Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description

Dangerous (1935)

Don Bellows Married Fiancee Gail Armitage, and Joyce Heath Cared for Hospitalized Estranged Husband Gordon

This soapish melodrama was notable because Bette Davis won her first Best Actress Academy Award for her role - as a consolation because she wasn't nominated for Of Human Bondage a year earlier. She portrayed alcoholic former Broadway stage actress Joyce Heath who was first seen drinking straight gin in New York's Jerry's Joint. She had vanished from public view and was notorious for her quick downfall and 'jinxed' superstition following after her:

She was a comet which appeared suddenly, fell spectacularly, and disappeared completely...A jinx, one she put on other people...It started when her leading man was killed on her opening night. From then on, everybody associated with her was haunted by failures, divorces, suicides, scandals...At first, she laughed at the superstition, then she believed it.

She was found in a drunken stupor by idealistic, aspiring, handsome architect Don Bellows (Franchot Tone), who took her to his Connecticut country house to let her sober up, in "gratitude" for her past performances (he claimed he was inspired to leave Wall Street and become an architect). He was resolved to rehabilitate her ("You could go on. Talent like yours doesn't die. You were a star once. You can be again"), although she was doubtful: "Two men who loved me are dead, some financially ruined" and even his housekeeper Mrs. Williams (Alison Skipworth) warned of her curse: "A woman knows an awful lot about another woman, and she's dangerous."

After kissing the seductive Joyce during a long nighttime cloudburst as lightning struck (the screen faded to black after their clinch), Don later hugged her and admitted her destructive effect upon him: "I wish I'd never seen you, never kissed you, never held you in my arms, cause every time I do I hate myself, I hate you. I could kill every emotion except for desire to hold you just once more."

He revealed his romantic indiscretion to his wealthy fiancee Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay) ("if there were someone else, someone I didn't love that I never even see again but who had a strange exotic fascination for me and appeal I couldn't kill") - which effectively broke off their engagement when she gave back her ring (but she had hope that he would come back eventually).

Don then decided to invest in Joyce's comeback performance in But To Die with $80,000 of his own funding given to producer George Sheffield (Pierre Watkin), because she was regarded as "the jinx woman of the theatre." Expecting it to be a great success, he forced Joyce to promise to marry him after the opening night. She agreed, but then rushed off to beg for a divorce from her weakling, clinging estranged husband Gordon (John Eldredge) who refused. To kill either one or both of them, Joyce deliberately crashed her car into a tree, slightly hurting herself and seriously injuring Gordon.

Because of the scandal (the headlines read: "Joyce Heath and Don Bellows Estranged by Rendezvous with Husband"), Don's architectural project failed and he was ruined, and he broke off any involvement with Joyce ("If you're ever gonna be anything but a jinx, you'd better start paying off, because you're in debt for the rest of your life!") after which she coldly admitted that he was "just a means to an end."

Eleven weeks later, however, in the unlikely conclusion, the play had been revitalized, Don married Gail, and Joyce took flowers to her hospitalized husband.

Dark City (1998)

The Dark City Was an Alien Creation in Space; Mr. Book Was Defeated and the City Was 'Fixed'

Alex Proyas' visually-stunning, labyrinthine and visionary sci-fi noir effectively twisted unreal reality in its tale of John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) - a man with memory problems (and psychokinetic powers).

He was pursued in a nightmarish, retro 40s-style futuristic world managed by malevolent, underground alien beings wearing black coats and fedoras. Called Strangers, they were a dying race of alien parasites who possessed telekinetic powers that could stop time (at midnight) and alter reality.

The city was revealed to be an experiment set up by the aliens to determine the nature of the human soul by manipulating and transplanting people's memories each night. It was explained by Dr. Daniel Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) - everyone's "entire history is an illusion, a fabrication."

The quest for the mythic Shell Beach ended with a fake beach painted on a brick wall at the edge of the city as Schreber warned:

"There is no ocean, John. There's nothing beyond the city. The only place home exists is in your head."

A break through the wall showed that the 'dark city' existed as a contained environment in the vast void of starry space.

By film's end, Murdoch defeated the Strangers' leader Mr. Book (Ian Richardson) after a psychokinetic battle of massive proportions. He then 'fixed things' by tilting the city to bring sunlight to it - thus vanquishing the remaining Strangers. He also 'recreated' Shell Beach, and reunited with Anna/Emma Murdoch (Jennifer Connelly) as they strolled together down a pier toward Shell Beach. However, she had no memory of his identity.

The Dark Hours (2005, Can.)

Dr. Samantha Goodman Was Experiencing Mental Delusions as a Result of Self-Medication for an Inoperable Brain Tumor; Supposedly, Everything in the Cabin, Including the Two Hostage-Takers, Was In Her Subconscious Mind; She Committed Suicide With an Overdose

Although one of the lowest grossing films of all-time (at only $423) due to distribution and marketing challenges (it played for only one week at an indie-friendly theatre in NYC), director Paul Fox's psychological thriller was nonetheless an effective film. Without well-known cast members and shot on a low-budget, it contained one of the more obvious plot twist devices - much of the action on screen was composed of the crazed delusions of the protagonist.

Under the credits, psychiatrist Samantha Goodman (Kate Greenhouse), a counselor for the criminally disturbed and insane in a prison in Canada, examined cat-scans of her own inoperable brain tumor. Although stable for two years, the tumor was now growing, according to her self-diagnosis. She was medicating herself with shots (in a rashy spot on her upper thigh) of an unapproved drug, and seemed to be having blackouts and other mental hallucinations.

