Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


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

The Narrow Margin (1952)

Escorted Protective Witness Mrs. Frankie Neall Was a Decoy Policewoman; The Real Mrs. Neall Was Blonde Ann Sinclair; Detective Brown Was Being Tested

In this noirish crime-drama, incorruptible hard-boiled Det. Sgt. Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) was escorting dislikable, widowed gun moll and grand jury witness Mrs. Frankie Neall (Marie Windsor) to Los Angeles on a cross-country train. (Brown: "You make me sick to my stomach." Neall: "Well, use your own sink. And let me know when the target practice starts!")

Det. Brown was charged with protecting her from two hitmen aboard the moving, confining transcontinental Golden West Limited train (from Chicago).

It was revealed in a surprising character/identity twist that Mrs. Frankie Neall was actually a decoy -- a policewoman from Internal Affairs named Sarah Maggs.

The real Mrs. Neall was Brown's love-interest who was also on the train - she was a golden-haired, sweet-natured mother named Ann Sinclair (Jacqueline White) who also had her precocious son Tommy (Gordon Gebert) in tow.

At one ironic point in the film, Sinclair was mistakenly held hostage by mob hitman, and Brown used the reflection of another train's window to gun him down without compromising her safety.

It was also learned that the payoff list that the mobsters wanted had already been mailed to the Los Angeles DA's office: (Brown: "I've been played for a sucker!"). Brown's loyalties were being tested by the DA via the decoy to see if he would accept the bribes offered by the hitmen to give up his witness: (Ann: "It's an investigation into grafts and payoffs, remember?")

Never Let Me Go (2010)

The Children Were Being Raised To Be Donors of Vital Organs, To Prolong The Lives of Others To 100 Years or More - a Medical Breakthrough in a Dystopian Society. The Idea of Deferrals for Couples Truly in Love Was Only a Rumor

Director Mark Romanek's haunted, somber and melancholy romantic drama was really a dystopic, sci-fi horror story. It was based on the downbeat and dark 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and slightly borrowed from the sci-fi cult films Logan's Run (1976), Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979), and Michael Bay's The Island (2005). The futuristic, sci-fi tale was set in pastoral England - an alternate universe. Society had evolved and rid itself of diseases and illnesses. After a medical breakthrough in 1952, the average life expectancy had advanced to over 100 years by 1967.

The film covered a period from 1978 to 1994. Told in prosaic narrative flashbacks by tragic, deeply-emotional student Kathy (young Isobel Meikle-Small), she had been a young sheltered attendee at a mysterious, rustic, yet idyllic British boarding school called Hailsham. Teachers were referred to as "guardians" without reference to parents. Her best friends at Hailsham in an ill-fated love triangle were often-angry Tommy (young Charlie Rowe) and manipulative, insecure Ruth (young Ella Purnell), who eventually stole Tommy's heart. However, Kathy kept her unrequited love for Tommy (Andrew Garfield) alive, one day hoping that Ruth (Keira Knightley) and he would separate.

The plot twist or main theme was unveiled slowly, although it was basically telescoped very early on, during the preface (a quick flash-forward to the film's grim conclusion). Kathy (Carey Mulligan) narrated as the film began, as she looked through a hospital's pane of glass on an impending operation: "My name is Kathy H. I'm 28 years old. I've been a Carer for nine years. And I'm good at my job. My patients always do better than expected, and are hardly ever classified as agitated, even if they're about to make a donation."

In addition, about twenty minutes into the film, new guardian Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) lectured to one class of unaware fourth-year Hailsham students that they would never grow up. (Her unauthorized, subversive revelation caused her to be removed shortly thereafter.) Body parts were to be harvested from them - they were bred specially as human clones (the word "clone" wasn't used). The children were being raised to provide vital organ "donations" to prolong the lives of others, thus leading to their own deaths:

The problem is you've been told and not told. That's what I've seen while I've been here. You've been told but none of you really understand. So I've decided I'll talk to you in a way that you will understand. Do you know what happens to children when they grow up? No, you don't, because nobody knows. They might grow up to become actors, move to America. Or they might work in supermarkets. Or teach in schools. They might become sportsmen or bus conductors or racing car drivers. They might do almost anything.

But with you we do know. None of you will go to America. None of you will work in supermarkets. None of you will do anything except live the life that has already been set out for you. You will become adults, but only briefly. Before you are old, before you are even middle-aged, you will start to donate your vital organs. That's what you were created to do. And sometime around your third or fourth donation, your short life will be complete. You have to know who you are and what you are. It's the only way you'll lead decent lives.

In 1985, about a half-hour into the film, the three school grads (at around age 18) had departed from Hailsham for a halfway house, the farm-like environment of the Cottages, where they were allowed to grow up and await their doomed fates. Curiously, none of the doomed or exploited teens attempted to escape or rebel, but accepted their fates and destinies calmly. At age 19, Kathy applied to be a Carer to supportively facilitate the passage of others who underwent successive organ-donor operations at Completion (death) centers. She left the Cottages at about the same time that Tommy and Ruth split up, as their long-time threesome unraveled.

In 1994 at Completion, Kathy (who shuttled from hospital to hospital across the country) came upon Ruth almost ten years later. Ruth was close to death or completion after her second organ removal operation. They journeyed together to meet up with Tommy, who had also had two operations and was recuperating at the Kingsfield Recovery Centre. During their short visit, Ruth apologized to them for having kept them apart from sharing their real love: "Should have been you two together, I always knew it." She proposed that they apply for a deferral of Completion, after proving to the authorities that they qualified - that they were verifiably and truly in love. Kathy and Tommy further explored and enlivened their love for each other when she became his Carer.

After Ruth Completed and died during another operation, the two went to see if they could defer their own Completion for a few years. They were shocked to hear that "there are no deferrals. And there never have been," by Halisham's former art Gallery Madame (Nathalie Richard), and Halisham's ex-Headmistress Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling). The two were told that they were "poor creatures" who were beyond help.

Kathy's voice-over words ended the heart-wrenching film, as Kathy witnessed Tommy's final operation behind a glass pane. In the countryside, she remembered their younger and happier days:

It's been two weeks since I lost him. I've been given my notice now. My first donation is in a month's time. I come here and imagine that this is the spot where everything I've lost since my childhood has washed out. I tell myself, if that were true, and I waited long enough, then a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy. He'd wave and maybe call. I don't let the fantasy go beyond that. I can't let it. I remind myself I was lucky to have had any time with him at all. What I'm not sure about is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time.

