thought I would soil myself when I saw it. Reviewers everywhere were basically saying: This movie scared me so much I died seven times when I watched it. Pregnant woman are not legally allowed in the theatre due to liability. Horror NEVER gets a buzz like that, so of course, I bought into it. And honestly, it is the only movie I have ever seen where I threw my drink at the screen. Honest to God, I am not proud of it, but the ending was SO bad, I literally stood up and threw my coke at the screen. The ending was pure cheese. Loud and scary things go on off screen. Then the asshole husband gets midget tossed at their camera. Then the protagonist ( yet antagonist?) comes up the stairs like f*cking Spiderman and makes oogly-googly eyes at the camera and then she eats the camera, or some such nonsense. It was f*cking dumb, and it undermined the intensity of everything that came before ( which was, let’s be honest here, doors opening and shutting by themselves ).
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