During the film's first scene, she conducted a review with an angry and delusional patient, and was attacked across the table. Losing her grip on reality, she took the weekend off (for a break) and drove to a rural cabin in the snow to spend a surprise weekend with her writer-husband David (Gordon Currie) who was finishing a novel, assisted in editing by Samantha's pretty younger sister Melody (Iris Graham). Along the way, her brief stop at a roadside diner confirmed her compromised view of the external world (i.e., she lost her hearing in the middle of a conversation with the waitress about the veal cutlet coming from headless calves).

In the early scenes at the cabin, she discovered a suspect bottle of champagne in the refrigerator, and she also appeared to lock herself in the bathroom for a half hour, after sharing morbid news with David and Melody about her worsening condition. [This was the point at which everything became imagined.]

Two new characters were unexpectedly introduced:

  • stranded hitchhiker Adrian (Dov Teifenbach) with a gun (who impulsively shot the pet golden retriever)
  • escaped, menacing convicted sex offender Harlan Pyne (Aidan Devine), one of Samantha's former patients, who had been imprisoned for murder and was supposedly still in a coma from her medication overdose.

The threesome of hostages were forced to play sinister mind games at gunpoint (or when threatened with an axe), including Strip-Phoner and Truth or Dare, that led to revealing confessions:

  1. A possible adulterous affair between Samantha's husband and Melody, and
  2. Illegal (or unethical) drug experiments that Sam performed on guinea-pig Harlan (who had the same kind of tumor) to find a cure for herself

And then the action was replayed: Harlan and Adrian were only ghosts ("We all carry our ghosts with us") acting as her guilt-ridden subconscious voice, and leading her to jealously suspect the affair. She found Dan and Melody having sex on the couch in front of a fire upon arrival. In a moment of crazed insanity, she axed Dan in the back and then viciously swung multiple times at Melody, killing her too. She then shot the dog (off-screen).

Her mind games were presumably all in her head, voiced by the two menacing visitors whom she used as a projected scapegoat for her murderous acts. Samantha also convinced herself to cut off her little finger (the film was rated R for this scene of self-mutilation) with a pair of pliers, a squirm-inducing scene, to prove to herself that she wasn't crazy or in a dream and could still feel pain!

As the film ended, she gave herself another injected dose of medication. In her compromised brain, the hypodermic syringe was seen as lipstick and the drug vial was seen as a perfume bottle. In reality, it was the suicidal overdose that she had given herself earlier in the bathroom. As she died on the bathroom floor, her addled brain hallucinated everything that followed (the assault of the two intruders, the axe murders, etc.). The film concluded with the camera tracking in toward her lifeless eye, and the soundtrack recorded frantic doorknob sounds/scurrying mice in the attic.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Wayne Enterprises' Board Member and CEO Miranda Tate Was Really Talia al Ghul, Ra's al Ghul's Child Who Had Escaped the Well-Like Prison with Help from Fellow Prisoner Bane; She Was Aligned with Masked Terrorist Bane to Threaten and Destroy Gotham City

An evil masked, revolutionary terrorist-mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) threatened to 'liberate' and destroy Gotham City, forcing a reclusive Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) to come out of hiding. Wayne was on the verge of bankruptcy, after he closed down his fusion reactor project when he learned that the core could be weaponized. Wayne's clean energy project, in which he had invested a large amount of money, included a nuclear fusion reactor. The potential danger was that the core of the reactor could be modified to make a nuclear weapon.

Wayne appointed his Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and love interest to take over his company. She was entrusted with control of Wayne Enterprises and the reactor. He stipulated that nothing would be done with the reactor "until we can guarantee its safety." If it couldn't be kept safe, he proposed to destroy it: "Decommission it. Flood it." At the next board meeting, Miranda was officially appointed as the new CEO and Chair of the Board of Directors of Wayne Enterprises, now that Bruce was ousted, in order to stave off a take-over attempt.

Bane's intention was to fulfill Ra's al Ghul's mission to destroy Gotham with remnants of the League of Shadows. Bane bragged to Wayne: "I am here to fulfill Ra's Al Ghul's destiny." Bane wounded and captured Wayne/Batman, and interred him in a round, deep cylindrical Pit prison, where Bane had been formerly imprisoned (this was where Bane had "learned the truth about despair"). Note: According to historical legend related by an inmate, the underground Pit was where Ra's al Ghul's child, born in the prison, and cared for by a fellow prisoner before escaping, was the only one to ever escape from the Pit. Bruce assumed the child was Bane.

Bane convinced Miranda, one of his hostages, to unlock and activate the nuclear reactor, so that it could be converted into a 4 megaton nuclear bomb, to destroy Gotham by isolating and separating it. The villain was on the verge of isolating Gotham City and threatening to detonate the nuclear reactor as a bomb within a few hours. Bane admitted that he had never escaped the Pit as the child of Ra's Al Ghul, as Wayne had assumed. Hostage Miranda came up behind Batman and stabbed him in the back, as a major reveal was divulged by her - she, not Bane, was Ra's al Ghul's child:

But he's not the child of Ra's Al Ghul. I am. And though I'm not ordinary, I am a citizen. (She held the trigger device in her hand)

She identified herself as Talia, the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, who had climbed out of the pit. She was named by her mother before she was killed. Fellow prisoner Bane was her "protector" who saved her from also being killed, and freed her to escape. Her father returned to exact vengeance, rescued Bane from the Pit, and took him into the League of Shadows to be trained. But Ra's Al Ghul could not accept Bane: "He saw only a monster," and Bane was excommunicated. She admitted her love for Bane:

His only crime was that he loved me. I could not forgive my father until you murdered him...I honor my father by finishing his work.

