Most horror films fall apart in the third act. This is an indisputable fact. Think about how good Insidious was up until they point that they showed the goofy Darth Maul wannabe demon. Remember how stupid it was in The Happening when it turned out the trees were killing people? These are not outliers.
A lot can hinge on the reveal of the monster (even if it’s not a monster-monster) in a horror movie. If a film can’t deliver on its antagonist, it’s going to end on a ridiculous note instead of a scary one, letting us walk out of the theater laughing in urine-free pants.
So here are some monster reveals that aren’t crappy! (But they are spoilerific. Beware.)
Alien has some of the best horror scenes in the genre, but none is as great at the chestburster. It’s so great, not even the actors knew it was coming. Those are their real reactions. It’s unexpected, it’s violent, and it’s a great introduction to the alien itself (which escapes).
And I know I just went on a big diatribe about how monster reveals are important to the ends of movies and this happens toward the beginning, but uh, just ignore that.
7. Pan’s Labyrinth
Hey, what’s scarier than a creepy monster chasing you all over the place? How about one who just sits there, doing nothing? Because that’s what The Pale Man does. Ofelia sees the paintings on the wall showing him murdering children, but he just sits. She touches the plate with is eyes on it and he sits. Finally, after taking food from his table (which he isn’t eating anyway, so why does he even give a crap?) he comes to life, popping those eyes into his palms to look around. It’s insanely unsettling, and that’s not even mentioning his gross old person legs.
6. Silent Hill
If you’ve played the video game series Silent Hill is based on, you might recall Pyramid Head’s initial appearance in Silent Hill 2, where he rubs himself suggestively against some mannequin enemies (purportedly he is raping them, but PS2-era graphics make it unclear).
While this isn’t quite that weird, it’s definitely something. After making a few brief appearances in the film, Pyramid Head finally shows up on the steps of the town’s church and yanks off a woman’s skin like he’s getting ready to fold it up and put it away, then throws it against the church doors, splattering the people inside with blood. That is how you make a dramatic entrance (and also an exit, since he doesn’t show back up until the second movie).
5. Mulholland Drive
This isn’t strictly a horror movie, nor is it a monster per se, but the diner nightmare scene in Mulholland Drive is freaking creepy. A man, only referred to as Dan, and who seems to have nothing else to do with the rest of the movie (but who really knows, it’s a David Lynch movie), tells his friend about a nightmare he’s been having about the very restaurant where they sit, under very similar circumstances to those they’re experiencing at that moment.
A scary man lives behind the restaurant, and they decide to go and see if he’s really there. It’s kind of a perfect standalone horror film tucked into the middle of another kind of horror movie.
While Pinhead and his gang of cenobites are scary, they don’t get a big protracted intro. They just show up in Frank Cotton’s flashback and keep coming back throughout the film. But Frank himself? Now that’s a reveal, and, in a rare move, it gets even more horrific as the film goes on. What starts as bones with bits of flesh and goop on them turns into an exceptionally well-animated humanoid and eventually becomes one of those anatomical models of the muscular system. Except bloodier.
If you saw the ending of the original Saw coming without someone telling you what to expect, you are a goddamned psychic and need to play the lottery more often. It’s shocking enough finding out that Zepp isn’t actually Jigsaw, but then following that up with the dead body that’s been laying in the middle of the floor for the entire movie standing up and pulling off a prosthetic wound was mindblowing the first time around, and it’s still a great reveal for the man who would become way less scary as the series went on. (But at least he was never as lame as Detective Hoffman.)
2. The Ring
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the original or the remake, either version of The Ring has an amazing reveal. The American version is a little prettier and a lot flashier, but either one will work just fine for our purposes. For the whole film, we knew Sadako/Samara has been killing, but we never find out how until the very end, when we see her climb out of a freaking television set to murder the protagonist’s (ex-)boyfriend. Oh, and it also turns out she’s totally evil and never wanted help at all. That part’s just a bonus.
1. Friday the 13th
It’s the classic. The entire movie sets up Jason Vorhees as a red herring, because it’s really Jason’s mom killing all those horny teens. Then, with Mrs. Vorhees dead, we see Alice idyllically floating in the lake, waiting for the cops… and then Jason himself hops out of the water and drags her under. And yep, he’s totally a gross, waterlogged (and skinny) corpse, which kinda messes with his later appearances, but what the hell, he spends the next movie in overalls and with a bag over his head anyway.