Content Warning: The following article contains discussions of suicide.
Horror movies are known for throwing curveballs at the audience. This can be something like an unexpected ending or a killer whose motivations were not what they seemed.
Sometimes, the curveball isn’t fully logical. There could be a plot twist revealing a villain that was obvious to everyone but the movie’s cast of characters — or a strain in credibility that’s just too much for the attentive viewer to buy. Either way, some plot twists are more realistic than others. However, just because a twist strains credibility doesn’t mean it’s bad.
9 Alternate Personalities – Identity (2003)
Identity was an early-aughts slasher with a unique twist, albeit one that derails everything the audience had seen before. The narrative primarily follows a group of unique characters trapped at a hotel on a rainy night. People are killed, others are blamed, and there’s only one man responsible.
The twist is that this one man is serial killer Malcolm Rivers, and the hotel is within his mind. All of the characters the audience just grew to know are imagined by one man without much of a fleshed-out personality. A twist shouldn’t negate the importance of the characters the audience has gotten to know. Regardless, Identity is still a fun murder-mystery movie.
8 Topsy Kretts – The Number 23 (2007)
The Number 23 starred Jim Carrey in a dramatic role as Walter Sparrow. Sparrow is a man who grows obsessed with the number 23 after reading a book sharing the film’s title.
The author of the book is named Topsy Kretts (top secrets), who is actually Walter Sparrow. His choosing that pseudonym both strains credibility and is a tell. Furthermore, Sparrow’s obsession with the number 23 is because his father scribbled it in a notepad before taking his own life. The twists in The Number 23 are somehow simultaneously predictable and too outlandish to be believable.
7 Human Puppet – Dead Silence (2007)
Dead Silence was an early, trademark-filled James Wan movie that didn’t hit it big with either fans or audiences. It follows Jamie Ashen, a young widower out to solve the mystery of his wife’s death. He returns to their hometown and learns the legend of slain ventriloquist Mary Shaw.
The twist in Dead Silence is multi-layered. Jamie’s father has several scenes throughout the film and never quite looks alive. The end of the film reveals that he isn’t; he’s a puppet. His wife, Ella, is actually inhabited by the evil Mary Shaw. “Ella” has been mimicking the voice of Jamie’s father and guiding his movements via a massive wound on his back. The ending strains credibility because Jamie would have noticed that something was seriously wrong with his father from the first moment.
6 Jamie Lloyd Is A Killer Now – Halloween 4 (1988)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers follows Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode (who is now deceased). When Michael returns to wreak more havoc, Jamie must survive with the help of her adoptive family.
Jamie holding the bloody pair of scissors comes out of nowhere and blunts the impact of an otherwise solid Halloween sequel. The audience is expected to believe that Michael Myers’ soul has taken over his niece and made her kill a relative. The ending is more reminiscent of the original film’s beginning than it is a logical conclusion to a narrative. It’s also never established that Michael’s spirit can be transferred, so the ending doesn’t even make sense within the franchise’s rules.
5 Esther’s Identity – Orphan (2009)
The plot of Orphan focuses on a grieving couple who adopt a girl named Esther. Soon, the Colemans notice strange behavior from Esther that escalates in severity.
Like the rest of the film, the twist of Orphan is successful, but it doesn’t fully make sense. Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer. Klammer was diagnosed with hypopituitarism when she was young. Her growth has been stunted and she has retained the appearance of a nine-year-old. Hypopituitarism does stunt growth and Isabelle Fuhrman is terrific as Esther, but she does not look like a grown woman with a pituitary gland disorder.
4 Mrs. Voorhees – Friday The 13th (1980)
Sean S. Cunningham’s original Friday the 13th (1980) follows several teens as they arrive to re-open Camp Crystal Lake. Throughout the evening, they’re stalked by a mysterious killer one by one.
Friday the 13th is an overall efficient film, but Mrs. Voorhees being the killer is a non-twist positioned as a twist. The character isn’t established in any way until her introduction in the third act. Her motivation for vengeance is sound and there’s something effective about her relative anonymity. Even still, a character (or her son) has to be at least mentioned prior to the reveal for a twist to be a twist.
3 Brahms Isn’t A Doll – The Boy (2016)
The Boy follows Greta (Lauren Cohan), a woman hired to serve as a nanny. However, she’s meant to supervise creepy horror movie doll Brahms, which she is told is alive.
The film takes the usual steps and gets progressively creepier. First, Greta is disbelieving of the doll’s sentience. Then, she starts to take it seriously. Finally, the twist: Brahms isn’t a boy who passed away 20 years ago and now inhabits a doll — he’s a man who has been living in the walls. There are many times throughout the movie where this would have been obvious to Greta. Furthermore, not all of the adult Brahms’ movements track logically. Greta will leave a room momentarily and then return to see the doll Brahms in a different position. Throughout the movie, there’s no way adult Brahms could repeatedly enter and exit the home’s walls with ease and no detection.
2 It’s All A Lie – The Village (2004)
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village takes place in a secluded, Amish-like community surrounded by ominous woods. The residents of the village are told that in these woods is a group of vicious monsters.
The twist of The Village is that the community’s elders have fabricated every aspect of the residents’ realities; the monsters are really just people in costumes. The elders aren’t afraid of anything in the woods but rather what’s beyond it. They’re not in the 19th-century; they’re in the present day. It is stated that the property is a wildlife preserve, so it’s logical that they were left alone. It’s also revealed that the government was given a pay-off to make it a no-fly zone. But it’s hard to believe that there’s never been an off-course plane flying over since the late 1970s.
1 Will Benson Is Ben’s Son – I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
A year after the events of the original, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer again follows Julie James, this time in the Bahamas.
This sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer features two killers, neither of whom make sense. The first revealed killer is Will Benson, who is the son of the Fisherman. Benson (“Ben’s son”) acts a little off throughout the movie. His reveal should have been as obvious to the characters as it is to the audience. The second killer is the Fisherman himself, Ben Willis, who apparently survived his fatal injuries in the original.