Never Talk to Strangers (1995)

Suffering from a Multiple Personality Disorder, Sarah Was Stalking Herself; She Killed Both Her Father and Tony (A Private Detective), Claiming Innocence

In this psycho-sexual thriller (similar in part to The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Basic Instinct (1992)), brilliant, cool blonde criminal psychologist Dr. Sarah Taylor (Rebecca DeMornay) was revealed to have a multiple personality disorder (MPD), with one part of her alter-ego completely male-hating and homicidal.

Her illness stemmed from an abusive childhood from her despised father Henry (Len Cariou) (who committed incest with her) during which time she was coerced to murder her mother to satisfy Henry and cover up the crime, ensuring Henry wouldn't be blamed.

Although it appeared that she was being stalked, she was actually sending herself frightening objects: threatening phone messages, dead flowers, her own newspaper obituary, and her dead cat.

Long-haired Latino stranger Tony Ramirez (Antonio Banderas), with whom she shared vigorous kinky thrills, was revealed to be a police officer and surveillance expert investigating the disappearance of Sarah's ex-fiancee a year earlier.

In the end, Sarah's homicidal alter-ego killed both Tony and her father, and then convinced the police that Tony murdered her father and that she killed Tony in self-defense.

Next (2007)

After a DREAM of a Nuclear Device Detonating and Destroying the Los Angeles area (The Climax of the Second Half of the Film), "Mentalist" Cris Johnson Woke Up From the Dream (After Sex), and Now Decided to Help the FBI Catch the Terrorists and Prevent the Catastrophe

New Zealand director Lee Tamahori's sci-fi suspense thriller was reportedly based on another Philip K. Dick short story from 1954, The Golden Man, although there was very little resemblance between the two. The film suffered from a lack of believability, and an unfair and unsatisfying 'pull-the-rug out from under you' twist.

It contained a gimmicky premise summarized in the film's tagline: "If you can see the future, you can save it." Two bit Las Vegas magician/"mentalist" Cris Johnson (stage-named Frank Cadillac) (Nicolas Cage) at the Back Page had a gift - or curse. He could see two minutes into his own future - a useful gift when applied to gambling at blackjack. In voice-over, he described the implications of his complex ability (that could change the future), just before he was able to thwart a heist in the casino: "Here's the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes because you looked at it. And that changes everything else."

He was pursued by tough, insistent and intense FBI Special Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) to help the agency, with his precognitive "definable ability" and "advanced awareness." They needed to locate a stolen, 10 kiloton nuclear munition smuggled into the US by a Russian Federation. It was about to be detonated in the greater Los Angeles area by terrorists led by arrogant Mr. Smith (Thomas Kretschmann), who knew about the clairvoyance of "carnival barker" Cris Johnson. The agents (and the terrorists) were always a step behind locating Cris - who could outmaneuver and evade them - but how could a two-minute warning, in any scenario, help to prevent the bomb's deployment and a major catastrophe?

A romantic subplot involved Cris and repeated cryptic sightings of a visionary girl - part-time Havasupai Reservation teacher Elizabeth Cooper (Jessica Biel). He had foreseen meeting her at 8:09 am in a cafe-diner many times, where they finally met and became acquainted - after he made multiple attempts to select the right circumstances. After a visit to the reservation, the road was washed out and they were forced to spend the night together at the Cliffhanger Motel outside Flagstaff. They had sex the following morning - at 45 minutes into the 96 minute film. After sex, there was a lengthy pull-back from a close-up of Cris' opened eye, when he awoke in the motel bed with Liz, while staring at the ceiling.

The film continued, with the plot of Cris trying to evade the terrorists (who wanted to kill him), and the FBI (who wanted him to lead them to the terrorists). He told Liz about his unique capabilities of seeing two minutes into his own future, but that she was unusual to him. It was different with her - he could see further with her: "Except (for) you. For some reason, I saw you...far beyond anything I'd ever seen before, and I don't know why...I wanted to find you because I needed to know why I was seeing you." He attempted to reassure her that it wasn't a set-up.

After diverting the FBI (and allowing himself to be caught) so that Liz could escape, she was unfortunately abducted, taken as a hostage, and strapped to a wheelchair with explosives by the international terror syndicate at the site of the detonation - a parking garage roof. At the end of all of the action within a large warehouse, Liz was saved by Cris, but he mistakenly detonated the nuclear device and Los Angeles was destroyed ("I made a mistake. It's happening... Now!").

And then the film's plot twist was revealed - at the very end of the film - it was another variation of the "it was all a dream, vision or illusion" twist. The explosion had not actually occurred. After the imagined catastrophe, the scene returned to a closeup of Cris' eye popping open, as he laid in the Cliffhanger Motel bed with Liz, staring at the ceiling again after having sex. Everything that occurred in the latter half of the film was just his clairvoyance.

As the film concluded, he called Callie, and agreed to cooperate and help the FBI ("I'll do it, but I have conditions. I want her left out of it"). He told Liz that there was something he had to do that couldn't be put off any longer. He asked her to wait for him for a week or maybe a month during his mission ("If you can wait, I'll find you"), and then kissed her. He stepped into Callie's FBI van outside their motel, as he repeated - in voice-over:

"Here's the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes because you looked at it. And that changes everything else."

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Zombie Survivor Ben Was Mistaken For a Zombie, Shot By a Mob, and Burned On A Pyre - No Happy Ending

After a gruesome night of death in rural Western Pennsylvania in the fight against an army of undead - including the deaths of Harry and Helen Cooper (Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman) and their daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) and the young teenaged white couple Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Ridley) - strong-willed black protagonist Ben (Duane Jones) had survived the night in the basement.

But the next morning there was no happy ending -- he was distressingly and shockingly shot in the head by a redneck mob when he peered out of a broken window. He was mistaken for one of the living dead, and his body was thrown into a pile of ghoul corpses and set on fire.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Freddy Seemed Defeated, But He Reappeared - He Took Control of The Car Nancy Was Riding In, and Snatched Nancy's Mother Marge

In the slasher film's ambiguous, tacked-on, twist-ending epilogue (another dream?), as teenager Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) exited her mother Marge's (Ronee Blakley) bedroom after vanquishing demonic dream killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), she found herself outside her front door in the bright but diffuse morning fog. Her mother saw her off and vowed to stop drinking.

She was picked up for school by her friends (boyfriend Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp), Rod Lane (Nick Corri), and Tina (Amanda Wyss)), no longer deceased, in Glen's convertible in front of her house.

As the roof tightly clamped shut over their heads, it revealed itself as red/green striped (the colors of Freddy's sweater). Uncontrollably, the windows rolled up and the car drove off, with the frightened kids trapped inside.

Oblivious to their entrapment, Marge waved goodbye, as the camera panned to the right where a group of white-dressed young girls were jumping rope and singing the Freddy rhyme.

Suddenly, Freddy's right arm smashed through the front door's small window and grabbed Marge - and pulled her entire body through the opening.

