Pssst! This article contains a major spoiler about a twist in a movie that came out in the 90s. Beware.
I was gonna go with The Sixth Sense for this one because believe me, I never saw it coming. But I know the internet is chock full of people who claim that the twist was broadcast right from the first scene. I suspect those same people own a TV but haven’t turned it on for years, don’t have a Facebook account, and hung out with Satan eating apples a week before Eve did but were underwhelmed by it. But that’s just like, my opinion, man.
Then I remembered that twist was done like, ten years earlier, sort of, in a movie I love that scarred me for life. Jacob’s Ladder. I swear, I really thought the guy was just having flashbacks and that the government was trying to cover it up. I’m unfortunately one of those people who always thinks the government is trying to cover something up. How was I to know he hallucinated years of his future life back in America while going through the process of dying from being stabbed in the guts in Vietnam? Or Thailand. Who can say? The entire movie is a trip through hell while getting skullfucked by the devil in a Santa suit, unless you turn the picture a different way and then you see a beautiful woman instead of an old hag.
I mean, when I look back, I guess they were laying it on a bit thick what with Elizabeth Pena growing a tail at that party and all the Biblical names. I’m sure today’s audiences would get one look at Macaulay Culkin as the ghost of Tim Robbins’s dead kid and be like, “great, a lovely cheese pizza all for me. Sigh.” But the colors and the lighting are exquisite and Danny Aiello’s character ages well. Angels, indeed, freeing you from the earth.
Sadly, I’m afraid I was in denial the first time I saw Jacob’s Ladder because I wanted everything to be okay for Jacob. Also, I always cry at the end. I knew people when I was young who would drop acid for the express purpose of watching this movie. They now have no souls, and work for the phone company. The movie wants you to think he survived Vietnam. I just wish the government had actually been held accountable for what they’d done to those soldiers. Being at peace at the moment of your death is soooo overrated.
P.S. I remembered when writing this article that this same twist was used in the short story “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” a full 100 years before Jacob’s Ladder. Not that you would have ever heard of that story, cause it’s pretty obscure. Unless, of course, you took high school English in 9th grade.