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

Obsession (1976)

Michael's Second Wife Sandra Was Actually His Own Daughter; He Was Double-Double Crossed by Business Partner "Uncle Bob" LaSalle

This convoluted and suspenseful Brian De Palma film (with a haunting Bernard Herrmann score) reworked Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) (and some of Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973) as well as the scissors-stabbing scene in Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954)).

New Orleans real estate developer Michael "Court" Courtland (Cliff Robertson) in 1959 was happily married to beautiful 28 year-old wife Elizabeth (Genevieve Bujold). They had a nine year-old daughter named Amy (Wanda Blackman). Suddenly, on the night of their 10th wedding anniversary reception and the occasion of a huge real-estate development deal, both were kidnapped at gunpoint. A note for a $500,000 cash ransom demanded the next day was left in Amy's bedroom. The money was to be brought in a briefcase, and tossed onto the old Bermuda Wharf during the Cotton Blossom River Paddle-wheel Boat Tour at 11 o'clock. Courtland had to use funds he was planning to invest in the development of a Pontchartrain Park project with family friend and business partner "Uncle Bob" Robert LaSalle (John Lithgow), effectively withdrawing from involvement.

A rescue attempt was proposed by New Orleans Police Inspector August Brie (Stanley Reyes), including substitution of paper for the real cash ransom, and the placement of a small radio transmitter in the locked briefcase so it could be traced. The plan was botched as the kidnappers learned about the ploy, told the abductees ("This is what your old man thinks you're worth, nothing!") and fled. The resultant car chase ended on a bridge, when the kidnappers' getaway car collided with a fuel tanker and burst into flames - presumably killing both Elizabeth and Amy. However, their bodies were not located in the currents of the Mississippi River. Michael grieved and was severely guilt-ridden by their loss, and built a huge memorial to their honor in Pontchartrain Memorial Park.

Fifteen years later in 1975, on a business trip to Florence, Italy, Michael saw a woman - a doppelganger (Genevieve Bujold again) who resembled his former wife, in the same church where he had met Elizabeth years earlier. He followed her around the streets of Florence before introducing himself. In their first conversation, the young, French-accented but Italian restoration artist and historian Sandra Portinari greeted him with "Buon Giorno" - and then switched to speaking English, telling him: "I speak English. You are American?" He was entranced by her, asked her out, and soon fell in love.

He asked her to return back to New Orleans with him, and made plans to marry her in a church wedding on May 2nd, 1975. During the weeks before the wedding, she learned of the 1959 kidnapping and death of Michael's wife and child. Michael was vainly dissuaded from impulsively and hastily marrying Sandra by psychiatrist Dr. Ellman (Stocker Fontelieu) who had been summoned by LaSalle to his office - he was advised: "You shouldn't marry out of a sense of guilt or out of some morbid preoccupation with Elizabeth. And now Sandra is obsessed with the idea of Elizabeth...She's caught up in your fantasy."

In a rippling dream sequence, Michael envisioned them being married in a private ceremony in his home (instead of in a large cathedral ceremony), and that night he told her: "I've waited so long" in his bedroom as he hugged and kissed her - she told him: "Now, I am your wife. I am Elizabeth. I came back for one reason, Mike. I came to give you a second chance to prove your love...Never leave me. I want to be with you always."

In the long (and slightly preposterous and contrived) conclusion, when he awoke the next morning, he found that Sandra had been kidnapped with an identical-looking ransom note (it was a newspaper facsimile of the first ransom note, torn by Sandra from Michael's scrapbook of memories of his dead wife, that she had found in his locked master bedroom in an earlier scene). During this second ordeal, Michael raced to the home of LaSalle and desperately begged for him to accompany him to the bank to acquire $500,000 to pay the ransom with real cash this time, even promising to sign over his half of land ownings to LaSalle ("I'll give you anything for a short while"). As Michael signed papers with LaSalle, his briefcase (filled with cash) was switched behind his back. He took the same Paddle-boat Tour and went through the same routine to give the kidnappers the briefcase.

There were a number of surprises that followed:

(1) Sandra rushed to the briefcase to open it, finding it filled with worthless pads of bank deposit slips instead of cash

(2) LaSalle had taken the briefcase filled with cash, and was trying to financially ruin Michael and take over his half of the business

(3) Sandra was LaSalle's accomplice - he had brainwashed her into believing that Michael was an unloving cheapskate ("Old Court just can't come up with the money! Not for Elizabeth and not for you!" he told her) - she cried out: "Mommy! Mommy!" - the same cries she made the night of the kidnapping 15 years earlier (seen in flashback, with the adult Sandra reliving the experience of the young child)

(4) Sandra was revealed to be Elizabeth's daughter Amy. During the earlier kidnapping, her gagged mother had been carried to the getaway car, but Amy was dragged away separately, and therefore didn't die in the fiery crash. Amy was told: "It looks like your Daddy doesn't think you're worth a dime! I'm sure your Uncle Bob will"

(5) when Michael learned of the swindling double-cross when he drove to the wharf and saw the worthless contents of the briefcase, he screamed to the heavens!