The Nines (2007)

The Main Male Character Was Actually a Godlike Being (Rated A Nine) Who Had Addictively Created Multiple Universes (or Realities) and Created (or Reincarnated) Himself as a Character (or Identity) in Each World, Over the Last 4,000 Years. Another Nine Being, Susan (and Two Other Nine Beings) Convinced Him To Abandon or Extract Himself From the Illusory Worlds and Identities That He Had Created, and Restore Himself; The "Best of All Possible Worlds" - After 90 Tries, Was As A Female Housewife Within An Idyllic Family!

Writer/director John August's independent psychological thriller (his directorial debut and a semi-autobiographical work) was described by its tagline: "Y9U NEVER KN9W WHEN Y9UR NUMBER IS UP." The main theme of the disorienting, metaphysical film was shifting identities (similar to Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation (2002)). The main three characters (all played by Ryan Reynolds) were versions (or fragments) of the same creative individual - all were involved in the job of creating alternate realities. The ingenious, "puzzle pieces" episodic mind-bender was composed of three intertwining stories with the same actors/actresses - all interlocked and linked by the number 9:

  • Part One: The Prisoner
  • Part Two: Reality Television
  • Part Three: Knowing

In Part One - "The Prisoner," troubled but popular TV actor Gary Banks (Ryan Reynolds), from the crime-fighting TV series "Crime Lab" (a CSI knock-off) was introduced as he purchased crack cocaine, solicited an overweight streetwalker (Octavia Spencer), partied in a motel room, and experienced hallucinations (he thought he didn't have a belly-button and asked: "Am I alive?"). During a crack-aided joyride, he saw visions of two other future incarnations of himself (the film's major plot point) - both Gavin and Gabriel in the backseat of his car, but he disregarded them.

After rolling his car upside down in downtown Hollywood, he was charged with crack use and arson (he had burned down his own house after breaking up with his girlfriend), and jailed. He was bailed out by his chubby publicist Margaret (Melissa McCarthy), and kept sequestered (under house arrest) in a writer's house. Although she was supportive, she threatened him (as Kathy Bates did in Misery (1990)): "I'm a fan of yours, you know. Your number one fan. But if you f--k this up, I will smash your ankles with a sledgehammer!"

The vain, sexy actor began to experience multiple occurrences of the number 9: the area code for take-out food delivery, two paintings (of a 7 and 2), the name of his TV series rewritten as "CRIM9 LAB," an orange Post-It note in the kitchen in his own handwriting ("Look for the NINES"), backgammon dice rolls, and newspaper real estate ads, etc. His desperately flirtatious next-door neighbor, single mom Sarah (Hope Davis), often came to share drinks. When he left the house on one occasion, he was haunted by a mute girl (Elle Fanning) with cryptic hand signals before being returned by the police to the house and fitted with an ankle bracelet, after which Margaret moved in to be his protective baby-sitter.

When Gary mentioned: "There's something wrong with the world," Sarah suggested: "I can get you out of here but you have to trust me." When Gary asked Margaret about the "nines," she explained: "They're subconscious, trying to remind you who you are." He asked: "I'm a nine?" to which she responded, "Yes. It doesn't make much sense out of context." Margaret admitted that she had known him for 25 years, although not always as 'Gary.' She added: "You're not who you think you are." She also warned about Sarah, whom she called a "Nine." When Gary stepped over a red chalk boundary line ("the edge of your world") - he violated his house arrest barrier, and everything disappeared in an atomic flash of white light.

In Part Two - "Reality Television," a hot-shot, gay TV show screenwriter and workaholic Gavin Taylor (Ryan Reynolds) had just successfully pitched a pilot for a one-hour crime-show thriller (a series titled "Knowing," aka "Rosemary's Toddler") to the VP of Drama Development, Susan Howard (Hope Davis). During the film shoot, an additional "Behind the Screen" reality show ('behind the scenes') was being created (with handheld digital video cameras), to include Gavin's adventures as the thriller's creator/showrunner - Gavin was trailed around by a reality TV show crew.

Sarah was pressuring Gavin to sever his ties with and fire his best friend Melissa McCarthy (Melissa McCarthy), married to Ben Falcone (McCarthy's real husband) - his first choice for lead actress (the character of "Mary"), and to recast the role to improve ratings. Gavin was the writer/creator of "Crime Lab," and owned the house where Gary had been held under arrest (Gavin was on the pilot's six-week shoot). He had also left the note: "Look for the Nines" (referring to the most important individuals in ratings focus groups).

Stressed about his situation, Gavin resorted to his addiction to online role-playing games ("You lose yourself a little bit in them. I love that it's a different world that's existing at the same time. They're better than real life. If you get stuck, you can always hit reset"). He also felt as if his identity's boundaries were breaking down: "I'm having a nervous breakdown, or something. I'm literally so focused on the show that I feel like I'm living inside of the show, you know what I mean? I can't tell where it ends and I begin."

He confessed to Melissa that she was being replaced in the show, adding: "I really want this show on the air. I have all of these characters inside of my head, and they want to live, and I'm the only way that they can...I have five seasons mapped out." And then, Melissa's replacement actress became unavailable, something Susan had known from the start. She warned him about Melissa: "I had to get you away from her. She was holding you back. You had to give her up." The reality show about Gavin would be the only offering in the new TV schedule. After angered Gavin punched Susan in the mouth, she revealed his true identity: "Is that all there is? Do you feel like a man? Because, I'll tell you a little secret. You're not." At the end of Part Two, Gavin found himself on a street-corner telling his film crew to disappear - ranting and talking to himself, until everyone completely disappeared.

[Revelations: During a flashback to a scene at the end of Part One, Margaret explained that Gary had become a godlike being (with a rating of 9/10 twirling above his head, while other humans had 7's above them): "You are a multi-dimensional being of vast, almost infinite power. You, this body you're in, it's just one of your incarnations, avatars, call you what you will....If God is a ten, a theoretical ultimate, you're more of a nine." He could create multiple realities or destroy his existing world with a single thought: "The important thing is, is you - you created this world on a whim, and decided to stick around to see how it turned out. You could destroy the world with a single thought...The truth is, you hold all the cards."]

And in Part Three - "Knowing," the title of the pilot reality show episode itself, earnest, bearded father Gabriel (Ryan Reynolds), a successful video game designer, was married to editor Mary (Melissa McCarthy) with an 8 year-old daughter named Noelle (Elle Fanning). Stranded while in the Southern California woods/mountains with a dead car battery, he abandoned his family to seek help. Gabriel hiked to find a cell phone signal when he met up with mysterious and suspicious 'flower-child' hitch-hiker Sierra (Hope Davis). While waiting in the car, Noelle watched a video on Gabriel's digital camera, showing segments of the previous two parts (Gavin apologizing to Melissa in Part Two, and Margaret talking to Gary in Part One). Sierra agreed to drive Gabriel to seek help, but then led him in circles and drugged his water supply.

