For diehards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Maybe you’ve even lost whole nights of sleep in a struggle to get certain images or ideas out of your head.
Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore. This time: I’m Thinking of Ending Things, screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of the 2016 novel by Iain Reid about a young woman meeting her boyfriend’s family for the first time.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things aims for existential dread more than terror, and although there are plenty of uncanny and unsettling scenes, you probably won’t find yourself clutching your armrest. There’s one abrupt cut toward the end that might be startling, and the finale has a creepy sequence in which one character searches a deserted high school for another, but if you can make it through the trailer, you won’t have much of a problem watching the movie. Unless you are terrified by your own mortality and the long, slow physical decline that presages it and find that lately, whenever you catch a glimpse in the mirror at the wrack and ruin that used to be your face, you can’t help wondering if it’s too late to ever have the life you wanted, the life you dreamed of, the life you always knew was just around the corner, but now, but now, alas … in which case this movie will scare you to death, or at least inspire you to sign up for an adult education class.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is more about the passage of time than ghosts or monsters, but it’s pretty blunt about the passage of time. You won’t find yourself dreading showers or scanning the horizon for fins at the beach, but you might find yourself wondering if existence itself is kind of a raw deal. How much that will haunt you after seeing I’m Thinking of Ending Things depends on how much it haunts you already!
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is not a gory movie. There is one shot featuring the bodies of two dead sheep, but they’re frozen solid, not bloody or decomposing; there’s also an unsettling story about pigs and maggots, but it isn’t shown on screen. There’s one mildly gross shot of a toe missing its nail, but there’s really very little to worry about, gore-wise.
The thing about existential dread is that if you pack enough of it into a movie, you can end up with something pretty frightening even without werewolves or vampires. I’m Thinking of Ending Things won’t make you scream or cover your eyes, but it takes a relatively dim view of life in ways that might stick with you afterward. It’s not the kind of movie you’ll regret having seen the next time you’re alone in an empty house, but if you’re prone to sleepless nights wondering where your life went wrong—especially if you’re a high school janitor—maybe steer clear.
For more on I’m Thinking About Ending Things, listen to Slate’s Matthew Dessem and Dana Stevens discuss the movie in spoiler-filled detail.