She had planned the Gotham operation with Bane, in honor of her father, to seek vengeance against Batman who had killed her father. She planned to complete her father's work by detonating the bomb and destroying Gotham. Batman fired upon the bomb truck, with Miranda in the driver's compartment - and she was fatally wounded when it crashed. Talia/Tate was able to detonate the bomb before dying, and believed that her plan to destroy the city that killed her father would come true. She caused Batman to sacrifice himself by flying the dangerous bomb away from the city to explode harmlessly.

Although Batman presumably died in the explosion, vignettes at film's end proved otherwise. Batman had used the autopilot mechanism (patched and fixed) on the Bat as he flew the bomb over the Bay - to escape the explosion. In a Florentine cafe-restaurant in Italy, faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) spotted Bruce having a meal in Italy with Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) revealed that his real first name was Robin - identifying him as Batman's sidekick.

The DaVinci Code (2006)

Sophie Was the Last Living Descendant of Jesus Christ; the Teacher was the Double-Crossing Teabing; Langdon Discovered the Burial Location of Jesus' Wife - Mary Magdalene

Director Ron Howard's much-anticipated, big-screen religious conspiracy thriller opened with the brutal murder of the Louvre Museum's elderly curator Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle) in the Parisian museum. He was killed by a self-flagellating albino Opus Dei hooded monk named Silas (Paul Bettany), an "angel" of death who was later learned to be in the employ of both devious high-ranking Council of Shadows Bishop Manuel Aringarosa (Alfred Molina) and a mysterious individual known only as "The Teacher." The curator was shot in the abdomen and bled to death - his naked body was found in a revealing pose on the floor (resembling DaVinci's famous Vitruvian Man sketch), with a pentacle symbol (the symbol for the female goddess Venus) that he had etched into his own bloody chest, and an enigmatic encrypted code written in blood (including a numerical sequence) on the floor.

Religious symbologist and Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), lecturing in town, was called to the crime scene, and unbeknownst to him, was considered the prime suspect by police Captain Bezu Fache (Jean Reno) (an Opus Dei member) and Lieut. Collet (Etienne Chicot). The last line in the mysterious code message on the floor (P.S. Find Robert Langdon) was wrongly thought to identify him as the killer. Further, Fache had been notified by the Bishop that Langdon admitted to committing the crime during a confessional. French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), who arrived at the museum, tipped Langdon off that he was "in grave danger," and the two fled.

The following items were revealed as they investigated the case ("a treasure hunt") to find Sauniere's killer - they solved a byzantine trail of clues left by Sauniere to keep one step ahead of the authorities:

