Film Spoilers and
|Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description|
Taking Lives (2004)
James Costa Was Serial Killer Martin Asher, Whose M.O. Was To Take the Identities and Lives of His Victims; To Catch the Killer, FBI Special Agent Illeana Scott Pretended to Be Pregnant with Costa's Twins, and During a Struggle Stabbed Him With a Pair of Scissors in the Heart
This Warner Bros' retreaded psychological thriller was very similar to Twisted (2004) released at the same time, and its opening credits sequence was reminiscent of David Fincher's Se7en (1995).
It told about an investigation by French Canadian police for a serial killer. The murderer's modus operandi was to assume the identity of each of his victims ("taking lives") to begin a new life and thus avoid capture - telegraphed by the film's tagline:
The serial killer was first personified in the pre-credits sequence as young nerdy, glasses-wearing teenager Martin Asher (Paul Dano) in 1983 on a road trip across Canada. After befriending fellow traveler-teen Matt Soulsby (Justin Chatwin), for no apparent reason while he was changing their flat tire, Martin murdered him (and the driver of an oncoming vehicle) by pushing him a car's path (and then finishing Matt off with a crushing blow to the head with a rock). Then, he took all of Matt's belongings to assume his identity. He continued his crazed killing spree of unsolved murders (seen during the credits) for over two decades.
Almost 20 years later in present-day Montreal, psychic American FBI profiler Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie) - a special agent called upon to help with the latest murder case - was first introduced (with a close-up of Jolie's famously-puffy lips) while lying in a earthen grave at a construction site, to intuitively sense the feelings of the victim (later identified as freelance scuba diver Henri Bisonnette). She also incessantly studied and slept with gruesome crime-scene photos (some were taped on her hotel bedroom's ceiling) to gain insight into the case.
During the investigation, Illeana spoke with local art salesman/dealer James Costa (Ethan Hawke) who was an eye-witness to the latest victim (Clive Morin) who had been killed outside a health club. Costa provided a detailed sketch of the bearded killer. Shortly later, another victim was found in a residential hotel room, with a partly-mutilated body (an excised finger) - the murder victim was identified as Clark William Edwards, a 34 year-old Alaskan cruise line worker. Costa's drawing of the serial killer matched this latest victim.
The police learned that someone from Edwards' hotel room had repeatedly called the phone number of Rebecca Asher (Gena Rowlands). During questioning in Rebecca's home, she reiterated that she had seen her "very dangerous" son Martin at the Quebec ferry terminal three weeks earlier, but he was presumed to have died 19 years earlier.
Rebecca revealed some crucial family history to Illeana. Martin was the youngest of identical twin boys born three minutes apart - the other was named Reese, whom she clearly favored over Martin. At age 14, the boys were boating and Martin fell overboard. Reese jumped in to save him, but only Martin reached the shore. The devastated surviving boy took a strange turn, became more violent and theft-prone, and then it was reported that 16 year-old runaway Martin died in a car accident. Things turned suspicious when the body of Martin was exhumed by the Montreal police and the coroner declared from bone fracture evidence:
Illeana suspected that Mrs. Asher (being kept in protective custody in a luxury downtown Montreal hotel) was hiding something about her son Martin, so she returned at night to the Asher home to enter a hidden basement room behind a bookcase. She discovered Martin's bedroom with a few clues to his disturbed personality. An unidentified assailant attacked her and fled.
By this time, Illeana had determined that Martin Asher was their serial killer, and that he had been "taking lives" - his preferred M.O. of assuming the identities of his victims for over 20 years (there were at least 11 unsolved similar murders between Matt's death in 1983 and Bisonnette's death two decades later). She described all of Martin's victims:
Illeana was worried that Costa was Martin Asher's next target. But then it appeared that the case was abruptly over when the suspected 'Asher,' who was angrily holding Costa as his hostage, died in a gruesome car accident following a chase.
