Horror movies have always been about escapism, a place to forget real-world problems by watching characters of dubious intelligence being killed by all sorts of men and beasts. Usually these stories end with the Final Girl taking a stand and overpowering the villain in the final act. It’s a trope, but it’s a good one, because there’s something heartwarming about seeing at least one survivor arrive at dawn.
Sometimes though, when the screenwriter is feeling particularly cruel, the entire cast will be wiped out. Whether setting up a sequel or simply proving how desperate the situation really is, the following ten films make good use of the “no one lives” ending.
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
The original undead classic and a game changer for the horror genre. George A. Romero night of the living dead follows a small group of strangers who seek refuge in a deserted farmhouse. With zombies piling up outside and tensions growing inside, things are looking increasingly grim.
This is proven in the film’s conclusion, with the house being invaded. Along with all the other dead, the hero Ben takes refuge in the basement of the house, safe from the horde. Hearing the arrival of armed rescuers, Ben moves to join them but is mistaken for a zombie and shot. This depressing ending adds an extra dark layer to Romero’s masterpiece.
night of the living dead is available to stream on HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock.
“The Cabin in the Woods” (2011)
When five friends go to a remote cabin for a weekend, bad things start to happen as the youngsters are picked on one by one. Think you’ve heard this story before? Think again.
Through The cabin in the woods it’s clear that this isn’t a basic horror movie, and that’s further accentuated with the reveal that the teenagers must die to appease the Old Ones. When Dana refuses to kill her friend Marty, which would make her the “last girl,” these giant, evil gods awaken from their slumber and destroy the land.
“28 Weeks Later” (2007)
Set six months after the initial outbreak, 28 weeks later is a sequel more than worthy of 28 days later. As the military controls the pandemic, two young siblings reunite with their father in the quarantine zone, causing a chain reaction that leads to a new wave of the virus.
The film’s final shots reveal the two children escaping to France, but with Andy an unknown carrier of the virus, the scenes of a deserted Paris make it clear that the Rage virus has destroyed another country, setting up the third entry which sadly never has come.
28 weeks later is available to stream on HBO Max.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” (2006)
A prequel to the well-received 2003 remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning follows two brothers (Matt Bomer and Taylor Handley) road trip through Texas with their girlfriends (Jordana Brewster and Diora Baird) before leaving for the Vietnam War. It’s not long before the friends collide with the cannibalistic Hewitt family.
Along with the rest of her butchered friends, Chrissie of Brewster escapes the murder house and drives off to the authorities. The escape is cut short, however, as Leatherface (hiding in the backseat) impales a chainsaw through her back, causing the dead girl to knock the cop down.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is available to stream on Netflix.
“Cabin Fever” (2002)
Another cabin in the woods film, this time finding its cast tormented by a flesh-eating virus. The first movie of Eli Roth, cabin fever offers a unique form of terror, as illness is not something the protagonists can run away from when they part ways.
Halfway through the film, Jeff runs away from the group, vowing to hide so as not to contract the virus. With everyone else dead, Jeff leaves his hiding place and reveals that he is still uninfected as he shouts “I did it” into the air. Unfortunately, this attracts the attention of the local police, who shoot him to contain the disease.
cabin fever is available to stream on Hulu.
‘Low End’ (2017)
When a group of carpool students suffer a flat tire on a deserted highway, they quickly become the target of a hidden sniper. Downstream is vicious, cruel and bloodthirsty as teenagers are slaughtered with deadly precision, their heads and limbs split open with each blow.
With most of the cast dead, the sole survivor Jodi reaches the sniper and tries to shoot him with his own gun. When it gets stuck, she beats him to death with it. The final shot causes the gun to unjam, firing a murderous bullet into Jodi’s throat, ending the film with a suitably dark ending.
Downstream is available to stream on Shudder and AMC+.
A remake of the Spanish cult classic [REC], Quarantine is a found film that follows late-night reporter Angela (Jennifer Charpentier) as she records a segment at a fire department. When a call comes in, Angela and her cameraman Scott accompany the firefighters, eventually finding themselves trapped in a building as it is overrun by zombies.
Retreating to the attic, Scott is killed and Angela grabs her camera, before being dragged screaming into the darkness. Ironically, that last shot of the film was also used as a poster, spoiling the marketing ending.
‘Final Destination 5’ (2011)
When employee Sam has a vision that the bridge they are traveling on will collapse, he and several of his co-workers avoid their deaths. This is Final destination however, and soon enough, the survivors fall victim to inventive freak accidents.
Seemingly tricked by the new “kill or be killed” rule, Sam and his girlfriend Molly decide to move to Paris for work. It is revealed, however, that their plane is the same one that crashed in the original film, and the pair die in the explosion. The last man standing, Nathan, is also killed when the plane’s landing gear hits the bar he is occupying.
Final Destination 5is available to stream on HBO Max and Tubi.
“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)
The film is credited with starting the found footage phenomenon, The Blair Witch Project presents itself as a real amateur documentary. When three film students travel the outback in search of an urban legend, they quickly fall prey to strange events as escape becomes seemingly impossible.
Eventually, stumbling upon an abandoned house, they discover it is marked with bloody handprints and demonic symbols. An off-screen entity attacks the students and causes them to drop their cameras as they are dragged screaming deeper into the basement. The final shot of one of the youths standing in the corner, facing the wall, remains an iconic horror image.
The Blair Witch Project is available to stream on HBO Max.
“Return of the Living Dead” (1985)
Considered one of the greatest zombie movies of all time, The Return of the Living Dead is a more humorous version of the genre. Deciding that a graveyard is the perfect place for a party, a band of punk rockers soon have to deal with the undead as they rise from their graves intent on feasting on some brains.
As the teenagers encounter another group of survivors, the remaining characters hide from their pursuers and manage to call in the army. Realizing that the situation cannot be contained, the colonel in charge has the city destroyed with a nuclear explosion, killing everyone inside in a failed attempt to end the outbreak.
Return of the Living Dead is available to stream on Shudder, Amazon Prime Video, and Tubi.
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