(6) LaSalle took Sandra to the airport, where he insisted that she take her $50,000 share of the money, and then admitted: "It was a dirty business from the start, Sandra, and you knew it. I told you that Court would either give up the land or be declared mentally incompetent to manage it, and you agreed. So don't you start getting an attack of conscience now." Sandra wanted to go back to Court and confess everything ("I want to beg him to forgive me"), but LaSalle wouldn't permit it ("You made a dirty deal with me and you executed it flawlessly. You're the best investment I ever made. Old Court fell for your Elizabeth act, hook, line, and sinker. So now I think you're entitled to the due wages of sin...It's a little late for existential questions, darling. You just take the money. Believe you me, it'll help you to forget")

(7) Sandra recalled how she was flown out of the country 15 years earlier as a 9 year old by the last surviving kidnapper, and her life was financed by "Uncle Bob." LaSalle had blamed her mother Elizabeth's death on Courtland. He claimed that he had to pay the ransom for her, and said her Daddy didn't want her anymore: "Your Daddy didn't pay the man and they killed them. You see, I gave the man the money. I'm taking care of you now"

(8) on the plane leaving New Orleans enroute to Rome, Sandra wrote a letter to her "Father" - about how she had been ransomed by LaSalle and flown to Florence to live there ("I was raised believing you killed mother. I hated you. I lived for the day when I could revenge her. Then LaSalle came to me with his plan to swindle land from you and I got my chance, but you were not like he said. I never thought I would love you"), but she crumpled it up. Depressed and suicidal, she drew blood with a small pair of scissors in the plane's restroom - the plane was turned around, reportedly for engine trouble

(9) back in New Orleans, Michael confronted LaSalle, who admitted that he had kept the real money, believing Michael was insane. He handcuffed Michael's hand to the briefcase containing the real cash. Michael was dazed by losing Elizabeth/Sandra a second time: "I killed her. She came back a second time to let me prove I loved her. And I killed her. And now she's gone." When LaSalle called her "a lyin' little bitch," he attacked as LaSalle admitted: "She was in it with me, you fool! She was in it from the start!" Realizing he had been double double-crossed, Michael stabbed swindler LaSalle to death in retaliation with a pair of scissors

(10) Michael raced to the airport, believing that Sandra was LaSalle's accomplice (with $50,000), and was about to kill her with LaSalle's gun. After Sandra was wheeled off the plane, Michael approached, and the ransom money in his briefcase spilled out when he struck a guard. When she ran to him (in slow-motion), hugged him and cried out: "Daddy, you're here with the money!", he slowly comprehended, during a soft-focus, overexposed, minute-and-a-half circling arc shot during an embrace, that she was the daughter he thought was killed many years earlier - as she tearfully called him "Daddy" repeatedly

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge/La Rivière du Hibou (1962, Fr.)

Peyton's Escape From Hanging and Return to His Home Was Only A Fantasy

This classic 28 minute film which won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject was based on Ambrose Bierce's 1886 short story first published in 1891. It aired on American television in late February 1964 as the last episode of Rod Serling's original anthology series The Twilight Zone.

In the story, innocent Civil War Confederate soldier Peyton Farquahr (Roger Jacquet) escaped his hanging when the rope broke and he floated downriver. He was able to flee through a forest toward his beloved wife (Anne Cornaly) and child at his home.

When he stretched out his arms to her for an embrace, he suddenly screamed and arched backwards. He never actually escaped death -- the entire film was a fantasy he experienced in the few seconds of life he had during his execution just before his neck was broken in the noose.

Rod Serling ended the segment with the voice-over narration: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge in two forms: as it was dreamed and as it was lived and died. This is the stuff of fantasy, the thread of imagination, the ingredients of The Twilight Zone."

Ocean's Eleven (1960)

The Vegas Casino Heist was Successful, Although the Stolen Cash (Stashed in Garbage Bags and Hidden in a Coffin) Was Accidentally Incinerated During Cremation

Legendary director Lewis Milestone's caper film was the first movie featuring the so-called Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, also Norman Fell and Henry Silva) and sexy Angie Dickinson - a group that called themselves "The Summit" or "The Clan." [Note: the Rat Pack nickname was a misnomer. It was earlier used to identify a group surrounding Humphrey Bogart.]

The film was about the heist of five Las Vegas casinos (the Sahara, the Riviera, the Desert Inn, the Sands and the Flamingo) at midnight on New Year's Eve, by a group of 82nd Airborne WWII veterans. By orchestrating a power outage, the group (with an elaborate rewiring plan) was able to unlock the cashier cages and vault doors and rob the casinos.

