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ONTD Original™: 20 Strange Twists in Horror & Suspense


Every movie should have a twist - something unexpected that changes the story for the better (or worse). The twist is a popular plot device in the horror and thriller genres. Some are better than others, though. This is a list of twists that range from good to bizarre to just plain horrible.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

"There's something wrong with Esther."

Plot: A grieving couple decides to adopt a nine-year old girl after a tragic loss. The new addition to the family isn't so innocent, though. 

This thriller from 2009 was welcomed with mixed reviews. Some initially panned it as yet another "bad seed" movie. Orphan was much more than that, though.

This horror mystery's saving grace was ultimately the performance of the antagonist. It was generally agreed that Isabelle Fuhrman played Esther amazingly, and it is rare to see a young actor portray such a complex character so well.

Esther was not a ten-year old child. In fact, she had a hormonal disorder (hypopituitarism) that stunted her physical growth. So Esther was actually 33-years old, posing as a kid.


April Fool's Day
Directed by Fred Walton

"Don't let the joke be on you!"

Plot: When a young woman invites her friends to her family's island mansion, an unseen killer begins to pick them off one by one.

Fred Walton's debut movie When a Stranger Calls was un-fulfilling: a good opening with a decent finale, but the middle portion was agonizing and tedious. His next film, April Fool's Day, was a solid improvement. The twist still annoyed a number of viewers.

There was no killer, and no one died. Everything was staged, and it was all part of Muffy's test run for turning her family's mansion into a weekend horror resort.

Directed by Don Gronquist

"The nightmare begins when you wake up."

Plot: En route to a concert, three students crash their car in the isolated woods. They wake up in a secluded mansion, being taken care of by a stranger, Marion, and her overbearing mother. The longer they stay, the more the girls learn about their caretakers' dark secrets.

Unhinged would almost be forgettable if not for the ending, which almost seems like the inspiration for another slasher that came out the following year. Otherwise, this movie is a bit of a chore as the acting is amateur and the kills are few and far between.

The lone survivor suspected that Marion's disturbed brother was the one that killed her two friends. In the end, it was revealed that Marion was a man dressing as a woman. He did this because his mother truly hated men. Marion continued to hack the last girl to pieces before resuming his role as the dutiful daughter. The mother always accused Marion of having male suitors around because she randomly heard a male voice. That voice belonged to Marion.

Rosewood Lane
Directed by Victor Salva

"Evil dwells in the most unlikely places."

Plot: When a radio psychiatrist moves back to her hometown after her father passes away, she is tormented by the neighborhood paperboy.

This psycho thriller was not too well received, and not just because of the director's seedy past. There are plot holes, and one too many instances where a character's lack of logic is too much to tolerate.

The paperboy was from a set of a triplets. They were presumably split up when they were younger, with each one being adopted into a different family. The three secretly reunited, and they were each other's decoy when necessary. This was how the paperboy was in two places at once, or why he always had an alibi for his crimes.

Directed by George Ratliff

"Not all children are innocent."

Plot: Nine-year old Joshua's behavior turns sinister after his parents bring home another child.

This dramatic thriller about the downward spiral of a family is a prime example of how to do a "bad kid" movie without resorting to Damian-isms or the occult. Jacob Kogan is especially great as the titular character. A lot of people missed out on this underrated film - now that's the real crime here.

Joshua frames his father and he is arrested. In the end, the young boy sings a song to his uncle Ned. The song basically reveals that Joshua wanted everyone else gone so he could be with Ned. There is a theory that there may have been something going on between the uncle and his nephew, possibly grooming or sexual abuse.

Hide and Seek
Directed by John Polson

"Come out come out whatever you are."

Plot: A therapist, David, tries to cope after his wife commits suicide. He and his daughter move to a new town, but the young girl worries her father when she conjures an imaginary friend named Charlie.

People are divided about this film. Some enjoy the acting while others berate it for the abundance of red herrings and a letdown ending.

Charlie was David, who suffers from a split personality. Dakota Fanning's character went to live with a family friend at the end. In her own drawing, the child is depicted as having two heads. This hints at the girl maybe having the same disorder as her father.


Directed by Adam Green, Joel David Moore

"You can't paint over your past..."

Plot: Mason is a lonely introvert and painter, and his only friend is his boss Berkeley. He eventually becomes enamored with Amber, a girl that works in the same building.

Spiral, like Love Object, can be considered a male version of cult favorite May. You have an awkward main character that most will find equally exhausting and intriguing. Sometimes Joel David Moore's performance is a bit self-indulgent, but Amber Tamblyn breaks it up as the whimsical love interest.