Sierra revealed she had come to perform an intervention on the main "G" male character - she began telling him that he had forgotten who he was after he had become an addicted creator of limited and corrupted worlds, and unreal identities:

"You're a crackhead, G. Thing is, this planet and these people are your drug of choice. It wasn't that hard to make a universe. At first, you just checked in every once in a while, see how the Neanderthals were doing, move a couple of continents around. But then you got more into it. You started playing a couple of characters of your own. Slaves, kings, messiahs, priests. Soon, you were playing 24/7...You've been gone for four thousand years...We couldn't just storm in on a fiery chariot. It was your universe. We had to play by your rules. We had to show you how limited and corrupt your world was...Do you remember where you came from?...We need you to come back - with us. Come back with me...You have to quit, cold turkey...But I can't force you to leave. You have to want it."

After returning home with his family, Gabriel admitted to Mary that he liked his created world - "I like this world. I like my life here with you and Noelle." She replied: "But it's not real. I'm not really your wife. You're not really my husband. I'm some model that's all pretend. How many versions were there?" He responded that there were 90 different variations of the universe and this was his last one - he had destroyed "billions of people" with his thoughts. After telling her that she was his "favorite," he ripped the green thread bracelet around his wrist - and the false universe dissolved around him.

[Revelations: The "G character" was one of many male incarnations, created by Mary. As the film ended, the at-peace housewife (Melissa McCarthy) was now leading an idyllic married family life with caring husband Ben and daughter Noelle. Noelle assured her mother: "He's not coming back. This is going to be OK. He put all the pieces together. It's like..." She interrupted: "the best of all possible worlds."]

(Ryan Reynolds)

(Ryan Reynolds)

(Ryan Reynolds)

(Melissa McCarthy)

(Hope Davis)

(Elle Fanning)

Gavin on Street Corner with Rating of Nine Twirling
Above His Head

Gabriel with Sierra

Removing the Bracelet

The Final Scene

The Ninth Gate (1999)

Rare Book Dealer Corso Was Hired by Balkan to Locate Two Other Similar Devil Worship Books; The Secret of the Ninth Gate Was Hidden in the Slightly-Different Engravings Found in All Three Books - They Could Conjure Up Lucifer; After Owners of the Other Books Were Killed Along the Way, Balkan Self-Immolated During a Satanic Ritual With The Wrong Incantation; Corso Located the Authentic 9th Engraving and Entered the Ninth Gate (of Hell)

Director Roman Polanski co-wrote the screenplay for this neo-noirish, sometimes plodding gothic mystery thriller, with themes of double-cross, supernatural devil worship, and a trail of murder. Unscrupulous, self-interested, mercenary NYC rare book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) (who was quoted as saying: "I believe in my percentage") was hired by wealthy book collector, publisher and witchcraft-demonology expert Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) of Balkan Press to authenticate or validate his recently-purchased copy of a rare 17th century (1666) book on demonology, The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows -- a "supreme masterpiece." The book was authored by Inquisition burned-at-the-stake writer Aristide Torchia (AT).

Corso, with eyeglasses and a goatee, was to travel (all-expenses paid) to Europe to track down two other existing copies privately owned in Portugal (Sintra) and France (Paris) and discover which of all of them was genuine (Balkan: "I'm convinced only one is authentic - I want to know which"). Nine engravings in the pentacle-emblazoned book -- correctly interpreted and spoken out loud, would reportedly "conjure up the Prince of Darkness" - Lucifer (LCF) himself, the book's reputed co-author. Presumably, Balkan wanted the authentic book so he could ritualistically summon Lucifer through the Ninth Gate. Corso suspected that Balkan had already failed once to raise the devil ("You mean the devil won't show up").

The first contact of the shady "mercenary" was Liana Telfer (Lena Olin), the conniving sultry, gold-digging femme fatale widow of Andrew Telfer (Willy Holt) who originally owned the book (bought in Toledo-Spain) and sold it to Balkan. She failed to reacquire the book from the "book detective" when she appeared at his NY apartment door, proposed an orchestrated theft, and then offered herself as a "bonus" - she seduced him by feeling his crotch and then 'f--ked' him, but failed to acquire the tome (she angrily bit his chest and knocked him unconscious with a liquor bottle).

Before leaving for Europe, Corso had temporarily entrusted the book to his NY business partner Bernie Ornstein (James Russo) for safe-keeping. He found his pal murdered - hanged from his left ankle and made to appear like the 6th engraving in the book. Enticed by more money from Balkan, Corso flew to Europe - to Toledo, Spain - to the bookstore of twin Cineza brothers who had sold the book to Telfer (at his wife's insistence), and learned that the initials LCF on three of the engravings referred to Lucifer (the book's "illustrious collaborator"), the other six to AT (the author).

As he traveled by train to Portugal, he found himself again pursued (actually assisted and protected) by a mysterious and enigmatic 'guardian angel' figure named The Girl (Emmanuelle Seigner) - nicknamed "Green Eyes," who appeared in various situations (always wearing jeans, jogging shoes and mismatched red and green socks), and helped him navigate through the perils of his search, including saving him twice from harm inflicted by Liana's blonde-haired, black bodyguard (Tony Amoni). It was in Portugal at the home of Victor Fargas (Jack Taylor) who owned a second copy, that Corso discovered three of the nine engravings (# 2, # 4, and # 6) were attributed to LCF - slightly different from Balkan's copy (only # 3, # 8, and # 9 were attributed to LCF, while all the others were attributed to AT). As it turned out, three different engravings in each book ("all three copies are genuine") varied from those in the other two books - Corso surmised: "Torchia hid the secret of the Ninth Gate in three books, not one."

In Paris, he learned from stump-handed, wheel-chaired Baroness Frieda Kessler (Barbara Jefford) about the Order of the Silver Serpent (member Liana Telfer's left buttocks was tattooed with its coiled serpent icon). The Order was a secret society ("a kind of witches coven"), dedicated to worshipping the Prince of Darkness, that had degenerated into a "social club for bored millionaires and celebrities who use its meetings as an excuse to indulge their jaded sexual appetites." The Baroness had long since dropped out ("My orgy days are over"), although members still met annually on the anniversary of Torchia's death. In Kessler's copy, as expected, # 1, # 5, and # 7 were attributed to LCF. Liana ("the Telfer woman") stole Corso's copy (Balkan's book) from his Parisian hotel room, and was pursued to her gated St. Martin chateau where she was about to lead a Satanist Order occult ceremony (similar to Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999)), dressed in a black robe and reading from the book. She became the fifth victim associated with the book, when attacked by Balkan who called her a "charlatan."