In the tale's twist ending, the money originally stashed in garbage bags - was hidden in the coffin of Tony (Richard Conte), one of the group members who had suffered a surprise heart attack after the job was completed. Then, during the service in the mortuary, attended by the entire group sitting in one row, it was learned that the money was accidentally incinerated when his body was cremated. Tony's ex-wife Grace had decided at the last minute to have the service in Vegas rather than San Francisco, to save money.

The last sequence, just before the credits rolled, showed the group of eleven stunned and silent robbers walking down Las Vegas Blvd. in front of the Sands Hotel, to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr. singing: "Eee-O-11."

Oldboy (2003)

Mi-do Was Dae-su's Own Daughter. Dae-su's Kidnapper-Tormenter Woo-jin Engineered Their Meeting (and Incestual Love-Making) as Part of His Revenge.

This compelling, mysterious, and visceral (double) revenge thriller from Korean director Park Chan-wook was adapted from the Japanese manga written by Tsuchiya Garon. [An inferior American remake and box-office bomb, director Spike Lee's Oldboy (2013), starred Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley.]

Its potently sinister tale of revenge, hypnotism, and incest was told mostly in flashback -- a recently-released prisoner named Dae-su Oh (Choi Min-sik), after being kidnapped from a phone booth (on his daughter's birthday, July 5th!), was kept in a dingy, shabby windowless cell for 15 years, without knowing the charges. During his imprisonment, he learned over television that he was framed for the murder of his wife, and his young three year-old daughter was sent to a foster parents home. He also suffered hallucinations of ants crawling on him and emerging through his skin.

After being inexplicably freed, he had only five days (until July 5th, again) to find answers: to seek surrealistic vengeance and discover the enigmatic reasons for what had occurred, while engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with his villainous, sadistic and insane captor/tormentor Woo-jin Lee (Yu Ji-tae).

He learned by film's end that his former schoolmate Woo-Jin had blamed Dae-su for spreading a rumor about an incestuous pregnancy in his family (between young Woo-Jin and his own sister Lee Soo-ah (Yoon Jin-seo) who were having sexual relations) that led to the humiliated sister's suicide. However, Woo-jin's guilt-ridden memory (at the time of his own bullet-to-the-head suicide) revealed that Woo-jin had killed his own sister.

A helpful and young female sushi chef Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong) took pity on Dae-su and eventually became his lover. She signaled to him that she was ready to have sex, by singing a song mentioned in Dae-su's journal, "The Face I Want to See." And then, Dae-su realized in horror that he had taken the virginity of his own long-lost daughter. Falling in love and having sex with her was the villain's diabolical vengeful plan. Woo-Jin had raised Mi-do in secret, and had both Mi-do and Dae-su hypnotized to fall in love when she grew older.

Incestuous Sex Between Dae-su and His Own Daughter Mi-do

To show atonement, to appease Woo-jin, to prevent any further rumors or talk, and to avoid having him reveal the truth to Mi-do, Dae-su cut off his own tongue with a rusty pair of scissors (the same tongue that spread a false rumor years earlier), and tried to brainwash himself with a hypnotist to erase his memories.

The film ended ambiguously with Dae-su embracing Mi-do - but did she know the truth?

Dae-su Imprisoned for 15 Years

Rumors of Sex Between Young Woo-Jin and Sister Lee Soo-ah



Dae-su's Self-Inflicted Mutilation - Cutting Out His Own Tongue

Enigmatic ending - Loving Embrace and Smile?

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969, UK)

James Bond's Newly-Married Wife Was Shot and Killed

In the shocking and tearjerking ending of this sixth film in the James Bond series, the British Secret Service 007 agent (George Lazenby) was speaking to his newly-wed wife Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo or Tracy Bond (Diana Rigg). They discussed raising a family (Tracy: "three girls, three boys") only moments after their Portugal wedding, as they drove away to their honeymoon in his flower-adorned Aston Martin DBS car. He assured her: "But darling, now we have all the time in the world."

When Bond parked the car on the side of the mountain road to remove some of the flowers to give her as a gift, she mentioned that the best wedding present she had already received was "a future." He kissed her with a flower between her lips - their last kiss.

Suddenly without warning, MP-40 submachine gun fire from a passing silver Mercedes 600 sedan strafed their car, and then drove away after the drive-by. SPECTRE villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) (with a neck brace) was driving the vehicle in the attempt on Bond's life -- his henchwoman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) had fired the shots from the back seat of the sedan. Bond ducked and avoided being hit. He shouted twice: "It's Blofeld" as he jumped into his car.