With the case about to be dismissed, the next scene was in Illeana's hotel room, where she was passionately romanced by Costa. He opened her robe and exposed her bare chest to him when he backed her against a wall. As he laid her down on a table, he broke glassware behind her as she steadied her balance by extending her foot for leverage. He then carried her over to the nearby bed where they finished having sex with their clothes on, while she looked up at the crime scene photos of dead people taped above her.
In the next scene, Mrs. Asher was summoned to a hospital's morgue to identify the body of her son killed in the car accident, and declared it wasn't him. [The deceased suspect was actually drug addict and gay art thief Christopher Hart (Kiefer Sutherland). Costa was selling stolen art for him, but not paying him what was owed - over $80,000.]
The film's predictable plot twist was then revealed - Costa was serial killer Martin Asher. As Mrs. Asher left the hospital via an elevator, she was confronted by her son. He spitefully killed his mother by sawing off her head, telling her that she had ruined everything by favoring Reese during his childhood. Through an open elevator door, Illeana saw James Costa/Martin Asher covered in blood, holding the decapitated head of his own mother. She was stunned as she repeated: "Costa did it. Costa is Asher." Asher had been impersonating the real Costa for many months after killing him. Illeana was terminated by the FBI for "egregious lack of judgment and conduct unbecoming" - for having sex with Costa/Asher at the conclusion of the investigation.
In the climactic confrontation scene about seven months later in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in a remote rural farmhouse, impoverished Illeana (after losing her job) had actually set up a well-orchestrated trap. She was pretending (as a decoy wearing a prosthetic enlarged belly) to be pregnant with Asher's twins (due to the fact that she had intercourse with Costa earlier) - she stabbed an attacking Asher to death in the heart with a pair of scissors during a fierce struggle, after he had stabbed her in the belly. She removed her fake belly as he died, and vengefully told him: "Everything you saw I wanted you to see. F--k you!" She phoned the police afterwards to tell them: "It's over." She was advised:
Martin Asher (Paul Dano)
FBI Profiler Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie)
James Costa (Ethan Hawke)
Victim Christopher Hart (Kiefer Sutherland)
Sex Between Illeana and Costa
Costa's Decapitation of His Own Mother
Asher Stabbed to Death With Scissors
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Tom Ripley Murdered Dickie on a Rowboat, Impersonated Him, and Then Killed Others (Freddie and Peter) To Cover His Tracks - and Ultimately Got Away With Murder
This disturbing and unsettling film from director Anthony Minghella was described by its tagline:
It told about the title character:
Ripley was actually a lowly piano tuner and bathroom attendant, living in a basement apartment near a meatpacking plant in the late 1950s.
When mistakenly identified by wealthy shipbuilding magnate Mr. Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) as a Princeton graduate and professional pianist at a wedding, Ripley was easily persuaded, for one thousand dollars plus expenses, to travel to Italy and attempt to persuade Greenleaf's profligate, playboyish son Dickie (Jude Law) to return to the US.
In Italy (Mongibello), Ripley experienced the carefree, decadent, and homo-erotic lifestyle that Dickie was leading, composed of nights at jazz-clubs, sexual freedom (an affair with local market seller Silvana (Stefania Rocca) who became pregnant, although he had a loyal girlfriend/fiancee named Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow)), and carefree laziness - on the beaches and on his yacht nicknamed Bird.
Combined with his own philosophy of "It would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody," and fearing that Dickie was going to break off their 'brotherly' association (after calling him a "third-class loser"), the obsessed Ripley brutally murdered him in a motorized rowboat near San Remo by striking him across the head with an oar and beating him to death (one hour into the film). He then decided to impersonate and appropriate Dickie's persona.
In order to cover his bloody tracks and explain Dickie's sudden disappearance, Ripley used his clever, self-confessed talents: "forging signatures, telling lies, impersonating practically anybody" in order to live a dual life - to confuse a suspicious and heartbroken Marge (who received forged letters) and deter others who began asking questions, such as an Italian detective.
