Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Twist and Shout

Be unafraid. Everything I write here will remain Spoiler Free to avoid ruining your enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the shit discussed below.

One of the most hackneyed plot devices in modern cinema appears to be The Twist. You know, where everything you’ve just seen is A Lie! Or an Elaborate Hoax! Or Deliberately Misleading! Where everything exists solely for a punchline, invalidating the complex shenanigans of the previous ninety minutes or, alternatively, validating a huge slab of tedious build-up. Far too many films exist today purely for The Twist. And I don’t want to sit in a cinema for two hours just to watch someone do a variation on screaming “Not really! It was all a dream!” at my head.

Just to be absolutely clear, twist endings don’t constitute a last minute re-write because the filmmakers have no idea how to wrap things up, or because a test screening of two hundred morons in a mall in the asshole of nowhere didn’t like the original ending. Twist Ending, using my definition, is deliberate. The whole film deliberately builds towards it. Most films should still be able to stand tall without the twist. Sadly, more and more, it has become the movie’s raison d’ĂȘtre, and everything else is just subterfuge and window-dressing.

Man, I am so damn bored of the Twist. Granted, there are fine examples of The Twist. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Usual Suspects, Se7en, Fight Club, and Memento. All fine films enhanced by their closing moments. Significantly, they would still all be fine movies without the twist.

But here is where the problems start. I guessed the twist of The Others about half an hour into the movie, and I was disappointed to find my guess was spot-on at the end of the movie. Tim Burton was never going to be able to top the twist of the original Planet of the Apes, so he sidestepped the problem with an illogical swerve that, whilst entertainingly maddening, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. One of the worst twists in recent years, for me, was at the end of Basic, the much-touted reuniting of Pulp Hitmen John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. Manipulative bullshit fakery that screams contempt for every single person in the audience.

Nowadays, it seems that M. Night Shyamalan has rummaged through Chubby Checker’s wardrobe to steal the crown and make himself King of the Twist. But with each subsequent movie, the twist becomes more and more important, and the actual meat of the film, the damn story, is merely a tool to get you there.

The Sixth Sense – Pretty good twist if you don’t spot it in advance. Unbreakable – My personal favourite of his films, because it’s the only film that doesn’t live-or-die by the twist at the end. Without the twist, the film would still hold up. Signs – Ugh. The rot is starting to set in now. Crop circles and glasses of water. Just silly.

But what really prompted this tirade was The Village, a film I had the deep misfortune to suffer through over the weekend. Easily snags a high place in the Worst Films I’ve Ever Seen List (and I think you all know how many films I see. And I also have a pretty good tolerance level for crap. So, this film must stink pretty badly, right?)

The Twist here renders everything that comes before it utterly meaningless. To keep myself entertained during the movie, I tried to think of the worst possible twist ending. Shyamalan duly delivered, and gave me my Worst Case Scenario Twist.

NOTHING in this movie makes sense. I lost count of the number of plot holes and inconsistencies. None of the build-up justifies the ending and the absurd contrivances needed to get you there. The ridiculous “Those We Don’t Speak Of” are spoken of in Every Bloody Scene! At one point, Sigourney Weaver proclaims: “What nonsense are you saying?”, a charge she would have been better off levelling at the writer-director of this cinematic atrocity.

1 comment:

Bert said...

Quite agree. And I shall avoid The Village at all costs. Can't remember the last time I was truly shocked at an ending. Probably Kiss Me Deadly. I like ot be made to re-think everything that has preceded, rather than just slapped in the face. Works better as a plot `device' in books I feel.