30 terrible movies saved by great endings

Bad films that find their footing at the last minute

bad movies with good endings

While some films are awful from beginning to end, some movies start terrible but manage to wrap up with a great ending. Though their amazing conclusions don’t make them better, their surprisingly awesome resolutions rescued them from becoming totally forgettable films. Below are 30 bad movies with good endings.

After.Life (2009)

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After.Life stars Liam Neeson as Eliot Deacon, a mortician who claims to have the ability to speak to the dead. In the movie, Eliot tries to convince a recently deceased woman named Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) to move on, helping her to transition into the afterlife. Though the film has an interesting premise, it fails to deliver enough thrills to keep viewers involved. While most parts of the flick are boring, the twist at the end makes things a little bit thought-provoking.

In the third act of the movie, it is revealed that Eliot is lying because Anna is actually alive. Eliot considers people who take life for granted as “walking corpses” because he wants to teach them about the sacredness of being alive. Unfortunately, Anna fails the test, so Eliot ends up burying her alive. Though the shocking ending doesn’t fix the film’s plot holes and inconsistencies, it does give a completely new meaning to Eliot’s motivations and Neeson’s performance.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

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Compared to the original Anchorman movie, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was considered by many critics as a below-average comedy flick. However, the Adam McKay-directed film reclaimed itself with a senseless yet hilarious fight scene near the end of the movie.

The eight-minute fight scene starts with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his news team facing off with a rival news crew. But things quickly become riotous when different news teams ― the BBC (Sasha Baron Cohen), MTV (Kanye West), Entertainment News (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey), the Canadian News Team (Jim Carrey), ESPN (Will Smith), and the History Network (Liam Neeson ― show up out of nowhere for a zany royal rumble.

Beowulf (2007)

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One of the first 3D movies to be released on the big screen, Beowulf was praised for its stunning visuals. However, some critics and viewers found the plot boring, thanks to its extremely complicated source material.

Despite its dull first and second acts, the Robert Zemeckis-directed movie concludes with a thrilling and action-packed final scene, in which the titular character (Ray Winstone) swings around and attacks a dragon, who is also his son. Because they are somehow linked to each other, Beowulf rips out his own heart to kill the dragon, much to the thrill of the audience. In addition to the scene’s shocking moment, the satisfying ending is also an impressive metal action sequence that is truly pleasing to the eyes.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

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Produced with a budget of less than $10,000, Birdemic: Shock and Terror gained notoriety for its poor quality, with many critics citing it as one of the worst films of all time. Directed by James Nguyen, the indie film is about a horde of mutated birds that attacks the quiet town of Half Moon Bay, California. The acting, CGI, and sounds are bad, but its surprisingly good ending makes the movie look like an art film.

At the end of the film, a family is trying to escape the evil birds. The father shoots at them with a gun, and one of the birds flew right into the windshield of their SUV and dies. Bizarrely, for some reason, a flock of doves comes and drives out the wicked birds. Then in a surreal final scene, the family spends a solid five minutes of screen time standing on the beach, holding hands, watching the vicious birds retreat.

Blair Witch (2016)

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A direct sequel to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, Blair Witch, aka Blair Witch 3, follows a young man who ventures into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland with his friends to uncover the mystery surrounding his missing sister. Her disappearance 17 years earlier is believed to be connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first, the group is hopeful, but as the night wears on, a visit from a menacing presence soon makes them realize that the legend is all too real and more sinister than they could have ever imagined.

To describe it briefly, Blair Witch is an unnecessary follow-up to the original movie, as it is simply a lazy rehash of the latter. But in its last 20 minutes, the movie introduces a horror device that makes it a little bit gripping. The protagonists find out that you can’t directly look at the witch, so to see the villain, they cleverly stand with their backs to her while filming her with their cameras.

Brother Bear (2003)

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A story about a hunter who is transformed into a bear, Brother Bear was described by critics as an unremarkable Disney movie with an uninspired plot and forgettable dialogue. The lackluster film, however, ends brilliantly with a heartwarming scene, in which the titular character directly confronts his wrongdoings.

Despite receiving generally negative reviews from critics, Brother Bear was a box-office hit, earning a total of $250 million worldwide against a production budget of just $46 million. The Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker-directed flick was even nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 76th Academy Awards in 2004.

