January is a month of reflection. Learning from the past, living in the present, and looking ahead to the future. With that in mind, I want to look at an aspect of film very effective in the horror genre: Foreshadowing. Between lines of dialogue and imagery within the scene, directors love to give you clues of shocking events to come, sometimes forecasting a twist ending. And sometimes you don’t realize it until repeated viewings!
Let’s take a look at 10 fantastic examples of foreshadowing in horror films. By nature of the list, SPOILERS AHEAD. You’ve been warned!
10. Jurassic Park (1993)
At the bottom of the list is perhaps the biggest reach on whether it was intentional, which also makes it one of the most interesting examples. At the beginning of the film, while flying in to Jurassic Park, Dr.Grant (played by Sam Neill) realizes he has two female ends for his seatbelt. He proceeds to tie them together, making it work for the time being.
Fast forward a bit and the team is told the park only has female dinosaurs to prevent breeding, which this is later proven false by the discovery of eggs.A discovery that Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) had also predicted this earlier in the film. Who knows if this seat belt theory is true, but it does connect to one of the film’s most iconic lines, “Life finds a way”.
9. Get Out (2017)
Next up his Jordan Peele’s modern masterpiece, Get Out. We all knew from the start that Chris was going to have a rough weekend. While driving to the family estate, Chris and Rose accidentally hit a deer with their car. As this would be the beginning of Chris’ nightmarish journey, it would also forecast his escape.
In the film’s third act, Chris resists getting hypnotized to flee and on the way out impales his attacker on (you guessed it) a mounted deer’s head. It was very subtle, which almost wasn’t the case had the film included that deer skeleton scene from the trailer. Alas, it ended up being a wise decision to omit the scene, leading to a very satisfying moment.
8. The Wicker Man (1973)
In the eighth slot is cult classic The Wicker Man, and sorry to disappoint but not the Nic Cage version. The 1973 film is filled with twists and turns all the way to the film’s final moments. The finale see’s our protagonist Sgt. Howie realizing the missing girl he was investigating was not the human sacrifice. As it turn out, HE is the sacrifice.
When Howie sneaks into the May Day celebration to rescue Rowan, he steals the innkeeper’s costumes. For those who know their puppets, he disguises himself as Punch the Fool. One of the 4 requirements for the sacrifice was to be a fool, which I guess in culty rituals can be taken quite literally. This also makes you look at that weird Innkeeper’s Daughter song from the beginning; it’s less creepy and more like the townsfolk praising her, supporting the film’s underlying themes of fertility. Just another reason this film is an underrated gem.
Making the list is one of my personal favorites, Cabin in the Woods. Toward the beginning of the film, while the stupid teenagers wander into the basement to pick an item to seal their fate, the controllers place bets on which they will choose. Each item correlates with a monster on a betting board that reveals dozens of possible villains. Most fans were excited at the prospect of seeing more of the monsters and the film does not disappoint when it hits the finale.
After infiltrating the facility, Dana and Marty release all the monsters to exact revenge on the workers. During this sequence of pure mayhem, we get to see pretty much every monster listed on the whiteboard. The items in the basement foreshadowed this chaotic ending, proving that despite the title, this movie is way more than just another Cabin in the Woods flick.
6. IT (2017)
Ok, admittedly this bit of foreshadowing doesn’t reveal anything big but is still a fun 2-for-1 special. In 2017’s IT, there’s a scene where Bill nods off drawing a picture of Beverly. He wakes up as water drips from a leak on the ceiling, with a few drops landing on his red drawing, resembling blood. This would come back around twice, first in the infamous bathroom scene. While each Loser Club member is terrorized by Pennywise, Bev’s visit comes in the form of her bathroom getting covered in blood.
This bloody Beverly motif returns later when she wakes up in Pennywise’s lair to drops on her face, except it’s not water. With blood drops on her face, the scene mirrors Bill’s drawing from earlier. Only the best for a Stephen King classic, and I salute you Andy Muschietti.
5. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko, as I’m sure you’re aware, follows the intelligent yet unstable Donnie as he navigates teen adolescence and an impending apocalypse. Ya know, normal high school stuff.
The film opens up to Donnie receiving information the bunny-suited Frank about the end of the world. Over the course of the film, Donnie spirals out of control and eventually dying from the (future) jet engine falling through his roof. Donnie’s demise is foreshadowed pretty early by his English class studying a book called “The Destructors”, with Ms. Pomeroy essentially outlining Donnie’s fate. Donnie wasn’t stopping the end of the world, he was trying to stop the end of his world, with Frank The Bunny standing in as a manifestation of his own self destruction. Oof, this movie makes my head hurt.
4. Psycho (1960)
Of course I couldn’t make this list without the originator of the twist, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. The most famous of his works is Psycho, is famous for killing off the main character halfway through the film. A shocker to say the least. Even more shocking was the reveal that Norman Bates’ mother was dead and he was carrying out the killings dressed as her. However, we were too riveted by Perkin’s performance in the infamous “We all go a little mad sometimes” scene to realize the answer was right in front of us.
Though that line gets the praise, it’s another that does the telling. “She’s as harmless as one of those stuffed birds” pretty much told us that Norma was long gone, now just another piece of Norman’s taxidermy collection. It’s right in front of us, but in 1960, this type of masterful foreshadowing wasn’t on any director’s radar yet. Hitchcock was the GOAT.
3. Final Destination (2000)
It was a no brainer to put Final Destination on this list. The harder part was picking which one but when in doubt, you go with the original! The Final Destination franchise (which I ranked worst to best here) was built off of a genius premise: death will always find you, even if you escape.
The pillar of these films are the opening set pieces where we see all our main characters die in a premonition. In the first film the premonition sequence shows the exact order of the deaths to come. Initially the films began with subtle foreshadowing, but eventually turned into full on blueprints by the third with pictures before the accident predicting how they would die. But when the first movie dropped, we hadn’t seen anything like it. Final Destination made foreshadowing the catalyst for the entire movie rather than a small tool. For some, the movies got stale but to me this still one of the best horror franchises and genius premises of all time.
Runner-up goes to this past year’s smash hit, Hereditary. Peter’s teacher discusses 2 Greek tragedies, essentially describing what happens when you ignore the signs pointing towards you fate or running away from it all together. This can be applied to Peter ignoring the warning signs around him, and Annie failing to forces surrounding her family. If you research these Greek tragedies at all, the shocking 3rd act is not all that surprising. Beheading and all, it’s right there in Sophocles’ work.
Edgar Wright is known for his snappy dialogue, clever transitions, and his unique title sequences. Shaun of the Dead is arguably his best work, employing all of the above, plus a proficient use of foreshadowing in a nice 1-2 punch. The film opens with a fake out showing Shaun stumbling out of bed like a zombie. We watch his normal morning routine mirrored only a few scenes later following the zombie outbreak, hilariously highlighting Shaun’s obliviousness.
But the real predictive treat we get is Ed breaking down the drinking plan for the day. Ed may be a simple man, but his ingenious game-plan describes numerous key moments of the film. There are dozens more tidbits like this to uncover as you rewatch the movie over and over. Shaun of the Dead deserves an entire article itself, but for now will have to settle for the top spot on this list.
That’ll do it, fiends! How many of these film’s inclusions did you see coming? Have you caught all of these Easter eggs? If not, this might be the perfect time to go back and rewatch some of these stellar films. If you do, let us know on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook! I’m looking forward to your responses!