Earlier this year, we highlighted Resurrection featured at the Sundance Film Festival. Now, writer/director Andrew Semans’ gripping psychological thriller is coming to theaters and on VOD. So what better time to dig deep into the guts of this shocking horror flick’s jaw-dropping finale? If you’ve walked away from this one with your brain sputtering and your jaw dropping, you’re not alone. Let’s break down what it all means.
Resurrection delivers a heartless story of domestic violence and psychological trauma.
Credit: IFC Minuit
Rebecca Hall stars as Margaret, a successful executive whose life seems as perfectly in order as her meticulously pressed business attire. Her home is a swanky, tidy apartment, which she shares with her trusted 18-year-old daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman). Even her love life is neatly compartmentalized, as she’s found a reliable fuck buddy in Peter, an emotionally unavailable co-worker played by Michael Esper. All of this is threatened when the past she left behind crashes into her present.
David (Tim Roth) is a handsome 60-year-old Brit whose abrupt presence on the fringes of Margaret’s life becomes extremely difficult to lay bare. Why, exactly, the sight of David begins to shatter her facade is a secret she will keep from her daughter, her lover, and even the police. It’s a story of domestic violence, suffocating control and cannibalistic murder. Who would believe her?
According to a gruesome monologue, Margaret was once in love with an older man whose flattery she only desired, even at the cost of “niceness” that could range from household chores to humiliation, subjugation and self-harm. To prove her devotion to David, she was placed in stressful positions, burned with cigarettes, and forced to make him her whole world. Then came her son Ben, a source of joy for her but of jealousy for David. To keep Margaret close, David does the unthinkable, the impossible: He eats their baby. However, then – and now, 22 years later, having resurfaced – he insists the boy lives inside him, still crying for his mother, who ended up fleeing when she finally believed Ben was dead.
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Over a cup of tea, David coolly tries to reassert his control over Margaret, insisting, “He’s still inside me here. He’s hurting.” As resurrected trauma and stress about her teenage daughter’s safety mount, Margaret begins to fear that this bizarre claim is true and that her son, whom she believed to be dead for over 20 years, is still a baby, still nestled in the guts of his father. . She can hear him cry. She can even feel him kicking. And then, in the climactic confrontation, she plunges her hands into David’s stomach, which she tore open with a knife, and finds Ben there, breathing. “Good to see you again,” she coos. “I saved you.” But what does that mean?
Was David telling the truth? Has Margaret been driven to delusion by her abuse resurfaced? Consider the possibilities.
Baby Ben is real and alive.
Credit: IFC Minuit
Logic tells us that cannot be true. People can’t gobble up babies and put them away for decades, even if they’re fueled by wickedness. However, horror movies can be slippery with their realities. And while Resurrection begins grounded in reality, Semans’ script regularly leads us down the dark path of the improbable. Here, a tooth is found in a girl’s wallet. There, the burnt body of a baby appears in an oven – although it is Margaret’s nightmare… Isn’t it?
Logic is not the justification for the theory that Ben is living. Instead, consider this revelation through the lens of Semans’ exploration of domestic violence. David exhibits many of the familiar characteristics of real-life abusers: he charms Margaret’s family but makes her feel isolated, dependent on him, and how all of her worth is tied up in his pleasure. After Ben is eaten, David even uses his gruesome custody of the child as a new way to exert control over her, telling her she has to give him “kindnesses” to be near her boy belly.
Then there’s the terrible reality of what can happen when a victim reports abuse: cops that don’t help, a family that doesn’t understand, a story too horrific to be easily believed. Margaret experiences all of this while trying to maintain her grip on the life she has built from David’s shadow. His is an extreme example due to the element of cannibalism, but that extreme is paid for by the finale, where his version of a happy ending not only kills his attacker, but also recovers the lost life.
Baby Ben is dead and an illusion.
Credit: IFC Minuit
Resurrection is the story of a woman defeated by an abusive man whose very presence is a threat because of everything she knows that has happened before. No one understands her pain or her past, and the guilt of leaving her son – even though he was eaten and dead – threatens her hold on reality. Abbie and Peter even staged an awkward intervention, begging Margaret for psychological help. Are they right? Is it all in his head? Is she gassed by her stalker attacker?
Over the course of the film, Margaret’s breakdown is represented visually through her appearance. Her clothes range from cold elegance to wrinkled and ill-fitting clothes. Her hair grows unkempt. Her skin goes from radiant to ravaged. Part of this is under the guidance of David, who demands that she walk to work barefoot, concrete and city streets be damned.
On top of that, Margaret’s boundaries crumble. His firm but tender instructions to his daughter become strained and overbearing, demanding that the daughter never leave their house, ever. She was off work for a week. Her dates for sex with the ever-reliable Peter become awkward encounters in a bathroom stall, impacting her appearance in her life on a personal level that she is not interested in. She goes after her impatient intern, and – most notably – she plots to kill the man who haunts her waking nightmares. In this scenario, by the time David and Margaret meet in that hotel room, maybe everything after she dumps him is an illusion of what she needs to be true. She needs to be able to salvage this mess and be the champion for her children that she – and David – insists she is. And we, her witnesses, see the world like her.
What does mean Resurrectiondoes the end mean?
Credit: IFC Minuit
Let’s look at the final blow through each of these possibilities. In each case there is a brief possibility of a happy ending, for real or not, Margaret feels the weight of her baby breathing in her arms, reunited, restored, resurrected. But this is not the end of the film.
The final sequence takes us back to her and Abbie’s apartment, where the girl’s bedroom is stark white, its walls a bit bare as she calmly prepares to leave for college. The panic that wreaked havoc on their relationship disappeared. The two women shine as Abbie visits her mother’s bedroom, where Margaret sits smiling, holding her swaddled son. After gently thanking her mother, Abbie takes the baby from her mother, coos at her, and accepts her. They are the family Margaret dreamed of. “I’m not scared anymore,” Abbie assures Margaret. “You arranged everything, so I’m not afraid.” But before the film goes black, Margaret’s warm gaze shifts from her children to a mysterious mid-distance. Slowly, his smile fades. The glare in his eyes cooled, a terror creeping in, subtly but unequivocally. She gasps. Then the movie ends.
What does she see? What did she understand? If you read the climax as an illusion, then what does the shrunken smile and haunted gaze mean? Notably, in this shot, the focus of the camera shifts, robbing Margaret of her glowing skin, exposing her pores, sweat and little blemishes. Is this a clue that Margaret, who no longer has a baby in her arms, is waking up to reality, and it’s a horror she can only stare down?
Alternatively, if you consider Baby Ben to be real and alive, that ending translates to heartbreaking dread. Even though David is gone, even though his children are safe, Margaret’s trauma lingers. This gasp may mean Margaret can never truly escape David, because if her baby could have survived being eaten, couldn’t David have survived being gutted? Maybe she’s watching him. Perhaps she watches the uncertainty that will be her lifelong companion, never truly allowing her to feel safe.
Whichever way you read it, Resurrection delivers a final sequence full of wild surprises, then ends with a jaw-dropping final moment.
Resurrection is in theaters now; it will be available on demand on August 5th.
If you have been the victim of domestic or intimate partner violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Additional resources are available on his website.