Mason devotes a single sketchbook to one girl that he's obsessed with. He has done this several times. His latest object of affection, Amber, discovers these sketchbooks and tries to cool things down with Mason because she is freaked out. When Amber confronts him, Mason attacks her. Berkeley finally tells him that the other women never existed, and this Amber was probably not real either as they never met. Mason confesses that he hurt Amber, even showing his bloody hands. Berkely convinces his friend that it's just paint, and that nothing happened. Mason goes to clean up while Berkeley has a chat with another boss in the office. He tells Berkeley that one of his employees, Amber, never showed up to work that morning. Berkeley rushes to find Mason, who is long gone. 

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Directed by Jonathan Levine

"She's to die for."

Plot: The popular kids invite classmate Mandy, who blossomed over the summer, to spend the weekend at a ranch. The partying stops once the guests start to disappear.

This indie slasher was lost in limbo for some time as the failure of Grindhouse influenced the Weinstein Company's decision to sell the movie. When the new owners went out of business, Mandy Lane was left shelved. The Weinsteins re-acquired the rights, and the film was ultimately released in the U.S. in 2013. Was the wait worth it?

Shot on a tiny budget, Mandy Lane has the looks of a vintage grindhouse picture. In spite of how fresh it came off as, the bogus ending left a sour taste in a lot of mouths.

The killer was Mandy's best friend Emmet, who she had seemingly abandoned once she became more popular. The two had concocted this murder-suicide plan together. However, Mandy does not intend on killing herself. She gets rid of Emmet and then drives away with the only other survivor, who does not realize Mandy's part in the massacre.


Boogeyman 3
Directed by Gary Jones

"She left for college and terror followed."

Plot: The Boogeyman returns and starts to kill the residents of a dorm.

Like most everyone else, you probably did not realize that there are even two sequels for the forgettable 2005 movie Boogeyman. And surely you will forget their existence after reading this. One will have to give it to the writers of these follow up movies for trying to think a little outside of the box, even if if their efforts are all for naught.

The heroine of Boogeyman 3, Sarah, is friends with the daughter of the doctor that died in the second movie. Her sudden death sets off the chain of events at the college, leading Sarah to believe that the Boogeyman is real. Be aware that in Boogeyman 2, there was no supernatural entity - it was just a disturbed former patient dressed as the creature. The Boogeyman's strength is based on how much people believe in him. Sarah makes the decision to claim that she killed everyone, and that there was no Boogeyman. This weakens the real monster... for the time being.

Babysitter Wanted
Directed by Jonas Barnes, Michael Manasseri

"No experience necessary."

Plot: A young woman babysitting at a rural farm is terrorized throughout the night.

A lot of people will accuse this of being a rip-off of When a Stranger Calls, but think again.

Anyone else find it odd that the guy played Wyatt in the television adaptation of Weird Science co-directed this?

The child is possessed by a demon, and the parents feed him babysitters.


Directed by Jeff Wadlow

"Nobody believes a liar...even when they're telling the truth."

Plot: Someone called "Wolf" is committing murders at a posh boarding school.

This not-so-typical slasher is at times suspenseful and full of layers, but that ending may make the eyes roll out of your head. Cry_Wolf seems to think it is smarter than it really is.

The two lead characters, Owen and Dodger, get their friends in trouble, causing them to stay on campus all weekend until their punishment is determined. Their friends decided to prank new kid Owen, which included faking their murders. Owen ended up shooting one of the teachers (played by Jon Bon Jovi) because he thought he was Wolf. After being arrested, Owen realizes that everything was all part of Dodger's plan to get revenge on Bon Jovi's character, who had spurned her advances earlier. 

Directed by Norbert Caoili, Rob Portmann

"You can't escape your darkest fear."

Plot: A homicidal man named Kurt escapes from a psychiatric hospital, and he hunts down his family.

This movie is a Halloween clone, and it looks like some dated slasher from the mid-nineties. Yet that ending is completely unexpected, and it almost makes it worth sitting through. Almost.

 During his escape from the hospital, Kurt killed a security guard and stole his uniform. He pretended to be the guard, Gary, and he went undetected throughout the movie. He tried to kill his sister Sara, her mom, and her friends. In the end, Kurt's father Sheriff Pat Baker, shot Kurt in Sara's room. This segued into the truth: after escaping the hospital, Kurt was almost immediately shot to death by Sheriff Baker. Kurt had come to realize that as a child, he was abused by his dad (who wore clown-ish makeup while committing the act). Baker then killed his wife and blamed it on his son to ensure that word of the abuse never became public. The girl "Sara" and her friends and family that Kurt stalked (as "Gary") were not his real sister, etc. They were just the people he saw in a photo every day inside of his hospital room, and he imagined they were Sara and so on. Kurt concocted this whole fantasy to cope with his past. The only things that actually happened were Kurt's escape and his father killing him on the side the road. The other stuff that followed was just part of Kurt's imagination. The movie ends with the sheriff coming home to his new wife and the real Sara as well as his new son. It is hinted that the man was abusing this boy, too. 

