Thursday, July 26, 2007

Twist List

I love twist endings in films and especially new or cleverly renewed ones. I find this is true of almost every modern film goer. We like to be surprised. Usually we complain if we figure out the ending in advance although we are often times unreasonably proud when we do. I think a common mistake is to judge the entire film by the ending (and especially by whether the viewer figured it out in before it was revealed), but there are cases where the conclusion can make a mighty difference.

Some of my favorite genres, like the giallo and film noir, have blazed the trail for the murder mystery twist ending and so I wish to pay homage to them while avoiding spoilers. Without including any specific titles or context, I've compiled a list of frequent twists types that show up in murder mysteries (or any other crime with an issue of identity). Please leave a comment if you think of other things that should be included, but please, no examples or titles.

Guilty parties:
- The protagonist
- The chief investigating officer (non-protagonist)
- Priest
- Butler (or most loyal, quietest or most humble suspect)
- Close family member
- Mob justice (multiple killers)
- Faceless corporation or government (conspiracy)
- Last act introduction of new character
- Supposed victim killed second person to fake death
- Suicide
- Accidental death
- No murder actually took place

Versions and Variations:
- Least obvious suspect
- Most obvious suspect (initially rejected)
- Collecting insurance or inheritance
- Multiple personality disorder or other mental illness involved
- Supernatural elements involved
- Murder committed in self defense
- Solved, but with wrong motive or method
- “Solved,” but only the audience figures out the real truth
- Never find out (ambiguity)
- Actually, the victim deserved it (truth not made public by protagonist)
- Alibi that is almost equally incriminating
- Prime suspect becomes next victim
- Previously unmentioned relationship (kin, romantic, military) revealed
- Loved one tries to take the fall for real killer
- Killer dies (often ironically through his/her own mechanizations) before being arrested
- Connection exists to old closed or unsolved case

- Presumed sex-crimes (or just beautiful victims) actually committed by woman


Mad Dog said...

What about the twist at the end of Rebecca? That was a few rolled into one...

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this, especially reliving all of the best "reveals" mentally as I read it.

As you know, I already made an effort (snarkily!) to come up with ones you had missed and failed terribly.

Mad Dog said...

Oh, Murder by Death had a few good twists rolled into one, too.