Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


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

The I Inside (2003)

Hospital Patient Simon Cable's Memory Loss and Confused Actions in the Years 2000 and 2002 Were The Result of a Fatal Head-On Car Accident in the Year 2000 - Guilt-Ridden, He Had Betrayed His Brother Peter By Having An Affair With Peter's Fiancee Clair, and All Three Died in a Crash. In the Two Minutes When Efforts Were Made to Revive Him, He Struggled to Make Sense of Things and Change the Reality of His Death

Director Roland Suso Richter's enigmatic psychological thriller (direct to video/DVD) was based upon screenwriter Michael Cooney's own play "Point of Death" - a title that gave away the film's entire plot twist premise. As in many similar films, such as Jacob's Ladder (1990) and The Butterfly Effect (2004), events and people were thoroughly distorted and confused because the protagonist was at the point of death. The tagline was misleading: "When You Don't Have a Memory, How Can You Remember Who to Trust?"

A major clue to everything was the scene that played under the credits - hospital staff failed to bring a patient back to life with a defibrillator after a car accident. A second major clue was provided by a hospital orderly named Travis (Stephen Graham): "Everybody dies. No mystery there. But why and how everyone dies. Now, there's a mystery worth solving. Probably the biggest mystery there is." A third clue was provided by a doctor: "The mind is a remarkable thing. Perhaps it is trying to show you something you need to see."

The mind-warping film opened with a hospital patient Simon Cable (Ryan Phillippe) awakening in a hospital with little knowledge (amnesia perhaps?) of what had happened, and why he was there, etc. He was told it was July 29, 2002 (he thought it was the year 2000) and that he had died for two minutes from cardiac arrest following the near-fatal accident -- but he had been revived. He had been in the same St. Jude's Hospital (in Maine) in the year 2000 as the victim of a similar accident, when his older brother Peter (Robert Sean Leonard) died.

The disoriented and confused Simon appeared to have two missing years, from 2000 to 2002, and he struggled to put the pieces of his life together - a puzzle metaphor. His doctor in 2002, Dr. Jeremy Newman (Stephen Rea) told him his objective: "We need to find two points in time and join them." He was also encouraged to start remembering: "The quicker that happens, the quicker you accept what really happened, the quicker you'll find you'll be able to move on."

There were lots of alternative pathways that he explored as he darted back and forth as a time-traveler between the two years and attempted to relive his experiences (and possibly change the past) at the same hospital:

  • What year was it exactly? 2000 or 2002?
  • Was he poisoned by toxic fumes while refinishing his brother Peter's inherited estate? or Was he in the hospital recovering from a 2 year coma after the first accident?
  • Who were the two females that kept visiting him: mysterious girlfriend/lover Clair (Sarah Polley) and scheming, blackmailing wealthy wife (?) Anna (Piper Perabo) that he didn't remember?
  • And then, who was shy hospital Nurse Hathaway (Piper Perabo) resembling Anna? And what about when she revealed her devious, blackmailing side when she played him an audio tape of Peter's confession before his death (Peter: "Simon killed me")? Was there a cover-up of the truth behind Peter's death?
  • Was Simon responsible for his brother's death that occurred in 2000?
  • What was Simon's relation to heart-transplant patient Mr. Travitt (Stephen Lang)? After dying, had Simon donated his heart to the patient? Were Simon's confused visions for two years actually those of the surviving Travitt?

The revelations came after Simon - with blood literally on his hands - admitted: "I killed him."

What had really happened - in the year 2000? Peter had witnessed the betrayal of his brother Simon, when he kissed Peter's fiancee Clair in the estate's sun-room. [Clair later told Simon: "I can't help but think that we're paying for what happened."] After a slight altercation, Peter accidentally fell from the estate's top floor through a skylight below. Simon drove his seriously-injured brother to Vista Point and contemplated rolling the car over the cliff (with Peter inside), to cover up the crime.

In a replay of the same event, guilt-ridden Simon had a change of heart and tried to change reality ("I thought I could change it"). He turned away from the Vista Point turn-off to take his brother to the hospital. Clair - who was driving back to the estate at the same time on the same narrow road - had a head-on collision with their car (due to blinding headlights), and everyone was killed. Two of the paramedics at the scene were Nurse Hathaway and Travis. Although Simon was unable to accept his 2000 death (Time of death: 20:02 - not the year!) ("It wasn't supposed to happen like this"), in the final scene, he decided to accept his death. He remained in the afterlife with his brother Peter, who had counseled: "You need to leave this behind you, Simon. For Clair, for me. For Dad. You died, Simon. We all did. And you can't move on from all this until you let go. Let it go."

Attending Dr. Newman [revealed as Mr. Cable - the father of the two sons] matter-of-factly delivered the news to Simon in the film's final line: "Simon, this is the 29th of July. The year is 2002. And your wife, whose name is Anna, is waiting outside. You died, Mr. Cable." [There was no mention of him being revived.]










I Pass For Human (2004)

Strung-Out , High and Associating With All the Wrong Habitual Drug-Using Crackhead Acquaintances, Jane Eventually Overdosed - and Realized To Her Shock and Horror - That She Had Become One of the Undead Zombies That Had Been Haunting Her

Writer/director Chris D.'s (Chris Desjardins) first feature-length film was this direct-to-DVD/video low-budget horror film. The grim movie from the Flesh Eater punk rocker was about the LA drug scene, in which drug use (equated with undead zombies) robbed individuals of their identities and pulled them into the nightmarish world of the dead filled with ghoulish creatures. The tagline summarized the metaphoric effects: "When addicts die, their torment ends...or is it really only just beginning?"

The crude and amateurish film opened with tattooed Jane (Eleanor Whitledge), not yet an habitual drug user, worried about the condition of her heroin-addicted boyfriend Dax (Bryan Small) who was experiencing visions of old friends - all users who were OD victims: "He's seeing things. People. People that aren't there - dead people...He says they're people that he knows who OD'd." She met with her concerned drug counselor Dr. Larraz (cult queen Mary Woronov), who urged her to break up with him. When she returned home, she found that Dax had already suffered a deadly overdose in the bathroom after shooting up.

Tormented and despondent after Dax's death, Jane was having hallucinations herself. Especially when she was high, she saw phantom apparitions that weren't there. She was introduced by Dax's self-destructive, strung-out, drug-abusing half-sister Mila (Jennifer Ciesar) to Rick (Joshua Cox), who had also recently lost his sexy girlfriend Azami (Eva Scott) to drugs. Strangely, Mila reported that she had seen Azami at Dax's gravesite. Rick explained how he spied on Azami buying hard drugs and using them with her "strung out" ex-husband (John Diehl). Azami overdosed and died in her parents' (Jake and Elke Hill) home when staying there overnight with Rick. [On a side-note, just before she died, Rick had helped Azami cover up the deliberate murder (by suffocation) of her abusive, overdosed ex-husband with 4x's dosage, and the disposal of his corpse.]

Rick and Jane bonded and soon, they became users together. After shooting up for the first time, Jane admitted: "I'm such a weak-willed piece of s--t." Jane said that she was seeing many undead zombies, including lost partners Dax, Azami, and blonde Samantha (Iris Berry): "I'm seeing god-damned people who aren't there...Why are we suddenly seeing ghosts? Is it the dope?" Were they ghouls, vampires, or just hallucinations? Rick and Mila, both habitual users, acquired drugs from Mila's "heroin-bar" source - brutish drug dealer Hobby (E. Shepherd Stevenson).