However, he was forced to resort to further killing by bashing in the head of Dickie's overweight caddish friend Freddie Miles (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) with an antique bust, after he became suspicious.
By film's end, Mr. Greenleaf and hired American detective Alvin MacCarron cleared Ripley of any guilt (and offered him Dickie's trust fund riches) when they revealed that Dickie had a violence-prone, sordid past and could conceivably have killed Freddie. That murder would also explain Dickie's subsequent suicide (detailed in a forged, typewritten note that Ripley manufactured), although Marge remained convinced of Tom's guilt (after finding Dickie's rings in Tom's possession).
However, Ripley's association with infatuated American socialite/heiress Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett) was his ultimate downfall. When he kissed her, he couldn't explain his association to her (she mistakenly knew him only as "Dickie") to his new homosexual boyfriend Peter Smith-Kingsley (Jack Davenport), who only knew him as "Tom."
In the film's final scene, Ripley strangled Peter (off-screen) in order to silence further suspicious questions, and was left utterly alone.
Girlfriend/Fiancee Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) With Dickie (Jude Law)
Tom Ripley (Matt Damon)
Brutal Murder of Dickie
Bust Used to Kill Freddie Miles (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
Marge Confronting Ripley
Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett)
Ripley's Strangulation of Homosexual Lover Peter
Teenage Cave Man (1958) (aka Out of the Darkness)
Earth Had Experienced a Nuclear Holocaust in the 20th Century, and the Fearsome "God" or Beast Across the River From Primitive Cave Men Was the Last Surviving Human Scientist
Roger Corman produced and directed this low-budget, science-fiction B-film from AIP (American International Pictures). The film suffered being a choice for ridicule on the TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in late 1991. Its tagline was:
It was the loose inspiration for a similarly-titled TV movie many years later, director Larry Clark's Teenage Caveman (2002). Both Planet of the Apes (1968) and M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (2004) copied the 1958 film's twist.
It starred 26 year-old Robert Vaughn as the inquisitive character named "The Boy," a primitive tribe member in a barren wasteland.
When the rebellious and defiant Boy ("The Symbol Maker's Teenage Son") was threatened with exile, he left his rocky and remote valley to journey to an uncharted, forbidden, lush tropical land by crossing a nearby river. He challenged and defied a legend (that he believed was arbitrary and untrue) that across the river was a giant evil creature named the God Who Brings Death with Its Touch.
After leading some of the tribe across the river, all that was found was a strange-looking, humanoid creature, regarded as the giant "God." When the "Boy" confronted the creature with fire and then with a bow and arrow, one of the other fearful primitive tribe members stoned the giant with a large boulder.
After closer examination, the "God" was revealed to be a centuries-old, horribly-burnt scientist with gray hair - wearing a bulky radiation suit. The radiation had prolonged his life and turned the local wildlife into dinosaurs. A book was found in the suit - with black and white pictures of life in the mid-20th century. One page was labeled: "THE ATOMIC ERA." The tribespeople could not read the book, but decided to take it with them just in case: "We'll take this thing of wonder. Somewhere, a man may be able to tell us the words of the symbols."
As the group of tribesmen departed, leaving the beast's corpse where it was slain, a voice-over of the old man revealed what had happened on Earth. In the surprise ending, the setting was not prehistoric times, but a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear holocaust event in the 20th century. The "God" explained how he was one of the last human survivors of the previous civilization:
He then explained how some of the few remaining humans had returned to caveman life and forgotten their ancestry. There were attempts to contact the primitive tribesmen across the river, but the cavemen feared them.
