(Note that I mention several movies, below, to use as examples. I touch on the endings of these particular movies, so watch for spoilers if you haven’t seen them and still plan to: Alien, Life, Drag Me to Hell, Dog Soldiers, Cabin in the Woods).
I find it exceedingly difficult to find new horror to watch/read.
See, my taste in horror runs down some very specific paths. I’m not interested in human-on-human horror, for the most part. Saw, Wolf Creek, any of that. I only tend to like supernatural or sci-fi horror, with a rare few exceptions. Give me It, or zombies, or a xenomorph. Jason only started to interest me after he rose from the dead.
So, okay, narrowing down the field. But there’s still plenty of genre-horror, so why do I have trouble?
It’s because I deeply, deeply dislike hopeless/frustrating endings.
What do I mean by that? I mean any ending where all the protagonists struggles accomplished nothing. Where it’s not only not a happy ending, but basically a nihilistic one.
For some people, that’s the point of horror, and that’s fine. For them. Me? It’s not just that I’m not fond of them, I find them deeply unpleasant on an emotional level.
Drag Me to Hell, for instance. I really enjoyed that movie, right up until the end, where the main character is… Well, it’s in the title. Nothing she did, nothing that happened in the movie, mattered a damn. Or Life. The alien gets to Earth, the final two survivors are about to die either due to the alien or because she’s tumbling helplessly through space, and none of their efforts, none of their struggles, none of the final plan accomplished one. Damn. Thing.
Horror doesn’t have to have a happy ending, of course. (Though I disagree with the premise that it can’t. Some of the best horror movies/novels have them.) But you can have a dark ending that’s still not too dark. Dog Soldiers and Alien both have only a single survivor out of a larger group, but that survivor lives because they succeeded in destroying the threat. I’m fine with that. But if they’d gone with one of the earlier ideas for the ending of Alien, with Ripley having her head ripped off and the xenomorph taking control of the ship, sending messages in fake voices? I’d have hated that movie.
Even Cabin in the Woods, with it’s “old gods rising to destroy humanity” ending didn’t bother me, because it still felt like the main characters accomplished something, were able to fight back against the people who put them in this situation. As I said, doesn’t have to be happy, but I don’t do well with useless/hopeless.
And this simply isn’t a question most reviews answer. You can’t read up on a movie, or a novel, and get a sense of whether the ending’s going to fall into my preferences or not. And even if I go searching and find the answer, it comes with much more detailed spoilers I’d rather not see.
So, yeah. If you ever wonder why I don’t watch/read/talk about horror nearly as much as I do other genres, despite the fact that my fantasy usually has a pretty dark element to it? This is why: Because I have trouble finding any that’s not a serious risk of just pissing me off and making me feel like I wasted my time, no matter how well done it might have been.