5 Mind-Blowing Subliminal Easter Eggs Hidden in Movies
Science has largely debunked the effectiveness of subliminal messages (that is, the practice of inserting flash frames that are too quick for the eye to see into video, with the intention of influencing the viewer's subconscious). But that hasn't stopped directors from slipping hidden messages between frames of their films. In the era of DVD, they absolutely know that you'll spend all day pausing and rewinding to find stuff.
Or you can let us save you the trouble.
Black Swan -- The Club Scene Tells You the Whole Movie
In the 2010 ballet thriller Black Swan, Natalie Portman is Nina, a dancer who can't stand the pressure of playing the main role in Swan Lake and goes a little funny in the head. Before her breakdown, though, she has some fun times with fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) when the two go to a rave party together and later get down. We'll save you a trip to YouTube and show you the part of the previous sentence you immediately felt like looking up (the rave party, of course):
Did you get all that? OK, because that one-minute scene just told you the entire movie. The shots are too fast to see, but if you keep your finger firmly pressed on your pause button (or watch this handy frame-by-frame version), you can see weird stuff like Nina being stalked by the characters of the ballet, including the one she plays:
Or Nina dancing with the theater director, who isn't actually in the club at all. Adding to the confusion, he later morphs into Rothbart, Swan Lake's feathery villain. This represents his negative influence on Nina.
Then Nina suddenly appears dancing as the Black Swan, which she doesn't do until the end of the film. We also see another scene from the end of the film -- the closing of the Swan Lake performance (although in a slightly more drug-induced version).
Then come some perfectly normal disembodied eyes and faces from people in another dimension:
And then suddenly everyone in the room is Nina, and we get the wallpaper from Nina's bedroom, which tells you where we're all headed next. She's basically surrounded by different versions of herself from other points in the movie.
What does it all mean? Well, it's pretty much walking you through all of the twists that are coming later in the film. All of the plot and imagery squeezed into a single minute, and all the things Nina does here (getting intimate with people who aren't there, seeing her face on everyone, hallucinating the characters as real people) will happen again as the movie continues.
Psycho -- Hitchcock Sneaked in a Shot of the Mother's Corpse
At the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, there's a long monologue where a psychiatrist literally explains the whole movie, in case you took a long bathroom break after the shower scene: It turns out the main character is (spoilers) a psycho. Unassuming motel owner Norman Bates spent the past 109 minutes secretly killing people while dressed as his dead mother, but now that he's been arrested, he assures us he "wouldn't harm a fly." While speaking in his mother's voice. Yeah, that seems legit.
Now watch the ending again. Notice anything odd in that scene? Other than, you know, the big weirdo staring at you. Pay attention at around 1:30 into the clip -- as the scene fades to the image of a car being dragged out of a swamp (Norman put it there earlier in the movie, since it belonged to the shower lady), there's a brief moment where Norman's face looks like this:
What's wrong with his teeth? Nothing, his mouth is closed. He just looks like that because there's a third image in there besides Norman's face and the rear of the car. Namely, this lady:
Yep, the last shot of Norman is actually merged with his mother's skull, which was superimposed onto the film, symbolizing how his mother's personality now has complete control. We're assuming this is also Hitchcock's pre-emptive way of saying "Those sequels where Norman turns good are hot garbage." And speaking of which, they even did this in the pointlessly faithful 1998 remake with Vince Vaughn -- you can see the mother's hair behind Norman as the image fades out.
And speaking of slipping skulls into movies with psychopathic protagonists ...
Beauty and the Beast -- Gaston's Gruesome Ending
As far as Disney villain deaths go, the one in Beauty and the Beast has to be one of the least definitive. Just two years earlier, we had seen Ursula from The Little Mermaid getting impaled and electrocuted, and a few years later Scar would end up being digested by hyenas in The Lion King. In this case, we see Beast's romantic rival, Gaston, fall down a chasm after a climactic fight at the top of Beast's castle, but we don't hear a "splat" at the end. Here's the scene, in case you're only familiar with the Super Nintendo version:
While we've previously speculated that Gaston could have ended up as a grisly decoration atop the castle's gates, it's perfectly possible that he landed on a large mountain of hay, or an anachronistic mattress factory. It's a cartoon -- maybe he sprouted wings from his butt and flew away.