One of them, the "Boy" had dared to challenge the "truth of the law" - but the future was uncertain. The old man then pondered whether mankind had learned its lesson or not:
The Boy: The Symbol Maker's Teenage Son (Robert Vaughn)
The "God-like" Creature
The Creature Unmasked
The Post-Apocalyptic Atomic Era
Tell No One (2006, Fr.) (aka Ne Le Dis à Personne)
Alex's Wife Margot Had Not Been Murdered; Margot's Death Was Staged by Jacques Laurentin (Alex's Father in Law), Who Covered Up the Truth About What Had Happened, To Prevent Retaliation From the Neuvilles; The Couple Was Eventually Reunited After Eight Years
French director Guillaume Canet's taut, frantic, ultra-complex thriller opened with a small summer party at a French country home, to introduce a number of characters:
Alex and Anne had inherited the home from their recently deceased father François (Philippe Canet). This was followed by the film's most crucial scene - Alex and Margot drove off together and skinny-dipped that night in Lake Charmaine. One of their memories (they were childhood lovers), shown in flashback, was of a heart carved into an ancient tree trunk with slash marks beneath the heart for every year of their love.
When she swam back to the dock to get her clothes, he heard her calling him as she was attacked in the forest, but when he swam back to the dock to help her, he was knocked unconscious with a baseball bat and fell back into the water (unexpectedly, Alex was found unconscious on the dock, and he remained unconscious for three days).
The film then fast-forwarded to eight years later (an important plot point), when it was learned how the widower was still grieving for his wife, and had been a prime suspect in her vicious, brutal slashing murder, but nothing conclusive could be proved about his guilt. A notorious French serial killer named Frank Serton was blamed for the killing.
But when two bodies (of hitmen Bartola and Pagnac), along with a baseball bat covered with Alex's blood, were dug up in the forest near the lake, the murder case was reopened and Alex went on the run, while attempting to prove his innocence at the same time.
And strangely, Alex learned (but couldn't believe) that his wife Margot was alive - he had received an email, warning "Tell no one. They're watching" with a link to a live video-camera from a metro station (or mall set of escalators) that showed that Margot was indeed alive. She was trying to secretly communicate with him.
What was the film's prime revelation and precipitating event?
Eventually, the twisty, labyrinthine film systematically pulled together the various plot elements, and revealed what had really happened the night of the skinny-dipping 'murder':
Other pieces of the puzzle played a role in the deception and on-going investigated case:
In the film's final moments, Margot was about to board a plane to Buenos Aires, but turned around and aborted her flight after seeing a newscast on a TV about the killing of Charlotte (with Alex named as a prime suspect). And then, Jacques committed suicide (off-screen) after revealing everything to Alex (who was wearing a wire), when he realized that the police had heard his confession.
The film concluded with Alex returning to his country home, where he was finally united with Margot next to the tree where they had carved their initials - with eight new hash marks next to their names.
Blurry Video-Camera YouTube Image of Wife Margot - Alive!
Examination of Margot's Corpse - A Cover-Up by Margot's Father Jacques Laurentin
Slashing The Face of the Substituted Corpse
Autopsy Report: Traces of Heroin in Corpse
Margot Killing Philippe
Alex Knocked Out With Baseball Bat
Jacques Revealing Everything to Alex
Tree With Carved Initials and Eight Slash Marks
Final Scene: Alex Reunited with Margot
The Tenant (1976, Fr.) (aka La Locataire)
An Enigmatic Ending - Was Trelkovsky an Insane Character in the Mind of Simone? Was He the Victim of a Conspiracy? Or Was He Just Crazy?
Roman Polanski's suspenseful psychological thriller about insanity and paranoia had many similarities to his two previous films, Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). One of its taglines was:
The main title character was:
Trelkovsky moved into a squalid Parisian apartment vacated by a previous tenant, a female Egyptologist named Simone Choule. The previous occupant had attempted to commit suicide by jumping out of the window from the balcony. She was subsequently hospitalized (with a body cast in traction, an almost toothless mouth and bandaged head).
When Trelkovsky visited her, he met Simone's friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani), who was also at the bedside. The bandaged patient let out a disturbing howl and scream, and died shortly later.
As the film progressed, Trelkovsky was seemingly viewed with suspicion, hostility and contempt by his apartment neighbors (mostly elderly), who often complained that he made too much noise. He seemed to feel guilty about living in the suicidal victim's apartment. He became preoccupied with the previous tenant Simone's suicidal and self-destructive tendencies as well as her habits (he was compelled to adopt her breakfast choice of chocolate (instead of coffee) and cigarette brand of Marlboros). He often saw other tenants standing motionless and staring back at him from the communal bathroom across the way.
