10 Horror Movie Plot Twists We Never Saw Coming

Summary

  • Final Destination 5 tricks viewers with its unexpected chronology.
  • Scream plays on horror movie fans’ expectations for shocking moments.
  • Sleepaway Camp features one of the scariest twist endings of the 80s.

Warning! This article contains poilers for each film discussed.

Horror movies rely on twist endings perhaps more than any other genre, with some incredibly inventive and unexpected plot twists blindsiding audiences in some of the genre’s best entries. There’s a good reason why so many horror movies rely on twist endings. Fear of the unknown is one of the most classic, primal fears for the films to prey on, so drip feeding the audience as little as possible before blindsiding them with some of the best twist endings in cinema.

The exact nature of these last-minute reveals can come in a few different forms. The exact nature or origin of a horror movie villain can be a great carrot to dangle ahead of unsuspecting horror fans, making an otherwise mediocre premise incredibly engaging. Other twists can come in more meta-narrative forms, sucker punching the chronology of a film with some shocking plays on viewer expectations. In any case, the horror genre contains by far some of the best twists in movie history.

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10 The Others

Released In 2001

the others poster The Others PG-13

Director Alejandro Amenábar Release Date August 10, 2001 Cast Nicole Kidman , James Bentley , Alakina Mann , Christopher Eccleston , Fionnula Flanagan Runtime 104 minutes

The Others contains one of the most exciting premises for a period piece horror film, and takes full advantage of it by layering on top a delicious twist. The film revolves around Grace Stewart, who lives in an ancient manor on an isolated island. Her two children, Anne and Victor, suffer from a unique photosensitivity condition, requiring that the house is constantly shrouded in darkness with heavy blackout shades. To help her manage the home, Grace hires three servants.

It turns out that the mansion is haunted, but Grace herself and her children are the specters, with the titular “Others” being the house’s new living inhabitants.

Soon, Grace’s children begin reporting mysterious evidence of other people in the house, and when Grace herself begins hearing others in the manor, she begins looking towards the new servants with a paranoid eye. It turns out that the mansion is haunted, but Grace herself and her children are the specters, with the titular “Others” being the house’s new living inhabitants. This twist might not seem like the most original on paper, but in the context of the film, it takes the viewer utterly by surprise.

9 Malignant

Released In 2021

Malignant R ScreenRant logo

Director James Wan Release Date September 10, 2021 Cast Maddie Hasson , Annabelle Wallis , Jacqueline McKenzie , Ingrid Bisu , Michole Briana White , Jake Abel , Mckenna Grace , George Young Runtime 111 minutes

The ending of Malignant is one of the most out-of-left-field horror movie endings in recent years. The film follows an abused expecting mother locked in a toxic relationship whose life is turned upside-down when the back of her head begins to bleed profusely, coinciding with the attacks of an unnerving killer. To make matters worse, protagonist Madison is soon under investigation as the perpetrator of these attacks, with the evidence begging to mount against her.

Gabriel re-emerges years later with the ability to lock Madison away in a prison of her own consciousness, going on a vengeful murder spree targeting the people who imprisoned him so many years ago.

It’s slowly revealed that Madison had a parasitic twin, named Gabriel, when she was born, which wound up being locked away as a malignant tumor hidden in the back of her head. Gabriel re-emerges years later with the ability to lock Madison away in a prison of her own consciousness, going on a vengeful murder spree targeting the people who imprisoned him so many years ago. The film parades this twist right under the audience’s nose in early scenes, with a metaphor regarding the city of Seattle’s hidden underground level indicating the threat’s true nature.

8 Frailty

Released In 2001

Frailty R Director Bill Paxton Release Date April 12, 2002 Cast Matt O’Leary , Powers Boothe , Bill Paxton , Matthew McConaughey , Jeremy Sumpter Runtime 100 minutes

2001 seemed to be a terrific year for horror movies with unexpected twists, as proven by films like Frailty. The twisting and turning narrative of the film begins with a man named Fenton who comes to an FBI agent claiming that his brother is the culprit behind a spree of reitualistic serial killings, fueled by their father’s religious zealotry. The story, split among two timelines, converges in on itself as the film reveals that no one is who they seem to be.

