Movie hooks a la Sixth Sense. Or not. **SPOILERS**

When the Sixth Sense came out a couple of years ago much was made of the twist at the end, as if it was a new development in film. Well, we all know that’s not true: Lots of movies have that unexpected twist; we’ve just forgotten about them. I just think there are different categories of hooks.

I was reminded of this when I caught the last half of the 1966 film A Big Hand for the Little Lady this afternoon.

And as I watched, I was reminded of a few other “hook” movies - Suspect, The Usual Suspects, and The Sting…and arbitrarily decided the last three are not in the same league.

IMO, the first two movies have a hook that has nothing to do with the plot. That is: The fact Bruce Willis is dead has nothing to do with the main thrust of the movie - namely, fixing Haley Joel Osment’s head. In Big Hand, the viewer has no idea there is a fix until nearly the last scene - up to that point, the movie is a rather formulaic dramedy.Contrast this with the last three movies I listed where, respectively: you know someone did it but not who; you know someone did it, the cops are searching for someone who did it, and you learn who did it; and, finally, you know there’s a fix - it’s just a different fix.

Which leads to the ideas I’d like some feedback on:

  1. Am I completely off?
  2. If I am completely off, why?
  3. If I am not completely off, what other movies would you put in my first category?

You’re not off. Hundreds of movies and books use this ploy. Just somehow making the ending slightly different from what the reader/viewer thought they were going to experience.

Examples: Rebecca, PSYCHO, Pulp Fiction (well the ending…sort of ties everything together), and pretty much any mystery novel or short story.

Actually, Zoggie, that’s kinda my point. I swear I have a point here; I just don’t know if I can make it clear.

Rebecca, for example, had A denouement. You just didn’t know what was, exactly, the punchline. Ditto the remainder of your movies, the last three movies I listed above, crime scripts, mystery scripts, “The Twilight Zone” scripts…

In those movies, v leads to w leads to x leads to y leads to the ultimate z.

Compare that to Sixth Sense, where the plot is about a top child psychiatrist fixing the horrors in a child’s head - UNTIL the viewer finds out the top child psychiatrist is <see spoiler box>. And when one knows the hook, the whole thrust of the movie changes.

That make more sense?

I would put Fight Club in the first category. Watching it, not knowing what to expect, that twist came right out of left field. I was watching it with a friend, and we were both sitting there saying “its almost like he’s his alter-ego”, without anticipating the twist at all.

The twist comes, and suddenly you see the file up to that point from a completely new and different perspective.

I would put Fight Club in the first category. Watching it, not knowing what to expect, that twist came right out of left field. I was watching it with a friend, and we were both sitting there saying “its almost like he’s his alter-ego”, without anticipating the twist at all.

The twist comes, and suddenly you see the film up to that point from a completely new and different perspective.

The biggest example of this I can think of would be No Way Out. You think you know exactly what’s going on the whole movie, and suddenly, the ending throws you an incredible curve.

What about “The Cube” or “Cube” - has anyone seen that? I’m not sure that it is the first category of twist, but certainly I never anticipated it. Very freaky movie.

Note that many of these alledged “twists” are not twists at all.

It is inconceivable to me that anyone with normal intelligence would not have caught on to what was going on with Bruce Willis’s character right away. I knew what was going on after the bathroom scene, before he met HJO for the first time. (It was still an enjoyable film as I was watching from the perspective of “when will Willis catch on”?)

Similarly, I watched “A Beautiful Mind” last weekend and saw right away what was going on with the Parcher character. (And that there was something odd about the roomate. Only a little surprise there.)

“Fight Club” did surprise me, but since I hated the movie I didn’t care about what was going so I wasn’t analyzing it as I watched.

“The Usual Suspects” is not in this class. You knew right away that someone was not who they seemed to be, you worked it thru as you watched as to who it could be, suspects being truly eliminated, so the ending was just telling you who it was. Just a revelation, not a twist. Most mysteries are of this form.

“Psycho” does belong because it leads you to believe one thing for a long time and then it turns out to be another. Plus killing the star in the first half of the movie was a pretty big twist for that time.

I’m gonna have to disagree with you on The Usual Suspects, ftg. The movie builds up a considerable head of steam pointing the finger of deduction right at one character, only to have all the rationale behind that pointed finger turn into so much mythologizing when you realize it has been coming out of the mouth of the person in question all along.

From a storytelling perspective, I think it has a lot in common with Faulkner’s short story “Spotted Horses.”

…or Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

It’s been parodied to some extent, including a bit from Titan A.E. (the characters try to bluff their way past a prison guard, but he sees through their ruse with Sherlockian insight, and they have to pummel him into unconsciousness. Preed: “Well, well. An intelligent guard. I didn’t see that coming.”)

Deathtrap was loaded with twists; in fact, there wasn’t really much of a plot without the twists. Sleuth also has a buttload of twists, though the main one…

Although it’s pretty obvious that Michael Caine is playing two characters; Milo Tindle and Inspector Doppler, the big “shocker” is supposedly that Inspecter Doppler is just a disguise worn by Milo Tindle, as a means of seeking revenge on Laurence Oliver’s character. As a result, Caine is really only playing one character.

…is actually pretty silly.

Not quite. We see at the beginning of the movie that Gabriel Byrne’s character is shot to death by a man he identifies as “Kase”. This event is completely independent of Verbal Kint’s (Kevin Spacey) descriptive flashbacks and thus ruins the notion that Byrne was Kase Soze. And if you eliminate Byrne, there simply isn’t any other solution to who could be Kase Soze, except for the way it turns out. It’s a bit of trickery to present the crucial clue at the beginning and then misdirect the audience with flashbacks so they forget all about it by the time the climax arrives.

It remains one of my favourite movies, nonetheless.

Se7en has a similar problem. John Doe (also Kevin Spacey) walks into the police station covered in the blood of another person. Trouble is, the movie so far has been concentrating so heavily on grossing out the audience that there simply haven’t been enough supporting characters developed to be the mystery victim. For the last murder to have significance, the victim would have to be someone the audience was already familiar with, and there simply isn’t anyone, other than the one character it turned out to be.

Having avoided spoilers thus far, I now gleefully throw one in for a movie I actively disliked. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country spends a lot of time trying to find the saboteur/murderer aboard the Enterprise. Unfortunately, aside from the original seven cast members (technically six; Sulu was on another ship), only one character has actually had any dialogue. Duh, it can only be Valeris (Kim Cattral). Now, if it had turned out to be Uhura or Chekov, that would be a twist and a half!

What twist is there? There is (deliberately) no explanation of why they are in the ‘cube’, nor of what is beyond the ‘cube’. It is really a metaphor for life (where did we come from, why are we here, who put us here, what happens when we leave etc…) and whilst being an interesting film it doesn’t, to my mind, fit into the same catagory being discussed here.

Good point, Bryan. I had forgotten about that prologue.

I will still maintain that at least I know how to spell Keyser’s first name.


Planet of the Apes (the original not that PoC with Marky Mark)

Oh my god I was wrong
It was Earth all along
Oh you finally made a monkey
(yes we finally made a monkey)
Oh you finally made a monkey out of me

I beleive that in Start Trek VI it was supposed to be Savik but they didn’t want to have a third actress play the role. Would have made a much better shock.

my favourite movie of all time. it should be number one on the best movies since movies began list.

dead again.

a most perfect movie.