Movies that lied to you with 'final chapters'

With the release of 2017's Jigsaw, the promise of Saw: The Final Chapter—that it would be the end of the Saw story—was broken. That's hardly disappointing for Saw fans, but it is interesting how often this happens with genre franchises, particularly in horror. Over the past four decades, many franchises have released a movie with a deliberate air of finality—often literally calling it "The Final Chapter"—only to give in and make more sequels down the road. Here's a quick look at some previous Final Chapters that weren't so final after all.

Saw: The Final Chapter

Unlike many "final chapter" horror movies where the monster finally dies, Saw: The Final Chapter (also known as Saw 3D) was the seventh movie in a franchise where the killer died in the third movie. In fact, the man known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) was revealed to have a terminal brain tumor in the first Saw movie, so keeping him around until Saw III was probably the best they could realistically do. As he died, the franchise became about his legacy and others continuing his work, starting with Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), the former drug addict who survived the "reverse bear trap" in the first movie. As further movies were released, more of Jigsaw's surviving victims were revealed as secret collaborators and apprentices who continued the work of setting deadly traps intended to teach their targets to "appreciate life." But in The Final Chapter, the circle was meant to be closed, with the final apprentice being killed by the Cary Elwes character from the first movie, with nobody left who wanted to carry on Jigsaw's work. 

However, Hollywood can't resist reviving a franchise forever, and in 2017 Jigsaw was released. Set ten years after Jigsaw's death, the new film uses flashbacks to involve the original Jigsaw, while also introducing a previously unknown survivor/apprentice, who may carry the killer's work forward into even more movies.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

In 1983, the slasher genre was losing steam, and producer Frank Mancuso Jr. was resentful of the Friday the 13th series, fearing his association with it would hinder his career. So he suggested the idea of specifically labeling the fourth movie as the end of the franchise, which Paramount agreed to because it would boost the box office. Thus in 1984 came Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Hockey mask-clad killer Jason Vorhees had already taken an ax to the head at the end of Friday the 13th Part III, but for this one he was revived to kill again, only to die an even more violent death at the hands of none other than a 12-year-old Corey Feldman. Feldman's character hacks him up with a machete, and that's the end of Jason.

Except, of course, that the movie made enough money that the studio decided to make Friday the 13th: A New Beginning the very next year. As the subtitle implies, that sequel was meant to restart the series with a new killer taking Jason's place, but when fans didn't take to that idea, the next sequel was titled Friday the 13th: Jason Lives, in which he was resurrected as the immortal supernatural killer he's been ever since.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Ultimately, the Friday the 13th series went on so long, it had two installments that billed themselves as final—although neither actually lived up to it. 1993's In Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason's body is destroyed at the beginning of the film, but that just leads him to become an evil spirt with the ability to possess other people's bodies. If he possesses someone from his own family he'll be resurrected as his usual indestructible self, which leads to his pursuit of his niece Jessica (Kari Keegan). In another addition to the increasingly convoluted mythology, being of the same blood means Jessica has the power to kill him for good with a mystical dagger. When she succeeds in doing exactly that, he's literally dragged down to hell by the angry spirits of those he's killed. That, surely, must be the end of Jason Voorhees.

For eight years, it seemed to be. However, in 2001 Jason X injected sci-fi into the horror franchise, with a story in which Jason is cryogenically frozen and revived on a space ship in the future. Two years after that, Freddy vs. Jason finally paid off the moment at the end of Jason Goes to Hell in which Freddy's trademark glove is seen pulling Jason's mask into the ground.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare was the sixth film in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, released in 1991. Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is finally defeated by a woman named Maggie (Lisa Zane) who has recently discovered she's his daughter. Along the way, viewers get see flashbacks about Freddy's life before he became an immortal dream creature. Everything about this movie, especially the title, pointed to it being the last chapter of the Nightmare series. Of course it was financially successful, so much like Jason, Freddy was bound to return.

Interestingly, Freddy's Dead was followed up by Wes Craven's New Nightmare, a strange meta-sequel in which Freddy is released into the real world now that his movie series has ended, and he menaces Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played final girl Nancy in the first Nightmare on Elm Street. The more conventional version of Freddy Krueger would then return for Freddy vs. Jason.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

The question of when the monster dies, so central to the Freddy and Jason movies, is irrelevant to the Resident Evil movies. They're basically zombie films, although rooting the story in corrupt biological experimentation allows for a diverse selection of monsters than just the usual shambling corpses. Nevertheless, the genre allows for an unending flood of murderous creatures, since the real threat is the virus that creates them. That is, until 2016's Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, in which the virus itself is defeated.

When Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakens in this movie, the world is literally in ruins. But the company that created the virus still exists, and has developed an airborne antivirus which will kill any organism infected by the original virus. Even though the company is still evil and Alice spends the movie fighting them, the antivirus is of course eventually released to cleanse the world of monsters. Without the virus, there can be no more Resident Evil movies.

You already know how this story goes, right? Resident Evil: The Final Chapter made a ton of money, so of course there will be more Resident Evil movies. The next one is still early in development, and may be a reboot of the franchise, but it will still make that final chapter a lot less final.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter

This series is a little different than the others, and if you're not a fan of Syfy Original Movies, you may be surprised to learn that there's even more than one Lake Placid. In fact, years after the original 1999 theatrical film that introduced the titular lake full of killer crocodiles, Lake Placid 2 premiered on Syfy in 2007. Like many movies on that channel, it abandoned any attempt at real horror in favor of deliberate kitsch and lowbrow comedy. That set the tone for the films to follow. Lake Placid: The Final Chapter was just as silly, and ended with another crocodile attack, making its status as a final chapter in the series particularly questionable. Sure enough, in 2015 the crocodiles returned, and they weren't alone. Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, which probably wasn't as hotly anticipated as Freddy vs. Jason, combined two series that had found homes on Syfy for an epic battle of crocs versus snake.

Omen III: The Final Conflict

The third movie in the Omen series, released in 1981, was intended to be the last, but the subtitle The Final Conflict means more than that. Damien Thorne, the Antichrist who was introduced as a child in the first The Omen, is now an adult played by a young Sam Neill. He's attempting to take power in the world and prevent the second coming of Christ, so this isn't just the final conflict of the Omen series, but of human history within the world of that series. Damien is killed before he can bring his plans to fruition, and a vision of Christ even appears to cement that ultimate good has triumphed over ultimate evil.

But ten years later, a made-for-TV sequel called Omen IV: The Awakening aired on the Fox network, in which Damien is reincarnated as a new baby, with an evil and protective older sister (who's also his twin—it's complicated) to help him carry out his future plans. Fox intended this to be the first of many TV installments of the series, but no further movies were made. On the other hand, there was a remake of the original Omen released in 2006, and a TV series called Damien, following the Antichrist as an adult, which ran for one season in 2016.

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Children of the Corn was the rare horror franchise to drop a "final" into the subtitle as soon as the second film. But to be fair, Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice didn't happen until 1992, eight years after the original's 1984 release, so for a long time there was no reason to believe it was anything but a standalone horror film.

The thing about Children of the Corn as a concept is that since it revolves around an evil demon-worshiping cult of literal children, it's really hard to construct a satisfying ending that's also definitively final. Even horror enthusiasts would have a hard time with an ending where an entire community of children was slaughtered, even if they did kill adults and worship a demon. So you can kill their leaders, you can burn down the cornfield, and you can escape from the town where all this happened, but inevitably some of those creepy kids will still be out there, ready to start the killings again.

That's exactly what happens in 1995's Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, in which a boy from the original film's town of Gatlin is adopted by foster parents in Chicago, and revives the cult with predictably murderous results. Five more films followed Urban Harvest, plus a 2009 TV remake of the original; in 2018, the series is set to continue with Children of the Corn: Runaway.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade closed out the original trilogy of films about the adventurous archaeologist played by Harrison Ford. It's worth noting, however, that the title is up for interpretation. While it can be understood as describing Indy's last adventure, it can also refer to the final quest for the Holy Grail. For that matter, it could be a reference to the final quest of Indy's father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery), who spent his own life looking for the Grail. But whether the title was meant to refer to this being Indiana Jones' last adventure or not, it seemed to be exactly that for a long time. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas moved on to other projects, and almost two decades passed.

Then, of course, came 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which a much older Indy faced communists and aliens instead of Nazis and mysticism. The film's reviews were surprisingly positive, giving it a score of 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. A fifth Indiana Jones film is in the works for 2020.

It's worth noting that Last Crusade is the only non-horror film on this list, presumably because like the monsters they feature, horror franchises are just the hardest to stop. Or it could be the opposite—that finality is more important to horror. For action movies, on the other hand, the emphasis is on moving forward, on winning. The Dark Knight Rises, for example, was written as an ending for that version of Batman, but it would seem weird to call it Dark Knight: The Final Chapter.