Ok, kids, this article is about movies where the protagonists turns out to have been the antagonist. These are all movies where the twist is that one of the ‘good guys’ turns out to be one of the ‘bad guys.’ A note of warning, this article will obviously contain major plot spoilers.
Horror movies are famous for their twists. You go for a nice relaxing weekend in the woods only to find, TWIST, that it’s inhabited by evil spirits. You buy a perfectly nice armoire only to learn, TWIST, it comes with an unwanted demon chilling on top. One of the genre’s staple manoeuvres concerns the identity of the killer. This trope is sometimes done well and ..sometimes not.
Today we talk about the top 10 wolves in sheep’s clothing. The 10 best examples where the friend turns out to be a foe, where the ally turns out to be an enemy. Here are the top ten turncoats in horror history, from worst to first.
10. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
A year after the events of the first film, two of the leads are living in Boston and trying to move on. That’s going well until Julie starts getting messages that say I STILL know what you did last summer. Julie turns to her friends for help. It seems the same killer is back and after them. They are unable to outsmart him. Later they learn reason for this is that Will, one of the friends, is the fisherman’s son and helping him get his revenge. Released just a year after the first, this sequel does not hold a candle to the original. It was not well received and is pretty meh, but some of the performances are great and the movie uses the twist very well.
9. Shrooms (2007)
A group of students are camping in the Ireland countryside and decide to look for some psychedelic mushrooms. They trip, camp and tell ghost stories around the fire. They get a little too high and wander off. One by one they also start dying. The friends are baffled and can’t find who is responsible. As they start sobering up, they look for help, but they also keep dying. Lucky for them a helicopter spots the only survivor, Tara, and comes to the rescue. As she escapes in the helicopter she suddenly realizes that she is, in fact, the killer. This one provides a great twist because not only was the killer one of the friends, but she didn’t even know it. If you haven’t seen this oft overlooked gem, please do so.
8. Scream 2 (1997)
After the events of Scream, protagonist Sidney has moved off to college. Things are going well until a copycat killer shows up. Sid relies on her inner circle of friends to cope. This includes some of the survivors from the original, but also new friends like Hallie, Derek and Mickey. They try to be more prepared, but what they didn’t prepare for is the killer being Mickey. To have the twist be the same as the first film may sound cliché, but this movie is truly fantastic. What they kept the same, they did so for a reason. What they changed, like the addition of new cast members and Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice) as the composer, were all fantastic decisions. So, get over your hatred of sequels and give Scream 2 a fresh look. It belongs among Craven’s filmography and is one of his best.
7. High Tension (2003)
Marie and Alex escape college life and go study at Marie’s parents’ house. The isolated house seems perfect, but on night one they are visited by a serial killer who starts taking them out one by one. Marie tries her best to save everyone she can, but the killer is always one step ahead. Finally she has the killer on the chase, only to realize, when a car shines its lights on her, that she is chasing no one and… she’s the one holding the saw. Covered in blood. Marie couldn’t stop the killer because she was the killer. Directed by Alexandre Aja (Horns) with make up by Fulci’s go to guy Giannetto De Rossi (Zombi, House by the Cemetery) and famed Belgian cinematographer Maxime Alexandre (The Nun). It is well shot, well acted and the twist is well done.
6. Lake Bodom (2017)
A group of friends and true crime fans decide to camp by Lake Bodom and recreate the scene of an unsolved murder that happened there in 1960. Well, things get a little to realistic when someone starts killing the kids. Only two make it out alive, but, well, that’s because they were the killers. They would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the fact that the real original killer still lived by the lake and didn’t care for their shenanigans. It’s a double twist!
This 2016 Finnish flick is super well done and easily worth a watch.
5. You’re Next (2013)
A family reunion is under way, with family and friends gathering for dinner. Dinner turns sour when someone starts shooting a crossbow into the house and has jammed cell reception. It’s survival time for this tight-knit crew. The family may survive, if it weren’t for the fact that some of the family is in on it.
This 2011 sleeper hit is a great home invasion flicks. The twist works well because, while you can sometimes trust friends, family should always be there for you. The family home, even the family itself, is no longer safe.
4. Happy Death Day (2017)
It’s Tree’s birthday and she is wicked hungover. Her shitty day just gets weirder when it seems someone is stalking her wearing a creepy baby mask. That person eventually kills her and suddenly she wakes up and it’s her birthday again. Like some fucked up Groundhog Day, Tree has to keep experiencing the same day and death over and over. She turns this curse into an opportunity to find the killer and is shocked to eventually learn it is her friend and roommate Lori. The killer has been right there in the mix the whole time. This 2017 horror/comedy hit was written by a comic book writer named Scott Lobdell and feels like a comic. It has all the energy and good humor a comic can have and the twist fits perfectly into it’s flow.
3. Get Out (2017)
Chris reluctantly agrees to spend the weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s WASP parent’s house. It’s awkward right away, but just seems to get weirder when he notices how odd the other African Americans present are acting. Things get even stranger when Rose’s mom seems to have hypnotized him. He turns to Rose for help, but she merely points out that some people are just odd and her mom seems to have cured him of his cigarette habit. Things get darker when Chris discovers these rich white folk are putting old white brains into healthy black bodies ..and he’s next on the menu. He turns to Rose again only to learn she too is in on it. Get Out is a masterfully made movie that uses this twist to make a powerful statement about race.
2. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Queen of all b-movies, Sleepaway Camp tells of two cousins, Angela and Ricky, who are sent to a summer camp. Painfully shy Angela struggles to fit in, but that becomes the least of her worries once staff and fellow campers start dying at the hands of an unknown killer. While the entire camp searches for the culprit, it becomes clear the victims share something in common, they have all wronged Angela. That turns out to be no coincidence as the final scene reveals Angela is not only the killer, but has been a boy this whole time! *gasp* Sleepaway Camp is truly one of a kind and totally bizarre. If you haven’t seen it, do so!
1. Scream (1996)
I mean, what kind of list would this be without arguably the most famous example of the twist in existence. What made Scream so impactful and relatable was Wes Craven’s (Nightmare on Elm Street) ability to get very natural performances out of his actors. Part of what made the twist so effective is mixing these genuine performances with the idea that this group of friends works together to find and stop the killer. The idea that this togetherness would lead to most of their demises threw everyone for a loop. Craven made the audience feel like their reliance on each other was their biggest strength and yanked the rug right out from under them by revealing the killer to be one of the group.
There you have it. Our top 10 wolves in sheep’s clothing. What did we miss? Sound off with the Nightmare on Film Street Community over on Twitter, our Official Subreddit, or the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!