(Hollywood, CA) Whoa. What was that? The Earth is shaking? Oh god, it’s all happening. Hello and welcome to the movie. We are really getting into the end of the first act here and the tension is starting to build. But, we haven’t quite hit that moment. You know what I’m talking about. That “oh god” moment when you realize you aren’t watching a movie, but a film. Hold on. We’ve been here longer than a few hours, haven’t we? It’s been days, weeks even. Oh no. I’ve got check something. My compass, it’s spinning out of control. Oh god, things are about to get crazy!
And scene. What was just presented to you was a classic example of when a character in a movie looks at their compass and its spinning out of control to let you know the plot is about to thicken and things are going to pop off. We love it. It’s our favorite trope. But what about it makes it so good? Let’s explore it in excruciating detail.
First, this is never the first warning sign in a movie. Typically, whether it is something like Lost or more current like Annihilation, even though there may have been indication of something spooky happening before this moment, it’s the compass that really throws things into gear. I love that about it.
Next, the absolute disbelief of what they are seeing. No one ever can believe it, I love that. I mean, obviously you probably don’t have a firm understanding of the environment you are in if you are stunned by this. Like I said, it’s not the first warning sign and you should be more on your toes. Take this as a learning moment to reflect and change. Thank you.
Now, this next one is pretty subtle. What do you think would be more scary to a movie audience, a compass that is spinning out of control, or one that only points in the wrong direction, to something unknown? I still think spinning is the more wild one, although it is an interesting spin on an old classic. Instead of showing things are chaotic, you are showing that they make a different sort of sense. While that is creepy, chaos is way more terrifying.
Finally, and we haven’t confirmed this but we are publishing it anyway, the person who shows the spinning compass is almost always going to end up dead by the end of the movie. Again, they won’t be first to die, most likely second or third to last, but they definitely won’t make it. The smart ones never do, just the hot ones.
Oh god, what’s this? My compass? Oh no, here we go.
This was written by Nathan Ellwood, who believes in a life after and a thing called loved. Follow him @NPEllwood.