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: "He would kill to be you."
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 became acquainted with local art salesman/dealer James Costa (Ethan Hawke), an eye-witness to the latest victim (Clive Morin), who had been killed outside a health club. Then the mutilated body (with an excised finger) of another victim, who resembled Costa's detailed sketch of the bearded killer, was found in a residential hotel room - he was named Clark William Edwards, a 34 year-old Alaskan cruise line worker. The police learned that someone from the 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 an accident. Things turned suspicious when the body of Martin was exhumed by the Montreal police and the coroner declared from bone fracture evidence: "This isn't the body of Martin Asher."
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, poor 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:
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 told about an aspiring yet unstable sociopath Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) (with Clark Kent-type glasses) who 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.
By film's end, Mr. Greenleaf and a hired American detective cleared Ripley of any guilt (and offered him Dickie's 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 and couldn't explain his association to her (she mistakenly knew him only as "Dickie") to new 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.
Teenage Cave Man (1958)
Earth Had Experienced a Nuclear Holocaust in the 20th Century, and the Fearsome "God" Was the Last Surviving Scientist
Roger Corman produced and directed this low budget, science-fiction B-film that 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 lush remote valley to journey to an uncharted, forbidden land by crossing a nearby river. He defied a legend 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 centuries-old, horribly-burnt scientist in an irradiated radiation suit. The radiation prolonged his life and turned the local wildlife into dinosaurs. The primitives fearfully stoned the giant "God" to death. It was revealed in the surprise ending that the setting was not prehistoric times, but a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear holocaust event in the 20th century. The "God" was the last survivor of a previous civilization, who explained how the "Boy" and his tribesmen had returned to caveman life and forgotten their ancestry. He pondered whether mankind had learned its lesson or not (in voice-over):
[Note: Planet of the Apes (1968) and M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (2004) both copied the twist.]
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
French director Guillaume Canet's taut, frantic, ultra-complex thriller opened with a very short scene of a happily-married couple skinny-dipping at night together, in Lake Charmaine:
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, 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.
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. Eventually, the last 15 or 20 minutes of the twisty, labyrinthine film systematically pulled together the various plot elements:
The film concluded with Alex returning to his country home, where he was united with Margot next to the tree where they had carved their initials - with eight new hash marks next to their names.
The Tenant (1976) (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). Shy bureaucrat, French citizen and Polish-born immigrant Trelkovsky (director Roman Polanski himself, although uncredited), a displaced foreigner, moved into a squalid Parisian apartment vacated by a previous tenant, an 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: "They forced her to commit suicide, I can prove it, and they're trying to do the same thing to me...They've been trying to turn me into Simone Choule."
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 Trekolvsky himself? Some theorists speculated that Trelkovsky was only an imaginary character created in the mind of the insane, hospitalized Simone.
Bandaged Suicidal and
First Suicide Attempt
Tenebre/Unsane (1982, It./USA)
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.
The killer was inspired by the book's content and composed cryptic notes addressed to the author after each gruesome murder. The first murders included:
Midway through the film, it was revealed that there was more than one murderer. The original copy-cat serial killer - the noted but sleazy book critic and TV talk show host Christiano Berti (John Steiner), became a victim too. Berti was axe-murdered by the heroic protagonist Peter Neal himself - the second real killer, who had been sexually-traumatized in his youth (seen in perplexing flashback), and was a woman-hater.
Neal had murdered Berti with an axe to the head, to cover up his own revenge killings of:
In the bloodbath conclusion, Neal was accidentally impaled by a steel spike in a metallic sculpture when he was and attempting to kill his attractive assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi) with an axe. When she opened the door, the spike connected to the sculpture impaled him.
Emma Died of Cancer, Leaving Two Sons Behind
This comedy/drama classic, an entertaining, manipulative, soap-operatic melodramatic tearjerker, was a sit-com style film. It told about the thirty-year mother-daughter relationship between two women: stubborn brunette Emma (Debra Winger) and her devoted, possessive, blonde, widowed mother Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine).
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 (Jeff Daniels) 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.
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 Geena Davis (as unfulfilled Arkansas housewife Thelma) and Susan Sarandon (as waitress Louise Sawyer) were in flight after an ugly threatened rape incident in the Silver Bullet roadhouse parking lot that led to a retaliatory killing.
In the film's conclusion, before the two fugitives drove their 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible into the Grand Canyon (and oblivion), Thelma had urged: "Let's not get caught... Let's keep goin'." Louise asked: "You sure?"
They kissed each other, and then grasped hands as they met their fate, taking off in a swirl of dust.
[Note: It was a soaring, freeze-frame finale ending reminiscent of the Bolivian army massacre at the conclusion of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).]
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