I watched a video on YouTube by the group Overly Sarcastic Productions where they talked about plot twists. I actually mentioned it in last week’s post about why the plot twists in the Saw movies work when I mentioned some of the reasons that were listed for what makes a plot twist bad. The conclusion they came to was what makes a plot twist bad is if the twist contradicts canon or established plot points, it isn’t as clever as the film thinks it is, it’s more boring than not having a twist, or it has no meaningful impact. Now, granted, these can often overlap with one another and lead into a domino effect. But for the purposes of this list, I decided to take each of those reasons and think of my choice for a film that has the worst example of each.
Now, there were a few films that nearly made the list—I really wanted to put in the finale of Twilight’s plot twist but I couldn’t quite figure out which category to put it in, so it didn’t quite go there. And there were a few examples of “it was all or a dream or a vision” I can think of, but we’re all so aware of those plot twists now that I didn’t want to keep those in. I also was at one point going to put Signs in which probably should have a place for how bad its twist is, but Overly Sarcastic Productions already talked about that one and I didn’t want to repeat any of the films that they mentioned. I’m also not having TV examples, so some of the bad Game of Thrones plot twists will not be in here. With all that said and done, here are 4 films that had terrible plot twists for various reasons. Oh, and by the way, since I have to talk about the twists themselves, this one will have complete spoilers, so if you don’t want to have these films spoiled I’m going to actually say ahead of time what the films are and then I’ll explain why the twists are so bad below. So, this will contain spoilers for Red Lights, The Gallows, The Village, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You have been warned.
I have people disagree with me on this one, but Red Lights is one of the worst films I’ve seen just on the basis of its ending. And Red Lights should be a film after my own heart—it’s basically about a pair of psychic debunkers played by Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver who are trying to expose a high-profile medium played by Robert De Niro. The film implies some spooky stuff is going on throughout the investigation, but it also seems to really maintain that there is no such thing as psychic powers and that this is all a trick. The climax comes in a big show for Simon Silver, Robert De Niro’s character (who by the way claims to be blind); in which to expose him, a massive demonstration of psychic powers is shown off but is done by Cillian Murphy’s character. And it turns out he’d been psychic all along. Yeah, a lot of people told me that there is foreshadowing for this but I stand by this completely contradicting most of the film prior to what we had seen. The film was at pains to say there was no such thing as psychic powers. Hell, you could have made this plot twist better if he completely set up Simon Silver to make him think he had performed a demonstration of true psychic powers that was so believable he had to give himself away, which he does do in the film minus the fake part. This also folds kind of into the categories of being not as clever as it thinks and that it’s more boring than a non-twist ending, but the fact they contradict so much of the film building up towards it and scrap whatever potential it would have had is its biggest sin.
The Gallows you might recall as a film I named my Worst Film of 2015, and while, upon reflection, I might change that to the second-place film, Fantastic Four, I stand by that The Gallows is a mess of a movie. It also falls slightly into contradicting established plot points with its twist, and to a certain extent it’s more boring than having a non-twist ending, but this was a pretty boring film before this; I don’t think having the plot twist really did much to effect it. Anyway, The Gallows for those who haven’t seen it is a found-footage film at the height of cheap found-footage films dominating the horror market, which takes place at night within a school with an understudy for a famous play that was held years ago in which the understudy died when a prop went wrong. The rest of the film is now to make sure that this new kid wants to get out of it, so he and his friends break into the school to smash up the set, only to have the ghost of Charlie the Hangman slowly picking them off. Okay, we’ll get around to the levels of dumb for smashing up your school at night and filming yourself doing it, considering that this film has absolutely no excuse for why they’re all filming everything or who edited the footage together of these multiple cameras.
