I watched a film called ‘Fallen’ last night.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, before?
I hadn’t. It seems to have slipped a bit under the radar. It’s a 1998 horror film starring Denzel Washington – as I like horror and Denzel, and had never seen the two together before, I felt compelled to give it a go.
In short, it’s a good film – I recommend you check it out. Although, be warned, I’m about to give a spoiler…
Okay, so it had one of those ‘shock’ endings that you often see in horror or thriller films. You know the one…where you think the bad guy is dead…and then suddenly – BOOM – something happens to make you think otherwise.
Like those Jason or Michael Myers films where you see a shot of the killer at the end and realise that there’s going to be a sequel.
It got me thinking about endings and how important they are. Although for those of us who ‘didn’t write today’ beginnings are harder than endings…!
The whole ‘shock’ ending started out as being a bit rebellious…something a bit different. Hollywood audiences were so used to things working out happily that a ‘surprise’ ending really used to work back in the day. Audiences didn’t know what to expect.
Their humdrum idea that ‘everything will be okay in the end’ was suddenly well and truly shaken.
However, nowadays, I wonder if it’s something that’s rather overused. Almost predictable. I’d say that 60 – 70% of the horror films that I’ve seen recently have relied on it. Which brings me to a point where I’d be more surprised if things ended up happily ever after.
One thing I think that does work is an ambiguous, open ending. The kind of thing that gets people talking long after the end credits have rolled.
A good example of this is in the film Shallow Grave, which came out in 1994. If you’ve not seen it I highly recommend it – it was the director Danny Boyle’s cinematic debut.
The film has caused a lot of debate online (and offline too) due to its ending. As the film ends one of the characters is badly injured, and as the emergency services arrive you can’t quite work out whether he’s dead or not.
After watching it I remember searching online to see what others thought, but no one seemed to be sure.
Fast forward several months and I’m on the tube heading from Camden to East London. I look over to my right…and who do I see in front of me? None other than Danny Boyle.
Back in these days I was an aspiring actor, so I opened up a conversation with him. He was a lovely guy and really chatty. It was during the chat that I suddenly realised that I’d been presented with a rare opportunity.
I could actually ask about the ending of Shallow Grave and have an answer from none other than the director himself.
And so I did. And he told me that the character was definitely alive at the end of the film.
He also told me how surprised he was whenever he heard that people thought the ending was ambiguous. When they filmed it they’d assumed that everyone would know that he was alive.
How about that!? A surprise ending wasn’t even meant to be quite so surprising at all.
(Oh and of course I asked him to cast me in one of his films. They were currently filming for Trainspotting 2. He gave me the name of his casting director – I emailed her, and alas, never heard back. Maybe next time)
While we’re on the subject of endings, there’s one film that steals it for me for every time.
If you haven’t seen John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ you need to. Incredible slice of cinema.