He then realized that Tracy had been hit in the forehead by a bullet through the windshield and instantly killed. He cradled her in his arms, and at first denied her death to a police officer on a motorcycle: "It's alright. It's quite alright, really. She's having a rest. We'll be going on soon. There's no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world."

Bond's mournful words were underscored by Louis Armstrong's beautiful and ironic rendition of "We Have All the Time in the World."

[NOTE: This was the only film in which Bond married one of his Bond girls.]

Open Your Eyes/Abre los Ojos (1997, Sp./It./Fr.)

Cesar Was Experiencing A Lucid Dream He Had Contracted For, After Committing Suicide (A Drug Overdose); Nuria Did Not Return From the Dead; Cesar Did Not Kill Sofia; In the Conclusion, Cesar Jumped From a Building to Try to Escape His Troubling Dream State

This confusing, baffling and somewhat captivating film (a remake of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)) opened with 25 year-old formerly handsome playboy César (Eduardo Noriega) relating his story, in flashback. He was having a recurring dream that he told to psychiatrist Antonio (Chete Lara) in a psychiatric penitentiary. Cesar had been accused of murder and placed in a cell for the criminally insane awaiting trial and planning a defense of "temporary derangement."

It was revealed how he suffered a hideous facial disfigurement following an automobile accident two months earlier, and became suicidal when forced to wear a facial mask to hide his deformity. Just before the accident, his obsessive, jealous, black-haired lover Nuria (Najwa Nimri) asked him: "Do you believe in God?" before deliberately smashing her car, killing herself and injuring him as her passenger with a fractured skull. He described the accident to newly-met, beautiful brunette Sofia Cueto (Penelope Cruz) as only a bad dream. Their encounter might also have been a dream, as he noted: "Dreaming is s--t." Later, when he saw Sofia in the park a second time, he feared she hadn't called back because of his disfiguration, although she touched his scarred face.

The confusing part of the film was that much of it was a virtual reality dream that César experienced after he fell asleep drunk in the street, after a night on the town at a discotheque with Sofia and best friend Pelayo (Fele Martinez). He was awakened with the phrase whispered by Sofia: "Open your eyes" - she also kissed him. He began to have unsettling disjunctions, dreamy wish fulfillments, and bewildering reality flips:

  • Sofia became his girlfriend and they made love in a highly-sensual scene
  • his face changed from being deformed to being completely healed after his doctors promised a restorative facial reconstruction surgical procedure
  • Sofia was sometimes transformed into his obsessive ex-lover Nuria (Cesar became crazed and out of control when Sofia 'changed into' Nuria (although she claimed she was Sofia))

The nature of his reality world was questioned when he was advised by a Frenchman (TV advertiser Serge Duvernois (Gérard Barray), later revealed to be a representative of L.E. or Life Extension) at a bar to understand that he was simply "dreaming" -- ("You discover your dreams when you wake", and "No dream is simple"). Through hypnosis with his psychiatrist, he recalled that he was pressured to sign papers ("You won't regret it. Sign") for a contract with an American cryogenics company called Life Extension (or L.E.) (thought at first to be the name of the Madrid office's secretary Eli) to freeze his dead body and offer other after-life services.

He also remembered that he had repressed his killing of Sofia when she wouldn't 'turn back' into the 'other' Sofia. Deranged, he smothered her with a pillow while making love to her. The cryonization company was paid to provide him with "immortality" after death ("You pay to live eternally") -- a future fantasy virtual paradisical life of "artificial perceptions" (in Clause 14) based upon his past.

At the end of the film, Cesar was permitted to visit the high-rise offices of the L.E. company with his psychiatrist. In one of his dreams, he realized: "I've been here before." He was told by an L.E. salesman: "We'll make you forget that you've died, and that you signed this contract (by) wiping it from your memory. You'll live your life linearly, as if nothing had happened. And best of all, you'll live it as you like, as you wish. You'll decide at all times." He also learned that his subconscious could play "dirty tricks" on him because the process wasn't perfected completely Cesar realized:

There is no case. I didn't kill anyone. It's all a nightmare...They got it wrong....they mixed up Sofia and Nuria! I see a face that isn't mine...It's my dream.

Abruptly, Cesar decided: "I want to wake up!...This is a nightmare!"- he wished to 'kill' his virtual life that he had contracted for after his death. On the high-rise rooftop of the L.E. company, Serge Duvernois told the psychiatrist: "There's no world. It's all in that gentleman's mind, including you and me." There was a "splice of 150 years" inserted between Cesar's "real life" and "virtual life" when he fell down drunk in a Madrid street after being at the discotheque. The splice was something that he shouldn't have noticed because he was "dead and frozen," but apparently Cesar did.

From when you woke up, nothing was real. We wiped what really happened from your memory...You never saw Sofia again. And the doctors were never able to rebuild your face.