Let’s get to the actual plot twist at the end. See, there are four characters in this film: two guys, two girls. You don’t need to know two of them because they frankly don’t matter; the two you need to remember are Pfeifer and Reese. Reese actually gets out of the school but then notices that Pfeifer is actually being held captive on the stage, and believes the only way to save her is to act out the play. However, Pfeifer continues to keep acting as if she was in the play right up until the last minute when Charlie hangs him because he was the son of the person who was the understudy. But it turns out Pfeifer was in on it all along, and then the audience is her mum, Charlie’s girlfriend. Okay, Pfeifer’s mum was a character who was kind of established earlier in the film but honestly her place in this was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it; I swear when I watched this with a whole bunch of people in the audience, I audibly heard, “Who’s she?” So, as it turns out, it’s a big conspiracy just to kill him.
Right, this isn’t as clever as they think it is because it actually ends up raising more questions. Okay, so the film takes place in 2015 but the first play was happening in the early 90s; Charlie dies in the early 90s! That means Pfeifer must be in her 20s at least, but no, she’s a teenager apparently. But that’s definitely the only way it happens because Charlie’s girlfriend has to be pregnant with her just before he dies. And even then, why does Charlie want to kill him? It’s not as if he was set up to die by Reese’s dad, he just happened to get sick. He was the understudy. Would it have worked out the exact same way if Charlie hadn’t been the understudy? Seriously, this ending really sucks. And somehow it got a sequel which, no, I haven’t seen because even in lockdown I’m not that curious.
I had to get an M. Night Shyamalan film in here. Since Signs was out for its dumbass ending for what the aliens’ weakness was, I decided to go with The Village. The entire film is actually a decent build-up—it’s making you believe that this entire film is set during the 19th century with monsters keeping people from leaving this gated village out in the middle of nowhere. Turns out it’s actually taking place in the modern day—it’s a gated community and the monsters are just the village elders dressing up. Way to waste my time! This film was building to an excellent climax; it was full of intrigue and genuine suspense, and then it throws it all away for this terrible twist. I’ve heard this film described as the world’s most expensive episode of Scooby Doo, and I think that’s a great analogy for it. And clearly M. Night Shyamalan didn’t get the message because he kept making really bad and dumb twists. I was actually also considering Devil for its plot-twist but M. Night Shyamalan only developed the story for that one so it’s not entirely his fault.
I stand by my comments a few years ago: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the worst Jurassic Park film to date. Not just because it’s a terrible re-tread of The Lost World but the script is appalling as well. The film absolutely meanders around; goes nowhere; is a middle act for what is an unnecessary trilogy; has some of the dumbest characters in this series to date; has a terrible ending that contradicts much of what Jurassic Park’s philosophy’s all about. But let’s get to the plot twist. See, the film introduces us to Benjamin Lockwood—who is basically a stand-in for Richard Attenborough in this film—John Hammond’s best friend, who he never talked about for all the films he was in because apparently they had a falling out before the first Jurassic Park film or at some point in-between these movies, they never make it very clear. Anyway, Maisie is introduced as quite an important character, especially considering that her mother had died in the year and was now almost entirely reliant on her grandfather. However, after he’s killed in the middle of the movie, the film’s actual villain Eli Mills (played by Rafe Spall) reveals that Lockwood never had a granddaughter because Maisie is a clone of his daughter that he used John Hammond’s dinosaur technology to make.
Okay, putting aside that this is one of the dumbest things they could have put in from that rejected Jurassic Park 4 script which we should be thankful was never made, you notice I didn’t really talk about how this relates much to the plot as a whole. And the answer is because… it doesn’t! It’s entirely meaningless—you could take this out and it would have literally no impact, which also puts it into the category of being more boring than a non-twist option. It also falls into being not as clever as it thinks it is. What does it say about anything? What? John Hammond was creating dinosaurs on an island but he’s suddenly annoyed that his best friend has made a clone of his daughter, which doesn’t pose a threat to anyone? Again, it’s utterly pointless. Why is this in the movie? What’s worse is it’s used to justify the dumb ending just so we can have the next Jurassic World film next year.
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