Horror movies often have an action-packed final act. Killers are unmasked, monsters are defeated, and the body count is usually added to significantly. One thing that is sure to ramp up the tension in a film’s final act is a good, old-fashioned fire. Facing off against the most destructive side of nature is terrifying at the best of times, but team it with a traditional horror foe, and you’re definitely in for a scary time.
So, let’s heat things up and take a look at my top 10 favorite final act fires.
10. Pet Sematary (1989)
Pet Sematary is the tale of how death and grief can affect a family and how people cope with these situations differently. When Louis Creed’s infant son, Gage, dies after being hit by a truck, Louis discovers the dangerous secrets of the local Native American burial ground.
After bringing Gage back to life, and then killing him again when things turn sour, Louis has no choice but to burn down his neighbor Jud’s house to cover the evidence. Louis covers the house in gasoline before lighting the fire from the outside. As the fire snakes through the house, we see the flames ignite Gage’s tiny, discarded body on the landing. We then cut to Louis walking away with his wife’s body, showing that while he’s covered the tracks of his latest mistake, he’s about to make another one.
9. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)
The 2018 sequel The Strangers: Prey at Night showed us that the mysterious killers from the original movie are not as indestructible as they may have first seemed. After being terrorized at a trailer park, siblings Luke and Kinsey start to take down the three masked killers one by one. With only the Man in the Mask left alive, Kinsey is trying to escape in an abandoned police car when she is rammed repeatedly by the Man in the Mask’s truck. When the two vehicles end up jammed together, Kinsey uses her lighter to blow them both up.
However, the Man in the Mask isn’t done yet, and his flaming truck chases Kinsey, where the slightly charred serial killer tries to kill Kinsey once and for all before he finally succumbs to his injuries.
8. Sorority Row (2009)
Final act parties are a staple in horror movies, but when the senior year party at Theta Pi sorority finishes, the real action starts. After accidentally killing their sister, Megan, a year previously, someone is killing off all the sisters who covered up the secret and tried to get on with their lives. As the film draws to a close, we find out the killer is Cassidy’s boyfriend, Andy, hoping to provide Cassidy with a better life by killing off everyone who knows her secret.
Andy sets fire to the Theta Pi house, hoping it will destroy all the evidence of his murder spree. As Cassidy hangs through the flaming floor, Andy plans to make short work of her, but the distraction allows Ellie to shoot him. He then falls through the flaming floorboards to his death.
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7. Black Christmas (2006)
Out of all the versions of Black Christmas, the 2006 entry is perhaps my least favorite, but there’s no denying the creepiness factor of the final act. Killer Billy has returned to his family home, which is now a sorority house, to reunite with his slightly unhinged sister, Agnes, who has been living in the attic. With the siblings now a united team against the remaining sorority sisters, Kelli finds herself in a tight spot when she falls into the wall cavity with Agnes.
As the attic burns around them due to a fallen Christmas candle, Kelli faces either death from the fire, from Agnes crawling up towards her, or from Billy making his way down to save his sister.
6. The Wicker Man (1973)
Many people deserve their nasty fate in horror movies, but police sergeant Neil Howie does nothing to deserve his terrible death and is merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. After heading to the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Howie finds himself in the middle of a pagan community, on the verge of celebrating May Day.
Worried about their poor harvest, the community plan to burn a large wicker man containing a number of sacrifices in the hopes of providing better crops. Unfortunately for Howie, he is the human sacrifice along with a group of farm animals. As the wicker man burns, the sounds of Howie’s desperate pleas are truly haunting.
5. Hereditary (2018)
When Annie loses her mother and her daughter, Charlie, very close to each other, she understandably has a hard time coping. When Annie’s friend, Joan, shows her a way to apparently communicate with Charlie from beyond the grave, she uses Charlie’s sketchbook to get closer to her daughter.
However, she soon believes Charlie’s spirit is evil and attempts to burn the sketchbook to break the connection. When her sleeve catches on fire as the sketchbook burns, Annie decides she is connected to the sketchbook somehow and tries to convince her husband, Steve, to burn the book and hopefully break the curse. Steve refuses, believing the action will only fuel Annie’s delusions, so Annie tosses the book into the fire herself. However, it is Steve who burns this time, and Annie has to watch on devastated.
4. Halloween II (1981)
Michael’s death at the end of Halloween (1978) was pretty low-key after being shot a couple of times by Dr Loomis. So naturally, Halloween II had to up its game to make us think Michael was dead again.
After killing his way around a hospital, Michael has finally tracked down his sister, Laurie, and is ready to wipe another name off his family tree. However, Dr Loomis and Laurie work together to fill the room with gas and ignite it to take Michael down. With the explosion seemingly taking out Loomis, Michael walks clear, a flaming figure still intent on taking Laurie with him. However, the flames soon overtake him, and he collapses.
3. Dead Silence (2007)
Every horror movie has a different type of villain, but Dead Silence shows us what happens if you piss off an undead ventriloquist and her 101 ventriloquist dummies. Mary Shaw was murdered by a local mob who accused her of kidnapping a local child, and years later, her spirit comes back to take revenge on those who killed her.
In a bid to try and stop Mary’s spirit, Jamie and Detective Lipton head to Mary’s old theatre, where they discover all of Mary’s dummies that were buried with her have been replaced in their display cabinet. As Mary’s spirit moves from doll to doll, Lipton begins to shoot them, but eventually, Jamie hurls a lamp, hoping to take all the dolls out at once by setting them alight.
2. Midsommar (2019)
While Neil Howie maybe didn’t deserve his fiery fate in The Wicker Man, there’s no denying that Christian got what was coming to him in the more modern folk horror Midsommar. Midsommar starts off as a tale of a group of friends heading to Sweden for a local community’s midsummer celebrations but slowly gets more uncomfortable and eerie as the story progresses. Dani is already dealing with the trauma of losing her entire family, and having a terribly unsupportive and emotionally abusive boyfriend like Christian is not helping her situation.
After Dani is crowned the May Queen and Christian is drugged to participate in a mating ritual, Dani ends up choosing Christian to be the final sacrifice as part of the midsummer celebrations. Christian is sewn up inside the body of a bear, and placed in a temple to be burned along with the other eight sacrifices, most of which are thankfully already dead. We’re then treated to lingering shots of Christian’s immobile, drugged face as the flames consume him and everything around him.
1. House of Wax (2005)
House of Wax (2005) decided that a wax museum full of dead people wasn’t enough for the second remake of the story, and instead, focusses on an entire town turned into a giant wax monument. When a group of friends is unlucky enough to stumble into the town, they find themselves at the mercy of killer brothers, Bo and Vincent.
The climax of the movie takes place in the wax museum itself, and after a fire starts in the basement during a fight between Vincent and twins Carly and Nick, the museum literally begins to melt around the two sets of siblings as they fight for their lives. As the whole building is made of wax, it starts to cave in on itself as the fire spreads. When it comes time for Nick and Carly to escape, they have to claw their way through the walls to make sure they aren’t buried alive in the molten museum.
What’s your favorite finale act fire? Did you find it on this list? Share your personal picks with us over on Twitter, in the official Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!