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Epic double plot twists explained

Movie audiences have always loved a good plot twist. We love for the story to surprise us or to take us in a direction that we never saw coming. This is especially true these days. There's so much money on the line in the movie industry that it seems like studios are more willing than ever to play it safe and familiar, so a successful twist hits home even harder as audiences crave new stories.

That brings us to the double twist.

These are the movies that swerve multiple times, that keep you guessing right up until the very end. They're the movies that you immediately want to go back and rewatch, just to see all the little hints that get dropped throughout. And now, we're breaking down these plot twists so you can focus on the clues that lead to not one but two shocking surprises. (Obviously, there are plenty of spoilers below.)

Things get monstrous in The Mist

The Mist is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella, telling the tale of deadly monsters who invade our world, cloaked in an eerie, all-encompassing mist. A group of survivors hole up in a grocery store, and as the tension mounts, it's soon revealed that human beings are the true monsters. As things get gory in the grocery store, a small group — including a father and his son — eventually drive off into the mist, run out of gas, and find themselves surrounded by creatures.

The original King story ends around here, with our heroes heading into the mist and without a conclusion. That wouldn't do for director Frank Darabont. In his version of The Mist, the first big twist comes from David (Thomas Jane). Hoping to protect his friends and family from the monsters outside, he shoots everyone in the car, including his eight-year-old son. It's incredibly shocking, especially to those who've read the source material.

Even more shocking is the twist that immediately follows. After David shoots everyone except himself (not enough bullets), the mist suddenly clears, and the military fights off the monsters. Everything would've been fine if he'd waited 30 more seconds. It's a gut-punch ending, one that Stephen King himself called "terrific."

We see dead people in The Others

The Others is a masterclass in suspense — a slow burn creepfest that builds up tension before exploding in the final 20 minutes. There are a lot of twists and turns throughout, and it's difficult for the audience to gain any clear sense of what's truly happening. The reveals come fast and heavy, and just when you think you've got it figured out, it throws another one at your face.

At the end of The Others, the first big twist reveals that pretty much everyone is dead. The trio of creepy servants? Yeah, they kicked the bucket. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is definitely dead, and so is her husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston). Even the children have shuffled off this mortal coil after Grace smothered them to death before committing suicide. Talk about a dysfunctional family. 

But hey, the twists keep on coming. In a shocking reveal, the ghosts that the family have been seeing throughout the film are not ghosts at all. Instead, they're living people participating in a seance. They've moved into the house, and they're concerned it's haunted because they keep seeing the spirits of creepy Nicole Kidman and her children. The movie is convoluted in all the right ways, and it really makes us think twice when we hear something go bump in the night

The Prestige reveals more than one trick

Like many Christopher Nolan films, you aren't really sure where The Prestige is headed until it gets there. We think we have an idea of how Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale) are doing their tricks, but we aren't really sure until we see it. Like any good magic trick, the reveal is well worth the wait.

The film hinges around an act called "The Transported Man," but how is this bit of trickery done? Well, let's pull a page from the James Randi playbook and explain how the magic is made. First, Alfred is arrested after sneaking backstage and witnessing Robert drown. However, Robert's version of the trick creates an exact clone of him every time he does it, meaning the original needs to be killed. Otherwise there'd be two Hugh Jackmans running around. 

Sadly, Alfred is executed for Robert's "murder," despite his innocence. After the execution, Robert thinks he's in the clear ... and that's when the executed Alfred appears and shoots him dead. Does Alfred have a clone too? Not exactly. Instead, Alfred accomplished the teleportation trick (and the murder) by successfully hiding an identical twin from the world. So yeah, there were actually two Christian Bales running around. The A.V. Club summed up the double twist quite nicely, calling director Christopher Nolan "a master of cinematic misdirection." Now, if only we could make this "two Hugh Jackmans" thing a reality, then the world would be a better place.

Friday the 13th has a killer mom and a killer jump scare

One of the horror genre's greatest reveals is the identity of the killer in the original Friday the 13th. In the heyday of the supernatural serial killer, it's quite a surprise when it turns out that Jason Voorhees' mother, Pamela (Betsy Palmer), is the one picking off horny camp counselors to get revenge. It's actually somewhat refreshing that, unlike Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, Friday the 13th was essentially an extremely violent episode of Scooby-Doo. It seems supernatural, but there's a logical twist underneath the mask.

Once Pamela is dispatched, Alice (Adrienne King) takes a breather next to Crystal Lake. Nope, no zombies here. Then, the movie springs its final twist, which happens to be one of the most terrifying stingers in horror history. A decomposing Jason Voorhees leaps from the water and pulls Alice under, just as the police arrive. A scene later, Alice wakes up in the hospital, with no one else having seen Jason drag her off the boat and into the lake, and no one believing he was actually there. And they're right. He's never seen again.

Oh, wait, nope, there he is, in like 11 more films.

Things get unusual in The Usual Suspects

You know a movie's double twist is airtight when it explains the first one — and it makes perfect sense — before undercutting it with yet another twist to completely throw the audience off balance. And when it comes to that kind of cunning, the big reveal in The Usual Suspects is legendary, as the question of Keyser Soze's identity leads to one answer before pulling the rug out from audiences in a final montage.

When Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) explains to Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) the identity of Keyser Soze — not a "phantom" after all, but a true criminal mastermind — it lifts the veil and reveals a major plot point. It was Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) all along, manipulating the others in a revenge plot that seems to have worked perfectly.

A little too perfectly.

The gigantic twist comes moments later, when Verbal leaves the police station. As Kujan starts looking around his office, he realizes all the names, all the details, everything about Verbal's story came from objects he saw around the police station. Verbal made up the whole story on the spot. As the crook walks down the street, his limp disappears, and our minds are blown. Verbal was Soze the whole time, and he disappears just as Kujan figures it out.

The Wicker Man solves a terrifying mystery

The OG folk horror masterpiece, The Wicker Man is all sorts of bizarre from the get-go. When Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) goes to a mysterious island to investigate a girl's disappearance, he finds evidence of a bizarre cult that sacrifices virgins in order to ensure a good harvest. As he races to expose the truth, things go sideways in a hurry.

The first twist is that the missing girl is not really missing at all. Howie's hunch is correct, and the villagers are pretending she never existed. He (and we) assume they're doing this in order to use her as the virginal sacrifice.

We are very, very wrong.

The second, much bigger plot twist is that the whole thing is a set-up. The case that brought Howie out to this island was all a ruse. He's the actual sacrifice, and the poor guy is placed in a giant, wooden cage and burned alive to appease the gods. Medium argues that the best choice the film makes is that it never shows us whether the sacrifice actually works. It ends with the duality of Howie's suffering and the cult's jubilation. Oh yeah, it also ends with chills running up and down our spine.

Hot Fuzz has more than one action-packed plot twist

Hot Fuzz is a meticulously crafted movie from Edgar Wright, the second in his "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy," and an homage to our favorite over-the-top action films. It follows Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a London police officer who's reassigned to a tiny, seemingly perfect village named Sandford. However, his cop instincts kick in, and he starts to think the town is not nearly as idyllic as it seems.

The first big twist in Hot Fuzz is that Angel is correct — there is a serial killer afoot in Sandford, murdering people as part of some diabolical plan. Angel eventually surmises that it's an elaborate plot to stifle out competition for a local business and make a huge profit on valuable land sales. He explains it in great deal, and everything fits.

Until it doesn't.

He soon discovers there's actually an entire cabal of serial killers, and they don't really have a massive, money-making conspiracy. Instead, they just kill people who they think are hurting the town's chances of winning the "Village of the Year" award. Bad acting, lousy spelling, an ugly house — these are some of the reasons why regular people in Sandford are murdered. How's that for the greater good?

Frailty gets freaky with its big reveals

Frailty is a 2001 suspense film that should not be forgotten, as it's got an amazing cast and a pretty fun premise. In the present, a man named Fenton (Matthew McConaughey) goes to the police with information about a serial killer. He claims his brother, Adam, is the God's Hand killer, and that he can lead the police to him. Then the movie flashes back, and things get weird.

Back when Fenton and Adam were just kids, their dad claimed he could see people's sins by touching them. So naturally, he started bringing "sinners" to the family barn where he and the boys could bond over cleansing the world. They did this by murdering the unlucky victims he brought back home. These were obviously the rantings of a crazy man, and Fenton is trying to ease his conscience by finally reporting it. But that's when the twists start coming. Grown-up Fenton is not actually Fenton. He's Adam, the brother who claims to have the same gift as his demented dad. In fact, Adam actually murdered Fenton, believing his sibling was possessed by a demon. Then, the second big twist arrives.

Adam actually can sense evil in people. He killed Fenton because Fenton was indeed a murderer. Adam even sees visions that the detective he's been talking with the entire movie actually killed his own mother. The visions are real, and God is protecting Adam as he goes about his righteous murders. Can we get an amen?

Get Out gave us the perfect horror movie ending

A big part of why Get Out was such a huge success was because the film subverted so many horror tropes. Director Jordan Peele told IGN that his intention was to basically set the audience up. "The movie is in fact something you're not expecting it to be," Peele explained. "When you do that, the audience is forced to look at themselves and say, 'Well, why did I assume this was going on when he's been setting up bread crumbs the whole time?'"

Peele does this in multiple ways throughout his debut film. The first big plot twist comes when the Armitage family's scheme is revealed — they lure black men and women into a trap, where wealthy white people bid on a chance to have their minds implanted into these new bodies. It becomes a fight for survival, as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) battles against his oppressors and, eventually, triumphs.

Well, that's what we're thinking as Chris strangles the main bad guy, but suddenly, we see the flashing lights of a police cruiser. Normally, the arrival of the cops in a horror film would be a good thing. But for Chris, the only black man within miles of a murder scene, that's bad news indeed. We immediately assume the worst is about to happen, but luckily, it doesn't turn out that way. This is no cop. It's Chris' buddy, TSA agent Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), here to save the day. Still, for a brief moment, those flashing lights were a herald of something horrible about to happen.

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