Movies that cheat

Of all the things that movies can do to send me off on a tirade, it’s cheating that really gets to me. Case in point: I saw a film a while back called ‘The Last Broadcast’ that did just that. The film is one of those fake documentaries about some murders that may or may not have been committed by the Jersey Devil. The film is believed to be the inspiration for ‘Blair Witch Project’ and, I was told, is much better than that film. But here is the problem: while it maintains its fake documentary ‘you are there’ feel for most of its running time, it ditches this at the climax and steps outside itself. I won’t give away any details should you wish to see it, but it cheats. It breaks the boundary it set for itself and, in my opinion, robs the viewer with its revelation. This is the kind of thing that completely ruins a movie for me, and I was hanging with it up until that point.

I am making this post now because I just read a review of the film at that lauds the film - and apologizes for the ending. I can forgive a film for a disappointing ending (hey, I liked Alien 3, and I can’t find anyone to agree with me on that) but not this. So I’m curious, have you had an experience like this, and can you look past it to enjoy the movie as a whole? Are there any other movies that do this sort of thing, so I can be sure to mark them off my ‘to rent’ list?

Sure, Usual Suspects. There’s no reason to believe that any of the story being told ever happened (except the boat exploding, which we see) because it’s all shown to be inspired by objects in the room that Kaiser sees.

Maybe that’s not the kind of cheating you mean?

Is this the same as when that lady who imprisons the author in Misery gets pissed off that in one episode of a show, the main character is about to die, then in the next episode they show him a few seconds earlier to his plunge downhill where he narrowly escapes?

Just making sure I’m on the same page.

Fight Club.

Old Boy. Do stupid, pointless twists count as cheats? Anyway, Old Boy.

I just watched Oldboy. I was really hoping for something great and I was really disappointed. Hypnosis? Petty revenge for nothing really all that significant? What a letdown.

It did feature a dude trying to consume a live octopus, though.

As far as cheating, I don’t think it cheated so much as failed to deliver.

Cheating sort of implies there’s a way and method to tell a story that shouldn’t be deviated from, and I really don’t want that to be the reality behind cinema. Cheat if you have to, whatever that means, just entertain, engage and challenge me.

Yeah Old Boy would have been awesome if it’d stayed on message - guy gets inexplicably and unjustly imprisoned for 15 years, gets out, and wreaks holy hell on his imprisoners. End the movie with him killing the bad guy and riding off into the sunset. The “twist” just made the rest lame.

I liked the octopus bit despite myself - I love octopi, but not to eat.
Or to fuck, whoever was thinking that.
That and the hallway bit that everybody loves.
Otherwise - not good.

Yeah, I’m not really thinking along the same lines as you guys - I don’t necessarily think of a movie painting itself into a corner and being unable to dig itself out as cheating, although it certainly could be if it’s desperate enough. For example, I don’t think of movies like ‘Memento’ or ‘Usual Suspects’ as cheating necessarily, even though they do withhold information from the audience. But I consider a movie like ‘Identity’ as having cheated, just because it throws out the interesting murder mystery in favor of a completely left field - well, in the interests of not spoiling, let’s just say it came out of nowhere.

So yeah, my definition is arbitrary, your mileage may vary and all that - but if you get so pissed off by a movie pulling the rug out from under you, then I imagine you felt cheated. Maybe the distinction is whether I got caught up in the mystery of things- I expected to get played by movies like ‘Fight Club’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’ so I wasn’t as bothered by their twists. In fact I caught ‘The Usual Suspects’ before I knew a thing about it, and didn’t know a twist was coming - I even thought it was clever. Haven’t seen Oldboy but I had been considering it- may be a bad move on my part.

How about “The Shining”? (A movie I really, incidentally, despite this flaw).

Through most of the movie, there’s the sense that the supernatural stuff may all be in Jack’s head (and that Danny is picking up on it), except for one bit (if you’ve seen it, you know where I mean), where it lets things become real, and then shifts back to it-may-all-be-psychological mode.

To me, that’s a cheat.

Oldboy doesn’t cheat, at all. Theo, can you even read? How would a stupid and pointless twist count as a cheat?

Fight Club and Usual Suspects are different because Usual Suspects presents itself as a story by a possibly unreliable narrator. The unnarrated portions are all “true,” there’s a distinction between the two. It’s self-negating and a little too clever for it’s own good, but it doesn’t cheat.

Fight Club establishes the core narrative to be false. There’s no reason to believe that any part of the movie is “true”, if Norton’s character can make up Tyler Durden he can make up the chick, the other guys, the entire story.

Shut the fuck up, Ben.

I absolutely agree with The Shining. That single moment really knocked the film down a huge notch.

Basic may or may not be a cheat, but it is intensely stupid.

Jacob’s fucking Ladder. THE cheatiest of all cheaty movies.

I suppose I’m going to have to watch The Last Broadcast to understand what is meant by “cheating”.

Ohh NOW I get it. “But it was all a dream!” endings.

What the fuck is wrong with you people? The supernatural stuff is real, it’s purpose is to push Jack into murdering his family. The scene you’re complaining about is when the alternative explanation is disproven. Whether or not you agree with it being a good directing choice to remove the ambiguity, that’s not “cheating.”

I jumped the gun a bit, according to Amazon it will release on dvd Sept. 26. I had hoped someone else who had seen it might jump in - I caught this on IFC a little while back, I think. Mainly I’m curious if it got under anyone else’s skin, the way the story played out.

The original model for Blair Witch was a fake TV telethon called Ghostwatch.

Avoiding spoilers in this sort of discussion really cuts the legs out of talking about the very thing you’re talking about.