Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ruining every movie surprise in history

There are lots of ways to deflate the twist ending of a motion picture. A clumsy friend can blurt out too much information. A reviewer can spoil the plot by revealing secrets. You can cruise YouTube looking for videos of a favorite actor and stumble across one that gives away a finale, such as this excerpt from the 2004 thriller "The Secret Window:"



But until I accidentally discovered Greatest Plot Twists, I had no idea someone had devoted an entire site to giving away surprise endings -- in fact, surprises all the way through a movie.

It's helpful if you want to read about "Saw" without sitting through it, because you're afraid the film would be too gruesome. And other places (notably Wikipedia) also offer long plot summaries that can be full of spoilers. But this site simply ruins one movie twist after another.

It's alphabetized into 50 sections of roughly 6 to 10 films each, and it devotes itself to revealing death dreams ("It was all a fantasy"), conspiracy theories, identity switches, films-within-films and every other possible thing that could make us jump.

Nor does the site stick with famous movies. The "S" section includes not just "The Shining" and "Se7en" but "The Screaming Skull," "Session 9" and "Sex and Lucia." And sometimes the explanation can be as baffling as the film itself: The account of "Memento," which I've seen multiple times, left me scratching my head.

Running through this list is addictive and harmless, as long as you stick to movies you've already seen ("Chinatown") or movies you know you'll never see ("China Moon"). It's also possible to appreciate a film such as "Thelma and Louise" when you know the startling ending. But reading the finales to suspenseful films such as "Tell No One" or "Hard Candy" is moviegoing suicide.

2 comments:

Mark Caplan said...

Sometimes I'll watch an oldie from the 1920s or '30s and then look up the contemporary review in the New York Times online archives. I was shocked to see that movie reviewers back then routinely revealed a movie's entire plot, including surprise plot twists and endings. It'd be interesting to know when reviewers stopped doing that, and why they did it in the first place.

Lawrence Toppman said...

At a guess, they thought they were writing "appreciations" for people who had already seen the film, not writing commentary for people who were making up their minds whether or not to see it. The practice probably tailed off when reviews started running on movies' opening days, rather than soon afterward.