HOLLYWOOD – Here at the Studio Exec we love a good ending, and I’m not talking about… well you can do that joke yourselves, it’s so obvious. I mean the film with the twist that leaves you gasping, ‘and wearing a comical expression of a guy who just had his guts kicked out’ as Bogart says in Casablanca.
But the stretch for tragic frequently drips into the absurd – see Hamlet for a particularly funny example – and the Studio Exec Fact Squad (or SEFS as we like to be known) have come up with FIVE examples to prove our point. Feel free to heap abuse on us in comments. There are absolutely no SPOILERS (I think).
1. The Wages of Fear (La Salaire de la Peur): Yves Montand plays Mario, a down on his luck Frenchman in a dirt poor South American village.
The Ending: He has succeeded in a wild adventure, transporting nitroglycerine across 400 miles of treacherous South American road, up mountains, through jungle. So dangerous is it, that the other three men who participate die. As the only survivor, and now rich with his reward, he insists on driving the truck all the way back the way he has come, laughing his head off and barreling along at careless speed. As his girlfriend and friends celebrate the news of his survival by waltzing around the village bar, Mario decides to ‘waltz’ his truck down the mountain road. Guess what happens next.
2. The Mist: A mysterious mist traps Dave Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son Billy in the local supermarket. Monsters lurk in the eerie fog, killing anyone who ventures outside and the survivors divide along the lines of religious fundamentalists and the sane.
The Ending: In a desperate bid for freedom, Billy and his son with a couple of other customers manage to get a car started and escape the supermarket. However, they can’t escape the mist and the car runs out of petrol and they can only await a horrific violent death. To spare them this, Dave shoots everyone in the car – including his son – only to see the army emerge from the mist to save the day. Dave is left in the embarrassing situation of a car full of fresh corpses and a hot gun in his hand.
3. The Shining: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) can’t write a novel so decides to kill his family instead.
The Ending: Here the arrival of the cavalry comes in the form of Dick Halloran who comes all the way from Miami to Colorado in the Winter, by plane, car and snowmobile only to get the chop and provide Jack with his one fatality (such a useless murderer is he). His incompetence is such that he is duped by his own child at a relatively easy game and dies in the snow. The shot of him frozen always elicits a bark of laughter from the unsuspecting.
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 remake): The aliens invade and start taking over San Francisco by replacing people with their alien duplicates.
The Ending: The survivors have managed to sabotage an alien pod factory and Donald Sutherland seems to have managed to blend in but when Veronica Cartwright (another survivor) approaches him, he points at her and emits an alien scream. To render the horror ever more horrific the camera zooms into Sutherland’s gaping maw.
5. Seven: A serial killer puts into motion one of the most elaborate serial killing sprees in the history of elaborate movie serial killers, taking a victim a day for a week, each one representing one of the seven deadly sins.
The Ending: Detectives Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman have taken Kevin Spacey’s serial killer out to the desert to find the last victim when a box is delivered. Brad keeps saying ‘What’s in the box?’ and weeping piteously. Morgan Freeman (who is the clever one by the way) decides he’ll open the box to reveal that it contains Gwyneth Paltrow’s head. Everything works out well.