(Musings on literary and filmworks. Spoilers for: Horns, The Trickster’s Daughter duet.)
It is, entirely possible, that part of what makes me, if not a good English Literature student, than at least an enthusiastic one, is related to my ability to see patterns.
This, in turn, occasionally ruins books and movies for me.
Last night I was watching Horns with my flatmates (good film, beautifully shot, Radcliffe’s acting is excellent, though his American accent is a little shoddy, watch it). A brief synopsis: a young man named Ig’s girlfriend is murdered, and he is the prime suspect. In deference to this fact, he grows horns that grant him the powers of the devil, and uses these to uncover her murderer…
(NOTE: As mentioned above, this journal entry spoils Horns. Stop reading and go watch it, then come back. If you don’t care, keep reading.)
So, it’s very quickly established that people don’t really notice Ig’s horns – or rather, they do, but quickly forget they exist. The primary power the horns have is to force the people around Ig to blurt out their most embarrassing secrets and desires to Ig and, if Ig wishes, to act on them. Furthermore, once Ig leaves, the entire encounter is forgotten.
Exactly one character is presented as being unaffected by the horns and my instinctive reaction to this was – “Yeah, he’s the murderer”.
“But no!” says the movie, “The horns don’t work on good people!”
“Bullshit,” I replied to the movie’s injunction, “He is the fucking murderer. If you grow horns in accordance with the death of someone and they work on all but one person, Occam’s Razor states they’re probably related. Logic, bitches.”
Roughly an hour later…
“Surprise!” says the movie, “He’s not a good person! He is the murderer, and the only reason it didn’t work was cos of a cross he stole off the murder victim!”
“…do I look surprised?” I told the movie.
Don’t get me wrong: Horns is a fine movie, as previously stated. But I strongly suspect that this might actually just be a fault with me.
See, Mark Oshiro recently finished reading all of Tamora Pierce’s work, and stated that one of the best twists he read was the one in the latter book of the Lionesses’ Daughter (we’re now getting into the SPOILERS for that, so either read the book or Mark’s Mark Reads of it).
Here’s a quick synopsis of the plot of the first book: the daughter of a famous knight is adamant she wants to be a spy, and the god of spies, Kyprioth, sends her to his land, the Copper Isles, to take part in a bet in an attempt to win back the throne for his people, the raka, by having her protect the half-raka daughters of an exiled Duke. Prophecy states that the throne will be reclaimed for the raka by a queen who is royal on both sides of her family.
Me: The eldest daughter is gonna get killed or removed somehow, and the younger daughter will have to take the throne.
Book One: What are you talking about?! This is nonsense! Why, look at how much Sarai loves her people…
Me: Then why did you spend so much effort setting up two fucking daughters?!
One books later…
Book Two: JOKES! Sarai has run off with a Carthaki noble and now Dove has to take the throne. Aren’t you shocked?
Me: Not really, considering it was being foreshadowed pretty much from the instant the main character met the two girls.
I’m not saying this to say that if these twists surprised you, you’re terrible, or the writers are terrible. If anything, this is more a reflection on me and the way that I experience media these days – part of me is always sitting there, guessing at what the next twist will be. It’s why the ending of Sense of an Ending is one of my favorites – it genuinely shocked me, to the point that I literally screamed a little. Metallic Rose had a similar quality with me.
So, to me, when I say a book or movie has an excellent ending, what I mean is, I did not see it coming. With all my knowledge of patterns and foreshadowing, I didn’t see it coming, and was pleasantly surprised by the twists it threw my way.
A Short List of Media That Surprised Freya:
Sense of An Ending
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Girl Meets Boy
There are probably more, but I can’t think of them this instant.