  • the Opus Dei, of which Silas was a member, was an "ultraconservative Christian secret society" that rigorously followed church doctrine; it was opposed to heretical ideas; Silas and the Bishop were receiving instructions from a mysterious figure known as "The Teacher"; the Bishop's intent was to raise money, destroy the Grail, and silence the few remaining members of the Priory; he was a member of a Council of Shadows whose goal was to destroy proof of a female bloodline (the actual Holy Grail) stemming from Jesus via Mary Magdalene (he described how documents and Mary's sarcophagus would be destroyed, eliminating all DNA traces that would link to a current living heir, thereby ensuring: "There is (would be) no way to prove a living bloodline")
  • the Opus Dei was opposed by a second group, the Priory of Scion, thought by many to be a myth; it was "one of the world's oldest and most secret societies, with leaders like Sir Isaac Newton, da Vinci himself"; their crest was the fleur-de-lis, and they guarded a secret known as "the dark con of man" - they were formed to "protect the source of God's power on Earth"; their military arm was the Knights Templar, whose true goal was to find and protect a sacred religious artifact - known as "The Holy Grail" - originally thought to be a magic cup but later interpreted as Mary Magdalene herself; in the early 14th century, the Knights were almost exterminated by the Catholic Church when they were declared Satan worshippers; the Priory carried on, and hid Mary Magdalene's remains (in her sarcophagus) and the proof of her bloodline
  • Sauniere was known as the "Grand Master" of the Priory of Scion. At the time of his death, after the death of three other senechaux, he was the last protector or guardian, who was forced to confess the location of the secret keystone that might lead to the Holy Grail - he said it was "beneath the rose" of the Rose Line in the Church of Saint-Sulpice; however, the location turned out to be a dead-end; a stone was dug up in the church floor, marked with a Bible verse -- Job 38:11 ("Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further")
  • the message "P.S. Find Robert Langdon" (the fourth line of the message on the floor, wiped clean before Langdon arrived) was also in code; Sauniere was revealed to be Sophie's estranged grandfather, and he had often called her "Princesse Sophie" (PS); it was a hidden message from Sauniere, to have Sophie find Langdon to aid her quest
  • Sauniere had left a series of cryptic clues for Sophie and Langdon to follow; the second line of the message on the floor: "O, Draconian devil. Oh, lame saint" was an anagram for "Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa"; at the site of the famous Louvre painting, a second anagram led them to another Da Vinci painting, Madonna of the Rocks, where a fleur-de-lis key was discovered; it contained a street address (HAXO 24) that led Langdon and Sophie to a local Bank of Zurich and a Swiss bank deposit box; the 10-digit numerical sequence (1123581321) found in blood in the first line of the message was a security password for one of the bank vaults; inside was a rosewood box (marked with a rose, a symbol of the Holy Grail) holding a cylindrical cryptex (of DaVinci's design), with rows of five alphabetical dials; the correct code would reveal the secret inside - a papyrus parchment or map; an incorrect code would release vinegar which would dissolve the parchment and destroy the secret
  • wealthy, crippled Grail scholar/expert Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) living in a French chateau was "absolutely obsessed with Priory myth" and admitted he was on a "Grail quest"; he discussed religious history background, including the debate centuries earlier about the question of Jesus' mortality or immortality; he also talked at length about the Holy Grail ("the greatest secret in modern history") and how it was usually thought to be the cup at Jesus' Last Supper (but curiously absent in DaVinci's painting) - he claimed that the chalice was actually an ancient symbol of womanhood -- referring to Mary Magdalene; she had been smeared by the church in 591 A.D. and called a prostitute, when in actuality, she was Jesus' wife (or "companion" meaning spouse) with whom he had established a royal bloodline
  • a secret society existed - known as The Priory of Scion - a millenarian goddess-worshipping secretive sect that believed the heretical notion that a mortal Jesus Christ married "companion" Mary Magdalene and fathered a female child to create the bloodline; opposed to the Priory of Scion was a clandestine Catholic sect Opus Dei wishing to hush the blasphemous information that would devastate the foundations of Christianity itself and create a "crisis of faith"; the words "Holy Grail" - in French, were Sang-Real (meaning "royal blood") - therefore, the chalice that held the "blood of Christ" was actually referring to Mary's womb that carried Jesus' royal bloodline; according to legend, Mary had fled to France where she gave birth to a daughter named Sarah. To crush the idea that salvation came through a female (and her child), the church persecuted women as witches for many centuries ("the greatest cover-up in human history")
  • the decorative rose on the rosewood box literally had an inverted backwards message "beneath" it - "In London lies a knight a Pope interred, His labor's fruit a Holy wrath incurred, You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb, It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb" -- the reference to the Pope was not to the Vatican or to the mythical Temple Church (in London), but to writer A. (for Alexander) Pope who presided over the funeral of knight Sir Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey
  • "The Teacher" was revealed to be double-crossing Teabing himself - the film's ominous 'bad guy' - when he poisoned his own compatriot butler Remy Jean (Jean-Yves Berteloot), and sent French police chasing after Silas and the Bishop to betray them; Teabing admitted he had persuaded the Council of Shadows to be allied with him so he could crush them; although held at gunpoint by Teabing, Langdon tricked him by solving the cryptex with the code word: A-P-P-L-E; he had then secretly removed the parchment inside; the clue was based upon Sir Isaac Newton's inspiration about gravity when an apple (an orb - and fruit with a rosy red flesh and seeds inside) fell on his head from a tree, resulting in wrathful repercussions by the church at the time against his scientific theory; Teabing was arrested by the French police and whisked away
  • the parchment held further clues that led Sophie and Langdon to Rosslyn Chapel (Scotland): "The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Roslin waits, The blade and chalice guarding o'er her gates, Adorned in masters' loving art, she lies, She rests at last beneath the starry skies"; in the basement was a trap door stairway, leading to the location where Mary Magdalene's remains (in a sarcophagus) had been kept at one time
  • Sophie was not really Sauniere's granddaughter, but he had led her to believe that she was part of a family that was killed in an automobile accident when she was four years old; newspapers proved that the entire family perished; her real name was Sophie Saint-Clair, one of the oldest families in France from a line of Merovingian kings (she possessed sang real or "royal blood"); Sauniere had been training her in puzzles and secrets to prepare for a future day - but NOT to guard the secret of the Holy Grail; Langdon realized: "Sophie, you are the secret. You survived the accident. If it even was an accident"; the Priory had concealed the fact that she was alive and hid her with "the Grand Master himself"; Langdon proclaimed: "Princess Sophie, you are the heir. The end of the bloodline. You are the last living descendant of Jesus Christ"
  • at Rosslyn, members of the Priory of Scion, guardians or keepers (and friends of Sauniere), recognized Sophie as the heir; she was introduced to her grandmother; she learned that when Sauniere died, he took the location of Mary's sarcophagus with him to his death; there was no empirical proof that she was the heir; Langdon emphasized to her: "the only thing that matters is what you believe"
  • in the final scene, Langdon was inspired by a blood-line pattern in his sink, after cutting himself shaving in his hotel room; he followed the Rose Line (prime meridian line) back to the Louvre's striking outdoor pyramidal structure itself; the camera spiraled downward to the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene which appeared to be located in a chamber underneath where the two triangular pyramids (the Blade-male-upright pyramid, and the Chalice-female-inverted pyramid) geometrically-echoed each other

Dead Again (1991, UK/US)

Mike Church, Now a Detective in the 1990s, was the Reincarnated Murdered Wife Margaret Strauss from the 1940s; and Amnesia-Suffering 'Grace' (or Amanda) was Reincarnated From Executed Composer/Husband Roman Strauss from the 1940s; Grace's Murderer in the Past was Frankie, Reincarnated in the Present as the Hypnotist Franklyn Madson

This puzzling and twisting tale was director/star Kenneth Branagh's first American film. It was composed of two parallel plots in different time periods (and its story about past-life regression), was presented by color for the present-day scenes, and black and white for the past.

1990s LA police detective Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh), who usually investigated cases of missing persons, took the case of amnesia-suffering mute client nicknamed 'Grace'/aka Amanda Sharp (Emma Thompson). She was having nightmares about the murder of a pianist named Margaret Strauss (also Emma Thompson) by her world-famous composer/conductor husband Roman Strauss (also Kenneth Branagh) in the late 1940s. She had been stabbed in the throat with a pair of barber's scissors.