Jane's doctor, an ex-addict herself (in med school, she was a junkie to morphine) thought there was some truth to the belief that the leeching, blood-thirsty, vampirish zombie creatures vicariously fed off the highs of living users:

"The spirits of dead junkies attach themselves to other living junkies like leeches...They didn't have the burden of physical bodies but they still had the thirst. They still wanted the high. Sometimes, I thought somebody was standing right next to me, and they were waiting for me to put the needle in my arm...Maybe spirits who die from alcoholism or from drugs in some violent way - they have trouble passing on. Either they don't want to or they can't. Both."

Haunting, Blood-Thirsty Vampirish Zombie Creatures Who Had OD'd
Rick with Zombie Azami (Eva Scott)
Zombies Samantha (Iris Berry) and Azami with Mila (Jennifer Ciesar)
Blood-Thirsty Samantha and Azami
Decomposed Dax in Bathtub

Jane feared she was developing a physical addiction, but before that happened, wondered if she could enter a 30-day rehabilitation program to avoid following the path of her acquaintances ("I don't know one sane person. Everyone I know who wasn't crazy is gone"). In the week before Jane could arrange for rehab, she bought dope from Hobby, who then accused her of stealing his larger stash of dope (Mila was the culprit). At shot-gun point, he threatened to rape Jane in the back of his van, but Rick arrived and put a bullet in his head to save her. With a blood-splattered face, she fled to a nightclub, where she was followed by a haunting Samantha and Azami and saw a decomposed Dax in a bathtub.

Meanwhile, with Rick's gun, Mila shot and killed a security guard after shoplifting in a convenience store. In her apartment, Jane shot up one final time, and as she prepared a bath, collapsed. At the same time, Mila over-dosed (in the company of Azami and Samantha), and guilt-ridden Rick (about covering up Azami's murder) planned to suicidally take his own life with his gun. Just before putting the gun in his mouth and killing himself, Rick spoke to the zombified ex-husband who urged him to get off the "merry-go-round" of life:

"Well maybe, shootin' dope or smokin' crack or even funneling liters of Stoli down your gullet, you're kinda sittin' up on a fence. You're lookin' down at the yard where you climbed up from and you see light goin' on down there. And you look down on the other side and you see that - you see the opposite. You see us. Dope addicts - they're always sittin' on top of a fence, and you never know which way they're gonna jump."

In the not very surprising twist ending (the very ubiquitous death-dream revelation), Jane (who believed she was alive) ventured to Azami's ex-husband's house, where she was surrounded by many dead junkie apparitions, including all her dead acquaintances. She was spiteful when Dax and others offered her a hit:

"If I go out and under, OD, won't that be one less tit for you to suck on? I won't be any good to you dead. It would just be one more mouth to feed."

Azami urged: "We'd rather have you here, with us" - and attempted to bite into her neck. Then, after fleeing back to her apartment, Jane discovered that she was also dead from an overdose, lying in her own bed. This plot twist was also seen in Carnival of Souls (1962), Siesta (1987), Jacob's Ladder (1990), A Pure Formality (1994), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Others (2001), Soul Survivors (2001), Stay (2005), and many other films.


Jane
(Eleanor Whitledge)


Dax (Bryan Small)

Rick (Joshua Cox)

Rick & Jane Shooting Up

Rick Killing Threatening
Drug Dealer Hobby


Mila's Overdose

Rick's Suicidal Death

Jane's Bathroom Overdose

Azami's Vampire Bite
on Jane's Neck



The Revelation of Dead Jane

Identity (2003)

All of the Victims at the Hotel Weren't Real; They Were All the Split Personalities of Their "Host" - a Serial Killer Named Malcolm Rivers; Timmy Was the One Murderous 'Evil' Personality That Was Attempting to Purge the Other Personalities

Ten strangers were trapped in a secluded motel in Nevada during a torrential rainstorm. They were forced to band together when someone started killing them off one by one.

In this high-concept film with a well-constructed plot twist, each of the strangers that was being murdered, one-by-one (each victim had a room key placed on or near their body), was not a real person, but specific personalities of the 'host' Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince).

Malcolm was a convicted death-row inmate and serial killer with Multiple Personality Disorder (or Disassociative Identity Syndrome) whose one 'evil' homicidal personality was 'cleansing' himself of the other normal and sympathetic personalities.

Each of his personality creations had the same birthdate, and all of the surnames were names of towns. After a final clemency hearing with a court judge ("A question is whether to convict the body or the mind. His body committed these murders, that is true. The person who remains inside did not"), he was being taken by van with his doctor, Dr. Malick (Alfred Molina), to state psychiatric services after it was recommended that his execution be held off since it was believed that his homicidal identity had 'died.'

During the drive, Malcolm had another startling vision of the last remaining personalities. The only one to leave the motel alive was cynical ex-Las Vegas prostitute Paris (Amanda Peet), who was digging in her garden when she found an orange motel door key with the number 'one' on it. She turned to see seemingly innocent, mute young Timmy York (Bret Loehr) who was revealed (in a flashback montage) to be the one murderous or guilty personality of the motel occupants. The boy proceeded to kill her with a garden plowing fork (off-screen) after telling her:

Whores don't get a second chance.

Timmy then took control of Malcolm's personality and strangled psychiatrist Dr. Malick in the front seat of the van as the vehicle lurched to the side of the road. Timmy whispered the nursery rhyme (in voice-over) as the film ended:

While I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. I wish, I wish he'd go away.





The Illusionist (2006)

Sophie/Duchess Was Never Killed by Her Abusive Fiancee Prince Leopold; It Was An Illusion To Frame Leopold, So That Magician Eisenheim and Lover Sophie Could Reunite and Run Away Together

Writer/director Neil Burger's dazzling and glowing period melodrama (and fairy-tale romance) was loosely adapted from the story Eisenheim the Illusionist, by Steven Millhauser - about the turn-of-the-century Viennese magician/wizard. The first three quarters of the film was basically a flashback to explain events occurring before the opening scene - it was narrated (in voice-over) by the dogged and determined Chief Police Inspector Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to describe why he was arresting stage performer Eisenheim (Edward Norton) (aka Eduard Abramovich).

The ambitious Uhl was in obligatory allegiance to the surly, competitive, arrogant and abusive Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) who was planning to usurp the Austrian-Hungarian throne. As childhood friends, lower-class magician Eisenheim (Aaron Johnson) had fallen in love with Sophie (Eleanor Tomlinson), the future Duchess von Teschen (Jessica Biel). After he gave her a wooden, butterfly-decorated twisting locket that when turned took the shape of a heart (with his picture inside) (and she prophetically told him: "One day we'll run away together. We'll disappear"), they were forcibly and cruelly separated and didn't see each other until 15 years later, when she was engaged to marry the Crown Prince. She was reluctantly volunteered by the Prince to participate in an on-stage demonstration in Eisenheim's illusionist theatre show.

The film revealed that the charming Eisenheim and the serenely-beautiful Duchess, who was increasingly reluctant to marry, had again reignited their love for each other during a secret love-making rendezvous. When the Duchess determinedly told the drunken and jealous Prince that she wouldn't marry him and was leaving permanently, it appeared that she was murdered. Off-screen in the horse stables, she was struck across the neck with his jewel-encrusted sword, rode off slouched half-dead on a horse that wandered into the forest, and bled to death. Her lifeless body was later found in a stream. Although the Prince was suspected of the crime, his royal status prevented any serious consideration of his guilt.