The trail was littered with death - those who owned (or were associated with) copies of the book ended up dead:

  1. Liana's husband Andrew Telfer who owned the book sold to Balkan - and the next day committed suicide by hanging (the film's opening)
  2. Corso's rare books business partner Bernie, hanged in the store
  3. Portugal book collector Victor Fargas who was murdered after Corso's visit, drowned in his home's outdoor fountain, and the book was half-charred in the fireplace (with engravings pages torn out)
  4. Baroness Frieda Kessler, who owned a third copy and was writing the devil's biography was also killed (strangled and then burned) during Corso's second visit and her book's engravings were ripped out
  5. Liana, who was killed by Balkan (he impaled her 5-pointed star necklace into her throat) when he interrupted the occult ceremony (calling it "mumbo jumbo") and stole back his own book
  6. Balkan himself, who was vainly attempting at his remote castle to summon Satan by chanting the sayings of the 9 engravings from the ripped pages - in this order: 1-4-3-6-7-5-8-2-9. He chanted: "1-To travel in silence / 4-by a long and circuitous route / 3-To brave the arrows of misfortune / 6-and fear neither noose nor fire/ 7-To play the greatest of all games / 5-and win, foregoing no expense/8-is to mock the vicissitudes of Fate / 2-and gain at last the key/ 9-that will unlock the Ninth Gate."

Caught in the floorboards, Corso witnessed as Balkan, believing that he was invincible and immune to flames, self-immolated during the Satan-summoning ritual. When he managed to get free, Corso mercifully put him to death with a gunshot.

Afterwards, Corso succumbed to the sexual temptations of the hypnotic green-eyed Girl as the castle/tower continued to burn down behind them. And he also became obsessed with finding the diabolical Ninth Gate - a passageway to reach hell. She told him the "game" was not over for him. The 9th engraving was a forgery - the reason for Balkan's failure. She then hinted with a clue (a note on the car's windshield: the fake 9th engraving had the words "CENIZA BROS." scrawled in red across it) to the location of the authentic 9th engraving (she looked like the naked demoness riding a seven-headed dragon in the ninth illustration). Corso found the real engraving on top of a dusty bookcase being dismantled in the abandoned Spanish bookshop owned by the twin brothers.

The film's final image was of Corso crossing the threshold with the nine engravings (including the authentic 9th one) - departing through the ninth gate into an 8-pointed blaze of light at the castle.

One way to help interpret the film was to discern the cryptic puzzle ("Satanic riddle") hidden inside the nine illustrations, by using a combination of the "LCF" versions of each of the nine engravings distributed across all three copies of the book.

The Nine Wood-Cut Engravings Representing the Nine Gates:
(the original engravings were signed with initials AT (Aristide Torchia),
while the 3 changed ones in each book were labeled with the initials LCF (Lucifer))

1 - Silence is Golden


2 - Open That Which is Closed


3 - Wasted Breath Keeps a Secret

4 - Chance is not the Same for All

5 - In Vain


6 - I Enrich Myself with Death


7 - The Disciple Outshines the Master

8 - Virtue Is Conquered

9 - I Know Now That the Shadows Come From Light

Differences between the AT and LCF engravings:

1 - a castle with 4 turrets (AT), or 3 turrets (LCF)

2 - keys held in the right hand (AT), or left hand (LCF)

3 - cherub's quiver is empty (AT), or contains two arrows (LCF)


4 - maze exit blocked (AT), or open (LCF)

5 - hourglass sand beginning to flow (AT), or finished with time run out (LCF)

6 - hanging from right ankle (AT), or left ankle (LCF)


7 - black chessboard (AT), or white (LCF)

8 - head of knight with no halo (AT), or with halo (LCF)

9 - castle is on fire (AT), or eight-pointed starburst of light shining from castle (LCF)

No Way Out (1987)

Naval Officer Tom Farrell Was Actually the Fabled KGB Mole Yuri, Investigating Himself!; Mistress Susan Atwell's Accidental Murder Was Covered Up by Secretary of Defense Brice

In this suspenseful political thriller, the major twist was that Pentagon naval attache Lt. Cmdr. Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner), while innocent of murdering high-class mistress-escort Susan Atwell (Sean Young), was really a KGB sleeper agent named 'Yuri' who had infiltrated the Pentagon.

The entire film, revealed at the end, was told as a flashback during his debriefing with his Soviet superiors who had commissioned him to seduce Atwell in order to blackmail Brice. His bosses criticized Farrell for his "poorly-handled" relationship with Atwell. A Soviet official spoke to Farrell - in Russian, seen in English subtitles: "Couldn't you have managed this better?" Farrell was told that it wasn't possible for him to remain in the US, and that he must return to Russia:

This bizarre incident has given them the 'Yuri.'

But Farrell was reluctant: "I came here. I thought I owed you that. But you can't make me go back." He was allowed to leave, as the official stated: "He will return. Where else does he have to go?" The film concluded with a claustrophobic spy satellite-view of Farrell/Yuri getting into his car and driving off.

Farrell was gathering intelligence from Atwell (since she was also the mistress of Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman)) when she shockingly turned up dead. The murder was committed during a jealous rage by the suspicious Brice who brutally slapped Susan Atwell when questioning her about another lover, and accidentally killed her. When he struck her after she called him a "pig," she toppled backwards from her upstairs balcony onto a glass dining room table on the first floor.

Brice then instigated a top-secret cover-up, as Brice's own ruthless General Counsel Scott Pritchard (Will Patton) described:

Do you realize the magnitude of the scandal? The Secretary of Defense and a Soviet agent sharing the favors of a murdered whore.

Brice blamed the crime on a bogus, never-seen Russian mole/spy code-named "Yuri." Throughout the film, Farrell, who was assigned to investigate the DC murder, furiously raced against time to find blame elsewhere during an investigation that might have falsely implicated him as Atwell's killer (because Farrell had also had a sexual relationship with Atwell), and exposed his real identity. [In effect, Farrell was investigating himself!]

Farrell successfully exposed Brice as the actual killer (he proved his involvement with a computer printout, showing a government-registered gift of a 'gold jewelry box' given by Brice to Atwell). In the meantime, Pritchard wanted to pin the murder of Farrell, coincidentally deducing that Farrell was Yuri!:

Tom is the man who saw you at Susan's. He's known about you all along, isn't that right? Do you know what that means, David? If Commander Farrell is the man who was with Miss Atwell, then Commander Farrell is the man who killed Miss Atwell. And we know that the man who killed Miss Atwell is Yuri. Therefore, Commander Farrell IS Yuri, quod erat demonstrandum.