Cabin Fever (2002)

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Directed by Eli Roth, Cabin Fever follows a group of college graduates who rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.

More gory than scary, Cabin Fever isn’t a horror masterpiece but some parts are incredibly enjoyable to watch. One of its best moments is found at the end of the film when one of the teenage protagonists (Joey Kern), who survives all the deadly shenanigans by simply hiding out with gallons of beer, celebrates his unexpected good fortune. He, however, is quickly shot to death when the police mistake him for one of the infected.

Click (2006)

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Starring Adam Sandler, Click tells the story of Michael Newman, an overworked architect who neglects his family after acquiring a magical universal remote that enables him to control reality. Aside from shamelessly borrowing some plot elements from It’s A Wonderful Life, Click has a lazy kind of humor that simply doesn’t land.

Surprisingly, the movie manages to conclude with a heartwarming ending. After happily skipping the boring and unpleasant times of his life, Michael eventually realizes that the remote has taken control of his life for the worse and subsequently learns to cherish all the precious moments with his family. Sandler brilliantly pulled off a touching performance at the end of the movie, which is a weirdly poignant portion of the otherwise stinker-filled comedy.

Constantine (2005)

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Despite its intriguing premise, Constantine lacks focus. The film’s concept of angels and demons battling it out on Earth is exciting, but its narrative feels extremely complex and difficult to follow for some viewers.

Though Constantine could easily be remembered as a fumbling Francis Lawrence-directed movie, it was saved by the captivating performance of Tilda Swinton as the androgynous angel Gabriel, who stole the spotlight near the end of the film. Swinton’s convincing portrayal of Gabriel was lauded by critics and even earned the actress a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards.

Deep Impact (1998)

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In the sci-fi disaster film Deep Impact, a comet is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. Despite the high stakes, most parts of the movie are rather forgettable. The ending, however, manages to tug at the viewers’ heartstrings. Though the comet has been nuked, it only split up into two still-gigantic rocks.

Seeing some of the characters surrendering themselves to their fate and sacrificing themselves in an attempt to save others is truly heart-wrenching. Unfortunately, earlier parts of the film don’t invoke this impassioned feeling, sinking the movie’s chance at being the memorable disaster flick it aspires to be.

Equilibrium (2002)

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The cast of Equilibrium includes some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Christian Bale and Sean Bean. Its star power, however, is not enough to make the movie shine brightly. Set in an oppressive future where all forms of feeling are illegal, the Kurt Wimmer-directed movie centers on a man in charge of enforcing the law of the new regime, who suddenly becomes the one capable of overthrowing it.

While its premise is not that terrible, the movie feels stale, except for an epic battle at the end of the film. This extended sequence of handgun and kung fu fighting is extremely satisfying, most especially the moment when one of the villains got his face sliced in half with a katana by Bale’s character.

Event Horizon (1997)

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A commercial and critical failure, Event Horizon was panned for its gratuitous gore, overreliance on horror clichés, and a mishmash of genres. Despite being one of the worst movies of director Paul W. S. Anderson, Event Horizon was saved by one of the character’s descent into madness at the end of the movie. While some viewers may find the film’s conclusion silly, there’s something wickedly good in Dr. William Weir’s (Sam Neill) journey to blood-soaked lunacy.

Dr. Weir’s insanity peaked in the scene where he gouged out his own eyes while saying the lines “Where we’re going you don’t need eyes to see.” The moment is creepy yet fun, just like most memorable scenes from ‘90s horror movies.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

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The third installment of the Halloween film series, Halloween III: Season of the Witch centers on hospital emergency room Dr. Daniel “Dan” Challis (Tom Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), the daughter of a murder victim, who uncover a terrible plot by small-town mask maker Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). Conal is planning a Halloween mass murder through an ancient Celtic ritual that involves a boulder stolen from Stonehenge, the use of Silver Shamrock masks, and a triggering device contained in a television commercial.

