Preteens on Surprise Endings

Susan Gerhard July 21, 2006

First, a spoiler alert: I’m told that the new M. Night Shyamalan movie has (as The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey put it) “no O. Henry surprise.” My surprise ending of the month, however, came on a trip to the Smith Rafael Film Center, where I spoke to a California Film Institute-procured class of 13somethings about film, only to find out that they, well, know everything already. Defying all expectations, the next generation does seem fully equipped by your local DVD retailers and e-tailers to appreciate or take apart any film that comes its way. As a tribute to the ending that may not arrive via this weekY’s “Lady in the Water” release, the Youth Critics Jury came up with its own critical list of favorite twist endings — which range from the might-be-expected of this demographic, “The Sixth Sense,” to the can-you-believe-they-watched-it, “Gloomy Sunday.” Far from the exercise in consensus and critical thinking I probably should have conducted, this particular list reflects a kind of loudest-shout-wins enthusiasm that I hope this group never loses.

1. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock and/or Gus Van Sant)
2. The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer)
3. Fight Club (David Fincher)
4. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
5. Chinatown (Roman Polanski)
6. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan)
7. Gloomy Sunday (Rolf Schübel)
8. The Sting (George Roy Hill)
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel)
10. The Village (M. Night Shyamalan)

(With thanks to CFI’s John Morrison)