[Quick Summary: A detective-turned-p.i., is hired to follow a wife who is reliving a family curse.]
A few days ago, I watched a recent thriller with a late Act 2 twist.
The twist was a humdinger (fine) and unbelievably crazy (ok by me).
Unfortunately, it was barely based in character, and seemed to be tacked on as a shocker. THAT was unacceptable.
So how did Hitchcock set up a late Act 2 twist? Let's check out Vertigo:
Madeline (the wife) dies about 2/3 in the script.
(This is not a surprise. She's obsessed over Carlotta's death, look, grave, etc.)
The twist has several steps:
- Madeline dies.
- Scottie (the p.i.) is brokenhearted, but one day he sees Judy in Madeline's old room. [This keeps Madeline alive.]
- Scottie confronts Judy, and learns she has been living there for 3 years. [The Madeline mystery deepens, though she's dead.]
- Scottie begins to date Judy. [Is Scottie moving on?]
- Judy isn't who we think she is. [Scottie is in for a stun in Act 3.]
Why this works:
- Acts 1-2 established Madeline's mysterious behaviors. Late Act 2-3 clarifies them through Judy.
- The twist reveals Madeline's CHARACTER. This is no time for a plot point just to include a cool CGI effect.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A good late twist reveals more character.
A bad late twist is often more about the twist than the character.
by Alec Coppel & Samuel Taylor
Based on the novel "d'Entre les Morts" by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac