Film Spoilers and
|Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description|
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:
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."
Mido Was Dae-su's Own Daughter
This compelling, mysterious, and visceral (double) revenge thriller from Korean director Park Chan-wook was adapted from the Japanese manga written by Tsuchiya Garon.
Its potently sinister tale was told mostly in flashback -- a recently-released prisoner named Dae-su Oh (Choi Min-sik), after being kidnapped from a phone booth, 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.
After being inexplicably freed, he had only a few days 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 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. 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 Mido in secret, and had both Mido and Dae-su hypnotised to fall in love when she grew older.
To show atonement and to prevent any further rumors or talk, Dae-su cut off his own tongue with a rusty pair of scissors, 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?
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:
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:
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.
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).
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:
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 Children) Were the Ghosts Haunting the House
In this spooky tale set at the end of WWII, overprotective 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 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 the war, 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 100 years).
Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A1 | A2 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | C1 | C2 | C3 | D1 | D2 | D3 | E1 | E2 | F1 | F2 | G | H1 | H2 | H3 | I | J-K | L1 | L2
M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z