A big twist is often the difference between a good film and a classic one, but if most M. Night Shyamalan movies have taught us one thing, it’s that they don’t always work. Not all filmmakers seem to realise it, but twists have to be earned.
If the big reveal doesn’t make sense within the context of the story or opens up a massive plothole, the audience simply won’t buy it, and why should they? Without the necessary groundwork, a twist is no more than a cheap trick.
The element of surprise only works when it’s offset against subtle foreshadowing and makes sense within the context of the narrative. For instance, Fight Club’s revelation that Tyler Durden was a figment of the unnamed protagonist’s imagination hit home because the movie fed the audience nuanced clues throughout. By the time the credits rolled, you wondered why you didn’t pick up on it earlier.
When an unforeseen stinger arrives straight out of left field, though, the audience comes away feeling cheated, aggrieved that they weren’t given a fair chance to figure things out for themselves, and in these instances, the filmmaker doesn’t have the right to claim they hit the viewer with a ‘twist’.