MovieChat Forums > Primal FearĀ (1996) Discussion > The movie's twist at the end contradicts...

The movie's twist at the end contradicts its own premise


Norton's feeble and mousy Aaron as well as his Alpha Huckster counterpart Roy were both expertly played to fool everyone else in the movie, as well as the audience so that he could avoid conviction by the court. My question is, if he's such a confounding sociopath that could pull this off then why was he playing Aaron when he lived at the Church and allowed himself to be sexually abused by the Bishop? I would have been more convinced if the real Aaron had done these kind of murders before in some other city, and Martin Vail discovering this at the end AFTER feeble Aaron was released from jail. The intentional slip up by real Aaron plays well as a cinematic trick, but for me it lasted for about 5 minutes because it didn't make sense afterward when thinking about the story and how it played out.

reply

Good analysis but I've got to admit, the first time I watched this movie, I found it thoroughly entertaining and the cinematic trick worked on me.

I had a similar experience with an episode of Law & Order I saw just a couple of days ago. It involved a particularly devious femme fatale that outfoxed the NYPD, the DA's office, a grand jury panel and eventually ensnared the Feds at the end. It was mind-boggling but again I must admit, one of the more captivating episodes I've seen in awhile.

reply

I always saw it as Aaron was the bottom, Roy was the top, and the Bishop was their switch.

For some reason, your term "Alpha Huckster" immediately calls to mind Vince McMahon.

reply

I can see that too, but it doesn't make sense that it only happened once in this particular plot. It's scarier to me to think that regular Aaron has been doing this in other cities in different settings before and will continue to do it after his release.

reply

Maybe that's how Aaron gets off. He moves from town to town doing similar operations until he makes enough money to put himself through college and get an upper-middle class office job that leaves him in perpetual dissatisfaction which leads him to create his ultimate persona: Tyler Durden.

reply

if he's such a confounding sociopath that could pull this off then why was he playing Aaron when he lived at the Church and allowed himself to be sexually abused by the Bishop?


This is answered during pivotal cross-examination of Stampler during the culmination of the trial.

Janet Venable: Mr. Stampler, did you believe that the archbishop wore masks?
Aaron Stampler: I'm s-s-sorry, What did you say?

V: Do you think he acted one way in public and another way in private?
S: No. N-n-no, I didn't think that.

V: Isn't that why you underlined the Hawthorne passage?
V: Mr. Stampler?
S: No, I didn't. I did not underline that book.

V: You didn't underline it?
S: No. No ma'am?

V: And you didn't carve the number referring to that passage into his chest?
S: No-o-o. No ma'am, I did not. I told, told you I -

V: You loved him. You loved him like a father . . . , even though he you and your girlfriend perform demeaning acts for his own gratification?
S: No, you don't-don't understand. He . . . there was no other way for him to c-cast out his own demons he needed it -

V: He needed to get off, Aaron! That's what he was doing! That's what he needed you for . . . to perform like a circus animal . . that was your function in his life.
S: N-n-no!
V: Oh, Mr. Stampler, I'ma ask you straight, cause I am tired . . . and I've had just about all I can take of this sortedness, and I wanna go home, and I wanna wash my hands, and I wanna forget all about you . . . AND Archbishop Rushman. Did the archbishop force you and your girlfriend AND others to perform sexual acts while he watched, yes or no?!!!
S: Nn-n- yes, he did, but -

V: YES, he forced you! HE forced you using a threat of expulsion from Savior House, and a life on the street, with No heat, and No water, and No food . . . He PUT you in FRONT of a camera, he made you take off your clothes, and YOU don't think that that's another side?!!!!! Another face of a man that we all thought that we knew -
S: NO!!!!


reply

V: Do you know what I would do if someone did that to me? I would kill 'em, I wouldn't hesitate. I would STAB him 78 times with a butcher knife! I would CHOP off his fingers! I would SLASH his throat open! I would CARVE numbers into his chest! I would GOUGE out his eyes, I SWEAR to God!

V: But that's me. No further questions your honor.

Stampler (as Roy): Where the HELL do you think you're going?

V: Excuse me???

S: HEY!!! You look at me when I talkin' to you, BITCH!

Judge Shoat: Mr. Stampler!!!!

You know the rest.

reply

That doesn't explain the real Aaron's motivation at all. He clearly is articulate enough to play a schizophrenic for a trial but now he has to play one locked up in a mental ward for decades? Why would he want to live that kind of life if he's not really a split personality?

Going back to the beginning of the film, we see Aaron (the feeble one) running in shock form the murder scene. Fast forward to the end it doesn't make sense for him to stay in character as he could have easily slain the bishop in all its gruesomeness and left the scene with a cool head since he's not really a feeble/weak person. That's why I stated that the twist defies the movie's premise.

reply

>> That doesn't explain the real Aaron's motivation at all. <<

It literally explains his motivation, explicitly.

Early in the movie, during their first meeting inside the jail cell:

Martin Vail: So, how do you know the archbishop?
Aaron Stampler: I was begging on the street, on Wacker Drive. Bishop Rushman came by in his Cadillac. He saw me and he stopped. He took me into Savior House. I work as an altar boy. I sing in his choir.

MV: How long were you there, Aaron? The Savior House?
AS: A year, year and a half. You supposed to leave when you're 18, but bishop rushman let me stay on, way past my 19th birthday.

MV: That was nice of him.
AS: Yes. Yes, it was.

That's a pretty clear cut explanation of Stampler's motivation to create a stuttering seemingly harmless personality to gain the favor of the archbishop. Little did Stampler know at the time, the archbishop saw this meek, stuttering, seemingly harmless soul, as an ideal candidate to be manipulated and sexually abused.

So, back to your original question and my reply:

why was he playing Aaron when he lived at the Church and allowed himself to be sexually abused by the Bishop?


Venable: "He forced you, using a threat of expulsion from Savior House, and a life on the street, with No heat, and No water, and No food."

It's all right there in the dialog.

>> but now he has to play one locked up in a mental ward for decades? <<

Why decades?
Again, directly from the dialog:

Judge Shoat: The defendant will be remanded to Elgin for an evaluation period of 30 days. Let them decide the term of his commitment. Do either of you have a problem with that?

Janet Venable: Your honor, he'll be out in a month.
Judge Shoat: Take it up with the Legislature, Miss Venable.

---- minutes later, inside the jail cell:

MV: They've agreed to stop the trial. They're gonna be sending you to a hospital to get the help you need. And there's a very good chance, you can get out someday soon.

There was no indication that it would be decades.

reply

That's what feeble Aaron says, but the twist tells us that he was acting all long going all the way back to when he was begging on the street, or even before that. The movie tells us that the real Aaron is a sociopath who can kill without remorse, but apparently he set himself up to be sexually abused at Savior House so he can act on his socipathic whims, but to me that doesn't add up.

reply

It's not the twist that bothers me, it's the convenient plot points that helped Aaron's predicament. The judge declaring a mistrial and then sentencing Aaron to a minimum security nuthouse was a cheap way of closing out the chapter. Murder mistrials just don't end like that, and the whole side-story of the D.A., the Bishop and Law enforcement being crooked conveniently play into Aaron's game plan of avoiding justice.

reply

Aaron wasn't being abused. He was a willing participant. In reality he was more like his Roy persona and he killed off anyone who could contradict him.

reply

That's what I was gonna say. Maybe Roy enjoyed it actually

reply