Before Margaret's death, she had become suspicious that Roman's housekeeper-maid Inga (Hanna Schygulla) and her disturbed, stammering son Frankie (Gregor Hesse) were stealing from her husband. Roman was falsely put to death by the electric chair for the murder of his wife Margaret, who was actually stabbed and murdered with a pair of scissors by Frankie. The motive for the murder? - Frankie blamed the unhappiness of his mother Inga on Margaret, because Inga was in love with Roman, but rebuffed.

In the present day story, Mike came into contact with hypnotist and antiques dealer Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi) who believed that 'Grace' suffered severe trauma in her past life. [Note: Franklyn (or Frankie!) Madson was the reincarnation of Frankie, the stammering maid's son who murdered Margaret.] Under regressive hypnosis, it was revealed that there were remarkable similarities and parallels between the stories of Roman and Margaret in the past, and Mike and 'Grace' in the present. There were two major discoveries:

  • Mike was the reincarnation of murdered pianist wife, Margaret Strauss (Emma Thompson)
  • amnesia-suffering 'Grace' (also Thompson) was the reincarnation of executed composer Roman Strauss (also Branagh)

The love and death of Roman and Margaret Strauss in the past began to be re-enacted once again in the present.

In the dramatic, over-the-top conclusion (with fast cuts between the past and the present), Madson/Frankie received his comeuppance - he died when impaled on a giant-sized scissor sculpture made by 'Grace.'

In the final frames, which changed from black and white to color, the doomed 1940s lovers, Margaret and Roman, dissolved into their counterparts Mike and Grace. Mike held his partner 'Grace' and exhaustedly said at film's end: "The door is closed."

In the 1990s:

Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh)

'Grace' (Emma Thompson)
In the 1940s:

Photograph of Roman Strauss (Kenneth Branagh)

Photo of Roman Strauss and Wife Margaret (Emma Thompson)

Dead & Buried (1981)

The Townsfolk of Potters Bluff Were Zombies, Committing a Rash of Murders; They Had Been Reanimated by The Town's Insane Coroner Dobbs; The Final Twists Were That the Town Sheriff's Naive Wife, Janet, Was Dobbs' First 'Undead' Subject; and the Sheriff Was Also One of the 'Living Dead'; He Had Been Stabbed in the Back by His 'Undead' Wife Just Before the Events of the Film

Director Gary Sherman's classic and gory early 1980s horror film featured the tagline: "It Will Take Your Breath Away...All of It." The favorite cult film had an intelligent script written by the creators of Alien (1979), Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. It had similar elements to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Night of the Living Dead (1968).

The setting was Potters Bluff, a coastal New England town. It opened with "Freddie" (later identified as George LeMoyne) (Christopher Allport), a vacationing photographer from St. Louis who was snapping shots at the seashore's foggy beach. He was propositioned by pretty blonde 'Lisa' (Lisa Blount), an aspiring model who asked him to take her picture. After a few pics, she opened up her red blouse to show off her breasts, asking: "How's this, Freddie?...Do I look good to you, Freddie?...Do you want me, Freddie?" He was taken aback: "Right here?" As he approached, she grabbed his camera, and other locals popped up behind her.

"Freddie" suffered a violent and sadistic beating - he was struck with a crowbar, wooden bat and shovel, and then staked and wrapped against a wooden post within a fishing net. While pictures were taken of him, he was set on fire with gasoline. The town's beachside sign read: Welcome to POTTERS BLUFF, A NEW WAY OF LIFE. The immolation was made to look like a fiery traffic accident in the photographer's upside-down VW van. The town's naive Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) investigated the case, along with the eccentric, witty and morbid coroner-mortician from the local mortuary - elderly big band-loving William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson). In one memorable early scene, the obsessed and eccentric Dobbs described his "black magic" artistic profession to the Sheriff:

"I've replaced missing eyeballs with sawdust and glued the lids together. I've used bent aluminium combs for dentures. I've used the back part of the scalp when there was no front part, and I've folded one hand over wadded-up newspapers when the other hand had no fingers. You find all this obscene, Sheriff? Do you know what is really obscene? Look at this. Look at the work I've done. This is an art and I am the artist. What can you remember about a sealed box, a sealed casket? That is obscene. That is the death of memory. A cosmetologist gives birth. I make souvenirs."

Later, the near-dead but recuperating burn victim, almost completely bandaged, was killed in a local hospital with a long syringe stabbed into his left eyeball by the same blonde, Nurse 'Lisa'. Curiously, the local who lit the match to start the deadly fire was also waitress Midge (Linda Shusett/Turley) in the local cafe. What was additionally strange was that the newly-deceased victims, such as 'Freddie,' were often recycled and still alive (but with new personalities or occupations) after being horribly murdered.

The Sheriff continued to investigate the mysterious rash of frequent murders (often with their deaths photographed by the participating onlookers). There were some memorable gruesome killings - all of strangers passing through town:

  • a drunken fisherman (Ed Bakey) had his face-slashed and chest-stabbed with a harpoon, while held against a boatyard wall with two hooks
  • a family of three (Ron (Dennis Redfield), his wife, and son Jamie (Mark/Michael Courtney)) were lost, crashed their car, and found themselves assaulted by a mob of local townsfolk in an abandoned 'haunted' house - they narrowly escaped, but then their car was discovered submerged in the ocean
  • a pretty hitch-hiker named Chance (Lisa Marie) had her head bashed in with a rock
  • a doctor's (Joe Medalis) nostrils were pumped with acid

Gillis suspected that his schoolteacher wife Janet (Melody Anderson) was involved somehow - she seemed to be hiding an affair with the photographer before he died (and 'reanimated'), and she had taken a newfound interest in reading a book on the black arts of witchcraft and voodooism, which she was teaching to her pupils. A passage was marked: "Ancient folklore has they can only be made from persons dying a violent death." She also had hidden a decorative dagger in her drawer (she described it as being used to cut out a person's heart).

