Cut Apart

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Alice thinks she's found the house where Bob is. She walks up and rings the doorbell.

Bob looks up as the doorbell rings.

Alice waits for a moment, then rings again.

Bob gets up and goes to the door. He opens it.

Alice looks up as the door opens... and is face to face with some old lady. She's at the wrong place.

Bob finds Chris on the porch waiting for him as a dramatic Sting hits.


The Cut Apart is a subversion of the Continuity Editing that the audience is used to seeing. We're led to believe we're seeing the same event from two perspectives, then the Reveal Shot shows that it's two separate events that may be miles apart. In most cases, this is used to get our hopes up (Alice finding Bob would be great) only to destroy them (Chris finding Bob is horrible), but occasionally it's the reverse, and Chris being there is a moment of triumph.

A variation is that the difference is not in space but in time: Alice is actually arriving hours after Chris did and finds only the aftermath.

If you're looking for someone being cut apart, Diagonal Cut is the page to go to.

Examples of Cut Apart include:

Anime and Manga

  • Used in Naruto: Sasuke learns that Itachi and Kisame are searching for Naruto in a nearby town, so he dashes off to warn him. He knows that he is traveling with Jiraiya, so he asks every hotel owner he comes across whether they have seen a blonde kid with a tall white-haired man until he finally gets a positive response. He goes up to the room and knocks on the door. The scene cuts to Naruto inside his room hearing the knock while meditating. The scene switches back and forth a couple more times, with Sasuke knocking with increasing urgency until Naruto gets fed up and stands to answer the door. Finally, the door opens for Sasuke revealing . . . a completely unrelated blonde child and white-haired old man. Immediately after, Naruto opens the door to reveal Itachi.
    • This scene was directly homaged in the Naruto fanfic RED when you're led to believe Naruto is bringing Sasuke to shelter at Kakashi's house only for it to reveal that Naruto has brought him to Shikamaru's house and the Red at Kakashi's door begging for help is Itachi come to ask Kakashi to look out for Sasuke.
  • Eden of the East has a very drawn out one: Osugi is drunk and wandering around the street just as Kuroha is walking down the same street and the episode ends. Next episode we see Osugi with a bondage mask on his face tied to a chair and being threatened by Kuroha, and his friends are unable to contact him but eventually judge an online poster to be him by the pictures of his stuff lying around the room. A couple episodes later it turns out the two never met on the street: the man in the mask was actually a serial rapist that stole Osugi's stuff before getting kidnapped and Osugi had his phone taken away while his new co-workers were making him drink a lot as a sort of intiation.

Films -- Live-Action

  • Famously used to set up the Alone with the Psycho climax in The Silence of the Lambs.
  • The first Lord of the Rings film has the positive version, with closeups of sleeping hobbits mixed with Ringwraiths surrounding the beds. When the stabbing begins, we discover the beds were empty and the hobbits were in another room.
  • Collateral uses this, where an assassin is looking for a lawyer, while she gets a phone call warning her. We see him bursting into her office, only to cut and see that she's several floors above.
  • Saw 2 plays this with three separate groups (a police squadron, a private detective, and a pair of escaped victims) who look like they're about to meet. It's soon revealed that none of them are in position to meet each other.
  • The second Charlie's Angels film Full Throttle has this. There are scenes of some mafia groups makig their way to the rooftop of a certain hotel. Then there's a scene of former Angel Madison Lee getting ready to meet them. As the groups gathered at the rooftop, faces to the door, Madison makes her way to a, ready to meet them. Then…the door the groups were waiting at opens…to reveal a police inspector to puts them under arrest, then snipers from the surrounding buildings show up and the groups were taken in. Madison meanwhile, opens the door and sees nobody. The gangs had met at the rooftop of the wrong hotel, set up by the Angels.
  • Friends With Benefits uses this in the intro. We are lead to believe that Dylan and Jamie are late to a date with each other. However, it is soon revealed that they are late to dates with different people, and that these characters haven't even met yet. In fact, they're on different coasts.
  • This trope was Played for Laughs in Kung Fu Hustle. The Big Bad and his gang of mooks go the apartment complex where they expect the hero to be hiding and crowd around a single apartment, slowly opening the door. This is intercut with the hero rising in his own apartment and going towards the door, allowing the viewer to believe that the villains are waiting for him. Instead, the bad guys open the door to an empty apartment and the hero steps out of his apartment on the other side of the complex. Everyone gives each other an awkward blank stare before the final battle commences.

