1 December 2005, 11:32 am

I’m not a big fan of movies that rely on “twist” endings. I think the value of surprise as an artistic technique is easily overrated. If it’s not a good movie if you know the ending, it’s just not a good movie, period.

But on the other hand, it can be really rewarding to see a film with no preconceptions at all. Surprises can be fun (even if they’re not sufficient to redeem a bad flick). I treasure some of the film experiences I’ve had where I knew nothing about the movie I was about to see. (I used to belong to a preview club that screened films that hadn’t yet secured distribution deals; I miss it.) I’m glad I went through the effort necessary to see Blair Witch Project and Memento without much foreknowledge.

Some years ago I read Like a Hole in the Head, Jen Banbury’s first (and, sadly, still only) novel. Like a Hole in the Head starts in a very conventional light comic mystery mode, and abruptly turns into a completely different sort of book. Knowing its genre could reduce some of the joy of a first reading, even if it wouldn’t exactly constitute a spoiler. And — this is the tricky part, and the reason I never tried to review the novel — even knowing in advance that there will be a shift in narrative tone and focus could lessen its impact.

Incident at Loch Ness left me with a similar feeling. It reminded me powerfully of a wonderful TV miniseries that I don’t think I should name. If you think you agree with me about makes for a good movie, I urge you to just see it without reading another word about it. It’s directed by Zak Penn (perhaps best known as the screenwriter of X-men 2) and features a scene in which Werner Herzog shops for razor blades. Agh, I’ve said too much already.

I will succumb to the temptation to mention that the DVD commentary track is entirely worthwhile, and then I will shut up.


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