Cesar was told that he had signed the papers with L.E. and then killed himself with a drug overdose - but was destined to live a "nightmare" life: "You paid to live whatever you wanted. We just provided the setting and the characters. You invented your hell." Believing that he had overcome his fears and could live a better life ("You just have to ask") in the future year of 2145 about 150 years into the future, Cesar first conjured up Sofia and best friend Pelayo to see them one last time before jumping from the roof, resolving to "open his eyes" to non-cryogenic healed life in the future.

Duvernois warned: "Don't keep suffering. It's all in your head. It's all psychological" just before Cesar gave Sofia (in a beautiful white dress) a farewell kiss. An instant before he hit the ground, the film cut to black, and a strange woman's voice (a nurse?) soothed him: "Tranquilo. Tranquilo. Abre los ojos..." ("Relax. Relax. Open your eyes..."). Questions inevitably arose: Was César alive or dead? Were Sofia and Nuria the same individual? Was the entire film just another dream? etc.

The film was remade in Hollywood as Vanilla Sky (2001) with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz (again), and the virtual reality plot/theme has since been used innumerable times by other films such as eXistenZ (1999) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999).

Original Sin (2001)

US Mail-Order Bride Julia Russell, Who Was Brought to Cuba to Marry Wealthy Luis Vargas, Was Actually A Murderous Imposter and Con Artist Named Bonny Castle; She Was Working With a Private Investigator Named Walter Downs, Actually a Scamming Accomplice/Lover Named Billy - to Help Her Defraud Luis of His Money; By the Film's Conclusion, Bonny Had Helped Luis To Kill Walter, She Had Escaped Execution And Her Prison Cell, and She and Luis Were Card Sharks Working Together in Morocco

Assumed identities and duplicitous scams were two of the themes of writer/director Michael Cristofer's poorly-reviewed erotic crime drama. Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie were hyped as the two lovers in an arranged marriage, with steamy, overheated sex scenes, some of which were edited to avoid an NC-17 rating. [The explicit unrated version was about 6 minutes longer than the theatrical version.] Convoluted plot twists in the flashbacked melodramatic story were mostly predictable. Its tagline was: "Obsession. Lies. Desire. Lust..." The sluggishly-directed film was based on the novel "Waltz Into Darkness" by Cornell Woolrich, which had previously been adapted for the screen by director Francois Truffaut as La Sirene du Mississippi (1969, Fr.) (aka Mississippi Mermaid).

The trashy thriller with inane dialogue (similar to soft-core Red Shoe Diaries episodes) opened with a full-lipped unidentified female talking through her prison cell bars. She was about to be executed (by garrotting), and was narrating (in voice-over) her tale, the film's story, to a priest (Mario Ivan Martinez) - a flashback:

"You cannot walk away from love. That was the advertisement in a Baltimore newspaper. And that is how he found her. She was a young woman in need of a husband, and he was a man who wanted a wife....No, this is not a love story, but it is a story about love, and the power it has over our life. The power to heal or destroy. And this is where the story begins."

Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie) had arrived in late 19th century Cuba - as a mail-order mystery bride from Wilmington, Delaware commissioned to wed Don Luis Antonio Vargas (Antonio Banderas), who had advertised himself in a Baltimore newspaper as a clerk in a coffee export house, although he was the wealthy owner of a coffee-export business. He had expected a homely woman from her photographs, but she was an exquisitely beautiful and seductive female. She explained that she didn’t want him to be interested in her just because she had "a pretty face," so she had sent a picture of a plain-looking relative.

They both shared similar devious motivations - the film's major clue was stated by Julia: "We are both not to be trusted." They were married almost immediately, but did not consummate their love until a few days later ("And there, in his arms, she became someone else. Someone more like herself").

There were various glistening sexual couplings at different angles, photographed from above. She then began to exhibit unusual behaviors: a secretive backstage theater meeting with an actor (a Mephisto devil figure) (Luis reacted: "You'll be the death of me"), strange dreams, and horizontal scars on her back. She refused to open her trunk from America, and was suspected of breaking the neck of her caged bird. Luis gave Julia access to his personal and business accounts, and compelled her to finally write to her sister Emily (Cordelia Richards), to tell her that she was okay.

At the same time, he met private investigator Detective Walter Downs (Thomas Jane), hired by Emily in Delaware to find her sister Julia. Shortly later, Emily herself who had traveled to Cuba where she claimed to Luis that the recent letter sent by Julia was "not sent by Julia" but from an imposter - "This letter was not written by my sister...That is not Julia's handwriting." Luis knew his wife was a fake, who had withdrawn almost all of his money and then fled. He was comforted by his wise black servant-lady, Sara (Joan Pringle): "You've been married to a dream. A dream that stole your soul!" Although devastated, he told Sara: "I want her back." The love-struck, gullible Luis visited a brothel and began drinking for relief, as Julia's voice-over continued:

"No, this is not a love story. But it is a story about love. About those who give into it, and the price they pay. And those who run away from it because they are afraid, or because they do not believe they are worthy of it. She ran away. He gave in."

