If you are one of those people that doesn't visit the cinema much and you’re stock piling all the great films of yester year to watch on a rainy day, you might want to stop reading now. Having said that, if you’ve been living under a rock since birth and don’t already know that Chewbacca is Luke Skywalker’s father its time to get with the times. The twist ending is a wonderful cinematic device but how anyone in this modern age doesn’t already know the secret finales to Hollywood’s greatest hits is beyond me. With the internet, twenty-four hour news channels, newsflashes by text and the constant drive by mankind to have everything and have it now, there is little room left for the closely guarded secret. Avatar (2010)
hadn't even hit cinema screens here in the UK and I already knew how that film ended thanks to cyberspace loudmouths. Delete your Facebook account? Yes please. The lunacy of the general public scares me sometimes. I was in a viewing of Fargo (1996)
once only for some ignoramus seated behind me to exclaim "Ah, the bit where he gets stuffed in the woodchipper is coming up soon. I better go take a piss
”. There’s never a wooden mallet around when you need one. So I urge you, before some movie-ruining numbskull spoils all the fun, go watch these movies. Watch them alone, in a sealed room with all communication devices turned off or dropped into a large bucket of water. It might seem drastic but I guarantee you half way through your viewing someone will ring up, "Sir, can I interest you in some double glazing? No? Well, thank you for your time sir. Oh, and Bambi’s mother dies. Goodbye
- PSYCHO (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock liked nothing better than leading his viewers up the garden path and his best deception remains the birth of modern horror cinema, Psycho (1960). Based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, itself inspired by the recent discovery of serial killer Ed Gein’s grisly Wisconsin home, Psycho astonished audiences with its brash scare mongering. Pre 1960 the most shocking thing to be seen on a drive-in screen was radioactive ants and Judy Garland without make-up. Suddenly audiences were faced with a cross-dressing maniac knifing a lady to shreds in the shower. The offing of Janet Leigh was shattering in 1960. She was by far the biggest name in the cast and Hitchcock did away with her barely one third of the way into the film. Viewers soiled their underwear and cried what now, as they puzzled over where the director was going to lead them next. The final reveal that there was no Mother just Anthony Perkins in drag with a kitchen knife for a friend was staggering. Sequels followed, Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986), Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), though Hitchcock had passed away before their inception. Gus Van Sant offered an underrated remake in 1998. The influence of the original picture was as heavy as any picture in cinema history, its taboo crushing motifs and frank portrayal of violence moved the thriller film into proper adult territory. It also opened a door for an army of horror directors to walk through, Romero, Cronenberg, Carpenter and many more marching through in the years to come.
Tasty Morsel - To ascertain which of the fake "Mother” corpses his effects department concocted was the scariest, Hitchcock would place them in Janet Leigh’s dressing room and listen to see which one produced the biggest scream.
- PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
Those damn dirty apes. When Charlton Heston’s astronaut gets caught in a time warp and lands on a far off planet run by hairy faced beasts, he is led to one of the biggest movie twists of all time. His shock discovery that they "blew it all to hell” is enough to drive someone to join an anti-weapon establishment. Or the NRA if you’re Heston. Pro disarmament undertones aside, Franklin J. Schaffner’s film still stands as one of the best science fiction pictures of all time. Based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle, despite the films b-movie title and peculiar plot it was a box office smash. The movies mammoth twist, that Heston hasn’t landed on a far off planet but has crashed on Earth many years into the future, was retained from a script treatment from Twilight Zone scriber Rod Sterling. Boulle’s original book had Heston’s character leaving the ape planet and returning to Earth to discover it to is monkey infested. A barrel load of monkey movies quickly followed though Heston turned over lead duties to Roddy McDowall. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1960), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1970), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) were sequels of diminishing quality. A television series appeared in 1974 and an animated series landed in 1975. Worse still an awful remake directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Whalberg in the lead role staggered on to screens in 2001. A new ape movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), swung into theatres in 2011 detailing just how Mother Earth was overrun by feisty chimps in the first place. It was a stunning return to form for the series.