Eisenheim's new stage show entered the supernatural realm of the spirits. With hired Chinese, the talented illusionist was conjuring up spirits, including Sophie's spirit. When her ghostly image materialized twice on stage, Eisenheim made it appear like she was accusing Leopold of the crime. The conclusion of the opening arrest scene was then played out - Eisenheim escaped when his spirit also faded and vanished. Uhl was led to evidence in the stable linking the Prince to the murder (an emerald from the Prince's sword and Sophie's locket). When he accused Leopold of the murder, the Prince committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

The film's twist was an illusion all its own - in the concluding sequence, Uhl was given a book with Eisenheim's detailed drawings of the solution to the "ORANGE TREE" trick, signifying that Eisenheim's magic was completely illusionary. At the same time, the locket in Uhl's possession was pickpocketed by a disguised Eisenheim, who hurriedly boarded a train for the country, to cheerfully reunite with Sophie.

In a spectacular and exhilarating montage, Uhl suddenly pieced together the fact that Sophie's death had been a complete and deceptive frameup to implicate Leopold: (1) she had taken a drug to fake death, (2) the attending "doctor" (Karl Johnson) was a friend of Eisenheim's, (3) Sophie had drugged Leopold's wine the night of the 'murder', (4) during the 'sword in the stone' illusion performed at the palace, Eisenheim had taken the green gemstone from Leopold's sword, and (5) Sophie had spread blood on the sword and on the horse's mane.

The film's last line was Uhl's memory of Eisenheim saying: "Everything you have seen is an illusion. It's a trick," as he laughed to himself at the recollection.






In the Company of Men (1997)

Chad Had Never Broken Up With Girlfriend Suzanne; The Dating/Dumping of Deaf Christine Was a Cruel Practical Joke; Chad's Manipulated Pal Howard Had Fallen in Love With Christine, But She Wouldn't Take Him Back

Writer/director Neil LaBute's disturbing drama (his debut film, a low-budget independent film) had as its thematic premise: "Let's hurt somebody" - a line spoken by corporate ex frat-boy Chad (Aaron Eckhart) out to seek premeditated, retributive revenge on women, after he claimed he had broken up with steady girlfriend Suzanne (Emily Cline) - and she had packed up, leaving him only a futon and his American Gigolo poster. Chad expressed his vile hatred of the fair sex:

Women. Nice ones, the most frigid of the race - it doesn't matter in the end. Inside, they're all the same: Meat and gristle and hatred, just simmering.

As the handsome Chad and bespectacled business colleague/nice-guy college pal Howard (Matt Malloy) were traveling to a project in a branch office for a six-week stint, Howard described how his relationship with girlfriend Melanie fell apart (even after he gave her a ring). Misogynistic Chad thought "we ought to do something about it" - referring to how women were "getting out of balance," and cruelly proposed that they find an unattractive woman, date her, and then unceremoniously dump her during their six week stint:

Say we were to find some gal...this person's just vulnerable as hell. You know, young thing, wallflower type, or whatever. Or like, disfigured in some way. Just some woman who is pretty sure that life, and I mean a full, healthy sexual life, romance, stuff like that, is lost to her forever...Anyhow, we take a girl of that type, just some corn-fed bitch who'd practically mess her pants if you sharpen a pencil for her, and we both hit her. Small talk, a dinner date, flowers...We just do it, you know, you and me, upping the ante all the time. And suddenly she's got two men. She's calling her mom. She's wearing makeup again. And on we play, and on and on. And then one day, out goes the rug, and us pulling it hard, and Jill - she just comes tumbling after...Trust me, she'll be reaching for the sleeping pills within a week, and we will laugh about this until we are very old men....Is that not ideal? Restore a little dignity to our lives?...It's really just the same crap we used to play in school, only it's better because we get a little payback on all this messy relationship s--t we're dealing with...I think it would be refreshing. I really do. And very therapeutic coming off the women we just have.

In their office setting, Chad selected deaf and naive secretarial assistant temp worker Christine (Stacy Edwards), a dark-haired beauty, as their innocent, targeted female - and in week five, Chad slept with her (in his friend Howard's hotel room!). And then, in one of the film's most painful sequences, set in a restaurant and afterwards in a parked car, Howard confessed that he was genuinely falling in love with Christine (he told her: "I need you" using sign language). She was the one who replied with apology that she had two-timed him ("I've let this go too far...I shouldn't have dated both of you") and that she was in love with Chad ("I love someone else"). Howard decided to tell her (out of guilt, hurt, and jealousy) that Chad's love was a total sham and that they had planned the game together ("He doesn't like you. He loathes you. He detests you and your pathetic retard voice. That's what he calls it...You better wake up. You were used. It was a game"), but she had trouble believing him ("Chad would never do that"). He tried to force a ring upon her ("It's not a game to me anymore"), but she refused.

In week six, Christine met Chad in the hotel room and asked: "Do you love me?" and then admitted that she knew about his duplicity in the game ("I know what's going on...You two were playing a game on me, right?"). Chad quickly attempted to explain his participation in a "contest" to date Christine, but then admitted he couldn't keep a "straight face" telling the excuse. When he asked how she felt, she slapped him hard across the face. He asked: "It only hurts that much?" and then promptly left the room, dumping her ("The deed's done"). He left her in the room where the emotionally-devastated Christine sobbed uncontrollably.

A few weeks later, after they returned to their hometown, a sickened Howard visited Chad at about 1 am, and learned that Chad had no regrets about his actions, and that girlfriend Suzanne had NEVER left him ("She never left. She's always been right there") - the film's plot twist. He boldly and amorally declared why he had devised the game: "Because I could." It seemed that all along, the motivation of the venomous and controlling Chad was a subtle hatred of the submissive and vulnerable Howard, who was appointed ineffectual team leader (on retrospect, Chad had cleverly sabotaged Howard's work throughout the film). When Howard left the building, he vomited on the staircase.

Later, Howard found Christine working as a secretary at a bank and approached her desk, shouting loudly at her: "Listen, listen, listen, Listen to me" - but she ignored him and wouldn't listen or speak to him.








In the Cut (2003)

The Killer Was Not Cop Malloy, But His Detective Partner Rodriguez (With a Tell-Tale Tattoo); Frannie Killed Rodriguez

Director Jane Campion's dark feminist sex film starred clean-imaged Meg Ryan as a mid-30s English writing teacher - an unattractive despairing divorcee named Francis Avery, who first met a tough, foul-mouthed NY detective named Giovanni "James" Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) when he was investigating a homicide in her neighborhood. A severed head (with a "disarticulated" body) was discovered in the garden outside her window. He had a questionable wrist tattoo of the three of spades, matching the tattoo she had seen on the wrist of a man (smoking cigarettes) she had witnessed receiving an explicit 'blow job' in The Red Turtle pool/bar club's darkened basement, performed by a blue-fingernailed female named Angela Sands (Heather Litteer) - who was the murdered woman. When Frannie masturbated face-down on her bed, she fantasized that Malloy was watching her, and that he was the man receiving fellatio.

The exciting premise of the film was that the cop, a possible murderer, might kill her next, and she was mugged on the street and roughed up. With sexual tension building, she became engaged in a torrid, risky sexual liaison with the married (but estranged) cop after a date, although she was nervous about Malloy being the killer of Angela (and others), thinking that he was lying about the basement-sex incident and other aspects of his life.

The serial killer also murdered and mutilated a medical student co-ed whose body parts were found in the school's laundry room, and toward the film's end, Frannie's half-sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who worked as a stripper/go-go girl at the Baby Doll Lounge, was found bloodied and decapitated in her apartment's bathroom.