Pritchard then boldy asserted: "You have no idea what men of power can do." When Brice shifted the blame to his Counsel Scott Pritchard as the spy Yuri (arguing that Pritchard was jealous of his relationship with Susan), he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his office.

North by Northwest (1959)

Roger Thornhill Was Mistaken for George Kaplan - a Fictitious US Agent; The Real Double Agent Was Eve Kendall

The spy named 'George Kaplan' midway into the film was revealed to be a fictional US agent, as explained in a long expositionary dialogue by the Professor (Leo G. Carroll) in a room full of agents:

We didn't invent our non-existent man and give him the name of George Kaplan, establish elaborate behavior patterns for him, move his prop belongings in and out of hotel rooms for our own private amusement. We created George Kaplan and labored successfully to convince Vandamm [James Mason] that this was our own agent hot on his trail for a desperately important reason...If we make the slightest move to suggest that there is no such agent as George Kaplan, give any hint to Vandamm that he's pursuing a decoy instead of our own agent, then our agent working right under Vandamm's very nose will immediately face suspicion, exposure and assassination, like the two others who went before.

Although the Professor was aware that innocent businessman Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) had been mistaken for a non-existent agent (created to protect the identity of a genuine agent in the employ of the CIA -- double-agent Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)!), Roger had become a useful decoy and there was nothing that could be done to protect Thornhill.

The Notebook (2004)

Elderly "Duke" Was Reading From a "Notebook" to Alzheimer's Patient Allie - They Were the Two Young Lovers Noah and Allie in the Story; They Died Together in Bed

It was revealed gradually - although it could be readily guessed - that elderly and frail heart patient "Duke" (James Garner) and nursing home patient Allie Hamilton (Gena Rowlands), who was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, were the two young lovers that "Duke" was reading about in 'the notebook.'

She was a young, privileged and pretty Southern teen debutante named Allie (Rachel McAdams), and he was an earthy mill worker named Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) when they first met and fell in love as teens. However, they were unable to consummate their relationship due to their different social classes and interference from her parents.

In the final scenes after it was revealed that Allie could only remember the story of their love for a few minutes, Noah would repeatedly attempt to rekindle their love by re-reading from her old faded notebook diary (written by Allie as a present to Noah years earlier, with the handwritten dedication: "Read this to me, and I'll come back to you").

In the film's conclusion, she remembered him as they held hands, fell asleep in the same bed, and passed away together.

Nothing (2003, Can.)

The Two Losers Realized They Had Unexplainable Powers Enabling Them to Wish Away All Their Troubles - and They Literally Ended Up in a White Nihilistic Void as Two Disembodied Heads

Writer/director Vincenzo Natali's low-budget, trivial black fantasy-comedy (similar to his plot-twisting, puzzling sci-fi film Cube (1997)) was unique in that it was an existential, illogical morality play with basically two characters within a white void. It seemed inspired in part by George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971). Its tagline described its plotline: "What if you wished everyone - and everything - would just go away!" The film's main characters were two 30-something losers: odd-couple room-mates (friends since 9 years of age) and social outcasts who lived in Andrew's dilapidated house (condemned by the city of Toronto) between two highway overpasses:

  • Dave Johnson (David Hewlett) - a self-centered office-worker at Wireco Wire; an untalented aspiring rock star; framed for over $27,000 embezzlement by his duplicitous short-term girlfriend Sara (Marie-Josée Croze) who had stolen his password and wired the money to an account in Zurich
  • Andrew Robertson (Andrew Miller) - agoraphobic; anxiety-prone; an online travel agent; falsely accused of attempted child sexual molestation as a pedophile (a Fireside Girl selling cookies, that he didn't purchase, charged him with kissing her)

The two friends realized that they had the power to wish away their troubles - when at 3 pm, their house was surrounded by authorities to arrest them and by wreckers to demolish the home. When they screamed out: "Leave us alone!", their entire outer world disappeared, replaced with white nihility. The two opened the door to blinding white light enveloping their house. They still had oxygen to breathe, and gravity to hold them down, and they could walk/bounce on the featureless surface (similar to "tofu"). The two explored the 'nothing' void of emptiness around them for a few days, and then circled back and came upon their house - within their finite world. The two enjoyed thinking about their new world: "No traffic, no work. No telephone solicitors. No taxes. No responsibilities. No people. No nothing. But cable. Yeah, cable. And video games."

Eventually, they figured out that they both had god-like powers that could mutually wish away things they hated - both external and internal. It began with the elimination of various objects: a noisy clock (or time), a stack of overdue bills, and their hunger (they had run out of food). Their ability to cause things to vanish extended to their disagreeable or self-destructive memories (sometimes accompanied by the sound effect of a tape rewinding).

Andrew sought a path of self-improvement and reform (he began jogging for the first time, and was reading The Science of Tao), while Dave sought hedonistic pleasures (being lazy, playing his drums and video games, etc.). Inevitably, and comically, the arguing roommates hatefully turned their powers on each other in a battle of destructive wills (i.e., Andrew eliminated Dave's guitar, while Dave caused Andrew's favorite video game controller to disappear; they each wished away their two beds and other furniture). Soon, they were also wishing away the entire house and their own body parts (feet, legs and torsos), until they were reduced to two disembodied heads, bouncing in the void. They eventually apologized for their bad behavior (Dave's abandonment of Andrew by moving out to be with his girlfriend, and Andrew's neediness), and declared they had been very good for each other. They raced toward a far-off point in the whitish unknown, followed by their turtle Stan.

After the end credits in the film's coda, ten years had passed and the two heads (now aged with long hair and beards) were still alive. They were awakened from slumber in the void by a crashing sound, and then stampeding, trumpeting elephants and a horse neighing. They screamed as the film abruptly ended.

Dave and Andrew

Their House Between
Highway Ramps

The White Nihilistic

Nothing But the Truth (2008)

Newsreporter Rachel Armstrong's Original Source Was an Unlikely One - Allison, the Young Elementary School-Aged Daughter of the CIA Covert Agent Erica Van Doren She Had Outed; The Girl Had Inadvertently Told Rachel (On a Bus Ride During a Field Trip) That Her Mother, a Government Worker, Had Traveled to Venezuela on "Business"

Writer/director Rod Lurie's intelligent and suspenseful political thriller was very loosely inspired by the so-called 2005 Valerie Plame affair, when NY Times reporter/journalist Judith Miller was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify before a grand jury and reveal her government source who outed the CIA covert agent, Valerie Plame. Due to the bankruptcy of the film's distributor, the film was never given a wide theatrical release, except for its openings in New York and Los Angeles.

