Last Updated: February 24, 2008By Tags:

(BY SAÏDEH PAKRAVAN) What was director Terence Young thinking when he had Alan Arkin (playing an arch-villain) jump on poor blind Audrey Hepburn in the 1967 Wait Until Dark? We were already gathering our coats and umbrellas, having left Arkin for dead–and for good, as had been the rule until then in films where nasty brutes terrorized decent people and had finally gotten their just deserts. But with that spectacular jump that had the audience taken completely unaware and screaming, Young, distinguished author of some of the best James Bond films, brought in a novel idea that would first take hold, then become standard, and finally turn stale, repetitive and, alas, a must-have at the end of every thriller. The last twelve minutes of Wait Until Dark were superb, listed as one of the hundred scariest movie scenes ever, and Stephen King, the master himself, calls that passage one of his favorites. But what happens now? Dead guys resuscitate, not once but a dozen times before a thriller worth its salt can reach a conclusion. (Usually with someone coming up with a few cryptic words that leave a door open for the sequel.) Too many films have this absurd unending ending that has us grate our teeth instead of jumping out of our skin as in a neatly packaged thriller, say by Hitchcock, where anything that could dilute the energy and the crispness of the purpose ended up on the cutting room floor. Now the guy dies a thousand deaths— the gorier the better—comes back to life, crawls out of that lake or hangs on to the ledge of that tenth-floor balcony or gathers his twitching, broken limbs or…whatever idiotic sequence some hack short on inspiration can come up with to wrap up. (Note to writers: this may be a good time to go on strike). Examples that come to mind: Joaquim Phoenix making his way out of a burning field at the end of We Own the Night, the absurd coda of Tom Tykwer’s Perfume, the Hannibal the Cannibal (was it in II or III? You know, the one where Edward Norton played Clarisse). And it’s not only thrillers. A good number of movies in other genres go round in circles in the last half hour, like those annoying mosquitoes buzzing their last. This is becoming too common. We go in all prepped up, usually enjoy the film unless it’s really really bad like the dismal Vantage Point, and then have to sit through that awful last half hour, yearning for the lights to come on.