Friday, March 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Twists

There are two twists which should never be twists in your horror fiction. NEVER. I don't like the twist in short stories anyway, because there's not enough room to both develop characters AND set up a twist, but these twists should never occur in your fiction, because these are movie twists and fiction isn't film, and because they suck.

Since Sixth Sense there have been 4 types of American horror movies: the slasher movie, the monster movie, the dead-but-don't-know-it movie, and the split-personality movie. This is hyperbole, but almost not.

I'm going to spoil as few movies as possible, don't worry. I do feel bad for the kids who haven't watched Sixth Sense yet. The beauty of that reveal was an incredibly rare experience. If I had one of those Men in Black mind-wipers, I'd just sit at home and watch Sixth Sense over and over. To head off argument, I'm gonna say that I loved Jacob's Ladder. The trend just seemed to start after Sixth Sense.

It's gotten to the point where, when watching a horror movie, I can see the dead-but-don't-know-it twist as it occurs. I can call with 99% accuracy the moment where the main characters die, and I mean as it happens, not in retrospect. I keep watching because usually the movie has something else to offer, but it's still disappointing to know I'll have to sit through so much that the creators assume will be confusing and freaky when I know exactly what's going on. I can also spot it in fiction. So can everyone else. Don't use it, or at least don't expect the impact of your story to come from it.

The split personality twist is harder to spot. It's usually a variation on slasher. There's the killer, the hunter, and the victim, and the killer can also be one of the other 2 or all 3 of them. It's very reductive of the actual mental disorder, so while it seems to explain all sorts of freaky stuff realistically, it doesn't because it's based on a fiction of a real disorder, meaning it's still explaining freaky stuff with unrealistic fiction. It's a harder twist to spot, but it's unsatisfying because it's stupid.

I have many leather-bound books and a pipe and a deep voice and opinions and I'll tell them to you as fact blah blah blah.


  1. I also really enjoyed Sixth Sense. And mostly enjoyed Unbreakable. After Signs and The Village, though, I stopped watching movies directed by M. Night Movie-Sham.

    I'm old enough I saw Jacob's Ladder in theaters when it came out. I enjoyed it, but never really wanted to watch it again. Recently tried to watch The Machinist and it was so obvious where they were going from the beginning, and it was just so damn slow and pointless and staggeringly unoriginal. My 17-year-old son watched it to the end. The concept was new to him. I guess that's how they expect to get away with it: population growth. ;-)


  2. You just described my personal experience with M. Night, fo sho.

    For awhile, and yeah, it was during the time the Machinist came out, I would get at least one movie a week with that twist.

    I've been pleasantly surprised only a few times by it. Once when it happened in reverse, the protag lived and was in a coma, everyone else had died and were trying to lure her across, and once when both twists happened in the same movie!

  3. The protagonist was the killer all along! Gasp!

  4. The real challenge is in combining as many of those twists as possible. Then, the final twist: There is no twist.

  5. Bubba, in that direction lies madness! The brain is like a wire. It can only handle so many twists and detwists before it snaps altogether!

    Unfortunately, this leads directly to twist #2: the split-personality.