What Makes An Ending Good?

It’s officially HallowMonth, and we’re full into the swing of spooks, ghouls, and nightmares here at Stanzas HQ. We looooove horror, and there’s nothing we love more than the Stanzas Halloween Fancy Dress and Chapbook Month! (Well, ok, there are things we love more, but it’s definitely Top Five.)

As it’s HallowMonth, we’ve been watching a LOT more horrors. And they other day this author stuck on a Netflix adaptation of Gerald’s Game. Originally a Stephen King book, this movie looked pretty interesting. Aside from a few minutes at the beginning to set up the plot, and a few minutes at the end – which we’ll get to – to wrap things up, everything takes place in one room: the bedroom.

Here’s the gist of the plot: Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) and his missus Jessie (Carla Gugino) try to rekindle their marriage with a sexy weekend away. He cuffs her to the bed and then has a heart attack. She is left to figure out how to survive, and battles not only the cuffs, but her own mental chains as repressed memories come back to haunt her.

SPOILER WARNING!

So, the movie is an hour and forty-five minutes long. And for an hour and a half it’s amazing. It’s tense. It’s gritty. It has an amazingly disgusting scene with a shard of glass. It has a spooky nightmare coming to life. it has childhood trauma. It has ghosts of a sort. And it has great acting from Gugino.

And then the last fifteen minutes arrive… Jessie is out in the hospital, she cashes in on the life insurance, sets up a charity, and confronts what turns out to be a cannibalistic serial killer who has been going around killing and eating people. The nightmares weren’t invented, and the figure of death she kept seeing was, in fact, this creepster who was there in the room the whole time.

On paper, this maybe sounds interesting. But in reality, it twisted the movie into a plotless chasm. Everything we’ve seen up to then is ruined and it just adds this weird, unnecessary, layer on top.

It turns the movie from being about Jessie to being about Jessie and this killer – but we’ve spent 90 minutes with Jessie, and only 10 disappointing ones with the killer.

This is the problem with plot twists and bad endings. They need to make sense, they need to reward your viewership. Literally anyone can write a plot and then write a different ending and splice them together, but that’s not good writing.

Good writing is leading the reader on a journey, but then revealing the path was going in the other direction all along.

Maybe the killer cannibal twist could have worked if they’d worked it more into the story from the start – but ultimately this twist comes off as a cheap trick. It ruins the rest of the movie. Seriously. Ruins it.

So if you want to watch it (and you know what, you probably should, because it has 90 really good minutes) then stick it on: but remember, once she leaves the bedroom, turn it off, sit back and think: wow, that was pretty good.

*

This blog post was written by Shane ‘Spoiler’ Vaughan. If you have something to say and nowhere to say it, send your words to us at stanzas.limerick@gmail.com

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What Makes An Ending Good?

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