After straddling Malloy and making love to him with one wrist handcuffed to her apartment's radiator, Frannie found her missing charm bracelet trinkets (a carriage and baby) that she had last seen at Pauline's place in the cop's coat pocket, convincing her that he was the killer ("It was you") - his alibi was that he had found them on the street after her mugging. When Malloy's butchy, on-probation detective partner Ritchie Rodriguez (Nick Damici) drove her 'to the lighthouse' under the George Washington Bridge (coincidentally the name of a literature book that Frannie taught) to conceivably take her statement on Malloy, she saw that he had a matching three of spades tattoo - identifying him as the serial killer who had received the 'blow-job' and murdered the other women.

When Rodriguez proposed marriage: "Will you marry me, Frannie?" as he dangled a wedding ring on his knife (a wedding ring was his signature at each crime scene), she shot him at close range with Malloy's .38 in the pocket of his coat that she happened to be wearing. She shot him again as he forced a kiss from her. Dazed, she then returned (drenched in blood) to Malloy where she had handcuffed him earlier, and laid down next to him in a spooning position, as the film ended.

There were other red-herring characters/suspects, such as Frannie's troubled student Cornelius Webb (Sharrieff Pugh) who was obsessed with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and even Frannie's stalking, creepy, volatile scrubs-wearing former lover John Graham (Kevin Bacon).







In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Victim Colbert Was Murdered by Ralph Henshaw, To Steal His Money to Pay for An Abortion For His Slutty Girlfriend Delores

In this tense whodunit detective story, and Best Picture-winning thriller that was set in the little town of Sparta, Mississippi during a hot summer, a wealthy industrialist named Leslie Colbert was found beaten to death in an alley.

A black police officer from Philadelphia Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a homicide expert, helped to solve the case amidst southern racist tensions. Suspects included wealthy citizen Eric Endicott (Larry Gates) and the redneck Sheriff Bill Gillespie's (Rod Steiger) bigoted deputy Sam Wood (Warren Oates), who was also accused of impregnating slutty 16 year-old Delores Purdy (Quentin Dean) in town.

By the film's conclusion, it was revealed that the real murderer and 'true father' of the girl was a diner counter worker named Ralph Henshaw (Anthony James) who confessed in the Sheriff's office that he had murdered Colbert to pay for Delores' abortion.


In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

Sutter Cane's Writings Became Reality, Turning the World Insane; Much of the Film Echoed the Contents of His Latest Book; Driven Insane, Trent Was Institutionalized After Axing A Cane Reader Outside a Bookstore; One of the Last Survivors, Trent Wandered Into a Movie Theatre to Watch the Movie Adaptation of Cane's Book While Laughing Maniacally

Director John Carpenter paid convoluted, warped homage to Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft in this film that blurred the boundaries of fantasy and reality, fact and fiction, sanity and insanity, and reality and cine-reality.

The film's plot, told in flashback, was about insurance fraud investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) - now a violent and delusional asylum inmate in a padded cell ("I am not insane"). He told how he went searching for horror novelist/writer Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) after his sudden disappearance.

He found him in the small town of Hobbs End in New Hampshire that resembled a place in Cane's latest novel In the Mouth of Madness for Arcane Publishing. It appeared to be a surrealistic gateway to another world of evil and madness, and Trent began to believe he was just a character in the just published book (called "the new Bible").

He learned that god-like Cane's latest book was so powerful that it could change people ("I think, therefore you are!") - even turning anyone who read it into a mutant like creature. Those who didn't like to read (or didn't read the book) could be converted by watching a movie adaptation of the book.

When the film ended with a slaughter at the asylum by monstrous creatures, Trent wandered out into the world that was alarmingly empty after a bloody slaughter and civilization had seemingly been destroyed by Cane's creatures. The film concluded by being folded back upon itself - Trent entered an abandoned movie theatre that was showing the latest movie adaptation of Sutter Cane's book - and slowly changed into a crazed, mutant creature that laughed maniacally as he sat down and watched himself on the silver screen.

The film's open-ended conclusion let the viewer decide whether Trent was insane or whether what he experienced was actually reality.






Inception (2010)

Cobb's Mission to Implant Ideas into Robert Fischer's Mind Was Successful; He Was Reunited With 'Suicidal' Wife Mal and His Children, Presumably in the Real World (His Totem, A Spinning Top, Seemed to Wobble and Stop Spinning)

In Christopher Nolan's mind-bending sci-fi heist thriller, Leonardo DiCaprio played the part of Dominick "Dom" Cobb, an espionage spy who performed thefts of corporate secrets by invading people's dreams. The film's tagline made sense after viewing: "Your mind is the scene of the crime." Due to the nature of the film, it was open to interpretation that the whole film might have been the dream of either Cobb, or someone else.

The method of entering a dream state was by injection, using portable technology cases. One of the film's major premises was that each person was required to have a totem - to help identify if one was in the dream world or in the real world. Cobb's totem was his wife's spinning top, which would keep spinning around if he was in a dream world.

The film opened with a scene revisited much later in the film - Cobb was lying on a beach, and then taken to a room where he was faced by wealthy, aged corporate executive Saito (Ken Watanabe). Later, it was revealed that Saito was in "limbo" (a state he entered by dying while in a sedated dream) during the mission. He had received a lethal wound in a lower dream level while sedated (that extended over to deeper levels), requiring Cobb to liberate him - by killing him - and bringing him safely back to reality.

For the mission, Saito had hired Cobb to plant an idea ('inception') in the subconscious mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the son of dying Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), who headed up a rival corporation to Saito. The idea would be that Robert Fischer - out of his own self-generated volition - would choose not to follow in his father's footsteps and would break up his corporate energy empire (Cobb's mission was to successfully plant the seed that his father never wanted him to be like him).

To accomplish their objective of planting seeds within Fischer, it was necessary to enter very deeply into his subconscious, possibly to a third dream level. Going deeper into dreams exponentially turned minutes into hours, into days, and even into years.

Various members of Cobb's team coordinated the effort, including sedative chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao), Cobb's partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), identity shape-shifter Eames (Tom Hardy), and prodigy maze-building architect Ariadne (Ellen Page). At each stage, one member of the team who was creating the dream remained behind while the others fell asleep to travel to the next level. So-called "kicks" would propel the dreamers out of the dream and back toward reality step by step (Yusuf driving the van off a bridge and hitting the water, Arthur detonating an elevator carrying the entire team to fall down the shaft and simulating free-fall, and the ice-fortress being detonated and collapsing):

  • Level Zero - Fischer and Cobb's entire team on an airplane flying from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles
  • Level One - Yusuf's Dream on the Plane of Driving the Team in a Van in a Rainy City in Heavy Traffic, and Attacked by Fischer's defensive projections
  • Level Two - Arthur's Dream in the Van of Being in a Corporate Hotel; Cobb posed as "Mr. Charles" to trick Fischer and Turn Him Against His Father's Right-Hand Man Peter Browning (Tom Berenger), impersonated by Eames
  • Level Three - Eames' Dream in the Hotel Room as the Others Attacked a Snowy Mountain Hosptal Fortress; inside was a safe next to Maurice Fischer's hospital deathbed, where Robert spoke to his father
  • Limbo - Cobb and Ariadne entered Limbo when Cobb's wife Mal shot Fischer to death in Level Three; in Limbo, the space included Cobb's memories of the city he and Mal had built for themselves and lived in for 50 years; Mal agreed to give up Fischer on the porch if Cobb would remain with her in Limbo; Ariadne and Fischer fell off the building as their "kick" to get back; when Cobb told Mal, "You're just a shade of my real wife...I'm sorry, you're just not good enough," Mal stabbed Cobb, and Ariadne shot her; she died in Cobb's arms as he told her: "I have to let you go"; Cobb woke up again in "limbo" on the shores of Saito's beach house - the film's opening scene

Guilt-ridden Cobb was continually seeing images of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) during his dream-jobs. She would sabotage his dream efforts, and he longed to see his children again. She felt that being in Limbo was better than reality. He refused to accept the fact of her death and his subconscious (that was missing her) needed to remember her and be with her. In a past dream state with him, she had committed suicide by leaping from a hotel suite window (where they always spent their anniversary), although he had warned her: "If you jump, you're not gonna wake up, remember? You're gonna die."

(The main spoiler was that this was the first instance that Cobb had experimented with inception - planting an idea in the subconscious mind of Mal - "Your world is not real" - and he felt responsible for infecting her and causing her deadly suicide. He told her: "The idea that caused you to question your reality came from me.")

In his subconscious mind, Mal would entice Cobb to follow her toward deeper levels into Limbo to live with him as they grew old together. In the conclusion, he told her that he couldn't keep coming back to her because it wasn't her - it was merely his projection of her from memory ("I can't stay with her anymore because she doesn't exist"). He had continually been plagued by her - he was charged with her murder in the real world and became a fugitive outside the US.

For Cobb's successful efforts at inception with Fischer, Saito made a phone call to clear away Cobb's legal troubles with immigration at LAX, enter the US, be freed of his guilt, and be reunited with his children - at the film's conclusion.

The film ended ambiguously however. As Cobb tested out his top's spinning on a table top, to see whether it would topple or not, the screen turned to black. What was clear was that Cobb walked away from the top in order to be with his children.












Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Mutt Williams Was Indiana Jones' Son By Marion Ravenwood; KGB operative Dr. Spalko Died When 'Rewarded' by Aliens For Returning Crystal Skull; Indiana Jones and Friends Escaped From Crumbling Temple as Alien Space Saucer Took Off

This fourth entry in the highly-successful franchise of Indiana Jones films set in the year 1957, starred an aged, 60-ish Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). One of the side stories was that globe-trotting professor-archaeologist Indy had fathered a biker-son named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) (aka Henry Jones III) by old lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), although Mutt thought his father was treasure-hunting explorer Dr. Harold Oxley (John Hurt) already in Peru.

The plot revolved around an ancient legend that an elongated crystal skull of Akator (with powerful magnetic properties) had been stolen from a Mayan temple (in the legendary and lost city of gold called El Dorado) in the Amazonian jungles of South America (conquistador Francisco de Orellana also vainly searched for it in the 1540s), and the one who found it and returned it would be rewarded with "treasure." In her maniacal quest for the sacred object (to be used as a cosmic mind weapon to rule the world), the lead psychic KGB operative Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) with a black page-boy haircut was aided by Indy's traitorous "triple agent" colleague George 'Mac' McHale (Ray Winstone) who kept Irina following close behind in Jones' journeys by dropping blinking tracking beacons.

In the finale, they entered the Mayan temple's inner chamber where 13 aliens ("inter-dimensional beings") with crystal skeletons (arranged in a circle) were seated. Presumably, the alien beings had been worshipped by the Mayans, who were taught advanced technology by the extra-terrestrials. Once the retrieved crystal skull was restored onto the spinal cord of one of the aliens, Irina demanded the reward: "I want to know." The supernatural being (the collective of all 13 aliens) overloaded her skull with knowledge, burning and disintegrating her brain (and eyesockets) with flames, and her remains and those of other henchmen were sucked up into a vortex that took them into a giant spaceship above (in another dimension?).

After Indy and his friends escaped from the crumbling temple, they watched from afar as the temple collapsed, the whirling, spinning flying saucer created a vortex in its ascension, and the valley floor was covered over by Amazonian waters ("Like a broom to their footprints"). Oxley summarized where the saucer went: "Not into space. Into the space between spaces." Indy also contributed this afterthought: "Their treasure wasn't gold - it was knowledge. Knowledge was their treasure."




Inland Empire (2006)

An Aging Hollywood Film Star's Identity Shattered (Allegorically or in Real-life?) After Taking the Lead Role in a Cursed Film Remake of a Haunted Polish Gypsy Folk Tale About Adultery

As with any David Lynch film, making sense of the surrealistic images, unconventional and non-linear plot, overlapping storylines, alternate worlds, hyperlinked events, and changing identities (doubling of characters as doppelgangers) can be dubious. Even the title of the film was ambiguous, not referring to a region in SoCal, but something more interior to the psyche. The film's main clue was its tagline: "A Woman in Trouble."

It was Lynch's first entire digital video film, shot on a handheld Sony PD150 recorder. This three hour mystery-horror film was no different than most of Lynch's other works, although there were general outlines to follow about a doomed film project, adultery, and a possibility of pregnancy:

  • Under the credits, a black and white sequence, a gramophone (with a closeup of the needle sitting on a revolving record) played Axxon N - described in voice-over as: "the longest running radio play in history, tonight, continuing in the Baltic region, a gray winter day in an old hotel."
  • In the second part of the opening, a Lost Girl (Karolina Gruszka), a Polish ghetto prostitute after a brutalizing encounter with a client, was trapped in hotel Rm. 47 while tearfully watching a drawing room sit-com on TV (a movie-within-a-movie about three rabbit-headed, clothes-wearing people lounging around in an apartment), with a canned laugh track. The voices of the three rabbits were Jane (Laura Harring), Jack (Scott Coffey), and Suzie (Naomi Watts).
  • Just before a movie audition for a remake of a film titled On High in Blue Tomorrows, aging yet privileged LA actress Nikki Grace (Laura Dern), hoping for a comeback role, was visited in her luxury home by a heavily-accented Polish neighbor lady (Grace Zabriskie). She related two Old World folktales about an evil and lost girl. Like a bizarre flash-forward, Nikki was abruptly told that there was a "brutal f--king murder" in the film's plot, and prophetically told she would get the part: "I definitely hear that you have it...Actions do have consequences and yet there is the magic." Nikki also was told some hinted foreshadowings about things being non-linear: "I can't seem to remember if it's today, two days from now, or yesterday," and "evil was born."
  • Nikki had auditioned and received the part of Sue Blue, playing opposite womanizing actor Devon Berk as Billy Slide (Justin Theroux). The film, an adaptation of a Polish gypsy tale (an adulterous love story), was directed by high-profile, pompous Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons), with assistance from and broke Freddie Howard (Harry Dean Stanton). The plot was about marriage and murder. Production on the previously-cursed remake (titled Vier-Sieben: 47) of the film was never finished when the two leads were murdered. There were intimations that the current film would also be cursed.
  • During one of the first run-throughs of the script, a disturbance was heard backstage in the studio - when Devon investigated, he saw Nikki's lurking double seeing herself (at a later point in the film when she entered an alleyway and a door marked Axxon N). Nikki ran away, into the plain suburban home of another film character named Smithy.
  • Nikki's possessively jealous and intimidating husband Piotrek (Peter J. Lucas) warned Devon that his wife was out-of-bounds for an affair. However, as the film was being made, Nikki did begin an affair with Devon, in the role of her character - simultaneously, her loss of identity and its fragmentation started when she paranoically feared she would be discovered.
  • At the same time, Billy's crazed wife Doris (Julia Ormond) in the film was interrogated by a detective, when she confessed she was hypnotized by the Phantom (Krzysztof Majchrzak) to murder someone with a screwdriver (although the screwdriver was stuck in her own bloody side).
  • Everything in the film then became very stylistic, hallucinatory 'Alice down the rabbit hole' images, seemingly-unrelated. Nikki, as a white-trash, hardened, abused working-class housewife confessing her hatred of men to a glasses-wearing psychiatrist, also spoke to a gaggle of lascivious prostitutes (fragments of her own shattered ego?). She presumably was a prostitute herself (allegorically) for allowing sex with her co-star. One of the prostitutes Salli (Wendy Rhodes) showed off her tits - after one of the others was told: "There's always a chance with tits like yours, Kari." Salli bragged: "These are gonna bring up 'In-Like-Flynn'." She was complimented about her chest: "They're pretty, baby. Nice. Sweet." Suddenly, the group, functioning as a Greek chorus, burst into a choreographed version of "The Loco-Motion."
  • Recurring reiterative images, motifs or themes: a cigarette burn hole in silk, allowing one to gaze through; questions about what time it is or what day it is; the Axxon N (a rabbit hole figuratively?); her scary Polish neighbor - the Phantom? - hiding behind a tree; a ringing phone; a screwdriver and wounds; blood and catsup mixed on a T-shirt during an afternoon outdoor barbecue.
  • She admitted to her husband that she was pregnant - and he was shocked. He knew she was unfaithful because he told her, "I can't father children."
  • Sue wandered the streets and found herself as a battered and tawdry prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine, where she was stabbed with a screwdriver in the stomach (and creating a hole from her intestine into her vaginal wall) - thereby killing her baby. She slowly perished on a sidewalk next to a black homeless woman (Helena Chase) and a Japanese girl (Nae) who talked about taking a bus from Hollywood to Pomona to visit a friend named Niko - she was the archetypal fallen victim of the film itself, a woman who aspired to be an actress, but failed and became a hard drugs-taking prostitute with a blonde wig ("She looks very good in her blonde wig just like a movie star").
  • Before Sue expired, she vomited blood on one of the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars (labeled Dorothy) - a powerful statement. The flame of the cigarette lighter of the woman went out ("No more blue tomorrows. You on high now, love") - although there was a pull-back of the camera revealing it was a filmed scene.
  • In the persona of Nikki (now dead as Sue and reborn), she escaped from the trap of the film (after the shooting was completed). She shot and killed the Phantom with a gun in a hotel hallway (as he died, his face displayed a hideous view of Nikki's own clown-face). She eventually wandered into Room 47, where she kissed the Lost Girl and freed her.
  • In the film's first epilogue, the Lost Girl ran into Smithy's house where she happily embraced her estranged husband and child (a symbol of Nikki's own restored marriage).
Nikki/Sue From Normal to Fragmented and Back Again

In the film's second epilogue and final scene, Nikki was back home in her living room with many characters from the film. She seemed at peace. Was everything in the film a dream of her ideal and righteous life - a "blue tomorrow"? During the cheerful end credits, Nina Simone delivered a strong rendition of "Sinnerman."











The Innocents (1961, UK)

Was Governess Miss Giddens Slightly Deranged, or Were the Children Really the 'Possessed Spirits of Two Deceased Individuals Haunting the Estate? Was She Saving Them or Corrupting Them?

Director Jack Clayton's scary, supernatural-psychological horror film was adapted from Henry James' novella, The Turn of the Screw. The setting was in the 19th century at a gothic, bleak English country estate where a new governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), was taking care of a young boy and girl for wealthy Bly House estate owner and bachelor, the Uncle (Michael Redgrave). The children were:

  • young 'ghostly' Miles (Martin Stephens), the orphaned, seemingly 'innocent' nephew
  • Flora (Pamela Franklin), the niece

As the story progressed, the sexually-repressed Miss Giddens appeared slightly deranged (was she mad or not?), believing that the slightly mature, corrupted and strange children Miles and Flora were 'possessed' by the malignant spirits of the estate's dead (violently murdered) valet Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and the previous drowned governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) suffering from "mad grief." The two deceased individuals had carried on a perverse relationship and were suspected of 'haunting' the estate as apparitions.

The most controversial portion of the film was its adult-like, intimately passionate, unsettling on-the-lips kiss between Miss Giddens and the wise-beyond-his-years Miles after she escorted him to bed. She was horrified that Miles was keeping a pigeon with a broken neck under his pillow ("Yes, poor thing, I'll bury it tomorrow"). And then he suddenly sat up and put his arms around her neck, asking: "Kiss me goodnight, Miss Giddens."

In the film's conclusion in the greenhouse, he screamed at her, calling her a "damn hussy, a damn dirty-minded hag" (with a cackling laugh) and then fled outside. In the garden, she grabbed Miles and forced him to admit that the ghost of Quint existed ("Say his name, and it will all be over...Tell me his name, you must tell me his name!"). He yelled back at her: "You're wrong, you're insane," and then collapsed to the ground at her feet after screaming out: "Where you devil, where?" She cradled his body in her arms, assuring him and believing that he was freed from Quint ("He's gone, Miles. You are safe. You're free. I have you. He's lost you forever"), and then realized he was dead ("Miles? Miles! Miles!"). Sobbing, she leaned over and kissed him, as the film ended.





Inside Man (2006)

It Wasn't A Bank Robbery at All - The Robbers Only Wanted the Incriminating Contents of the Safety Deposit Box of the Bank's Chairman of the Board, Who Had Benefited During WWII From Nazi-Related Crimes; The Criminals Created a False Wall and "Cell" in the Bank's Supply Room Where the Lead Thief (Their "Inside Man") Hid for Almost a Week Before Non-Chalantly Leaving the Bank With the Box's Contents

Director Spike Lee's R-rated film was a typical Hollywood retreaded heist-thriller flick, specifically a tense hostage drama. It reflected elements found in Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), the comedy heist film Quick Change (1990), and Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995). The film opened with cunning leader Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his gang committing the "perfect bank robbery" at the Manhattan Trust Bank in the Wall Street district.

He broke through the fourth wall to address the audience as the film began, offering a major clue that he was speaking from a "tiny cell" rather than "in prison":

"My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I've told you my name: that's the "who." The "where" could most readily be described as a prison cell, but there's a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison. The "what" is easy. Recently I planned and set in motion events to execute the perfect bank robbery. That's also the "when." As for the "why," beyond the obvious financial motivation, it's exceedingly simple. Because I can. Which leaves us only with the "how." And therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub."

The film's action was seen - in flashback. The slogan on the side of the thieves' stolen van, for a company called Perfectly Planned Painting, provided a major clue to the plot: "We NEVER Leave Until The Job Is Done!" The robbers were cleverly dressed - with white painter's overalls or jumpsuits, white caps, and sunglasses. During the early stages of the robbery (although no money was ultimately taken!) after closing the front doors of the bank and sabotaging the security cameras, Russell and his masked gang of three ordered everyone to the floor. After herding the 50 or so hostages (bank customers and employees) downstairs, they bullied them into turning over their cellphones and then stripping down to their underwear. The robbers then forced the hostages to put on identical dark suits with hoods and white cloth face masks, and herded them in groups into several locked offices or rooms, and from time to time shuffled them around.

A few of the identically-dressed hostages were released from the bank, to be mercilessly grilled and interrogated with exit interviews by the authorities. The gang members also dressed the same as the hostages to confuse the other hostages and police. Russell demanded two busses and a jumbo jet at JFK airport for the criminals' escape. The lead negotiator for the hostages was unorthodox NYPD Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) with his partner Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejoifor), and alongside brash Captain John Darius (Willem Dafoe), chief of the Emergency Services Unit (ESU).