He found a bloody tooth in a hidden hole in the wall (plugged by cotton) behind the heavy wardrobe - and later discovered that it was a perfect match to a second tooth - the missing molar in his own bloody mouth. He slowly became hostile, paranoid, and demented (and possibly schizophrenic) and obsessively transformed (mentally and physically) into Simone (i.e., by cross-dressing with one of Simone's dresses in the armoire, some high-heeled shoes and a wig that he bought). He also was sexually inadequate with Stella - reminiscent of Simone's disinterest in men. He exhibited other disturbing behaviors. For no reason, in a park, he slapped a defenseless child (who had lost his boat in the pond) in the face, calling him a "filthy little brat." A bouncing soccer ball outside his window turned into a decapitated human head. He watched as the other tenants humiliated another disfavored tenant (wearing a joker hat and his own masked face). He stabbed at a hand reaching in through his apartment window, and cut his hand on the glass.
He feared that other tenants in his apartment building were plotting a conspiracy, persecuting him, and changing him into the previous tenant so that he would repetitively follow her behavior and commit suicide. He described his fears:
Deranged and becoming self-destructive like Simone when he channeled her, he attempted to commit a more successful suicide (as himself and the previous tenant) by hurling himself from the window. Cross-dressed, a drum-roll anticipated his leap to the pavement, and he crashed through a recently-repaired glass atrium that shattered. Trelkovsky was severely injured and lying on the concrete, where the neighbors found him and wondered whether he was "insane," fixated, had a "brain storm," and was unusually disturbed. He imagined his neighbors rabidly encouraging him to hurt himself. Battered with a broken leg and bleeding, he dragged himself away from them and up the stairs, while calling them a "gang of killers." He taunted the spectating onlookers and showed disgust, defiance and resolve:
The crowd of onlookers was amazed to see him at his apartment window again - jumping and falling to his death. [Note: At the instant of his death (?), did he imagine himself associated with the mummified 'patient' from the earlier scene?]
In the next enigmatic, replicated (or mirrored) scene when the story had gone full circle, Trelkovsky was back in the hospital with Stella, visiting a bandaged patient - the same scene from the film's beginning. From the POV of the patient, the two spoke to "Simone." Stella asked frantically: "Don't you recognize me?" As the patient let out the same disturbing cry (heard when they visited before), the camera zoomed into the blackness of the patient's mouth as the film ended.
However, one must ask - was the patient Simone - or Trelkovsky? Was Trelkovsky reliving or reidentifying with his earlier hospital visit from Simone's perspective, that of the mummified "patient" looking up at Trelkovsky himself? Some theorists speculated that Trelkovsky was only an imaginary character created in the mind of the insane, hospitalized Simone.
Bandaged Suicidal and
Cross-Dressing Trelkovsky's First Suicide Attempt
Tenebrae/Unsane (1982, It./USA) (aka Tenebre)
There Were Two Killers: (1) Obsessed Fan and Victim Cristiano Berti, and (2) Writer Peter Neal
Writer/director Dario Argento's terrifying slasher horror film told about an unidentified murderer (with black gloved hands) on the loose in Rome, who was obsessed with mystery best-selling American novelist Peter Neal (Tony Franciosa) while he was promoting his latest book, titled Tenebrae.
The killer was inspired by the book's content and composed cryptic notes addressed to the author after each gruesome murder.
The first sadistically-murdered victims included:
The noted but sleazy book critic and TV talk show host/interviewer Christiano Berti (John Steiner) was exhibiting an intense interest in Peter Neal's book. And then one night, Berti was axe-murdered. Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma), who was investigating the numerous murders with female partner, Inspector Altieri (Carola Stagnaro), believed that Berti was the axe-murderer, and now the murders might end.