Tasty Morsel – The movie dispensed with the original novel’s technological society which was said to be made up of fragments of technology left behind by the planet’s now extinct human population.
- SOYLENT GREEN (1973)
Chuck Heston must have liked a script with a tasty twist for a finale. Fives years after stubbing his toe on a beached Statue of Liberty he discovered the ultimate solution to world hunger. Roughly based on the 1966 sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, Heston plays New York detective Ty Thorn in the year 2022. The world’s population has swelled to alarming numbers with forty million in the Big Apple alone. Natural resources and food have been all but exhausted. To tackle the shortages the Soylent Corporation have devised a new food, little green wafers named Soylent Green. Whilst investigating the murder of a Soylent director Thorn steals one of the man’s books to give to his academic flat mate Roth (Edward G. Robinson, fittingly in his last role). From the book Roth learns the terrible truth behind Soylent’s new food stuff. Rather than the nutritious plankton Soylent said was the source of its green product, the wafers are made from human bodies harvested from an assisted suicide centre. It is a shocking but frighteningly plausible climax that becomes more pertinent as time goes by. Director Richard Fleischer crafts an affective glimpse into the future, our planet cooked by greenhouse gases and choked by pollution and over population. With global warming very much the topic of the moment many industrialists would do well to take a look at Fleischer’s film once in a while, lest they one day find themselves making up the two halves of someone’s future sandwich. A possible remake is on the cards tentatively ear marked for a 2012 release.
Tasty Morsel – The name Soylent was devised as a short-hand combination of soy and lentil.
- SPOORLOOS / THE VANISHING (1988)
How close would you have to be with someone in order to spend the next few years of your life obsessing over their disappearance? Either Rex’s wife Saskia was awesome in the sack or he really was in love. When Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) vanishes from a petrol station without trace Rex (Gene Bervoets) strikes up a tentative association with Raymond (Bernard Pierre Donnadieu), the man who alleges to know her whereabouts. When Raymond offers to show Rex what happened to his wife Rex digs himself a lot more than just a metaphorical hole. The buried alive motif was used later to great effect in Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) when Uma Thurman comical pulled herself out of a local graveyard, and in Buried (2010) when director Rodrigo Cortés audaciously crafted a whole film from this one terrifying set up. Director George Sluizer’s movie, based on the 1984 Tim Krabbe novella The Golden Egg, received much critical acclaim upon its release. Hollywood screwed up another classic in 1993 though when they remade the movie and tacked on a happy ending no one asked for or wanted. But strangely the director of this failed reimagining was Sluizer himself. He compiled an interesting cast, Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland in the two lead roles, and an early outing for Sandra Bullock. But with hero Sutherland clambering out of his earthy prison to kill tormentor Bridges and to be reunited with his new girlfriend, you wonder how Sluizer and script writer Todd Gaff failed to recognise the uniqueness of the original movie. One can only assume it was the meddling from we-know-better-than-you studio executives.
Tasty Morsel – Sluizer filmed an alternative ending in which Raymond is caught by the police.
- THE CRYING GAME (1992)
The man-is-actually-a-woman and the woman-is-actually-a-man trick has been a lucrative one in cinema. Kicking off with Psycho's Perkins in a frock shocker, the he-she twist has been used to effectively astonish audiences from the Jean Arless confusion in Homicidal (1961) to the horrifying penis reveal in Sleepaway Camp (1983). Usually a ploy of cheap horror movies, the tranny trick received a much needed boost of gravitas in the early nineties with the release of Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game (1992). Both written and directed by Jordan, we follow a group of IRA terrorists who capture a British soldier and hold him ransom. In classic Stockholm Syndrome style the soldier (Forest Whitaker) forms a bond with one of his captors (Stephen Rea). Whitaker is killed trying to escape, but before his death his convinces Rea track down and meet his girlfriend, Dil. Rea tracks the "lady” down and forms his own relationship with her. But Dil is not all she appears to be. Jordan repeated the clever trick of William Castle in Homicidal by hiring a performer for Dil whose name gave nothing away as to the sex of the character (Jaye Davidson). The film also employed a captivating advertising campaign that asked audiences not to reveal the movies’ secret. With promotion that intriguing audiences handed over wads of cash to discover the stories revelation. On a small £2.3million budget the movie turned a ferocious profit. Jordan won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Davidson earned a much deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actor; way to spoil the plot twist Uncle Oscar.
