What good is a twist if people can guess it?

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  • What good is a twist if people can guess it?

    We rented Lucky Slevin last night and about 4 minutes into the film my guy guessed the twist.

    When I first watched Sixth Sense, I figured out the twist because (1) they overworked the "I see dead people" trailer so much it tipped me off and (2) The Willis character being ignored by his wife was a big hint.

    And in both of the above films, once you set the twist aside, they're very standard genre fare. Which leads me to wonder if the writer/director/producer bet the farm on the twist carrying the film.

    So ... let's discuss twists. Better to build a story with or without them?

    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

  • #2
    Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

    Hmm, I dunno. Surprise me.

    -Derek

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    • #3
      Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

      Originally posted by sc111 View Post
      ...once you set the twist aside, they're very standard genre fare.
      Same with The Others and The Usual Suspects. They rely entirely on the ending, and the rest of the story suffers because of it. Remove the twist and you're left with a very ordinary, perhaps even boring story.

      My writing partner and I are currently rewriting a script that has a twist ending. One of the things we're taking a very close look at is one of the main characters who plays a key role in the story's conclusion. Apart from that, the character doesn't have much else to do. So we're giving her a goal of her own that appears to be one thing until a bit of information is revealed at the end that shows the character's real motivation. So even without the twist, the story could continue in the originally percieved way and still be exciting.

      I think the key to making twist endings work is to make the story work without them first. Rear Window could have had a twist, but it didn't (thankfully).

      I'll go into more detail about my beliefs on this when I get back.

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      • #4
        Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

        If nobody can figure it out beforehand, then the twist is too good: in other words, it does not have enough grounding in the story.

        "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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        • #5
          Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

          When I tell people I'm writing/have written a screenplay -- often they ask "do you have a great twist?! A good surprise! I love surprise endings."

          I"m like:


          Then.:


          And


          Because to me the person who consumes a movie for the tricks or even the mainstream sell-out "high concept" is like a person who has sex just for the orgasm.

          So shallow. So weak. So unrefined.
          Great lovemaking is in the touch, the sensuality, the emotional connection of every moment ...just as great screenwriting is in the subtlety of the moment, a moving second of dialogue that you'll always remember, a character's chilling decision. I am not there .... in front of a movie ...for the twist.

          No, it shouldn't be predictable ...but I dont' question whether it's surprising or predictable...I question: Is it true to its character and spirit?...does everything arise and therefore "prove" or illustrate a great truth about life/humanity (the theme/thesis)? That's what affects me.

          I watched. Wedding Crashers recently. Once you get over the fact that these people crash weddings just for sex, it's not funny or interesting. A rerun of Meet that Parents -- that's funny.

          There's a thread now about Inside Man. Sure the concept/title seemed clever, I guess. but I was not moved. IT was poorly executed.

          I just watched Blue Lagoon from Netflix. My god, the impact of that is still with me two days later.

          i prefer a moment, rather than a trick.
          As I hope men prefer as classy, complex lady, to a cheap, garishly made-up whore. It's really the same.
          "The question isn't who will let me, but who is going to stop me?," -- Ayn Rand (via Howard Roark in The Fountainhead)

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          • #6
            Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

            Originally posted by sc111 View Post

            When I first watched Sixth Sense, I figured out the twist because (1) they overworked the "I see dead people" trailer so much it tipped me off and (2) The Willis character being ignored by his wife was a big hint.
            A similar experience. I was very distracted by the fact that he never had any interaction with his wife. I knew something was up. Kept jokingly asking myself," is he invisible? WTF?"

            It was so distracting i couldn't enjoy the movie. That, & i didn't find it creepy, scary or surprising. I was bored thru the whole thing & that kid annoyed the crap out of me.

            So by the time the big surprise came, i couldn't give a shlt. It was all a let down.

            Anyway... agree pretty much w/ what's been said here re: twists. I have zero urge to write a script w/ a
            the big gimmicky twist ending. It's becoming a pet peeve of mine.

            I'm very suspicious of a movie that uses it. I get the feeling that in some ways it's a crutch. Some filmmakers use the twist so they don't have to do the real work of devolping char, & in turn, eliciting real honest emotion.

            It all becomes some slick, superficial parlor game. And i don't find movies as parlor games/mind f*cks all that interesting.