Midway through the film, however, it was revealed that there might be more than one murderer. The revelation of the second killer came with the mutilation-murder of Jane, Neal's embittered ex-fiancee. It was shown that the heroic protagonist Peter Neal was the second killer. He was a woman-hater due to an event in his youth when he had been sexually-traumatized (seen in perplexing flashback).
Neal was also responsible for the axe-murder of Berti, to cover up his own revenge killings of:
In the bloodbath finale and conclusion, Detective Germani entered Neal's residence, and discovered that Neal had fooled him. He had used a fake straight-edged razor (with squirting blood) to pretend the slashing of his own throat. The detective was then murdered from behind by Neal, who snuck up from behind and clobbered him with an axe in the back. Then, Neal hid, waiting for his own attractive assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi) to enter - he was planning to also axe her to death.
When she opened the door, Neal was accidentally impaled by a steel spike in a metallic sculpture - the spike connected to the sculpture impaled him through the door. He attempted to pull the sharp spike from his abdomen, as Anne screamed at the horror (in the open doorway in the rain), before he perished. The film went to black and abruptly ended with rolling credits.
Neal's Fake Straight-Edged Razor (Squirting Blood, and Dull)
Peter Neal (After Faking Death)
Death of Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma)
Death of Peter Neal (Tony Franciosa) - Impaled
Anne (Daria Nicolodi) Screaming
Emma Died of Cancer, Leaving Two Sons Behind
This comedy/drama classic, an entertaining, manipulative, soap-operatic melodramatic tearjerker adapted from Larry McMurtry’s novel, was a sit-com style film - and a Best Picture winner for director James L. Brooks. Its tagline was:
It told about the thirty-year mother-daughter relationship between two women:
In the heartbreaking, unexpected, tragic, cathartic and touching finale, Emma was hospitalized and dying of cancer. She was slowly reconciled with her mother during her terminal illness.
In a stunning hospital scene, Aurora ran completely around the hospital desk while yelling at two hospital nurses to give her ailing daughter a pain-killing shot.
Emma said a final goodbye to her two young sons Teddy (Huckleberry Fox) and bratty Tommy (Troy Bishop) in her Lincoln General Hospital room just before her death. After she had makeup applied to her face to cover her pale pallor, she spoke to them, but was unable to break through to her distant, over-critical oldest son Tommy. After a hug from Teddy and a reluctant kiss from Tommy, she asked Teddy as he left the room: "I was so scared. And I think it went pretty well, don't you?"
Soon after, she expired with one final glance at Aurora as husband Flap Horton slept unawares. Aurora blamed herself: "I'm so stupid, so stupid. Somehow, I thought, somehow I thought when she finally went that - that it would be a relief. Oh, my sweet little darling. Oh dear, there's nothing harder."
After the funeral during the wake, Aurora's neighbor and close friend, retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson) supportively paid special attention to Emma's long-neglected son Tommy.
Aurora: "GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!"
Emma (Debra Winger) Painfully Saying Goodbye to Her Two Children
The Quiet Death
Tommy with Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson)
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma and Louise Evaded Arrest and Surrender by Suicidally Driving Their Convertible Into the Grand Canyon
In Ridley Scott's stridently feminist buddy/road film, the title characters were:
The two were in flight after an ugly threatened rape incident in the Silver Bullet roadhouse parking lot that led to the retaliatory killing of Harlan Puckett (Timothy Carhart) by Louise. They were relentlessly pursued for the murder by:
The detective was sympathetic to Louise's plight (and knowledgeable about a previous rape attempt), but unable to convince her to surrender with Thelma.
In the film's conclusion, before the two fugitives drove their 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible into the Grand Canyon (and oblivion), Thelma had urged that they not give up:
They kissed each other, and then grasped hands as they met their fate, taking off in a swirl of dust before plunging over the canyon's cliff edge.
Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) & Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon)
Detective Hal Slocumb (Harvey Keitel)
Solidarity in Death
Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
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