This article contains SPOILERS for multiple horror movies. Proceed with caution!
There’s nothing quite like a truly great horror movie twist. With so many movies from this genre coming out lately, it’s tough to pull off a genuine jaw-dropping, audible “WTF” moment, and to go a step further, deliver a twist that you can enjoy on a rewatch. But when it does happen, it’s better than any jump scare or chill down our spines. It’s the ultimate sick joke of a reward. As the Saw franchise continues this weekend, we’re reflecting on the best horror movies with a twist to revisit.
I don’t know about you, but movies with big twists offer more incentives for me to go back to them because I want to see if and how the filmmakers set up the surprises. Not all of them are as rewarding during a rewatch, but I believe this batch of movies are just as fun on a second or tenth viewing even if you already know what’s coming.
Nearly 20 years following the first 2004 Saw film, a lot has gone down in the franchise. But there’s nothing quite like going back to the beginning and seeing the twist that started everything for the bloodfest of a franchise. After a sick game between the Jigsaw killer and his players, the corpse in the middle of the room is revealed to be alive and the one behind the game all along. When Leigh Whannell’s Adam tries to shoot him, he shocks them before turning off the lights in the room, shutting it down and proclaiming “game over.” It’s one hell of a debut for Jigsaw, making a rewatch worthy of stomaching.
Another original film in a lengthy franchise that’s fun to give another whirl is 1996’s Scream. In contrast to Saw, Wes Craven’s slasher is child’s play, but don’t we love a campy horror fest? The movie is about a masked killer called Ghostface who is on a murder spree and the group of teenagers who are his target. I’ve seen Scream a number of times, and I still forget the conclusion to the film, which is, of course, that Neve Campbell’s BF is one of two killers that have been haunting their high school crew. It’s still a smart take on the slasher that is a blast to return to.
Can we even talk about horror movie twists without naming Psycho? It just would not be a complete list without Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film. The iconic movie gave one of the first horror twists ever, and it was done ingeniously by its filmmaker. It changed the way Hollywood looked at movies in a lot of ways and taking a look back at it is always a good idea if you’re intrigued by the history of movie twists. These days, there are some issues with Hitchcock’s big Norman Bates reveal, but it makes for a great discussion piece.
Robert Eggers’ The Witch is a modern horror benchmark when a new line of ‘slow burn’ horror movies began to emerge in the genre. On a first watch, the movie can be confusing and more atmospheric than plot heavy, which makes for an unsettling and confusing watch. But once you already know that Anya Taylor-Joy is destined to become a witch by the end of it, it is more fun to watch her interact with her family and catch the moving parts leading up to her rise into her power.
Another fun twist to relive on the small screen is 2009’s creepy thriller Orphan starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman as the orphan Esther. As the movie reveals during its shocking conclusion, Esther is revealed to be the force behind the troubling events that have been going on since they adopted her and she’s actually a 33-year-old woman! I’ll admit, it’s so much more fun and creepy to watch Orphan knowing that Esther is a middle-aged woman the whole time due to her hormone disorder.
Jordan Peele has proved himself to be a mastermind in the horror genre with his two entries Get Out and Us, and the twists for both are even more incredible on multiple viewings. For the purpose of this article, I want to put the spotlight on Us because its twist isn’t as well-documented and boasted about as Get Out. The movie follows Lupita Nyong’o’s Adelaide and her family’s confrontation with the Tethered. At the end of the film, we learn her doppelgänger has been the human of the two Adelaides this whole time. Going down the road is even better the second time because of all the intentional imagery and hints Peele leaves for the audience to spot.
M. Night Shyamalan is another one of those filmmakers who is well known for his unforgettable twists, and we’d be doing a disservice to him by not adding one of his movies to this list. The Sixth Sense is the obvious choice, so let’s instead give The Visit some love by revisiting the twist about a group of kids visiting their grandparents’ house. As we learn later in the movie, they’ve been spending the whole week with complete strangers who have fashioned themselves as their relatives after murdering their real elders. It’s a chilling ride that’s a completely different experience on Round Two!
Cabin In The Woods
Our final twist to highlight here is for Cabin in the Woods; it's an especially bizarre twist that has a stark commentary to make about horror movies themselves. What’s fun about Cabin in the Woods is it’s partially a parody of what we expect out of the genre, so when you’re done trying to figure out what’s actually going on with the plot, it’s really fun to sit back and enjoy all the smart choices Drew Goddard made with the apocalyptic turner.
Which of these twists have you gone back to first? Vote in our poll below and check out Spiral: From The Book of Saw coming to theaters this Friday, May 14.
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YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.
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