At the same time, ultra-rich bank chairman (of the board of directors), founder and owner Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) revealed that he had some secrets - what he called "family heirlooms" (valuable diamonds in velvet bags, a Cartier ring, and a Nazi swastika manila envelope with documents linking him to war crimes, revealed later) hidden in his safety deposit box (# 392) in the besieged bank. He hired sleek, high-heeled, iron-willed, and bitchy-chilly private investigator/fixer Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) (called a "magnificent c--t" by the Mayor as she bullied him for favors), to secure the box's contents. She was introduced while arranging for Bin Laden's nephew to purchase a co-op on Park Avenue (and list her client Case as a reference).

Case had a dark and secretive past. To enrich himself during WWII, he had used his position working in a bank in Switzerland to do business with the Nazis during the Holocaust. He helped them betray and steal from wealthy Jews and send them to death camps. As "a short path to success," he "used his blood money to start a bank." He later admitted to Madeleine: "I sold my soul." On his behalf, Madeleine entered the bank and bribed Russell with an offer for a reduced 4 year sentence, and $2 million dollars after his release, in exchange for the envelope, but he didn't accept it. Although unsuccessful in retrieving the contents of Case's deposit box, the banker gave her a generous check as hush money.

Frazier's questions and the answers he received during the case were merely coincidental, but often quite revealing. For instance, when he spoke to Russell, the robber boasted that he would walk out the front door (as he did): "I'm gonna walk out of that door when I'm good and ready." Frazier also told Russell that he was "too broke" to get married (and buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend Sylvia (Cassandra Freeman)). And Frazier surmised, from another cop's comment ("You never know who's listening"), that the police command center had been bugged by the robbers, so they had heard everything.

In the end, no money was stolen, the guns the robbers used were fake toys, and an execution of one hostage had been staged. The only items disturbed in the bank were the contents of the safety deposit box. All of the hostages were released (with three of the gang members joining them), while Russell stayed behind to hide. The three pretenders (all with the variation on the name Steve) were still subjected to exit interviews (seen in fast-forwarded videos), although ultimately they were all released:

  • 'Steve-O' (film name: Darius Peltz) (James Ransone): ("Everybody knows what an AK-47 is...Anybody who's ever watched a decent action movie would")
  • 'Steven' (film name: Kenneth Damerjian) (Carlos Andres Gomez): ("My throat's parched...I just want a glass of water")
  • busty 'Stevie' (film name: Valerie Keepsake) (Kim Director): ("So, I violated Section 34 double-D?")
  • Rabbi Chaim (Bernard Rachelle) was a fourth robber - an Armenian

The reason the 'robbery' took so long was because the robbers were creating a hiding place - a false wall - in the bank's supply room. There, they dug a hole to be used by Russell (as the titular "Inside Man") as a latrine ("now that's a good-looking s--thole" was the clue!). After staying cooped up behind a fake wall in the supply room for about a week, he emerged and walked out of the bank as a free man, to be picked up in an SUV by his fellow gang members. He had absconded with the loose diamonds in velvet bags, and the envelope from Case's safe deposit box to use as blackmail in the future.

On his way out, he bumped into Frazier, who was entering the bank with a court order to open Case's safe deposit box. Frazier found that the Cartier ring had been left behind in the box with a note: "Follow the Ring." Frazier realized that the bank's chairman was implicated and linked to Nazi war crimes. Later that evening in his girlfriend's bedroom, Frazier found one of the diamonds in his pocket - and realized that the man who had bumped into him was Russell, who was graciously providing him with a loose wedding ring diamond so he could propose to his girlfriend. Sylvia was on the bed, urging him to join her for sex - with his "Big Willie and the twins":

"Come on, honey, the handcuffs are getting cold."












Insidious (2011)

The Film Opened And Closed With a View of a Creepy Old Woman Through A Window; That Character Had Haunted and Threatened to Possess Family Head Josh Ever Since He Was A Child, and Now Finally Possessed Him As an Adult As the Film Concluded; Josh Had Been the Target of the Disembodied, Tormented Spirits All Along, Not His Son Dalton, Who Had Only Been Used as Bait to Draw Josh Into the Dark Realm of "The Further"

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, creators of the "Saw" film franchise, created this exceptionally-suspenseful horror film. It was derived from elements of typical haunted house tales, The Exorcist (1973), The Shining (1980), Poltergeist (1982), The Cell (2000), and Paranormal Activity (2007). The supernatural flick posited the existence of an unseen shadowy world known as "The Further" (known in many such films as the "Other Side"), inhabited by creatures ready to possess the souls of humans. The film opened with a view of a creepy Old Woman (Philip Friedman) through a window, holding a candle - a major hint, and then the title screen in pulsating, blood-red lettering.

A suburban family moved into a spooky old 1920s, two-story Craftsman house:

  • schoolteacher Josh (Patrick Wilson), and stay-at-home mom and aspiring singer-songwriter Renai (Rose Byrne)
  • their three children: an infant girl Cali, and two pre-teen brothers: 8 year-old Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and Foster (Andrew Astor)

They began to experience a few strange occurrences: books falling off a shelf, scratching noises, and a creaking attic door. After Dalton went up into the attic to explore, he saw something, fell off the ladder (with a broken rung), and hit his head. Overnight as he slept, he went into an unexplained 'coma' (without brain damage, trauma, or infection). Dalton was hospitalized for three months and then returned (still unresponsive) to the house, where more inexplicable things began to happen:

  • static, indistinct whisperings, and barely audible voices were heard on the baby monitor ("There's nothing you can do. Nothing you can do...I want it. Give me it! Give me it! I want it! I want it now!")
  • Foster complained that his comatose older brother was sleepwalking at night
  • creaky sounds, thuds, door bangings, the strange sighting of a sinister figure and shape in the infant's bedroom, a security alarm blaring with the locked and alarmed front door inexplicably open
  • a bloody handprint on the sheet of Dalton's bed next to his foot
  • Renai's nightmare of a Long-Haired Fiend (J. LaRose) pacing outside her bedroom window and then attacking her (she told Josh: "Don't you dare not believe me")

Josh's strange past history was hinted at:

  • no pictures of Josh as a child in his family photo album; he was fearful of being photographed
  • he began staying late at work, allegedly to grade some tests
  • Josh became skeptical and unsupportive of Renai's allegations ("I'm scared of this house, there's something wrong with this place...It's like a sickness...I can't be alone in there anymore"); he avoided her stressful problems and privately thought she was crazy

They promptly moved to another house, a single-story home. Soon, the supernatural events began to reoccur, e.g., the LP record playing on the phonograph changed to "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" and a figure was seen dancing in the living room, doors abruptly shut and opened, a riderless rocking horse rocked, and a laughing doll-child ran through the house. As the trailer revealed, Dalton was the one that was haunted by spirits, not the house. Josh's tense mother Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey) described a horrifying nightmare and vision she had the night before about an unusual figure she saw in the corner of Dalton's bedroom ("There was something in there with him"), who was visiting and had come to take Dalton. As she told the story to the couple, she saw a red and black-faced Demon (Joseph Bishara), looking like Star Wars' Darth Maul, suddenly emerge behind Josh ("It's here!"). They found Dalton's room torn apart, and an unharmed Dalton on the floor.