And yet somehow you know that's not true ... and that's because the movie's director subliminally told you so. In the 2002 DVD commentary, the screenwriter mentions that they wanted to make sure the children understood that Gaston wouldn't be showing up in any direct-to-VHS sequels, but they couldn't include a death scene because that would have been too morbid (has this guy ever seen a Disney film?). And so, as Gaston's face zooms past the camera (it's 31 seconds into the clip above), they put two frames where he has skulls in his eyes -- the international symbol for "that guy is sooooooooo dead."
Gaston's voice actor still insists that the character could be alive, but that's probably his house mortgage speaking. Despite his now confirmed death, Gaston did have a recurring role in the Mickey Mouse cartoon series House of Mouse, which just confirms our suspicion that the Disney Channel is the unholy manifestation of the netherrealm.
The Ring -- The Movie Flashes You With ... The Ring
The Ring came out in 2002, and at the time we were sure this would be the last horror flick based on VHS technology ever ( we were wrong). If we asked you to pick the creepiest scene in the movie, you'd probably go with the one where that girl crawls out of the TV and scares a dude to death, or maybe the haunted tape itself, which causes anyone who watches it to die a week later after receiving a phone call (presumably from Blockbuster, reminding you to rewind before returning it).
Well, if you picked any of those scenes, you're wrong. The creepiest scene in the movie, by far, is the one with the horse:
Why is a scene of a horse getting despondent and deciding to end it all scarier than the parts of the movie with actual supernatural stuff in them? Because the director just flashed you with the ring (as in, the one from the haunted tape) and you didn't notice it. The first thing we see in that scene is an extreme close up of a horse's eye, which you'll notice forms a ring:
At first you think this is a shot of the race horse that's being carried aboard the ferry in which Naomi Watts is traveling, but nope, this is actually a shot taken directly from the haunted tape -- it appears very quickly at 0:49 in the clip we linked to above. After that, Watts approaches the race horse like one does upon seeing a cute animal, but the sight of her face apparently triggers a flashback of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and he starts running around the place in terror. Unfortunately, "the place" happens to be a ferry, and the horse ends up jumping off into the water and getting shredded to bits.
And then, as the movie cuts to the next scene and you sigh in relief because the director didn't show you the mangled corpse of a poor animal, he subliminally shows you something worse -- this:
Once again, here's the slowed-down version. This time you see no sides of a television, like you did when Naomi Watts saw that same ring earlier in the film. That's because you're not watching someone watch the haunted tape. You're watching the tape yourself, and watching it so fast that you couldn't stop yourself even if you wanted to. See you in seven days!
Memento -- A Glimpse of The Truth Behind Leonard
Memento is the simple story of a man who wants revenge on the people who murdered his wife, only told backward and with a semi-amnesiac protagonist named Leonard Shelby, because nothing can ever be simple with Christopher Nolan (he must be great at telling jokes at parties). On top of that, there's a non-backward black-and-white subplot about a guy named Sammy Jankis who, like Leonard, also had anterograde amnesia and accidentally killed his own wife with his absent-mindedness.
As Leonard explains, Sammy's wife was diabetic and refused to believe her hubby couldn't create new memories, so, in order to find out if Sammy was just faking it, she decided to repeatedly ask him for an insulin shot, hoping he'd refuse. He didn't, and she died from too much insulin, we guess.
At first this seems like a pretty pointless anecdote to insert in the middle of a movie about revenge and wicked body tats. However, near the end of it, we see the oblivious Sammy sitting in a home after his wife's death, but when someone walks in front of him, his image changes:
For a brief second, we see Leonard sitting in the chair instead of Sammy ... and that's because this diabetes story isn't about Sammy at all but about Leonard himself. As we find out much later, Leonard's wife wasn't murdered; it was she who was diabetic, and it was she who tricked her husband into pricking her to death. As a result, Leonard put these memories onto Sammy and in his delusion went out to look for his wife's "killer." We don't find out about this until the end of the movie, and even then it comes from a less than reputable source, but this Easter egg would seem to confirm it's true.
So, with this split-second shot, Christopher Nolan was cheekily revealing the final plot twist of his movie a good half hour before it was over. Here's a slowed-down version. Does this mean that for a while our tattooed killer lived in a home, surrounded by old people playing checkers all day? If that's the case, we can't really blame him for getting so bored that he just went out one day and started shooting drug dealers.
Related Reading: Your favorite programs are loaded with Easter Eggs too. And in Firefox's case, the eggs have a weird culty vibe. And did you know the mysteries on the Da Vinci Code's cover are much more difficult than the ones in the actual book? For more Easter eggs courtesy of Disney, click hard and read on.