He sought the assistance of PI Walter Downs to track down Julia, and although she hadn't committed a crime (by emptying his accounts), he stated his aim: "I want to kill her." The two set out to look for the con-artist in Havana. It appeared from Walter's brief investigation that Julia was a murderous impostor, that Luis' real intended mail-order wife had been killed by her on the boat to Havana, Cuba, that she had then assumed the woman's identity and possessions, and that she might be working with an accomplice.

The Real Julia Russell on the Boat to Cuba
Before Her Murder
The Imposter Julia
alias Bonny Castle

Unexpected plot twists and revelations came, as the distrustful femme fatale continued to dupe both men - with more betrayals, counter-cons, and staged deaths:

  • during Carnival in Havana, Luis glimpsed a masked Julia in the Opera Restaurant - he was told that she was the fiancee of rich Colonel Edwin Worth (Gregory Itzin), and staying at Hotel Inglaterra
  • Luis confronted Julia in her hotel room, and discovered that she was working in league with an accomplice/lover (whose alias name was Billy), whom she claimed had murdered 'Julia' on the boat; Billy was the backstage Mephisto character (in a troupe of actors who had journeyed to Cuba); Luis called her a "whore, liar, thief" and then professed his devoted undying love for her; they slept together that night, and the next morning she admitted that her real name was Bonny Castle
  • she claimed that she and Billy had been raised together as foundlings in St. Louis before running away, and that he had given her the name Bonny Castle (derived from a Scottish picture postcard); she accepted back her wedding ring to wear and he thought: "You have only me now"
  • Luis learned from Walter that the real Julia Russell had been stabbed in the neck with a small knife and her body had been thrown overboard - Luis' suspected wife was now a fugitive from the police; Luis believed that she was innocent, and that her accomplice had been the murderer
  • Luis and Bonny traveled to Cardenas to renew themselves as husband/wife - where Walter was coincidentally staying at the same hotel and on the trail of 'Julia'; he suspected 'Julia' was a criminal hiding out with Luis; during a fight between the two, Luis shot and killed Walter
  • Walter was not really dead (the gun had only blank cartridges), although Luis thought he was dead; Walter was Billy - Julia's/Bonny's con-artist accomplice and lover, with a plan to steal even more money from Luis ("We're gonna make you a rich widow")
  • Luis and Julia/Bonny moved into an inconspicuous house in a poor section of Havana to hide out as a "fugitive from justice"

To earn money, Julia taught Luis how to cheat at cards. At a gambling table, she helped Luis win by viewing the other players' cards and signaling what they were, although they were found out and Luis was beaten up. Luis sold out his business, and Julia had acquired the rest of Luis' money.

  • on the side, Julia was secretly making love to a strongly jealous and possessive Walter/Billy, who encouraged the two of them to kill Luis; Luis discovered that Walter was not dead after following Julia one night to a brothel; even though he knew of their deadly plot against his life, the masochistic, passionately-in-love, blindly, co-dependent lover drank a poisoned coffee concoction anyway, while confessing his love for her ("No other love but you")
  • Luis survived the poisoning as she dragged him to the train station, pursued by Walter/Billy; during a confrontation there, an enraged Walter thought that he had been betrayed, and held a knife to Julia's throat; Luis shot and wounded him in the stomach, and Julia pulled the trigger a second time to end his life; she cradled Luis in her arms and told him that she loved him

The film concluded with Julia about to be executed at daybreak. But she had escaped her cell by wearing the priest's garment. In the last very unlikely scene, she has perfected her petty card shark schemes and was now at a gambling table in Morocco with Luis. He told the other players:

"Perhaps, later on, I will tell you the story of how we came to be here. It is an interesting tale. Some of it is even true. But for now, all I can say is that from the moment I saw her, I loved her. And no matter the price, you cannot walk away from love."

Julia with Luis

Walter Downs
(Thomas Jane)

Emily (Cordelia Richards)

Bonny Castle (Angelina Jolie) with Colonel Edwin Worth
(Gregory Itzin)

Luis Confronting Julia/Bonnie

Reaffirming Her Vows
as Luis' Wife

Luis Shooting Walter

Julia/Bonny with Accomplice Walter/Billy

The Death of Walter/Billy

Orphan (2009)

Adopted Esther Was Not an Evil Psycho-Child, But an Extremely Violent, Murderous 33 Year-Old Serial Killer Named Leena Klammer Posing as a Precocious Little Girl

Director Jaume Collet-Serra's trashy, formulaic and sleazy psychological horror-thriller was about the adoption of a mysterious 9 year-old Russian orphan girl named Esther (11 year-old Isabelle Fuhrman). The film's trailer exclaimed: "THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ESTHER." The film's plot resembled The Bad Seed (1956), The Omen (1976), Mikey (1992), The Good Son (1993), and Case 39 (2009).