Despite its confusing plot, the movie is somehow saved by Atkins’ impressive performance at the end of the film. After discovering Conal’s evil plan, Dr. Dan runs to a gas station demanding to use the gas attendant’s phone. He then calls the TV stations to stop airing the aforementioned commercial. The doctor goes hysterical as the commercial continues to play, and screams into the phone over and over, “Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it!” Despite having a very limited script, Atkins nailed the scene, giving viewers a rather satisfying ending to a film packed with trivial thrills and uncertain plotting.

Man on Fire (2004)

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Though loved by audiences, Man on Fire was panned by critics for its extreme depiction of violence and excessive duration. The Tony Scott-directed movie stars Denzel Washington as John Creasy, a former CIA operative who reluctantly accepts a job as a bodyguard for 9-year-old Lupita (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of wealthy businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony). When Lupita is kidnapped by a bloodthirsty gunman (Jesús Ochoa), Creasy must face a swarm of corrupt cops and criminals to rescue her.

While Man on Fire is a traditional action movie, it surprisingly has a poignant ending. The film concludes with Creasy blasting his way to the kidnappers, but instead of fighting them to death, he agrees to trade himself for Lupita.

Meet the Feebles (1989)

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Our list of bad movies with good endings includes one of Peter Jackson’s works before his time as the director of The Lord of the Rings franchise. Written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair, and Danny Mulheron, Meet the Feebles features Jim Henson-esque, animal-figured puppets who are members of stage troupe. However, whereas the Muppets characterize positivity, naïve folly, and innocence, the Feebles largely present negativity, vice, and other misanthropic characteristics.

Meet the Feebles is super uncomfortable to watch, and many viewers would have easily locked it away in their repressed-memory-vault, if not for its shocking violent ending. After one of the puppets’ bosses verbally abuses the hippo performer named Heidi, the latter becomes extremely and uncontrollably angry that she takes a machine gun and goes on a rampage. Heidi then serves 10 years in prison for the crime she committed and is later rehabilitated to work as a grocery store cashier.

Monkeybone (2001)

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A combination of live-action and stop-motion animation, Monkeybone tells the story of cartoonist Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser) who finds himself in an incredible fantasy world known as Down Town after slipping into a coma following a freakish accident. As Stu tries to outwit Death (Whoopi Goldberg) to return to reality, one of his own cartoon creations, Monkeybone, comes to life and is manically intent on destroying Stu’s plans to resume his life.

While the film’s original and bizarre visuals were commended by critics, many reviewers find Monkeybone a shapeless movie with uninteresting characters and random situations that fail to build up laughs. The ending, however, features a hilarious showdown between the Monkeybone-possessed Stu and Stu’s-mind-inside-of-a-dead-athlete-organ-donor, played by Chris Kattan.

Though sounds confusing, the ending is so enjoyable to watch, as it features Kattan acting as a reanimated organ donor who is running away from doctors who still want to harvest his organs. The film’s third act culminates with Death showing up in a giant robot and Stu ultimately regaining his original body.

Open Water (2003)

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A survival horror thriller film, Open Water tells the story of a couple who go scuba diving while on vacation, only to find themselves stranded miles from shore in shark-infested waters when the crew of their boat accidentally leaves them behind. While its premise is not that bad, its execution isn’t really exceptional. In fact, many viewers find it uninteresting until its dramatic ending.

Following Daniel’s (Daniel Travis) death, Susan (Blanchard Ryan) is left alone, surrounded by sharks. But instead of waiting for her imminent death, she sheds her scuba equipment and lets herself sink into the water. The way this scene is shot is quite emotional, as Susan’s change of expression from horror to resignation makes viewers really empathize with her.

Phase IV (1974)

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A box-office and critical flop, Phase IV is one of the many bad movies with good endings from the ‘70s. In the Saul Bass-directed movie, desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on humans. Though the film has a unique premise, it simply doesn’t work.

Phase IV plainly concludes with a voiceover explaining that the ants are planning to peacefully incorporate humans into their new world. But it’s really the lost, original ending of the movie that saves it from becoming a total failure. The recently unearthed ending features a montage of Daliesque imagery including ants emerging from people’s heads, a half-fish half-woman, human swimming with frogs, and a kaleidoscope of nude women. Providing a touch of surrealist art to the film, the ending doesn’t come with an explanation, making it all the more enchanting.