This disguised straight-to-DVD docu-drama opened with a disclaimer about how it was only "a fictional film." The film started with the embarrassing causal event - a US presidential assassination attempt that was blamed on Venezuela. The US president ignored a CIA report (leaked by a CIA secret agent after a fact-finding mission) that Venezuelan involvement was non-existent, and proceeded with an unjustified, retributory US missile strike on Venezuelan military bases three weeks later. A news reporter issued a news story which outed the agent as the source of the report (ruining her undercover occupation).

The two major female characters were:

  • stubborn, Vassar-educated, resolute and principled D.C. Capital Sun-Times reporter Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale), married to resentful novelist Ray (David Schwimmer) and estranged from him and their young son Timmy (Preston Bailey) after being jailed
  • tough CIA operative Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga), the wife of former US ambassador Oscar Van Doren (Jamey Sheridan) who was "a vocal opponent of the administration"; she was in the middle of a custody battle with her husband over their daughter Allison (Kristen Bough)

Both women were soccer moms with children at the same DC school, Potomac Shores. Rachel opted for maintaining her confidentiality, rather than revealing her top-secret original source that blew the cover on Van Doren - a CIA NOC (non-official cover). News reports stated the President's attack was "the worst foreign policy decision in this nation's history." Although supported by her editor Bonnie Benjamin (Angela Bassett) and the paper's legal counsel Avril Aaronson (Noah Wyle), Rachel immediately found herself menaced and intimidated by the FBI, while Erica was intensely badgered by her CIA handlers. In the film's most talked about line of dialogue, Erica chastized and warned Rachel: "You are an unpatriotic little cunt who's gonna walk right off the plank into the bowels of hell. Do you know that?"

There was a continuing tense stand-off between:

  • special prosecutor for the Feds, know-it-all Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon) with a New Orleans accent, who was adamant, during a grand jury hearing, to find out the identity of the source (suspected to be a high-level government employee) who leaked Van Doren's identity to the press
  • the newspaper's high-priced Washington lawyer, fashion-conscious Albert Burnside (Alan Alda) defended Rachel's First Amendment rights before a Supreme Court hearing, although the decision was 5-4 against his case, on the grounds of "national security"

Rachel's contempt of court case (for refusing to reveal her source) immediately landed her in jail, where she languished for almost a year. In the jailyard, she learned of her Pulitzer nomination as a finalist. Both Rachel and Van Doren struggled to defend the rights of free citizens to proclaim the truth over authoritarian government pressure (arguing for "national security"). Van Doren expressed the misogynistic sexism of her case to her own boss (Michael O'Neil) at the agency, arguing that she wasn't to blame: "You're just aching for it to be me. I see it. This way, you can tell the press, 'You know what? It's not a rogue agent. It is just some silly little girl whose feelings got hurt that her investigative conclusions were ignored by the President of the United States.'"

In the same vein, Rachel fought her side of the argument to Burnside: "A man leaves his family to go to jail to protect a principle, and they name a holiday after him. A man leaves his children to go fight in a war, and they erect a monument to him. A woman does the same thing and she's the monster."

A few major twists or surprise revelations were learned by film's end:

  • Erica Van Doren was assassinated (with two gunshots) in her driveway by Alan Murphy, a right-wing fringe-group extremist who considered her unpatriotic ("he thought Erica had it in for our beloved President")
  • Rachel's "corroborative source" was the ex-US Vice President's Chief of Staff Stan Riggens (David Bridgewater), who testified before the grand jury that Rachel had already known that Erica Van Doren was a "spook" (or spy), something he claimed was "common knowledge"
  • Rachel was freed from jail after a year of incarceration, but then immediately arrested for contempt of court, and sentenced to two years in prison (with the possibility of early release for "good behavior")
  • Rachel's "original" source was Van Doren's young daughter Alison who had inadvertently told her (on a field trip) that her mother, a government worker, had traveled to Venezuela on "business"

Rachel Armstrong
(Kate Beckinsale)

Erica Van Doren
(Vera Farmiga)

Patton Dubois
(Matt Dillon)

Albert Burnside
(Alan Alda)

Death of Erica

The "Original Source"
Allison Van Doren
(Kristen Bough)

November (2004)

The Film Captured the Fleeting Dying Moments of Sophie, As She Lay Dying on the Floor of an LA Convenience Store on November 7, Next to Slain Boyfriend Hugh

This low-budget, indie film shot on digital video from director/editor Greg Harrison was a supernatural (or psychological) thriller. It had a very gimmicky, pseudo-clever twist that was completely revealed about 30 minutes into its short 73 minute running time. The film had one line spoken by Officer Roberts (Nick Offerman) about blurry photographs that also applied to the entire film: "[They're] almost too arty for [their] own good. I just want everything in focus, nice and clear."

The derivative twist was that the protagonist went into denial after a traumatic event, and was believing or experiencing things that weren't true - the same plot bender in M. Night Shyamalan's much-imitated The Sixth Sense (1999) and many other similar films (i.e., Jacob's Ladder (1990), A Pure Formality (1994), The Others (2001), Dead End (2003), Stay (2005) and Passengers (2008)). To top it off, the entire 'surprise' ending was completely foreshadowed in the film's opening shaky montage - specifically with three images that appeared before the credits.

The film was most noted for its journey through the various stages of dying written about by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, where complete refutation finally became complete acceptance. The plot was divided into three parts, each simply labeled with white-on-black title cards: DENIAL, DESPAIR, ACCEPTANCE. The film's tagline was: "The Truth Lies Outside the Frame," as the protagonist told her photography students: "Remember, you decide what goes in the frame, but it's also important what stays out. It's part of your job as an artist. You have to exclude as well as include. I just want you to consider how much control you have over what the viewer sees and what the viewer doesn't see." These were apt words for her own perspective on her life - and death, and for the edited film itself.

NOV 07: Hugh (James LeGros), the attorney live-in boyfriend of photographer/teacher Sophie Jacobs (Courteney Cox) was shot unexpectedly during a convenience-store robbery by a solitary white male Shooter (Matthew Carey) at Lolo's Market in mid-town LA, on Friday, November 7th. The couple had stopped there to buy chocolate after having dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Grief-stricken and depressed over her feelings resulting from the killing, Sophie's sanity began to disintegrate as a result of the trauma, and she experienced debilitating headaches. In conversations with her psychiatrist Dr. Fayn (Nora Dunn) a month later, she admitted that she had been cheating on Hugh with co-worker Jesse (Michael Ealy) - it was thought that guilt over her affair might be the cause of her condition.

