Movies have become so formulaic that you can see the end of the film coming from the first time you see the teaser trailer. Take, for example, the new trailer for CASE 39 starring Rene Zellwegger. We've seen this movie 500 times, and we know every "scare" so intimately that we could adopt and name them. When I watched this lifeless thing, I couldn't help but wonder where all of the truly mindbending and creative films have gone. Is it really that difficult to make a film that has a few bends in its storyline? Is it too much to ask for a decent twist? In recent years, filmmakers have vainly attempted to tack twists onto the endings of their movies in the hopes that it will somehow make the product more interesting; sadly, it more often has the reverse effect. A recent example is the ham-handed ending of THE UNINVITED, which emulates a string of B-grade horror films by reducing the entire film to a big "shock" ending that has already become cliched. But there are some great examples of unique and shocking twists in films. Here are some of my favorites. THE SIXTH SENSE - The movie that basically initiated the recent 10 year string of twist movies. Even though I managed to figure out the twist about halfway through it, the film works magic on audiences through deliberate pacing and some fine performances. The trick here is that Haley Joel Osment's performance is so compelling that you literally forget about Bruce Willis' character, even when Osment is delivering the crucial information that would lead you to understand the truth. The ending revelation is a bit heavy-handed, but it still packs an emotional wallop. THE CRYING GAME - The twist here is so shocking that it nearly ruins the rest of the film. Unlike many films of this sort, the revelation comes near the middle of the film, effectively breaking the narrative in half. The second half of the film is not nearly as compelling for this reason. However, the twist itself - deceptively simple and completely sold by newcomer Jaye Davidson - remains a doozy. SAW - The final twist is a little unfair; as an audience, we are never given any way to actually figure it out until it happens. But it is still one of the freakiest moments in recent movie history, and its effect of unsuspecting audiences in 2002 was electrifying. If you want to make tons of money with an independent feature film, this is how you do it. PSYCHO - The final revelation in this revolutionary thriller is masterful, although not nearly as shocking today as it might have been in 1960. That final moment in the cellar, lone bulb swinging wildly, while the wig comes off ... yeesh ... it doesn't get any creepier than that. PLANET OF THE APES - Well, duh. This ending is not only surprising and iconic, but it also has volumes to say about the human condition, all wrapped up in on glorious shot. THE MACHINIST - An unfamiliar movie for most people, the film's climax is very much in the vein of JACOB'S LADDER, except utilizing a "guilty conscience" motif to deepen the film's message. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI - One of the greatest twists of all time even today, and also one of the cleverest. While this twist has been attempted several times (even recently), CALIGARI'S use of it was masterful. Best of all, the stylized sets actually play a key role in the film's revelation. A masterpiece. DEATHTRAP - A terrific twist in the second act almost paralyzes the rest of the film, which is machine-engineered to perfection. You'll never guess how the film ends if you've never seen it before. And some honorable mentions among films that simply have twisty plotting: A FISH CALLED WANDA - Amazing film that twists in so many directions that you could never see the end coming if you had a college degree in ESP. VICTOR/VICTORIA - A perfect farce, with enough plot permutations to make Darwin proud. These are officially the twists I want retired from movie service from now on: "The hero is actually dead the entire time." We've seen it in a million films, and one of them even made my list. Other well received films like THE OTHERS and CARNIVAL OF SOULS have utilized this device to varying effect. It's simply not shocking anymore. "The good guy is the villain." Again, cliched to the point of nausea. "The hero is imagining/dreaming everything." Playing on the possible psychosis of the hero is an age-old script trick - think MACBETH from the 17th century, for cryin' out loud - but they keep trotting it out anyway. Time to put this one away. What twist endings do you like the most? What do you think would make a great twist ending?
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Twitter: @rayderousse or @unfilteredlens1
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