The adoptive couple in Hamden, Connecticut - neurotic, recovering alcoholic Kate (Vera Farmiga) and clueless, wealthy architect husband John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard), had just experienced a tragic loss - the still-born birth of a daughter named Jessica. [A dream sequence in the opening showed the bloody miscarriage of a still-born baby, filmed as a nightmarish David Cronenberg homage.] Their family consisted of 5 year-old almost-deaf daughter Maxine or "Max" (Aryana Engineer) and 12 year-old Daniel or "Danny" (Jimmy Bennett).

Suspicions arose about a mature, well-mannered, artistically-inclined, freckled, and Russian-accented Esther, adopted from St. Mariana Home for Girls. Her parents had allegedly died in a house fire (ruled a case of arson), and she barely survived herself. However, she was suspiciously not what she appeared to be, when she:

  • viciously beat to death an injured pigeon (shot by Danny with a paintball gun) with a rock
  • demonstrated a vast knowledge of sex and sex-words ("They f--k")
  • pushed bullying girl Brenda (Jamie Young) down a slide at a local park's playground and broke her ankle
  • pointed John's locked up gun at Max's head in a proposed game of Russian roulette
  • caused the car of Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), the head of the orphanage, to swerve off the road (after pushing Max into the car's path), then killed her with numerous hammer blows to the head
  • threatened Daniel: "I'll cut your hairless little prick off before you even figure out what it's for"
  • broke her own arm in a tightened vice, and then blamed the injury on Kate; also caused a runaway car accident that could have injured Max - the incident was also blamed on Kate who was thought to be drinking again
  • hurt Daniel, when he was attempting to retrieve the hammer weapon that killed Sister Abigail, hidden in the floorboards of the treehouse; Esther set the treehouse on fire (with lighter fluid), trapped him inside, and Daniel was knocked unconscious with a serious neck injury when he jumped to the ground
  • attempted to kill recuperating Daniel in the hospital, by smothering him with a pillow

The disturbed and manipulative girl was exhibiting anti-social psychosis, and borderline personality disorders. She had repeatedly injured or killed former foster family members and other children - her goal was to separate the spouses so she could isolate and seduce the adoptive fathers, and she was having that effect on John (orchestrating ways to sleep in John's bed, telling him he was the perfect daddy, etc.). She kept photographs of former daddys that she had seduced. It was later revealed she had painted pictures (seen in black-light) of her fantasized love-making.

It was revealed by Estonia's Saarne Institute (a mental hospital!) that Esther was an escaped patient from a year earlier, who had been incarcerated after killing at least seven people. She was really a psychotic, demonic, and malevolent 33-year old woman named Leena Klammer with a rare hormone disorder, hypopituitarism (or proportional dwarfism). Her neck and wrists were covered, because when she was in the asylum, her violent struggles to release her straitjacket left deep scars. To hide her age and appear Lolita-esque, she wore makeup, false teeth, and old-fashioned dresses, with body wrappings (to hide her figure) and ribbons (to cover her scars).

In the protracted and violent 20-minute conclusion during a snowy night, Leena repeatedly stabbed John to death, and then stalked Max. She also shot Kate in the left arm, and then further followed Max into the attached greenhouse with the gun. Kate rescued Max from Leena's deadly pursuit by falling onto her through the greenhouse roof, although they soon ended up fighting each other atop the nearby frozen pond-lake. Max used the gun to shoot a hole in the ice, causing both of them to fall through as they struggled. Kate climbed out of the ice-hole, refused to listen to Leena's little-girl begging to save her (Esther: "Please, don't let me die, Mommy." Kate: "I'm not your f--king Mommy!"), and kicked Leena in the face. Her neck snapped, and she fell back underwater and drowned.

The Orphanage (2007, Sp.) (aka El Orfanato)

Laura Had Trapped the Sack-Faced 'Ghost' Boy - Her Own Son Simon - In a Closet

In this chilling gothic thriller by first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona, red-headed Laura (Belen Rueda) had persuaded her husband Carlos Sanchez (Fernando Cayo) to setup an abandoned Spanish seaside orphanage (called the Good Shepherd, where she was raised) as an institution for "special children." After moving in, their lonely, 7 year-old adopted son Simón (Roger Príncep), diagnosed as ill and HIV positive, exhibited strange behavior, such as communicating and playing hide-and-seek with six imaginary "invisible friends" (or 'ghosts'), who often would play a game of hiding a person's "treasure," and searching for it by following clues, in order to be granted a wish.

