Horror movies, even mainstream theatrical releases, are oftentimes structured really uniquely compared to other films. One staple of the genre that can be see in plenty of films is the final scare: you think the movie is over, the monster is dead, and our lone survivor was able to make it out alive. Then, a final jump scare leaps out at you, before the movie jumps to credits.
The first horror movie to popularize this technique was “Carrie” in 1976. The sole survivor of the prom, Sue, goes to visit Carrie’ grave, only for an arm to shoot out from the dirt and grab her arm, before Sue wakes up from her nightmare.
A similarly iconic moment is the end of the original “Friday the 13th.” Alice, the last counselor standing, wakes up in a canoe on Crystal Lake the morning after killing Jason’s mother, ending her rampage. It’s a beautiful, idyllic scene, until Jason’s body leaps from the water and drags her under. Like Sue in “Carrie,” Alice wakes up right after, but is convinced Jason is still out there (she ended up being right, of course), and the film ends on a static shot of the peaceful, calm lake.
Many modern horror films tend to avoid this trope, opting instead to finish the film moments after their huge crescendo moment – “Midsommar” and 2018’s “Halloween” reboot are good examples of this. One great example of a new movie with that classic final scare is Sam Raimi‘s “Drag Me to Hell.” As the film ends, the main character Christine begins to recover from the horrors she’s endured, assuming she broke the curse on her by discarding the cursed button that had plagued her. However, she meets her boyfriend at a train station only to find that he brought the button with him, causing her to fall onto the tracks and get, well, dragged to hell.
While it may be overplayed and a bit cliché at this point, the last scare is a really effective moment in horror films. It’s one final moment for the filmmakers to really spook the audience, and it’s a fun inversion on the happy ending formula a lot of modern movies follow.