Regular readers of Horror Freak News know I’m most interested in genre films from the 21st Century, but my recent series of retrospectives exploring films celebrating their 40th, 30th, 25th, and 20th Anniversaries this year had my head planted firmly in the past for a month. It’s reminded me of the multitudes of classics that have influenced today’s modern horror landscape.
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While twist endings and 3rd Act shockers have become expected components of modern horror, this wasn’t always the case. Which makes films that pioneered these methods especially noteworthy. Our friends at Looper have put together a list praising these 20th Century rarities, with an eye towards those delivering powerful conclusions.
Related Article: Top 10 Horror Movies Turning 30-Years-Old in 2018
Since I don’t want to spoil the endings of films you may not have seen, I’ve listed the films below the video, revealing nothing beyond the official trailers and synopses. If you do choose to play Looper’s video below, be warned it comes with copious spoilers!
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Warning: Below There Be Spoilers!
Official Synopsis: Horror movies are always at their best when the third act goes a little off the rails. Thriller endings are supposed to leave us feeling either satisfied or completely unsatisfied, and nowhere in between. So, when a scary movie actually delivers that grand finale that ties all its terror tricks together, it can be pretty unforgettable. Let’s take a look back at some of those horror flicks that really stuck the landing before the turn of the millennium. And, it should go without saying, spoilers for these old movies lay ahead…
The Omen (1876, Directed by Richard Donner)
Official Synopsis: American diplomat Robert (Gregory Peck) adopts Damien (Harvey Stephens) when his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), delivers a stillborn child. After Damien’s first nanny hangs herself, Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) warns Robert that Damien will kill Katherine’s unborn child. Shortly thereafter, Brennan dies and Katherine miscarries when Damien pushes her off a balcony. As more people around Damien die, Robert investigates Damien’s background and realizes his adopted son may be the Antichrist.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Directed by Philip Kaufman)
Official Synopsis: This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a friend (Brooke Adams) complains of her husband’s strange mood, it’s a marital issue. However, he begins to worry as more people report similar observations. His concern is confirmed when writer Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife (Veronica Cartwright) discover a mutated corpse. Besieged by an invisible enemy, Bennell must work quickly before the city is consumed.
Friday the 13th (1980, Directed by Sean S. Cunningham)
Official Synopsis: Crystal Lake’s history of murder doesn’t deter counselors from setting up a summer camp in the woodsy area. Superstitious locals warn against it, but the fresh-faced young people — Jack (Kevin Bacon), Alice (Adrienne King), Bill (Harry Crosby), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) and Ned (Mark Nelson) — pay little heed to the old-timers. Then they find themselves stalked by a brutal killer. As they’re slashed, shot and stabbed, the counselors struggle to stay alive against a merciless opponent.
The Thing (1982, Directed by John Carpenter)
Official Synopsis: In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.
Don’t Look Now (1974, Directed by Nicolas Roeg)
Official Synopsis: Still grieving over the accidental death of their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams), John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) head to Venice, Italy, where John’s been commissioned to restore a church. There Laura meets two sisters (Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania) who claim to be in touch with the spirit of the Baxters’ daughter. Laura takes them seriously, but John scoffs until he himself catches a glimpse of what looks like Christine running through the streets of Venice.
In the Mouth of Madness (1995, Directed by John Carpenter)
Official Synopsis: When horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) goes missing, insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) scrutinizes the claim made by his publisher, Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston), and endeavors to retrieve a yet-to-be-released manuscript and ascertain the writer’s whereabouts. Accompanied by the novelist’s editor, Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), and disturbed by nightmares from reading Cane’s other novels, Trent makes an eerie nighttime trek to a supernatural town in New Hampshire.
The Blair Witch Project (1999, Directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick)
Official Synopsis: Found video footage tells the tale of three film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams) who’ve traveled to a small town to collect documentary footage about the Blair Witch, a legendary local murderer. Over the course of several days, the students interview townspeople and gather clues to support the tale’s veracity. But the project takes a frightening turn when the students lose their way in the woods and begin hearing horrific noises.
Psycho (1960, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
Official Synopsis: Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), is overcome by exhaustion during a heavy rainstorm. Traveling on the back roads to avoid the police, she stops for the night at the ramshackle Bates Motel and meets the polite but highly strung proprietor Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a young man with an interest in taxidermy and a difficult relationship with his mother.
Night of the Living Dead (1968, Directed by George A. Romero)
Official Synopsis: A disparate group of individuals takes refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to leave the graveyard in search of fresh human bodies to devour. The pragmatic Ben (Duane Jones) does his best to control the situation, but when the reanimated bodies surround the house, the other survivors begin to panic. As any semblance of order within the group begins to dissipate, the zombies start to find ways inside — and one by one, the living humans become the prey of the deceased ones.
The Sixth Sense (1999, Directed by M. Night Shyamalan)
Official Synopsis: Young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. Cole is frightened by visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. He is too afraid to tell anyone about his anguish, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the truth about Cole’s supernatural abilities, the consequences for client and therapist are a jolt that awakens them both to something unexplainable.
About Looper on YouTube: Looper is the go-to source for the movies, TV shows and video games we all love. We’re addicted to all things superhero and Star Wars, but we’re not afraid to binge watch some reality TV when the mood strikes. Whether it’s revealing Easter eggs and secrets hidden in your favorite films, exposing movie mistakes, highlighting the best deleted scenes, or uncovering the truth about reality TV’s strangest stars, Looper has endless entertainment for the discerning YouTube viewer.