Rambo (2008)

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A sequel to Rambo III, Rambo follows the titular character (Sylvester Stallone) as he leads a group of mercenaries into Burma to rescue Christian missionaries, who have been kidnapped by a local infantry unit. Stallone, who also directed the movie, knows how to stage action sequences, but critics panned the flick for its uneven pacing and unoriginal plot.

While Rambo is structurally the same as its predecessors, the film’s ending definitely delivers. If you’re a fan of bloody and explosive action sequences, then Rambo’s final scene will leave you satisfied.

Repo Men (2010)

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Based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia, Repo Men is set in a future where people can buy artificial organs to extend their lives. But if they default on payments, an organization known as the Union sends agents to repossess the organs. Remy (Jude Law) is one of the best agents in the business, but when he becomes the recipient of an artificial heart, he finds himself in the same dire straits as his many victims. With his former partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) in hot pursuit, Remy runs for his life.

Though Repo Men has an intriguing premise and a likable pair of leads, the Miguel Sapochnik-directed movie was criticized for its repetitive screenplay, indifferent direction, and mind-numbing gore. The twist at the end of the movie, however, somehow saved the movie from being a total flop, as it is one of the few good uses of the “it was all a dream” tropes.

In the film’s final moments, Remy appears to have wiped out everyone’s organ debt and even got the girl of his dreams. But in reality, everything is just part of a virtual reality dream. Remy is actually in a coma after getting knocked out by Jake. Guilty of what he has done, Jake hooks Remy’s brain up to a neural network that acts as a heaven-matrix.

Sausage Party (2016)

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While Sausage Party features an impressively high laugh-to-gag ratio and a surprisingly thought-provoking storyline, many critics find the adult computer-animated film offensive. Though the Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan-directed film were panned for its use of excessive crude humor, the movie’s full commitment to its brand of comedy made it enjoyable to watch.

Sausage Party brilliantly wraps up its series of casual jokes about racial stereotypes, sex, and food torture porn with a food orgy. Though the movie’s amazing ending is not enough to make it a highly recommended film, the food orgy conclusion cements the film’s faithfulness to its naughty core.

Surrogates (2009)

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Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, Surrogates follows a cop (Bruce Willis) who is forced to leave his home for the first time in years to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates. Though the Jonathan Mostow-directed movie features a slick tone and visuals, Surrogates fails to deliver its promising premise due to its mindless action scenes and weak script.

While most parts of the film are dull, its ending is actually incredible. Willis’ character stops the virus from killing the human operators and uses the same virus to disable the surrogates. The striking final moment shows all the surrogates suddenly collapse, a classic descent-into-chaos scene that is so satisfying to watch.

The Apple (1980)

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Universally panned by critics and audiences alike, The Apple is a musical film about rock stars trying to conquer the world. But it’s also a biblical allegory featuring Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal), the head of a record label company called BIM, who is a stand-in for Satan. The Menahem Golan-directed movie also includes a God-like character named Mr. Topps (Joss Ackland), who carves Alphie (George Gilmour) out of rock. In the film, Alphie is considered the first human, who happens to be very good at rock-and-roll.

Though The Apple lacks good storytelling, its unintentionally nihilistic ending is probably one of the most shocking movie endings of all time. BIM takes over the world, and God raptures all the good hippies and leaves everyone else to suffer under Mr. Boogalow. God even allows Satan to win at the end of the film, before casually driving off in a flying Rolls Royce.

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

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Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, The Butterfly Effect centers on Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher), a college student afflicted with headaches so painful that he frequently blacks out. While unconscious, Evan can travel back in time to difficult moments in his childhood. He can also alter the past, but changing the past can drastically modify the present and put Evan in nightmarish alternate realities. While the premise is intriguing, the film tries to be too visceral that it just comes out as being repugnant.

Ugly images dominate the film, but it is somehow redeemed by its fairly upbeat ending, at least in the director’s cut. Unlike the theatrical ending that goes for a more serious tone, the director’s cut embraces the movie’s ridiculousness. Without spoiling too much, the director’s cut concludes with Evan traveling back in time to when he was a fetus and strangling himself with his own umbilical cord.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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The Hobbit Trilogy attempted to recreate the critical and artistic success of The Lord of the Rings but failed miserably. The Peter Jackson-directed film series was criticized for its excessive unnecessary plot additions, superfluous antagonists, and a non-canonical romance between an elf and a dwarf.

