Some horror filmmakers aren’t just trying to scare you, they’re trying to blind you with fear. They’re trying to get you so wrapped up in their web of terror that you don’t even notice the giant man-eating spider sneaking up, pincers raised.
Or, to put it more simply, these horror filmmakers are hoping you get so invested in their story that you don’t see that a big twist ending coming, a mile away. But for every film that pulls off this pretty neat trick – films like PSYCHO, THE SIXTH SENSE and tons more we just don’t want to ruin – there are plenty of others that blow it completely. They tip their hand early, go overboard on the foreshadowing, or are utterly betrayed by their own advertising.
Twists are fun. Everyone enjoys a good twist. But when you know a twist ending is coming, and when you can easily guess what that twist is going to be, then watching a movie becomes an exercise in futility. These are ten of the most obvious horror twists on record. They are cautionary tales to every filmmaker, and downright annoying to most of the people in the audience.
Oh, and this should go without saying, but SPOILER ALERT!
The Twist: The guy named “Louis Cyphre” was Lucifer the whole time.
Alan Parker’s classy, creepy horror/noir hybrid stars Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a private detective hired by a Louis Cyphre, to find a missing musician named Johnny Favorite. It turns out that Louis Cyphre helped make Johnny Favorite a star, and that there’s something he stands to gain after Johnny Favorite’s death.
Once again, the character’s name is “Louis Cyphre.” We know this right away. We also know that he’s played by a scenery-chewing Robert De Niro, who likes to compare human souls to eggs and then immediately eat an egg. Get it? Get it?
Slick though it is, ANGEL HEART ain’t subtle, and even the film’s other big twist is pretty obvious from the get go. But the gag that Louis Cyphre is actually Lucifer is so mind-blowingly obvious that it goes beyond allegory and straight into comedy.
APRIL FOOL’S DAY
The Twist: It’s April Fool’s Day.
In APRIL FOOL’S DAY, a group of oversexed friends travel to an isolated island on April Fool’s Day. They play a lot of pranks on each other and eventually they start getting killed off, one by one. It’s a rather straightforward holiday slasher, in which people are slashed on a holiday. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
But it doesn’t take long to notice that most of the violence in APRIL FOOL’S DAY takes place off-camera. And you probably should have noticed before you entered the theater that the film was called APRIL FOOL’S DAY. Hence, when it turns out that all of the murders were fake and that the events of the film were all just an elaborate joke, it comes as little surprise. Even if you somehow missed the clues you have to admit that the movie told you exactly what the twist was, right in the title.
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS
The Twist: The killer is the guy we clearly saw was the killer half a movie ago.
The making of the seasonal serial killer thriller DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS was not a happy one. It took almost two years to finish the film, which went through multiple directors and reshoots during that time. So it makes sense that the finished product – a film about a slasher who kills people dressed as Santa Claus – is a completely disjointed mess.
But someone probably should have noticed that, quite a while before the identity of the killer is actually revealed, there’s a shot where the killer’s face is clearly visible. It’s clearly Giles, played by Alan Lake. Then the movie continues apace like the audience doesn’t know that yet. It’s really rather sad to watch this movie unfold.
The Twist: The opening line of dialogue meant exactly what you thought it meant.
FALLEN is actually a rather excellent supernatural horror movie, in which Denzel Washington stars as Detective John Hobbes, who learns about a demonic killer that can leap from body to body. Atmospheric and creepy, with a great supporting cast, it seems for a while like nothing can keep FALLEN down.
But then the ending comes along, and Detective Hobbes reveals his plan. He’s going to let the demon possess him, but only after he’s already about to die, in a location where there’s nobody to jump into. And we might have actually thought this plan would work if the opening narration wasn’t an uncharacteristically cheerful Hobbes, bragging that “I wanna tell you about the time I almost died.”
So yeah, it turns out the demon was able to jump into a cat that Hobbes forgot was in the isolated cabin, which the audience also saw earlier. All these elements were right in front of us, plain as day, and at the end the demon has the nerve to say, “Oh! You forgot something, didn’t you? Back at the start, I said I was going to tell you about the time I almost died.”
We didn’t forget. It wasn’t that clever. The rest of the movie is great though.
I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER
The Twist: Rio De Janeiro isn’t the capital of Brazil.
Movie twists are little more than tricks that filmmakers play on the audience, but there’s a big difference between convincing an audience to look one way when they should have been looking in the other direction, and hoping that the audience doesn’t know basic geography.
Because the twist in I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, a particularly terrible sequel to a not particularly great (but highly successful) post-SCREAM slasher movie, is that Rio De Janeiro isn’t the capital of Brazil. Yes, really.
The movie kicks off when the protagonists win a free vacation by answering a trivia question on the radio. The question is, “What’s the capital of Brazil?” They say “Rio De Janeiro ” and win the tickets, and later on they discover the shocking truth that Brasilia is the actual capital of Brazil, and they have all been lured to an isolated location so that they can all be murdered by a fake radio contest.
So anyone who actually knows the capital of Brazil spends the majority of this movie leap years ahead of the characters. And anyone who doesn’t know the capital of Brazil needs to study harder. Obviously.
The Twist: HELLRAISER 6 has the same twist ending as HELLRAISER 5.
Most horror movie franchises take a dip in quality when they start going straight to video, and HELLRAISER is one of the most obvious examples. In fact, most of the HELLRAISER straight-to-video sequels are just completely unrelated horror screenplays that had a little HELLRAISER iconography shoved into them, and produced on the cheap to exploit a well-known brand.
The fifth film in the series, HELLRAISER: INFERNO starred Craig Sheffer as a corrupt cop whose investigation into a missing child is full of hellish imagery and vivid hallucinations. It’s not much of a surprise when we discover that he’s actually been in Hell this whole time, even though that’s more of a Catholic interpretation of the afterlife than a Clive Barker concept.
But the sixth film, HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER, wasn’t even trying. It’s about a man with memory loss whose investigation into the death of his wife is full of hellish imagery and vivid hallucinations. And once again we learn at the end that he was in Hell the whole time. It’s basically the same damned movie with a little more sex and a cameo by original HELLRAISER star Ashley Laurence, behaving almost entirely out of character.
You didn’t fool us the first time, HELLRAISER. And you damn sure didn’t fool us a second time with the exact same twist.
The Twist: The movie never says when it takes place is because it takes place right now.
By 2004, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan had become a household name thanks to a series of genre thrillers with surprising endings. So when the first trailers for THE VILLAGE came out, and revealed that the filmmaker’s latest film takes place in an isolated location at a completely unspecified point in history, it was pretty obvious that something was up, and audiences had more than enough clues to guess where Shyamalan’s latest was heading.
Sure enough, THE VILLAGE is set in a village far away from civilization, and seems to take place in the past but not at a specific time, because the twist is that M. Night Shyamalan’s film actually takes place in the present day. Never mind that that doesn’t make sense, since there’s no reason for all the people in that village to pretend the outside world doesn’t exist except to fool the audience. Let’s just focus on the fact that many audience members were able to guess the twist from the trailer.