            I'd rather see movies that genuinely move me through char revelations, conflict, and story progression, etc. It's the whole story & how it's presented that counts, not just the ending.

            "Trust your stuff." -- Dave Righetti, Pitching Coach

            ( Formerly "stvnlra" )

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

              Originally posted by Synthia View Post

              i prefer a moment, rather than a trick.
              As I hope men prefer as classy, complex lady, to a cheap, garishly made-up whore. It's really the same.
              I like it when the seeming cheap, garishly made-up whore turns out to be classy and complex.

              The problem with the films marketed as having a great hook end up being derailed because of that expectation. I enjoyed The Sixth Sense for what it was because I saw it opening weekend, with no word-of-mouth hints and no coy reviews making me deconstruct the film as it played out, trying to anticipate the twist.

              The Usual Suspects was the exact opposite...I'd heard so damned much about how damned clever the twist was that I guessed it in the first act and spent the rest of the movie hoping that the twist was that the twist wasn't the obvious one. Wrong on me.

              I suppose the screenwriter tactic would to be to design a kind of obvious twist and then confound expectations with a different one.
              "Forget it, Jake. It's Hollywood."

              My YouTube channel.

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              • #8
                Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                Seems most of us agree.

                The Others, yes, that's another one -- the twist was sort of ruined because we were all hip to the Sixth Sense twist. However, at least the twist in Others was fully integrated with the story, in Sixth Sense it seemed like a tag on.

                About shallow, hook-dependent stories... I'll take off my aspiring screenwriter's hat here and put on my film lover's hat & say ...

                ... as a film lover I feel like I've been kicked to the curb by the industry.

                They're like the lover who says, "No, I didn't forget your birthday, I just didn't feel like giving you anything."

                Or, "Yeah, I know what you want and what you need in our relationship, I'm just going let you twist in the wind because - where else are you going to go? You're stuck with me."

                I know we've all had this discussion before - there's the camp which says the majority of films coming out each year are truly disappointing. Then there's the camp which says it's all in our imagiination - every decade had lousy films.

                I'm in the first camp - HW doesn't even seem to be trying anymore.

                Lucky Slevin for example -- look at the talent in that film, look at the results. I felt bad for the actors - especially Kingsley and Freeman -- although they all did the best with what they had. Inside Man - ditto.

                Sure, 'Concept Is King,' but give me characters I care about otherwise it doesn't matter how clever your hook or twist may be.

                Most films of late I've seen - I can barely remember them a couple of days later. The only films in the last few years that seem to stay with me have been by Scorcese and Speilberg.

                And then I put my aspiring screenwriter's hat back on and think ... "What the hell am I doing?"
                Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                  The mere fact that people still talk about how awesome they are for knowing/realizing/figuring out the twist in The Sixth Sense should tell you something about the impact that movie had. You really think that its bad to write a movie like that? People need to stop acting like they're churning out Cassablancas. If you think any movie that you figure out the twist in sucks, fine, must suck for you because yes, if you're a screenwriter they become quite easy to figure out. Its the same with non-twist movies that you can predict everything that will happen, right down to exact, particular lines of dialogue. Oop, guess we better throw out almost every movie ever because we generally know what will happen at the end. Just deal with it. If its a bad writer and bad collaborators making the movie, it doesnt much matter if it has a twist or not, does it?

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                  • #10
                    Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                    Originally posted by Signal30 View Post
                    I like it when the seeming cheap, garishly made-up whore turns out to be classy and complex.
                    Hell yeah! That's always great.
                    "The question isn't who will let me, but who is going to stop me?," -- Ayn Rand (via Howard Roark in The Fountainhead)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                      It's interesting that a couple of people have talked about the hype, the trailers, the clips that they'd seen before seeing the movie. It amazes me that anyone can see a big budget movie without being so clued up on what's happening. Case in point, Terminator II. If you watch the movie it's clearly menat to misslead you into thinking that Arnie is the bad guy and the Patrick is the goodie, right up to the point where they both catch the kid.
                      But every trailer, news article, review for months was full of "Arnies back! And this time he's the good guy!"

                      Specific, last scene, twists like Usual Suspects and Sixth Sense can usually be kept secret, but everyone says they "Wont spoil the twist for you" which kinda ruins it anyway.

