Spoiler Alert – Do I need to say it again? Given that I'm talking about how these movies end; the following discussion is chockfull of spoilers.
5. The Orphanage (2007)
Some really well-crafted misdirection, leaves the protagonists (and the audience) blind to the fact the poor little adopted son was right under their (and our) nose the whole movie. Dead. When his fate is finally revealed it's a sublime ending to one of the best horror movies released in recent years.
4. April Fool’s Day (1986)
I know a good number of people brag that they picked the ending early and that it's so obvious that anyone who didn't is a moron. OK, let's back up for a moment. In 1986 the slasher formula was well and truly entrenched: someone, or something, wronged in some way some time ago returns to kill, one by one, a group of people somehow linked to the original wrong doing. The closest thing to a twist ending you ever got was the antagonist showing signs of life after being categorically killed dead fatally.
Now, I saw April Fool's Day upon its original theatrical release. I was young and had been consuming a steady diet of formulaic slashers, so I just wasn't expecting, or even looking for, a "twist" ending. When it's finally revealed that the whole movie was just a series April fool's pranks and everyone is still alive and well it completely took me by surprise. It might not seem so now, but the conclusion was actually pretty subversive for its time. At least, that's what I tell myself when people call me a moron.
3. Skeleton Key, The (2005)
I just don't understand the lack of love for this film. It has some really tense moments that come from great performances and rock solid direction. The ambience of the Deep South is so well captured and the ending is an absolute cracker.
OK, by now you can probably guess that I like twist endings. But not stupid arbitrary twist endings that are not supported by the events that precede it (think High Tension). I love a twist ending you don't see coming even though it ultimately makes perfect sense. The Voodoo body swapping that happens at the end of The Skeleton Key does make perfect sense, and I for one didn't see it coming, which left me reeling and very much in love with The Skeleton Key (or Kate Hudson, I can't be sure).
2. The Sixth Sense (1999)
It's easy to forget how much we all loved The Sixth Sense after its theatrical release, now that M Night Shyamalan has gone on to make so many turkeys, and become somewhat of a laughing stock. But the revelation that Bruce Willis was dead and had been since the first few minutes of the film gave me goose bumps, and is easily one of the best horror movie finales of all time, despite the memory of it being tarnished somewhat by Shyamalan’s subsequent output.
1. Psycho (1960)
To be clear here, I'm talking about the reveal of Norman’s mother in the Bates’ mansion basement. Who knew she was dead? Who knew Norman had a split personality? And how bloody creepy was the mummified Mrs Bates? That ending is an absolute cracker and has yet to be topped.
Admittedly, I tend to forget that there is an expository monologue from Norman’s shrink that comes after that killer moment which does let a bit of steam out of the finale, but I still content that Psycho has the most impressive conclusion to any horror movie, ever.