Tasty Morsel – Studios originally turned the film down as they assumed the film’s twist ending would put viewers off.
- THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)
Some films inhabit a moment. They are of their time and could only have been made at the exact instant they were created. The coming together of future A-list director Bryan Singer and a sextet of journeymen actors produced an all time classic in 1995, The Usual Suspects (1995). It follows the fortunes of six criminals as they become embroiled in a boat heist masterminded by über bad-guy Kaiser Sozyer. The identity of this ultimate badass was so secret that when actor Gabriel Byrne first saw the film at the world premiere he was astonished to discover that he was not Sozyer. The twist is a doozy and the mental piecing together of the clues by Joe Mantegna as Kevin Spacey hobbles out of the police station has entered Hollywood folklore. It is always the one you least suspect. Allegedly the idea for the film came to Singer when he read about the Claude Rains about "the usual suspects” from the film Casablanca (1942) in a magazine article. Picturing a perfect movie poster featuring the stories line up of dubious characters Singer joined forces with scriptwriter cohort Christopher McQuarrie to craft a devious tale of deceit and double crossing. McQuarrie’s work grabbed him an Academy Award for Original Screenplay and Spacey a Supporting Actor statuette, while glowing reviews and positive word of mouth saw the film’s reputation snowball. Coupled with a Crying Game-esque advertising campaign that teased with the question "Who is Kaiser Sozyer?” (which perhaps should have been twinned with "And who do you pronounce Sozyer?”) Singer’s first masterpiece ensured a steady flow of punters eager to find out if the devil did or didn’t exist.
Tasty Morsel – The role of Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) was offered to Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro but both actors turned the part down.
- THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
Whenever a movie comes out that has a unique ending you will always have a friend that says "Yeah, the twist ending, I worked that out in the first ten minutes. Didn’t you?”. Funny how none of these friends ever announce their findings before the twist is revealed. Maybe they are just preserving the twist for those that haven’t worked it out yet. Maybe they are just trying to be a smart ass. Don’t you just hate those people? Writer and director M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999) produced a greater number of smart asses than any film had before. Whether these quick witted viewers went into the cinema with a pen and pad to make notes as the movie progressed, I don’t know, but I never worked out that Bruce Willis’ child psychologist was a ghost. Perhaps I’m naïve or just dumb but I bet I enjoyed the film a lot more than those cocky brainiacs did. Willis’ patient in the movie is Haley Joel Osment, a sweet kid who is plagued by his ability to see dead people. These spooky encounters are the film’s highlight as we see various figures swinging ominously over shoulders and groping after an understandably shit-scared Osment. The movie’s tone takes a shift towards sentimentality in the final third but the heart string tugging is just the right side of schmaltz. Clues to Willis’ secret are apparently dotted throughout the movie, with flashes of the colour red supposedly giving the game away. A clever dinner table scene with Willis’ widowed wife should also tip off the truly smart assed viewer.
Tasty Morsel – Shyamalan wrote the role of child psychologist Malcolm Crowe specifically for Bruce Willis.
- FIGHT CLUB (1999)
The first rule of Fight Club (1999) is you do not talk about Fight Club. So if you’re thinking of spoiling the ending of this brain melting movie for someone think again, lest Brad Pitt come round and tan your ass. Despite the film being somewhat of a slow-burner in the popularity stakes, building in reputation between its lacklustre cinematic performance and dvd resurrection, the original story was always destined for greatness. Novelist Chuck Palahniuk came up with the idea for his underground fisticuffs society after getting involved in brawl on a camping trip. Returning to work his colleagues were reluctant to ask about the lumps and bumps he now carried on his face. The proverbial light bulb went off. Palahniuk first shot at the story turned into a seven page mini tale that featured in the compilation Pursuit of Happiness. The writer eventually turned the story into a full length book which garnered some very favourable reviews. Its tricky subject matter would make for a difficult transition to the screen but perennial handler of dark material, director David Fincher, was the man for the job. Jaded office worker Edward Norton meets charismatic soap maker Brad Pitt and between them they devise a secret club where men can meet to engage in some respectful face pounding. But the bruised knuckles are only part of the story, with powerful underlying motifs of disillusionment, fear of capitalism, masculinity, death and everything in between. Two of the eras finest performers, Pitt and Norton, carry the central duo with assured but quirky ease. Circling them are some wonderful performances from an off-beat cast that included Helena Bonham Carter, Jared Leto and Meatloaf. Though the movie failed to reach much of an audience in theatres Fincher went the extra step to ensure the dvd package rewarded the film’s growing cult reputation, being one of the first filmmakers to oversee the putting together of the a film’s "Special Edition” dvd release.
Tasty Morsel – Allegedly, the scene with Norton and Pitt drunk and smashing golf balls had the actors genuinely three sheets to the wind and knocking golf balls into the catering truck.
- OLDBOY (2003)
Here's an awkward moment. Father and daughter combos look away now. Based on the Japanese manga by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya, Oldboy (2003) was the second part of South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. The snaking storyline starts off in bizarre territory and makes its way into even stranger realms still. Oh Dae-su has been locked up in a single roomed apartment for fifteen years with no explanation as to why he has been imprisoned or who is responsible. His only nourishment was fried dumplings slipped through a slot and to preserve his sanity Dae-su built his fitness and fighting ability, shadow-boxing in his room. When he is finally released on the roof of the building Dae-su sets about tracking down those responsible. The only clue he has is the supplier of his now favourite dumplings. Dae-su falls in love with one of the chefs at the dumpling restaurant (and eventually gets her between the sheets) but when he finds his kidnapper, Woo-jin, he discovers to his horror that the chef is his daughter from fifteen years earlier. Woo-jin has exacted revenge for Dae-su spreading rumours about his own incestuous relationship with his sister. Despite the violence in the film (and live octopus eating) the sucker-punch storyline won through with critics, the film making a sizeable splash at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Fans agreed and Chan-wook’s movie became one of the most notorious Asian imports of the era. The director completed his trilogy, after the first film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005).
Tasty Morsel – As the actor Min-sik Choi is a Buddhist he had to pray after eating each octopus in that scene.
- SAW (2004)
It takes a fair bit of work for a film to fool me these days. Having squared my eyes with many hours of movie viewing I’ve seen just about every trick a writer or director can conjure. Well, I thought I had. That was until debut filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannell caused me to involuntarily yell "Holy shit” from the second to last row of Screen 3 in our local multiplex. It was December 2004 and I had just seen actor Tobin Bell creakily rise up from the floor of Jigsaw’s bathroom trap. In amongst the numerous twists of Wan and Whannell’s ingenious script I had forgotten about the body lying in between Whannell’s Adam and Cary Elwes’ Dr.Gordon. Watching Elwes dramatically saw off his right foot battered me in to handing over all my movie viewing common sense. The most obvious question, why is there a dead body in the room, got lost in a frantic muddle. As Jigsaw explains the whole saga to a flabbergasted Adam most viewers were left with their chins grazing sticky cinema carpet. The only time I closed mine was to utter the aforementioned profanity. The movie was a revelation, a critical and commercial success. The horrific traps set by Jigsaw kicked off a new sub-genre of horror movie, tagged "gorenography”, with graphic pictures such as Hostel (2005) and Wolf Creek (2005) throwing up all over the champions of good taste. A mini Saw industry also developed which included one solid sequel Saw II (2005) and then annual outings of ever decreasing quality and ever increasing gore, Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), Saw V (2008), Saw VI (2009), and Saw 3D (2010). More merchandise tat followed, including computer games, figurines, a Scream Queens reality television show and even a Thorpe Park theme ride.
Tasty Morsel – Tobin Bell insisted on staying in character and lying on the floor for the entire shoot during the scenes between Adam and Lawrence. Needless to say he was a bit creaky when he eventually stood up for his infamous final flourish.