Not only is Fenton actually his older brother, and the true God’s Hand killer, but Agent Doyle is revealed to be the one who murdered his own mother. If that weren’t enough, the film’s supernatural element turns out to be real, with all of the family’s victims actually being demons in disguise, ultimately including Doyle himself. A doozy of a dramatic conclusion, Frailty condemns its characters with one of the most shocking twist endings in a horror thriller ever.

7 The Orphanage

Released In 2007

The Orphanage the orphanage R

Director J.A. Bayona Release Date January 11, 2008 Writers Sergio G. Sánchez Runtime 105 Minutes

Another spine-chiller from the 2000s, The Orphanage is a foreign film co-produced by legendary scary movie icon Guillermo del Toro. The protagonist is a woman named Laura, who returns to the orphanage she grew up in with her family as an adult with the goal of re-opening it as a facility for disabled kids. After her son disappears, a spectral masked child begins terrorizing Laura, prompting her to investigate the dark history of her childhood home.

It’s soon revealed that the boy in the mask, once an orphan named Tomás’, died in an accident after being bullied by the other orphans, causing the orphanage’s caretaker to murder the remaining kids in a rage. Laura then learns that her son died in an accident of her own shortly after going missing, causing her to commit suicide and rejoin the spirits of the children, including her son, watching over them in the afterlife. A strangely bittersweet ending for how macabre it is, The Orphanage is completely impossible to anticipate.

6 Final Destination 5

Released In 2011

Final Destination 5 Movie Poster Final Destination 5 R ScreenRant logo

Release Date August 12, 2011 Writers Eric Heisserer Cast Jacqueline MacInnes Wood , Tony Todd , Emma Bell , David Koechner , Nicholas D’Agosto Runtime 92 minutes

The Final Destination franchise are a curious case in horror iconography, having no clear villain or obstacle other than death itself. Each film follows the survivors of some horrific disaster or accident which claims many lives, leading them to be followed by death in increasingly convoluted ways. Final Destination 5 starts off with such a premise, following the survivors of a catastrophic bridge collapse.

The film ends with them boarding Volée Airlines Flight 180, the plane that crash-lands to kickstart the events of the very first film in the franchise.

The entire time, protagonists Sam and Molly barely manage to avoid increasingly coincidental accidents, becoming the sole survivors of the initial bridge collapse’s initial group of survivors. The film ends with them boarding Volée Airlines Flight 180, the plane that crash-lands to kickstart the events of the very first film in the franchise. The last-minute rug pull that the film’s time period was not what it seems is creative enough to catch most fans of the series totally unaware, making for a memorable entry.

5 The Boy

Released In 2016

Brahms The Boy II Porcelain Brahms Scarf

One of the most innovative twist horror endings to come out of the 2010s, The Boy shocks with a deceptive final climax reveal clever in its simplicity. The story opens on an American nanny, Greta, who moves to England to look after the child of a wealthy family. However, Brahms is a special boy — Rather than an actual child, Brahms is a lifelike doll re-creating the appearance of the elderly couple’s son who perished in a fire 20 years ago. Soon, Brahms seems to move on his own, suggesting that the boy’s likeness is spiritually active.

Brahms doesn’t turn out to be a ghost, but rather, a very real man living in the secret passageways of the ancient manor’s walls. Having survived the fire so many years ago, Brahms interacts with the world around him using the doll as a medium, saving Greta’s life before nearly taking it himself. It’s a shame that the creative twist of The Boy is somewhat sullied by the existence of a sequel, Brahms: The Boy II.

4 Scream

Released In 1996

Scream

Director Wes Craven Release Date December 20, 1996 Writers Kevin Williamson Cast Drew Barrymore , Kevin Patrick Walls , David Booth , Carla Hatley , Neve Campbell , Skeet Ulrich Runtime 111 minutes

The murder mystery that kickstarted an iconic slasher series, 1996’s Scream played on the expectations of horror fans. The film arguably starts with a shocking twist in the first 10 minutes, with superstar actress Drew Barrymore being the first to fall to the Ghostface Killer’s blade despite her marquee value. As the film progresses, the true identity of the teen serial killer remains ambiguous, presenting several promising leads.

Being willig to stab one another to maintain the ruse, Billy and Sty might not be the sharpest knivers in the drawer of shasher villaisn, but are certainly one of the most surprising.

It turns out that Ghostface was the work of not one, but two homicidal teens, Matthew Lillard’s Stu and Skeet Ullrich’s Billy. Being willing to stab one another to maintain the ruse, Billy and Stu might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer of slasher villains, but are certainly one of the most surprising. The effective reveal of a team of killers masquerading as a single entity is so clever, it makes too much sense, and no film has been able to re-capture it quite like Scream.

3 Sleepaway Camp

Released In 1983

Sleepaway Camp R

Director Robert Hiltzik Release Date November 18, 1983 Cast Jonathan Tiersten , Mike Kellin , Felissa Rose , Karen Fields , Christopher Collet Runtime 84 minutes

Though it never spawned a franchise of its own, Sleepaway Camp is one of the most bone-chilling slashers of the 80s, thanks in no small part to its devastating twist ending. The film revolves around Angela baker, a misunderstood young girl who is bullied during her stay at an overnight summer camp. When a series of grisly murders afflict the camp, Angela has to do what she can to survive with no allies.

The shocking reveal comes into play when it’s revealed that “Angela” is actually the real Angela’s brother, Peter, who was thought to have died in a tragic accident years ago. Peter was actually the one who survived, and takes the frustration of his circumstances out on his fellow camp goers. “Angela’s” haunting scream and gaping face in this final reveal makes it one of the most shocking twists of 80s horror ever put to screen.

2 Barbarian

Released In 2022

Barbarian Movie Poster Barbarian R

Director Zach Cregger Release Date September 9, 2022 Cast Bill Skarsgard , Georgina Campbell , Justin Long , Richard Brake , Kurt Braunohler , Matthew Patrick Davis Runtime 102 minutes

Even among horror movies, Barbarian is utterly unique for its misleading advertising and fractured narrative that constantly leaves viewers walking on eggshells, revealing its biggest twist early on in the film’s runtime. Initially, the film appears to be about a young woman staying in a Detroit Air BnB for a job interview, only to find the property double-booked with a vaguely threatening, if handsome, other tenant. While it seems like the tension between this premise will color the entire film, the story quickly takes a sharp left turn.

The fellow Air BnB customer is suddenly and dramatically killed off by a horrific hag-like creature with no warning when he gets lost exploring the labyrinthine tunnels underneath the property. From there, the story becomes one of abject terror, adding in new characters to be picked apart by the grisly “Mother” in the depths below. A red herring from the very beginning, Barbarian’s narrative is one of the most unpredictable in years.

1 Saw

Released In 2004

Saw R ScreenRant logo

Director James Wan Release Date October 1, 2004 Cast Cary Elwes , Leigh Whannell , Danny Glover , Monica Potter , Ken Leung Runtime 103 Minutes

The first and best film of the lengthy Saw filmography, 2004’s original masterpiece is easy to discount due to its ubiquity. However, on a first viewing, the fabulous twist is incredibly unassuming for those who manage to watch the film without being spoiled. The story centers on the search for the Jigsaw killer, a depraved serial murderer who traps his victims in elaborate torture games with some small chance of survival. Two men are trapped in such a game for the majority of the film’s runtime, a doctor and a private eye.

When the game finally ends, the corpse miraculously gets up, wiping away his gory makeup and revealing himself to be none other than John Kramer, the true identity of the Jigsaw killer.

From the beginning, a corpse, presumably an earlier victim of Jigsaw, sits between both men, having his brains blown out long before they come to. When the game finally ends, the corpse miraculously gets up, wiping away his gory makeup and revealing himself to be none other than John Kramer, the true identity of the Jigsaw killer. Unbelivable on a first viewing, Kramer’s surprise appearance is expected by few who choose to watch one of horror’s greatest masterpieces with no background knowledge.

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