High Tension
Directed by Alexandre Aja

"Here are the monster's little toys. Once they were little girls and boys."

Plot: Alexa and Marie are staying at Alexa's family's house when a killer breaks in. The two women flee, but the madman follows them.

This movie, part of the new wave of extremism in French cinema, has collected a lot of fans. Many of which agree that the ending is just a stain on an otherwise good gore-no. Agree or disagree?

Marie was the killer all along. There was no man, and it was Marie that murdered everyone.


I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer
Directed by Sylvain White

"What he knows, might kill you..."

Plot: A year after some teens in a small Colorado town covered up an accidental death on July 4th, a mysterious person wearing a slicker and brandishing a hook appears.
Yes, there is a third movie in this series. Why? Who knows. It fails on most levels, and the twist just lacks creativity.

The Fishmerman here is a zombified Ben Willis, the guy from the first two movies. He was unintentionally summoned when the teens used his legend as part of their July 4th prank. 

The Mist
Directed by Frank Darabont

"Fear changes everything."

Plot: When a freak weather anomaly unleashes an army of supernatural creatures, a town's citizens take shelter inside of a supermarket.

The Mist can be considered a classic horror story set in a post-modern vehicle. It is a dark tale that will leave you sad.

 Some survivors get away from the supermarket, but they assume there is no hope left and the creatures will finish them off anyway. Thomas Jane's character mercy kills everyone, including his own son. Immediately after, the army shows up and there are no more monsters.


Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom

"The most terrifying images are the ones that are real."

Plot: A photographer and his girlfriend are haunted by a ghost.

This Thai supernatural movie is one of the most original in all of Asian horror. It received an English remake, but it was so bad that it need not be discussed. What takes the original Shutter to another level is the shocking development in the finale.

It was mentioned earlier in the story that the photographer, Tun, had gained a lot of weight. It is later explained that the weight is from the ghost, which was resting on Tun's shoulders. The spirit was of a woman that was raped by Tun's friends, and he took pictures of the ordeal. The ghost caused Tun to fall out of a window. In a mirror's reflection shown at the end, the ghost was still on Tun's shoulders.


The Harvest
Directed by John McNaughton

"First the Fall, then the Harvest."

Plot: A girl moves in with her grandparents after her parents die. She befriends a young neighbor, who is ill and restricted to his bed. The boy's overprotective mother does not like this new friendship, causing the girl to find out what is really happening at her neighbors' house.

This quiet thriller has the workings of a drama, but the reveal near the end may catch you off guard.
The boy, Andy, is not the parents' real son. Their actual son is very ill, and he was being kept in the basement. The parents wanted to harvest Andy's organs for their son. The couple kidnapped Andy at a very young age, and he believed he was their son till finding the boy in the basement.

The Tall Man
Directed by Pascal Laugier

"Fear takes a new shape."

Plot: A town believes that a being called the Tall Man is abducting the area's children.

This movie angered a lot of people as the movie was advertised as being a horror film. For those who wanted a cinematic homage to Slenderman were especially disappointed.

There is no Tall Man or any kind of supernatural going ons in this movie. The one stealing kids was Jessica Biel's character, who did it thinking she could give these kids better lives.


Would You Rather
Directed by David Guy Levy

"Tell yourself it's just a game."

Plot: A group of strangers agree to be part of a dangerous game of "Would You Rather," hosted at a sadistic aristocrat's home.

This is a very bleak movie with bitter outcomes. Everything that happens at least prepares you for that upsetting ending.

Brittany Snow's character entered the game to get money for her very sick brother. She shoots Enver Gjokaj's character, her sort of ally in this whole thing, dead and wins the prize. When she comes home, she sees that her brother has killed himself.

Carnival of Souls
Directed by Herk Harvey

"A weird tale of the unnatural."

Plot: After surviving a car accident, a woman named Mary becomes drawn to a mysterious carnival.

This classic features the mother of all horror twists, which has been copied again and again with varying levels of success.

Mary died in the car accident along with her passengers. At the end, the car is finally located with the bodies still inside.

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I left out some of the most notable twists that a lot of us know (i.e., The Others, The Descent, The Sixth Sense, etc.) and purposely left out others because they are just too good to have spoiled (i.e., The Orphanage, The Skeleton Key, etc.). What other movie twists do you love or hate? Creepy post, too. Remember to use tags when posting spoilers! The code is below.

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