Comeuppance and just desserts have been tools of the horror industry for many years. In regard to horror movies, though, many people confuse these two terms, or figure that they are two ways of defining the same thing. While comeuppance and just desserts are very similar, they do not refer to the same occurrences in horror movies.
Comeuppance would refer to an end that a person faced in a horror movies that he or she had coming, but did not directly reflect the type of evil that he or she committed. In most cases, comeuppance is what is served to those that are not considered as the main character, or the main protagonist (bad guy).
Examples of Comeuppance
If a person has sex in a horror movie, the comeuppance for that action is usually a swift death at the hands of a serial killer.
In the final scene of, “Psycho,” we find that Norman Bates has been sentenced to a mental institution. This is an end that is fitting for someone who killed innumerable amount of people in his insanity.
In, “The Last Exorcism,” the death of the camera man was his comeuppance. He had infiltrated the lives of people in the small town, and they decided to pay him back in their own way.
Just desserts refers to an end that a person receives that is directly in line with the evils that he or she performed during the movie. These are meant to be ironic endings that are usually saved for the main protagonist of the movie. Just desserts deals heavily with irony as taught in the works of Poe used to reflect a similar amount of paid and struggle as faced by the original victim or victims.
Examples of Just Desserts
One of my personal favorite examples of just desserts comes in the movie, “Bloody Pit of Horror.” In this cult hit, the Executioner is killed in his own dungeon with some of the same tools that he used to kill his unsuspecting victims.
At the end of the original, “Friday the 13th,” Pamela Voorhees is killed using the same machete that she was planning on using against her final victim. This was another perfect case of just desserts.
What If Examples
In, “Jaws,” the shark is killed using an explosive tank that was in it’s mouth making it his comeuppance. If the shark had dies when a larger shark came into the area, it would have been just desserts.
At the end of, “Se7en,” Mills ends up committing the Seventh Sin when he shoots and kills the killer out of rage. This was an example of comeuppance. If Mills had not killed him, and caused the killer to live out his days knowing that he had lost the game, it would have been his just desserts.
The next time that you watch a horror movie, see if there are instances of comeuppance and just desserts. See if you have become adept at picking out which is which.