Live-Action TV

  • Used to great affect in the HBO adaptation of Angels in America, as Joe and Harper arguing is intercut with Luis leaving Prior.
  • The fifth season finale to CSI uses this trope to deal a Your Princess Is in Another Castle moment to a rescue operation.
    • CSI New York used this one when the investigators appeared to have found the apartment where a hitman was hiding with his hostage. They broke down the door of a Red Herring, and the hitman opened his on his building's superintendent.
  • This is done in Scrubs, when Turk makes it to his wedding just in time...only to find the "priest who looks like Sulu" from the church they agreed against.
  • In "The Horizon" on Alias, when a pregnant Sydney is kidnapped, her father tracks her down while she's simultaneously making an escape attempt. It seems like he found the right place, but he hasn't, of course; instead he finds something incredibly creepy.
  • Jonathan Creek has a clever variant, where it looks like two people are on opposite sides of a locked door and one even rattles the handle as the other watches, but it later turns out that this was an extremely elaborate trick and they were in two separate locations.
  • Supernatural, "Folsom Prison Blues": Sam and Dean pull a jailbreak and go to the cemetery to destroy the remains of a nurse who is haunting the prison. The FBI is headed to the cemetery to recapture them. The camera cuts back and forth until it's revealed that the FBI was directed to the wrong cemetery.
  • Primeval uses this once.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush", we see Tara knocking on one of the dorm room's doors, and Willow waking up from the noise. The door is opened by one of The Gentlemen holding a bloody heart. This was actually hinted, since Tara had previously found Willow's room number (which isn't the number on the door).
  • In season 4, Lost spent a whole episode's Flash Forward with Sun preparing to have a baby, and Jin buying a stuffed panda for a new baby. It isn't revealed until the final Flash Forward that the scenes with Jin were flashbacks, with the panda being for the newborn child of the Chinese ambassador and Sun is left to have the baby alone in the future (though it's possible to determine from context that the segments with Jin take place in the past).
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Marshall debates whether or not to pick up Lily at the airport. The end shows Marshall and Lily searching for each other in the airport, only they weren't there the same day: Lily's flight was delayed by one day. They even have a scene of them sitting next to each other, which turned out to be a split-screen.
  • The first scene in Spaced appears to be Tim and Daisy splitting up, with Tim shouting up to Daisy's window. We see at the end of the scene that the two characters are talking to different characters, as Tim leaves.


  • While it is not a camera trick, this is the entire story told by the song 'Silhouettes', where the guy is complaining how he can see his girlfriend in silhouette through the shade in her living room, dancing with another man, until he gets so disgusted he bangs on the door, only to discover two different people open the door, and he's on the wrong block!


Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, "Lake Laogai": Team Avatar opens the door to where they think Appa is, Appa looks up at the opening door to see... Zuko. A mild lampshading follows as Zuko snarks, "Expecting someone else?"
    • Happened in a much earlier episode too, with the Gaang in a Fire Nation controlled village, worried about getting caught. Fire Nation troops walk around menacingly as they sleep, the troops then knock on a door... which is opened by Haru, a friendly kid they met earlier in the episode.
  • Done in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, during the episode "Secret Snake Club". A group of nerds are performing a ritual to summon a giant snake, using the power of Grim's scythe. They then hear the door open. Billy (who, being trained by the CIA for the entire episode, is now an agent) comes in to arrest... a macrame club headed by Irwin. The snake nerds are interrupted by one of their brothers.
  • The second Futurama movie, "Beast With A Billion Backs" shows Brannigan's ship, the Nimbus, fighting fruitlessly against the tentacled creature while Brannigan narrates. We then find out he's piloting the ship by remote in an Applebees on earth.
  • The Doug movie uses this when government agents are sent to Doug Funnie's house to grab the Lucky Duck lake monster that they have been hiding there as Doug and his friend Skeeter are returning to said house. However the agents are actually at the wrong house and come across the nerd group playing a game that involves monsters. Part of the humor of this bit is that one shot features the agents leaping out of a black truck, then cuts to Skeeter commenting on an unusual truck parked in front of Doug's home that has no other importance to the plot for a perfect effect.
  • On The Simpsons episode "Lisa the Drama Queen", Lisa and her new friend Juliet are hiding out in an abandoned castle-shaped restaurant. Marge realizes where they are and the family goes to get her. As the Simpsons arrive to the restaurant, Lisa and Juliet see their silhouettes through the stain glass window. The door opens and... it turns out Marge had gone to the wrong castle-shaped abandoned restaurant; what Lisa saw was Dolph, Kearney and Jimbo wearing hats that made them look like Homer, Marge and Bart.