Shortly after the arrival of a strange older woman named Benigna Escobedo (Montserrat Carulla) - claiming to be a social worker - Simon learned that he had been lied to by his parents regarding his adoption. Feeling unloved, he prophetically told his mother: "I have no mother and father. And I'm going to die. You're not my mother, you're a liar!" He told her that he was informed by imaginary "ghost" friend Tomas.

At the start of a children's welcoming party at the orphanage (during which some of the children wore masks), Simon was stubbornly disobedient, refusing to come down to participate, and Laura slapped him for his misbehavior. Later when Laura looked for him, she was confronted by a sack-masked boy (identified presumably as Tomas with his name sewn on his shirt) in the hallway, who pushed her backwards into the bathroom and locked her there when she tried to remove his mask. Afterwards, Simon disappeared and Laura searched frantically for him (she looked for him in a closeted door under the stairs - inadvertently rearranging some yellow steel posts that fell). She hysterically imagined seeing him in an ocean cave, trapped by the rising tide, but he couldn't be found. That night, Laura heard unexplainable banging noises in the orphanage.

Six months after he went missing, Laura unsuccessfully sought support from a bereavement group, and was then dismayed when she saw elderly Benigna struck and killed by a speeding ambulance, while she was pushing a baby carriage with a mask-headed doll in it.

It was revealed through Benigna's Super 8 films and photographs that she had worked at the orphanage when Laura was there as a orphaned child. She had a son who was born deformed named Tomas, who was hidden away and masked ("No one knew about him"). Tomas disappeared while playing one day -- the same thing that happened to Simon. Shortly after Laura's adoption, Tomas was found dead on the beach after some of the other orphans had played a trick on him. They had taken off his sack mask in the cave "but he never emerged. He drowned" in the high tide.

Nine months after Simon's disappearance, Laura sought out psychic medium Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) for clues to Simon's whereabouts and evidence of anything else in the orphanage - while in a trance, she heard five, very sick children crying from the past, and when she opened a door, exclaimed: "What have they done to you?" - and then learned that they had been poisoned. During a scavenger treasure hunt as Laura followed the clues, she was led to discover sacks of human ashes and partial skeletal remains in the orphanage's shed. [Laura deduced that Benigna vengefully poisoned and cremated the bodies of the five children responsible for Tomas' death: Martin, Rita, Alicia, Guillermo, and Victor, all friends of Laura's, who then became 'ghosts'].

Not wanting to stay at the orphanage any longer, Carlos packed up and left. For the next two days, a crazed Laura, wearing an orphanage uniform, converted the orphanage to its former state, and then took sedatives to approach even closer to death - to help her find her son. She summoned the 'ghost' children (symbolized by dolls) to the dinner table by ringing a bell, and then by playing a hide-and-seek game ("One, Two, Three, Knock on The Wall") from her childhood with the apparitions that appeared.

Eventually, they led her to discover Simon in the secret cellar/basement room accessible through a closet door under the stairs. She imagined that she found him alive and carried him in his arms (as the camera circled them), but he was really dead on the floor after being trapped there many months earlier (she screamed in horror: "Nooooo!").

Laura now realized that the sack-headed 'ghost' boy in the hallway was her own son Simon, who had put a sack-bag on his head after she punished his misbehavior, and then hid in the secret room. When she tried to find him, she accidentally blocked the passageway, and he perished there.

In the end, Laura took an overdose of pills to be close to her dead son ("I want Simon back"), who came to life in her arms, as did all the other deceased children ("It's Laura"). When her husband Carlos returned, he walked up to the gravestone marker of his wife and son and the other children, to lay roses there.

The film ended with Carlos finding Laura's medallion on the floor - he looked up and smiled as doors opened in front of him.

The Others (2001)

The Protagonists (Grace and Her Two Photosensitive Children) Were the Ghosts Haunting the House

In this spooky tale set at the end of WWII, overprotective, overly-religious governess Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) - the single mother of two light-sensitive children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) - began to suspect that their rambling, gothic house in New Jersey was haunted when they heard odd sounds and thought there were intruders.

The arrival of three servants (housekeeper Mrs. Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), an old gardener Mr. Edmund Tuttle (Eric Sykes), and a young mute girl Lydia (Elaine Cassidy)) added to the mystery as did three gravesites.

The sad ending with a double twist revealed during a seance (conducted by "The Others," the Marlish family who had moved into the mansion, considered intruders by Grace) was that the governess Grace and her two children were dead, but were haunting the house.

In a murder/suicide, Grace had gone mad after her husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) left her for WWI, and smothered her children with pillows before suicidally shooting herself in the head with a shotgun.

The "ghosts" Grace kept seeing in the house were actually the new tenants who had moved into the house, and were attempting to exorcise them. In addition, the servants were actually 'ghosts' of servants who were long dead (for more than 50 years).

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

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