Shifting narrative replays of recent events, recollections and thoughts in Sophie's mind were occurring, although it was evident that she was avoiding the realization of what had really happened on the night of November 7th. Various scenarios were played out:

  • Sophie had been snapping photos outside and inside the store, evidenced by her own photo of the outside of the convenience store, and other shots she had taken inside the store.
  • The robber confronted Sophie inside the store, when he located her ducking and hiding behind a stack of merchandise, and shot her dead. A second version showed that the bullet chamber clicked empty.
  • Only after hearing gunshots, Sophie rushed into the store and was fatally shot in the stomach.

Her last moments (the film's content) were her memories as she lay dying on the floor next to Hugh. Police, paramedics, and a photographer entered the store to confront the gruesome and bloody aftermath.

The Number 23 (2007)

Walter Sparrow Was Obsessed With the Number 23 and Detective Novels; Insanely Jealous Over Losing College Girlfriend Laura Tollins to Professor Flinch, Walter Had Murdered Her 13 Years Earlier, But Lost His Memory of the Crime; Flinch Was Blamed; The 23-Chaptered Book The Number 23 Was Actually Written By Sparrow (Not By Topsy Kretts, aka Dr. Leary) As a Suicide Note Before He Jumped (and Then Was Admitted to a Mental Hospital); Chapter 23 Was A Confession of His Crime; Walter Realized He Was the Book's Author and Became Suicidal Again, But Then Turned Himself In and Was Awaiting Sentencing

Repressive amnesia, due to a traumatic event, was the cause of the protagonist's loss of memory, until his past from 13 years earlier resurfaced, in this complex Joel Schumacher-directed thriller. The suspenseful tale had to be unwound by explicit explanation and exposition in the last 20 minutes, as animal control dog catcher Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey, nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actor) spoke, in voice-over, to tie together all of the many loose ends of the film.

The main premise was that Walter's past life slowly resurfaced when he went to catch a bulldog named NED ('Nasty Evil Dog') in a church graveyard, and spotted the gravesite of Laura Tollins (Rhona Mitra), (revealed later as a murder victim who was stabbed with a butcher's knife nearly 15 years earlier in 1991, but "they never found her body"). The tombstone noted that she died exactly on her 23rd birthday.

It was February 3rd (2/3), Walter's birthday, and he was late in meeting his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen), proprietor of a cake shop - he found her in a used book store, buying him a present. Her gift was a one-of-a-kind, original typed manuscript of an odd, red-covered book entitled The Number 23, written by Topsy Kretts (a homonym for "Top Secrets"). Soon, Walter was seeing parallels between his life and the book's characters (in fact, all of the main characters in the film played dual roles - Walter as hard-boiled, tattooed Detective Fingerling, and Agatha as femme fatale "Italian Temptress" Fabrizia, etc., especially in Walter's fertile imagination, because of his obsession with detective novels).

One of Walter's first recollections as a young 8-year old boy (on his birthday) was that his own father had committed suicide after his wife had died. He had left a note with the number 23 on it ("That number would follow me from foster home to foster home") -- This was paralleled in the book by the suicidal death of widow Dobkins (Lynn Collins) - and it forever haunted Walter.

He also became insanely obsessed with the number 23 after one of the fictional characters in the book, Isobel Lydia Hunt (aka "The Suicide Blonde") (Lynn Collins), told him (in an hallucination?) about her increasing sanity over the number ("It rules my world"), and how she stabbed to death her ex-boyfriend before she herself committed suicide by jumping from a window. Fearing that he would kill his own wife Agatha by stabbing (like he did every night when he dreamed that he killed Fabrizia after S&M sex), Walter visited the downtown King Edward Hotel to finish reading the book, which ended at chapter 22. Fingerling/Walter debated whether to jump and kill himself after murdering lover Agatha/Fabrizia:

It wasn't the happiest of endings. It wasn't an ending at all. After chapter 22, there was nothing but the question - 'had the number lived to kill another day? The number had gone after Fingerling, and now it was coming after me'.

Walter surmised: "It's not just a book. It's true, the number. It screws with your mind - makes you do terrible things."

After more facts surfaced regarding college student Laura Tollins' death, Walter visited her accused-convicted killer Kyle Flinch (Mark Pellegrino) in prison. Flinch was her psychology professor (and lover), who proclaimed he was innocent.

The film's plot became even more convoluted with more characters and events - needing a summarizing explanation by Walter's voice-over during a flashback in the film's concluding minutes:

  1. Topsy Kretts was not another name for Kyle Flinch, but actually was Dr. Sirius Leary (Bud Cort) of Nathaniel's Institute (a psychiatric care facility) where Walter had been treated by the doctor following his unsuccessful suicide. Leary slit his own throat when Walter confronted him at his Illinois post office box ("Who are you? The number? What does it mean?")
  2. Walter was the author of the book (Kretts had covered over Walter's name with his own to hide its true authorship, and committed suicide when found out)
  3. in Room 23 of the Hotel, Walter found that he had scrawled the missing chapter 23 of the book on the wall behind peeled wallpaper
  4. the last chapter described how Walter was the real killer of Laura Tollins, when she cheated on Walter with Flinch and he became insanely jealous ("When I circled every 23rd letter of her note, it became clear" - he saw the message: KILL HER - "The number had gone after me, and now it wanted her") - he stabbed her to death in Room 23 of the hotel when she denied really loving him, and after the murder as he buried her body, he took her ankle bracelet with him. The murder was blamed on her teacher Flinch (he had found her body, picked up the weapon and left fingerprints)
  5. Walter had buried Laura's body in Casanova Park - her bones disappeared when Agatha stole the skeletal remains to cover up for him
  6. in Room 23 of the hotel, Walter feverishly wrote chapter 23 as part of an entire manuscript ("What began as a suicide note turned into something more") before jumping from a window and seriously injuring himself
  7. with severe injuries and total memory loss (he completely blocked out the memory of Laura's murder), Walter was hospitalized for intensive therapy in the Institute where Dr. Leary worked - Leary took Walter's rough, confessional novel-manuscript, found in the hotel room (calling it "severe graphomania, the rantings of a delirious mind, some sort of a survivor's guilt mixed up with a numerology obsession") and published it himself, and then found himself also obsessed with the number 23

As the film ended, Walter admitted his guilt and was assured by wife Agatha that he was only sick. Walter considered suicide again, by standing in front of an oncoming bus, but moved away in time. Subsequently, Walter put things "right" - he confessed. The jailed innocent Flinch was released from prison, Laura was given a proper funeral, and Walter was to be "sentenced in a week or so" for the murder.

The film ended with the distinct possibility that Walter was still suffering from the number 23, and that he had passed on his obsession to his son Robin (Logan Lerman). A Biblical quote concluded everything before the credits - from Numbers 32:23 - "Be sure your sin will find you out."

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
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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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