The couple, with Lorraine's recommendation, hired a professional group of paranormal investigators to check out the new house:

  • lead medium Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye)
  • her two goofy techy sidekicks: Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell)

Elise's immediate discovery was that otherworldly presences, including the blood red-faced, black-bodied Demon, and other spirits or ghosts were definitely in the house to pursue Dalton's spirit. She stated: "It's not the house that's haunted. It's your son." Dalton was astral-projecting himself (his spirit had left his physical body) when he traveled into a far-off dark world known as The Further. But on one of his out-of-body journeys to the far-off spiritual world, he had traveled too far and become lost. Elise said they must get the son back before the disembodied and tortured spirits of the dead and other malevolent entities with an "insidious agenda" took over (or possessed) his physical body (an "empty vessel").

During communications during a seance session in Dalton's bedroom, the group learned that the boy was being held (with no way to escape) by the fire-faced Demon spirit (who wished to "cause pain to others"). Dalton repeatedly cried out: "Help me." The Demon possessed Dalton's body and used it to fight the group - the Long-Haired Fiend attacked Renai and licked at her. Elise grabbed the boy's hair and screamed out: "Leave this vessel," until the Demon departed.

The next revelation was that Josh had experienced "night terrors" and "awful fits of pure fear" when he was eight years old. He had been terrorized, like his son, by an evil spirit - in the guise of an Old Woman (the one that opened the film). A series of photographs from his boyhood showed the Old Woman getting closer and closer to him. He was also a "gifted traveler" in his childhood with the ability to venture out of his physical body during a dream state. He had handed down astral-projection abilities to his son. It was recommended that Josh, the only one capable of rescuing Dalton's soul, rediscover his lost abilities and enter "The Further."

Under hypnosis, Josh entered his two story house, where he came upon a number of tormented spirits, including the Doll Girls (Kelly Devoto and Corbett Ruck) and a Whistling Ghost Dad (Lary Crews). He retrieved Dalton from the Demon's lair (located behind a red door), where Dalton was found chained down, and the two awakened back in the 'real world' after successfully fleeing from the fork-tongued Demon and the Old Woman, who both had vanished.

In the shocking conclusion, after Elise took a revealing photograph of Josh, he choked her to death (as he shouted: "You bitch!"). In Elise's camera, Renai saw a picture of the creepy Old Woman. The surprise twist was that Josh had been possessed by the spirit himself - the Old Woman. 'Josh' reappeared and put his hand on his wife's shoulder, and ominously told her: "Renai, I'm right here."

After the end credits, the Old Woman blew out the candle she was holding, and the screen turned to black.


Old Woman



Long Haired Fiend

Renai (Rose Byrne)

The Red and Black Lipstick-Faced Demon (Joseph Bishara) Behind Josh (Patrick Wilson)

Doll Girls

Astral Projection

A Demon Drawing

Renai Attacked by Fiend

The Old Woman Terrorizing
Young Josh


Various Spirits


Elise Choked to Death by
Josh/Old Woman

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Becky Was Shockingly Converted Into One of the Pod People When Dr. Bennell Left Her and She Fell Asleep; He Vainly Attempted to Warn Drivers of the Impending Threat; Miles Was Vindicated in an Added Epilogue

Near the conclusion of this classic science fiction film, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) and his sweetheart fiancee Becky (Dana Wynter) fled from the town's pod-people - they were the last two non-pod people in Santa Mira. The two were compelled to hide under the floorboards in a dark, deserted cave or tunnel. When Miles left the fainting Becky to discover the source of beautiful music for a few moments, Becky briefly fell asleep. After he returned to the mine, he found her fatigued and started to carry her.

And then in the film's most memorable and frightening moment, he took her in his arms to kiss her, and then drew away from her unresponsive lips. In a tight closeup shot of her face, he looked into the blank, dark, expressionless and staring eyes of his fiancée, realizing with a look of utter fright, shock, and fear that she was now one of "them" - her body had been invaded and snatched by the clones. He knew instantly that this was not Becky but a treacherous imposter and victim. She confirmed: "I went to sleep Miles, and it happened...They were right." He was unbelieving: "Oh, Becky...I should never have left you." His sweetheart of a moment ago now asserted: "Stop acting like a fool, Miles, and accept us." She traitorously screamed to the pod-people searchers: "He's in here. He's in here. Get him. Get him."

Horrified that he was now completely alone, Miles helplessly rushed in panic from the tunnel, clambering up the hills to a busy highway, where he attempted to flag down cars, and convince passing drivers to help him and believe his story. Crazed with fear, he rushed into the onrushing traffic, nervously shouting and crying words of warning to the unheeding cars and unconvinced drivers. Miles climbed onto the back of a passing truck with the names of cities on it, horrified to find it loaded with pods to be distributed and spread throughout the nation. He dropped off, jumping back on the highway - feeling completely helpless. As a crazed prophet of doom, he pointed directly into the camera, desperately trying to warn others and the audience: "YOU'RE NEXT!"

In an added epilogue, the distraught and raving mad Miles was relating his fantastic nightmarish tale in a hospital. The doctors commented that he was a lunatic and as "mad as a March hare." As the doctors left the office, another accident victim from a wreck was brought in by ambulance. One of the doctors explained how there was a collision between a Greyhound bus and a truck, and how the truck driver had to be dug out from under a peculiar pile of "great big seed pods" from a truck coming out of Santa Mira. Verifying and confirming Miles' story, the police started to take control of the invading aliens by blocking highways, and the FBI and law enforcement agencies were notified of the emergency. An all-points alarm was sounded and Miles was finally vindicated and relieved that someone had finally believed him.



Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Masquerading As a Pod-Person, Nancy Came Upon Matthew - She Was Relieved, But Then Shocked to Realize That He Had Been Converted Into One of the Pod People, And Was Pointing Accusingly At Her

In this remake's despairing and climactic twist ending, Department of Health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) responded to still-human Nancy Bellicec's (Veronica Cartwright) happy greeting that she managed to stay awake and remain human.

He screamed a piercing howl while pointing an accusatory finger at her (he had been converted into one of the non-humans), as the camera descended into the blackness of his open mouth.


The Island (2005)

There Was No Island -- Clones Jordan and Lincoln Learned of the Deception, Exposed It, and Set the Clone Inhabitants on the Island Free After Destroying the Facility; Merrick Was Killed During the Destruction

In director Michael Bay's futuristic action-adventure thriller, survivors of a massive, toxic global contamination lived in a highly-controlled and monitored, self-contained and isolated utopian environment in the post-apocalyptic world of 2019. All inhabitants were promised a lottery prize of being sent to "The Island" - the only remaining uncontaminated, paradisical land area left in the world.

When skeptical Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) and his best friend Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) learned otherwise (by the simple discovery of a flying winged insect from outside), they fled to the 'real world' (a desert area near Yuma, Arizona) where they learned that they were actually clones (for Scottish millionaire playboy racer Tom Lincoln and famous model Sarah Jordan) - to be used for replacement or spare parts, organs, genes, and even wombs for their wealthy sponsors as insurance policies - when needed.

In short, there was no Island. The operation was kept top-secret by 'godlike' sinister Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean), the owner of the cloning corporation, because a lie was told to those wealthy individuals who purchased copies of themselves that the clones (or "products") were only in a "persistent vegetative state" (or not human), so any harvesting process was considered non-lethal.

[Note: There were major legal problems for this film when the producers of the low-budget independent film Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979) filed a legal suit claiming that the DreamWorks/Warner Bros. production was an unauthorized, cloned, scene-by-scene remake. It also combined elements of THX 1138 (1971), Logan's Run (1976), and Blade Runner (1982).]




Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
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