Gillis began to suspect Dobbs after digging up George LeMoyne's coffin and finding only his wrapped-up heart inside. After a background check, it was determined that Dobbs was formerly a Providence, Rhode Island pathologist who had been dismissed about 10 years earlier for conducting unauthorized autopsies in the county morgue. He was censured by the medical association and left town. Dobbs had been experimenting on 'reanimating' the dead, and had performed the technique on Potters Bluff townsfolk - they were the 'undead' zombies who were responsible for the murders.

The Sheriff watched B/W film footage of a past murder - during sex, Janet stabbed an unidentified male lover in the back with a dagger, and then other townsfolk aided her. In the morgue, the Sheriff confronted Dobbs with his suspected monstrous crimes against his wife. Dobbs admitted that Janet had been his first and favorite creation: "Janet, my crown jewel. My very first." Dobbs played multiple reels of film of all of the murders that had occurred in town. "Look at them, Daniel. Look at my children...They had to be disfigured. Don't you see? I have to make them look like they used to look. That's my art..."

He told how he had found Janet drowned in her car in Harris Creek and made her beautiful again as an 'undead' zombie: "Yes, she was, she is like all the others." He then told the distressed Sheriff about his 'black magic' art and his gift of Janet to Daniel:

"I always liked you, Daniel. So I gave her to you as a gift. Most of the others, I gave back a little of their lives, but to Janet, I gave her fear and sex and love. The others would fall apart in a week if I didn't touch them up. But Janet, ah Janet could go three weeks, a month. The others, drawings. Janet, oh Janet was a painting - my masterpiece!"

He claimed to the Sheriff that the victims were better off after their deaths and reanimations:

"Because when people are dead, they don't get sick, they don't age. And after I work on them, they look so good, so healthy, I can't bear to bury them. They're even more beautiful than the living."

The Sheriff pulled his gun and threatened to shoot Dobbs, who insanely encouraged him: "Help me to become one of my own children." He did pull the trigger on his 'undead' wife Janet, who pleaded: "Dan, I'm dead, please bury me," then turned and shot Dobbs in the stomach. The Sheriff followed Janet to the cemetery where he covered her body with dirt in a grave, and then fled from a threatening group of 'undead' townsfolk surrounding him.

When he raced back to the morgue, he saw that Dobbs had reanimated himself. There, the Sheriff watched more of the film footage, and the film's final plot twist was revealed - the Sheriff was the one in bed making love to Janet when she stabbed him in the back - he was also one of the 'living dead.' Dobbs had ordered his murder, performed by Janet. In the conclusion, the Sheriff noticed his hands decomposing, and Dobbs offered:

"Come Dan, let me fix those for you!"

Dead Calm (1989, Australia)

Hughie Had Slaughtered Everyone Onboard the Orpheus; Miraculously, He 'Returned From the Dead' In the Shock Ending Onboard the Saracen, and Died From a Flare-to-the-Mouth

In this taut Australian erotic thriller from director Phillip Noyce, psycho-homicidal drifter Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane) terrorized a vacationing couple on their yacht the Saracen after they rescued him drifting in the middle of the ocean. The couple, career naval officer John Ingram (Sam Neill) and his emotionally-scarred wife Rae (Nicole Kidman in her first leading role) with their dog Ben, were recovering from an auto accident that claimed the life of their toddler son, by sailing in the calm Pacific waters off the coast of Australia.

The frantic Hughie claimed that he had survived a sinking black schooner named Orpheus after everyone died from salmonella poisoning. [The mass murderer had actually slaughtered the crew on the vessel.] John left the castaway with his wife, while he took a dinghy to the Orpheus to investigate the claims - finding himself on a sinking craft and in danger of drowning himself. Meanwhile, the unstable and domineering Hughie kidnapped Rae and began sailing off.

After a long series of struggles, it was thought that John and the resourceful Rae had finally conquered Hughie by wounding him with a harpoon, knocking him unconscious, tossing him onto a rescue raft, and setting him adrift. But then after they saw his free-floating raft in the open sea, Rae sank it with two flare-gun shots, although a panning shot to the other side of the boat where a rope dangled into the water hinted that Hughie was possibly alive and had climbed on board.

The next morning, Rae returned to the deck after a swim, where her husband helped to rinse her hair of the salt water, and shampoo her hair. He left the deck for awhile, as she put her head back and closed her eyes. When a pair of dirty hands resumed the shampooing some time later, she fantasized what she would like:

You know what I'd love for lunch? Fresh asparagus, then, um, pasta. Angel hair pasta with heaps of basil, garlic, olive oil, and, um, apple pie. Yeah. Uh, John, do you have the towel?

Suddenly, she realized that the hands belonged to the vengeful Hughie, who had reappeared in the startling shock 'return-from-the-dead' twist ending. He attempted to cover her mouth to stifle her screams, and to strangle her.

As John reappeared with a beautifully-prepared breakfast tray, he saw the 'silhouetted' struggle occurring behind the sail. He dropped the tray, grabbed a flare gun, and aimed it at Hughie. The fiery flare tore through the sail, struck Hughie in the mouth, exploded, and forcefully propelled him backwards off the deck into the ocean. Presumably, he was now dead, floating away face-down, as the relieved couple hugged each other.