The only redeeming feature of the trilogy was the scene between Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) near the end of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The thrilling faceoff between the two characters felt true to the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, which centers on a David and Goliath-like story common in many folk stories. The banter between Bilbo and Smaug was entertaining and the dragon villain was really menacing compared to other one-dimensional antagonists featured in the movie series.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has an imaginative premise and a stellar acting crew that includes Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, and Andrew Garfield. Those aspects, however, are overshadowed by the movie’s crowded plot. For instance, the first act of the Terry Gilliam-directed flick was packed with convoluted dream sequences and overstimulating visuals without a clear plot direction.

Thousands of years ago, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), the leader of a traveling show, traded the soul of his daughter, Valentina, to the devil (Tom Waits). Now the devil has come to collect his prize. To save her, Parnassus must make a final wager: Whoever collects five souls first will win Valentina. Tony (Heath Ledger), a man saved from hanging by Parnassus’ troupe, agrees to help collect them, with his eye on marrying Valentina.

Despite its complicated and congested narrative, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus concludes with a surprising and satisfying third act. It turns out that Tony is actually a horrible guy who steals children’s organs. So after discovering Tony’s secret, Doctor Parnassus murders him by tricking him into hanging himself. Doctor Parnassus then gives Tony’s soul to the devil.

The Medallion (2003)

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A disposable Jackie Chan movie, The Medallion follows Hong Kong police officer Eddie Yang (Chan) who is hired by Interpol to capture a crime lord known as Snakehead (Julian Sands) and prevent him from kidnapping a chosen boy with special powers and a medallion that gives superhuman power and immortality.

Though panned by critics for its predictable and shallow plot, the Gordon Chan-directed movie is redeemed by its silly ending that is probably one of the best rides-into-the-sunset tropes ever: Eddie and his love interest Nicole James (Claire Forlani), who are both resurrected by the medallion, literally go for a really fast run.

The Prestige (2006)

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Based on Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel of the same name, The Prestige follows Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), rival stage magicians in London at the end of the 19th century. Obsessed with creating the best “transporting man” illusion, they engage in competitive one-upmanship, with fatal results. Packed with curveballs, body doubles, and Tesla-built magic machines, the movie was criticized for its overly convoluted plot.

Despite the movie’s complicated storylines, viewers are generally satisfied with how it ends. At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Borden actually has a twin brother, so the two can double for each other to accomplish the illusion. Angier, meanwhile, builds a machine that makes endless copies of himself, allowing himself to murder his copies during every performance.

The Wicker Man (2006)

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A remake of the 1973 British film of the same name, The Wicker Man follows police officer Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage), whose ex-fiancée Willow Woodward (Kate Beahan) informs him that her daughter Rowan (Erika Shaye Gair) has disappeared and asks for his assistance in her search. When he arrives at the island where Rowan was last seen, he suspects something sinister about the neo-pagans who reside on the island.

The Neil LaBute-directed remake is puzzlingly misguided and struggles against unintentional comedy and fails. But the film’s tragic ending elevates the quality of the film. Edward is captured by the weird cult members of the town, who think that killing him will make their honey harvest better. Edward is tortured with bees and subsequently dies after being burnt inside a giant wicker man.

Troll 2 (1990)

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One of the bad movies with good endings in the genre of horror comedy, Troll 2 was marketed as a sequel to the 1986 movie Troll even though the two don’t really have a connection. Directed by Claudio Fragasso, Trolls 2 centers on a vacationing family who discovers that the entire town they’re visiting is inhabited by goblins. Disguised as humans, the goblins turn humans into a pile of green goop before eating them.

Troll 2 was criticized for its terrible script, acting, special effects, and musical score, but its ending is just too silly and stupid not to love. In the third act of the movie, the protagonist, a young boy named Joshua (Michael Stephenson) believes that he has defeated the goblins through some kind of anti-troll boulder. But in a twist ending, the boy finds a baseball with the message “Yummy! Mom is so good!” written in green goo. When he runs to the kitchen, he finds the goblins casually eating his mom.

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