Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The "Is It All A Dream?" Ending: Yay or Nay?

Well I recently rewatched eXistenZ, one of my favorite David Cronenberg flicks and it got me thinking about dream or reality ending that most recently got the Interwebs buzzing because of Inception. As much as the ambiguous open endedness ending forces the audience to use their imagination, it also can be said it's slightly irritating when you don't get a satisfactory conclusion.

I've only thought up a few recent flicks with the dream/reality ending and here are my thoughts if it was either yay or nay. SPOILERS AHOY! Starting with the most recent....

1.) Inception

the jaded viewer says: As I wrote originally, I think he's still dreaming. But the ending here fits in perfectly. It works well because it didn't come out of nowhere. The whole movie is about the nature of dreams so being left with wondering if the ending was all a dream seems logical enough.

Prognosis: YAY

2.) American Psycho

the jaded viewer says: I'm still confused by the entire film. But the one thing we all had to decide was whether or not Patrick Bateman's murders were all dreams/psychosis or real. I felt if they weren't real we were totally jipped. I'm going Nay on this one. The movie as a whole was solid without the twisty twizzler all a dream ending.

Prognosis: NAY

3.) eXistenZ

the jaded viewer says: Like The Matrix, it's the "Are we still in the game/virtual world?" ending. I love this flick and the ending is completely WTF but somehow works on the levels it's built throughout.

Prognosis: YAY

4.) Total Recall

the jaded viewer says: Not a dream per say but more a memory implanted dream. Does Arnold kill the bad guys, score the hot girl with 3 tits...err I mean the athletic girl and save Mars?
I'm hoping he does...for real but leaving it open made me feel cheated. I'm going with Nay.

Prognosis: NAY

Know of any other movies with dream vs reality endings? What do you think if they end it as a dream? Are they cheating the viewer? Do you think these endings work?

Sound off!


  1. A very interesting post indeed.

    I'm with you on 'Inception' being a YAY and 'American Psycho' being a NAY (although I do find this one debatable since one of the points of the story is how modern American society can drive one nuts).

    Haven't seen 'eXistenZ' yet, so I can't comment on that one. As for 'Total Recall', I think I'd actually consider it to be a NAY. It was nice to see a typical action film make such a ballsy move at the end, and I found that the ambiguous conclusion fit perfectly.

  2. Disagree with you on American Psycho. I read the book too and one of the major points of the novel is exactly what Atroxion said - that the structure of our lives in America and the bullshit that we obsess about (business cards, suits, etc) is what leads to insanity. I think that's the smartest point that the novel and film make, so the "dream" ending is well utilized. For the record, I firmly believe that Bateman did not commit any of the murders. They were all going on in his head as a manifestation of the insanity his life had become.

  3. I saw American Psycho about 8 times when it was in theaters because I used to work at the cinema and I was obsessed with it. Although, it's only recently that I found so many people have varying opinions on what exactly happens in the film. Believe it or not, I have wildly different opinions on the film and none of them involve dream sequences. Perhaps I'm as crazy as Patrick Bateman? LOL

  4. Actually, everyone is DEAD at the end of TOTAL RECALL - or should be. It's a fantasy before the brain dies of oxygen depletion...

  5. With Inception, I thought the point of the ending was that he didn't care if it was reality or not because he just wanted to be with his kids.

  6. 13th Floor comes to mind.