Dead End (2003)

The Entire Story Was All An Imagined Dream (But Mostly Real Regarding the Deadly Car Crash Itself); The Crash Killed Everyone (Four Individuals in the Harrington Car and the Two Occupants of Another Car) - The Only Survivor was Daughter Marion Harrington

This was a low-budget, predictable Twilight-Zone like horror-twister (and similar to Carnival of Souls (1962)) with elements of dark humor from writers/directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, although effective nonetheless. Its tagline was: "READ THE SIGNS." Every clock or watch had stopped at the hour of 7:30, hinting that life also stopped.

On Christmas Eve, the Harrington family of four (parents with two teen kids, and one friend) was enroute in their Jeep SUV to the in-laws for the holiday - an annual trek taken for over 20 years within California. The occupants were:

  • bickering driver Frank (Ray Wise)
  • blonde wife Laura (Lin Shaye)
  • student psychiatrist daughter Marion (Alexandra Holden), and Marion's gay boyfriend Brad Miller (Billy Asher)
  • younger, hard-rock loving Richard (Mick Cain)

Traveling in their car at night and taking a "back-way" short-cut instead of the interstate (on an unmarked, dark, narrow, and mysterious road), Frank dozed off and then was startled back to consciousness with a near-miss accident. Laura was exasperated with Frank: "Are you crazy? You almost killed us." The travelers continued on the never-ending road, seemingly unhurt, but they were hopelessly lost. Frank admitted: "Everything's so f--ked up on this goddamn road."

As it turned out, their car had crashed into an oncoming vehicle driven by a Lady in White (Amber Smith). Encounters along their road trip, during their "f--kin' nightmare" (Frank's words), included:

  • a badly-injured, catatonic, in-shock, spectral mother in white with her dead, heavily-swathed baby daughter Amy, who appeared before the death of each character
  • a menacing black hearse, driven by a Man in Black (Steve Valentine), who collected and carried away the souls of dead family members - first Brad, then Richard, Laura, and Frank; whenever the group stopped, someone died
  • a line of black body-bags on the road containing all of Marion's family members; when the hearse pulled up for Marion, the last one, the Lady in White told her: "He's not here for you," and then the hearse drove off

Dirty secrets or intentions were revealed about each family member during the trip:

  • Marion was planning on breaking up with Brad, who was the first to expire; Marion then admitted that she was pregnant
  • Richard confessed that he smoked pot
  • the mentally-deteriorating Laura said that Richard (real name Michael) was not Frank's offspring, but was the result of an affair she had in the past with a man named Alan Wrixon
  • Laura said that she knew of Frank's affair with Sally Schmidt

The sole-surviving daughter Marion awoke in St. Luke Hospital after the deadly accident when she was thrown from the car and had suffered a short-term coma. She had broken ribs and a concussion. Everything that occurred after the fatal accident was in the daughter's mind.

Marcott, their destination seen repeatedly on a road sign, was the name of the emergency room doctor (Karen S. Gregan) treating Marion at the hospital - interwoven into her recollections, along with the Man in Black who had reported the accident and given a lift to Dr. Marcott after work.

In the midst of the credits, two road-sweeping workmen were cleaning up the crash site on Christmas Day. They found Frank's handwritten note - with charred edges - that he had composed earlier and discussed with Marion:


The note was tossed onto the ground and swept up. It put into question the whole idea that everything was an imagined dream.

Deathtrap (1982)

Bruhl and Anderson Were Gay Lovers Who Killed Each Other; The Surviving Psychic Neighbor Wrote Up The Whole Story For Her Smash Hit Play

The many plot twists and triple-cross in this Sidney Lumet film (set in one location, a Long Island home) were witty and complex -- and it paid homage to Les Diaboliques (1955, Fr.).

English professor and fading Broadway playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) plotted with his dubious, ailing, naive wife Myra (Dyan Cannon) to murder his young ex-student - a gay fledgling author named Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve) who had supposedly written a brilliant murder/mystery thriller-play titled Deathtrap.

Anderson was strangled with a chain and buried (although his death was faked) and he suddenly appeared later that night -- scaring Myra into having a cardiac arrest.

In the twist ending, it was revealed that Bruhl and Anderson were really gay lovers (who performed one scandalous homosexual kiss on-screen) and had plotted this elaborate scheme to kill Myra.

Afterwards, Anderson moved in to be Bruhl's new 'secretary,' and now began writing a play called Deathtrap with a plot that resembled the murder of Myra.

Eventually, the two distrusted and murdered each other (in a scene that included lots of murder weapons, including a gun, an axe, handcuffs, and a crossbow).

Surviving neighboring Dutch psychic Helga Ten Dorp (Irene Worth) ("In this room, there's pain") was able to incorporate the murderous events into her own play - which went on to become a huge Broadway smash-success after its opening night.

Decoy (1946)

Dying Femme Fatale Margot was Double-Crossed By Frankie - The Money Chest Had Only $1 In It

This little-known cult B-film noir opened with betrayed and seriously-wounded Dr. Lloyd Craig (Herbert Rudley) washing his soiled and bloody hands and face in a grimy washroom sink (with broken mirror) at a gas station. After hitchhiking to San Francisco 75 miles away, he proceeded to the 6th floor apartment of femme fatale Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie) (who was preparing to flee town), fatally shot her for revenge, and then dropped dead.

Hard-nosed, tough-guy detective Sgt. Joseph "Jo Jo" Portugal (Sheldon Leonard) arrived too late to save her. As she died, she begged for a money chest to be brought to her ("Give it to me. I want it...It's mine. It's all mine now"), and explained what had happened in the lengthy flashback, beginning with:

I wanted money. Frankie Olins had it. He took it from a shiny red bank truck two days before Christmas. $400,000. Only, before he could take it, he had to kill the driver. Frankie was in jail now. The people of the state of California said he had to die. But only Frankie knew where the money was hidden.