                      (BTW I thought Suspects did quite well in giving you a "Twist" that Keaton was Soze. It was plausable and if that had been the end it would have been okay. Made the actual twist better.)

                      Some of the best twists I've ever seen have been in movies I'd never heard about before. You go in totaly in the dark about what the whole movie is about.

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                      • #12
                        Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                        I actually have a lot of favorite movies from the last few years and NONE of them have fully banked on a twist: Collateral, Mystic River, Brokeback Mountain, The House of Sand and Fog, The Cooler.

                        Sure, w/Mystic River -- we find out that the wrong person was killed --- but it was not some cheap trick -- it was SO right so perfectly integrated into the film's thread about how loyalty/bonds between PAIRS is greater than ANYTHING -- even the law (wink, wink, shrug, shrug at the end!). Don't you just feel sorry for the odd man out. If only the wife hadn't sold out her husband (the real crime). And the poor pathetic solo boy at the end is gonna be just like his dad. You're nothing if you don't have a kick-ass wing man. Hell, even the molester had his sidekick.

                        Anyway, you can tell I LOVE this movie. To me it's the No. 2 movie ever made (behind Taxi Driver). .


                        One movie with a twist that did move me was Matchstick Men. Yes, I was shocked, hurt, and disappointed by the reveal. I'm sure all you clever people had it figured out. And I knew the best friend was playing a trick, but not the "daughter." I REALLY wanted him to have a daughter. And they played off each other SO well. But you know, he needed that trick and he still grew as a character from it. So, I felt it was a very rich "gimmick."
                        "The question isn't who will let me, but who is going to stop me?," -- Ayn Rand (via Howard Roark in The Fountainhead)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                          Originally posted by TodayIsTomorrow View Post
                          Its the same with non-twist movies that you can predict everything that will happen, right down to exact, particular lines of dialogue. Oop, guess we better throw out almost every movie ever because we generally know what will happen at the end. Just deal with it.
                          Just. Deal. With. It.

                          Sigh.

                          Let me guess - you're an industry exec or an aspiring industry exec.
                          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                            Originally posted by TodayIsTomorrow View Post
                            The mere fact that people still talk about how awesome they are for knowing/realizing/figuring out the twist in The Sixth Sense should tell you something about the impact that movie had. You really think that its bad to write a movie like that? People need to stop acting like they're churning out Cassablancas. If you think any movie that you figure out the twist in sucks, fine, must suck for you because yes, if you're a screenwriter they become quite easy to figure out. Its the same with non-twist movies that you can predict everything that will happen, right down to exact, particular lines of dialogue. Oop, guess we better throw out almost every movie ever because we generally know what will happen at the end. Just deal with it. If its a bad writer and bad collaborators making the movie, it doesnt much matter if it has a twist or not, does it?

                            I don't think twist movies suck if you figure them out. I think they suck if they bank everything on the twist. And the twist is the greatest thing about the movie.

                            I happen to like Sixth Sense. And I actually LOVE The Others -- because it was a unique argument for the ghosts ...that we invade their space and distress their lives. I relish that movie every time I watch it -- despite knowing how it will end.

                            The characters are excellent. The acting and story development superb. The atmopshere -- chilling. And the twist isn't done with a heavy-handed "look at me" feel as it would have been with M. Night, Tarantino or Spike Lee.
                            "The question isn't who will let me, but who is going to stop me?," -- Ayn Rand (via Howard Roark in The Fountainhead)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: What good is a twist if people can guess it?

                              TodayisTomorrow is right - most movies are predictable - the good guy wins after enduring some hardship.

                              Why have action sequences where the hero is in danger when we know he/she's going to live? Because it's fun to think that we don't know what might happen. Fun!!!! Hurray!!!!

                              If a twist can make you guess and then wait to find out if you're right then that's what good it is. Guessing + waiting = good.

                              And yeah, if the whole movie doesn't rely on the twist, then it's good. Usual Suspects had some fine acting and other stuff going on, The Others had creepy tone and a couple of chills, etc.
                              sasqits
                              Regular
                              Last edited by sasqits; 11-19-2006, 12:44 PM. Reason: God, must there be a reason for everything? Yes? Okay. I edited because I was in the mood for some editing.

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