In the film, she schemed with gangster pal Jim Vincent (Edward Norris) and idealistic prison doctor Dr. Craig to resurrect convict Frankie Olins (Robert Armstrong) after he was executed in the gas chamber, and force him to reveal the dough's whereabouts. Their preposterous plan succeeded and Olins drew them a map, after which he was shot dead by Vincent.

During their late-night drive to the location of the money, Vincent was deliberately run over by the sadistic Margot. And then as Dr. Craig dug up the strongbox in a eucalyptus grove, she told him: "All our hopes, all our plans...," but then shot him twice and laughed hysterically and maniacally as he lay on the ground. Then, she ran off with the box in her arms, cackling: "It's mine. It's all mine now!"

The film ended with a return to the present - the treasure box was opened as Margot died on her apartment's couch. It was revealed to be a decoy - with only $1 and a note from Frankie:

"To you who double-crossed me, I leave this dollar for your trouble. The rest of the dough I leave to the worms."

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Franklin Was Torn in Half Early On; The Only Survivors Were Blake and the 'Preacher'

The surprise in this science-fiction horror film was that much of its cast was killed off - only partway into the film. The tagline referred to monstrous Mako sharks, the CGI stars of the film: BIGGER, SMARTER, FASTER, MEANER.

A group of scientists was working on a super-intelligent shark program in a top-secret, deep-sea location known as Aquatica. The laboratory facility was a former submarine refueling station. Their work involved extracting brain tissue from three giant Mako sharks (secretly genetically-engineered), to use in a study of Alzheimer's disease. Almost immediately, there were disasters - escaped sharks, and deadly attacks on humans.

Called to the site, Chimera Pharmaceuticals' corporate financier Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), with a goatee and glasses, delivered a stirring "let's pull together" motivational speech to the group. He spoke about a previous brush with death that he had experienced during a mountaineering and avalanche disaster (where there were seven survivors and only five made it out alive, due to inhumane cannibalism).

In the middle of his exhortations -

Now you've seen how bad things can get and how quick they can get that way. Well, they can get a whole lot worse! So we're not going to fight anymore! We're going to pull together and we're going to find a way to get outta here! First, we're gonna seal off this --

He was abruptly grabbed by one of the enormous predatory Mako sharks that erupted out of the water behind him, chewed him and then tore his body in half. The sharks (smarter than normal due to increased brain sizes) planned to flood the facility so that they could escape into open waters and breed.

Eventually as Aquatica was sinking, the three Mako sharks (two "small" Gen I Mako's and a massive Gen II Mako, about 25 feet long) were killed - similar to the plots in the three Jaws films.

There were only two survivors (although both were injured), after blonde medical biologist Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows), the one responsible for genetically-engineering the sharks, sacrificed herself:

  • Carter Blake (Thomas Jane)
  • the cook Sherman "Preacher" Dudley (LL Cool J)

Seated on floating debris and wreckage from the explosion, the two discussed what had happened, and the arrival of a new workers' boat:

Preacher: Hey Carter, we're sinkin', right?
Carter: Yeah.
Preacher: Let me ask you something. Are you sure it was just three sharks?
Carter: Yeah.
Preacher: Oh, okay. That's more like it. Here comes the next shift.
Carter: Let me tell you, man. l quit this job.
Preacher: Oh, take me back to the ghetto.
Carter: Amen.

Deep Red (1975, It.) (aka Profondo Rosso, or The Hatchet Murders)

Insane Mother Marta was the Hatchet Murderer, Not Son Carlo; She Died In An Elevator Accident

In Dario Argento's gripping murder mystery with a plot twist at the end, there were a number of murders (shot in the giallo-style by the "Italian Hitchcock"):

  • during the opening titles, there was a flashback to a bloody stabbing murder with a knife shown from the perspective of a child while an eerie child's nursery rhyme lullaby was playing
  • in Rome, parapsychologist Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril) was brutally murdered with a meat cleaver and her nearly-decapitated neck was severed on broken window glass by a black raincoated figure with black leather gloves, witnessed by English jazz pianist Marc Daly (David Hemmings)
  • haunted house book author Amanda Righetti (Giuliana Calandra) was murdered by head-dunking in a bathtub of scorching water, although she was able to write something on her steamy bathroom wall before she died
  • paranormal expert Professor Giordani (Glauco Mauri), Ulmann's colleague, was neck-knifed after his teeth were repeatedly broken on a table and mantelpiece

A clue was revealed in a wall painting (hidden behind plaster) of what appeared to be a child stabbing an adult (the opening murder). This led to Daly's discovery of a secret room in an abandoned house holding the skeleton remains of a corpse.

Clues also revealed that troubled, depressed artist Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), who drew a murder painting, was not the murderer of Ulmann. As Carlo fled from police, he died a grisly death (the fifth murder) by being dragged from a garbage truck and having his head run over by another car.

A flashback showed that his own black-haired, off-kilter, insane mother Marta (Clara Calamai) with heavy black eye-liner was the hatchet murderer in all the present crimes and in the stabbing years earlier (during the holidays when music was playing, she had stabbed and killed her husband (Aldo Bonamano) in the back with a carving knife in front of a young Carlo (Jacopo Mariani)). The boy picked up the knife and then had repeatedly drawn the disturbing image and covered up for his mother's crime.

The film ended with Marta's necklace caught in the bars of a descending elevator shaft - both strangling and decapitating her (shown in close-up in all its gory red detail).

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A1 | A2 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | C1 | C2 | C3 | D1 | D2 | D3 | E1 | E2 | F1 | F2 | G | H1 | H2 | H3 | I | J-K | L1 | L2
M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z

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