3 Theories to Explain The Strange Ones Movie
3 Theories to Explain The Strange Ones Movie - or how a confusing jumble of scenes can amount to an abattoir. A cattle shoot of determinism heading our hero down the shoot to his destruction. IMDB
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I have recently completely overhauled this entire movie discussion post for The Strange Ones based on ONE comment that I got (that comment won’t be hard to find, it’s the first comment I got, but it is so spoiler laden (even though the heart of the comment is only three words) it spoiled the movie for me, and I’ve SEEN it! hahaha.) But instead of me telling you what happened. Why don’t we grapple with a couple different theories of what might have happened.

And also, I want to be super clear straight out of the gate here. This movie is not a THiNC. movie recommendation (which, if you are curious, you can see my long lost of movies I do endorse, right here.) And on that list we’ll have some fun movies that are LIKE The Strange Ones, but are NOT The Strange Ones. Maybe Super Dark Times is sort of in this genre, or maybe They Look Like People? But the move that is most like the Strange Ones, while actually making it to the THiNC. approved list definitely would be the movie Midnight Special.

The themes here are too dark. Too taboo really to give a pass too. And so I have rated it accordingly, and I also want to not encourage anyone to see this that hasn’t already. So yeah, I am not bringing this to you today to say, watch this. The reason I’m talking about it today is just to solve it. To unravel it. And determine what exactly happened. I kept seeing The Strange Ones hit my radar over and over again, and when I read reviews of the movie on Amazon, or elsewhere, I kept seeing people say, (this is a direct quote from a comment I found), “Maybe I didn’t watch the movie closely enough because it was hallucinatory and jumbled. I liked it, but I didn’t understand it.” And this isn’t a one off perspective on this film. These sorts of comments happen over and over again. But the movie is all right there. It is very clear what happened. Sometimes when I do movie reviews I enjoy giving 10 different theories as to what exactly might have happened. But here? Nope. There is one clear answer.

What is The Strange Ones

While I am not dropping this movie in my recommendations pile, I did enjoy portions of it. The editing. The ambiguity of it. The non-linear progressions at certain times. The way the film shows us Jeremiah’s mental state throughout. It was very well done. I mean, we had Alex Pettyfer here playing a really intense and complicated role. (Never mind the fact that it is his role that makes me not specifically recommend the movie. Not his acting, no, that was actually fantastic. But the role itself, the character. I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough… that’s me in the corner… that’s me in the spot light… losing my gah! I digress.)

For those of you that haven’t seen it, and are curious, I will tell you that the movie follows two “brothers” on a “vacation.” (Yes, those are the biggest air quotes imaginable.) But all is not right with our brothers. Nothing seems to fit… or work. I mean, first of all there are the horrible nightmares and the flashbacks to something bad that has happened. And then there are the hints that they are sort of on the run? There are news stories that are chasing behind them? So the entirety of the movie is about unraveling these two guys out. Their relationship, their past. Ok? It actually is a very good movie, I am just not a fan of the answers the movie gives… but overall, it really was very well done. Maybe the trailer will convince you one way or the other to watch it or not.

So, it goes without saying, that from here on out, I’ll be diving into the details of exactly what happened in the movie The Strange Ones in an attempt to explain it, and also figure it out. Because there are nuances here that are left up to our assumptions and opinions about what exactly happened. So, why don’t we start by walking through the timeline of the movie, but instead of giving it to you in the order that movie’s creator’s, Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein, gave it to us, I’ll give it to you in chronological order. And I’m betting that that by itself will explain 99% of the questions you had coming into this post.

The Strange Ones Breakdown

Sam lives with his father, Robert. But Sam’s father is never around because he works the night shift. And even when he is around things are not well. We get the indication that Robert beats Sam fairly regularly. And when Robert is at work, Sam stays with the next door neighbor, Nick. Right? You got that? Because this is basically the holy trinity of this movie. Sam (kid), Robert (dad), Nick (neighbor). We good? Great.

Now, while Sam is staying with Nick, Sam divulges that his father beats him. And Nick tells Sam, you know what, if that were me? I’d defend myself. I wouldn’t put up with it. So one day, after a particularly bad encounter between Sam and Robert, Sam’s goes to stay with Nick, and eventually Robert comes home from work and apologizes to Sam. But this time is going to be different. And Sam walks in to where his turned away father is, and basically beats him to death. Sam tells Nick, and in order to protect Sam, the two of them burn the house down, and then go on the run.

So at this point, by discussing the beginning (which the movie is the end) we have 90% of the answers that most of you were struggling with. But there is one more detail still swinging in the breeze. And so these two guys go on the run, they are headed back to where Nick grew up in the woods. But along the way pretty much anything and everything that could go wrong did.

When Nick hits a deer, Sam and Nick, hike up the road to a hotel, and end up hanging out with the manager, Kelly, who has taken a liking to Nick. Nick and Sam are allowed to stay indefinitely by Kelly, but Sam sabotages them by telling Kelly that Nick is horrible, and that he might rape her… that he actually is gay. Which, should have sent all kinds of alarm bells off in your head. Not because of the details of what he was saying, but why he was saying it. I mean, if Sam knows he’s on the run from the cops, and this is a nice safe harbor, why bust a good thing? And then another troubling thing happens, Nick hits Sam for trashing their opportunity there at the hotel.

After that, the movie accelerates significantly. Sam and Nick head out to the woods where Nick grew up. But they are spotted by someone. And Nick is shot in the arm. Nick tells Sam to run for it, and Nick stays behind in the cave and ends up in a shoot out with the cops. As Sam runs he stumbles onto some kids at a summer camp type place (if anyone knows what this camp is all about, I would love to know more… because wow. Maybe the script has details about what this camp is?) and they take him in. Eventually, the head of the camp talks to the police, and they put two and two together and realize he is the missing boy that the authorities have been looking for that has been with Nick in the woods.

So Sam and a Child Protective Services woman talk. And it is here that we understand the narrative that the authorities believe, and the story that the film makers want us to believe. And that is, that Sam’s father Robert, was about to take a new job. And Nick didn’t want Sam to leave… for some reason.

“Sam, did he touch you?”

And so Nick killed Robert, and ran off with Sam. It was a child abduction scenario. Right? But that isn’t what happened at all.

After Sam’s father dying, and Nick dying in a shoot out, Sam goes to stay with his friend Sarah. Now, Sarah, has always had a crush on Sam apparently. And it is through their conversation, and through the flashbacks that we see the truth of what really happened that night. We learn through Sarah’s questions that Sam was abused by Nick. We also learn that before Sam killed his father that he texted with Sarah about wanting his father dead. And when he rejects Sarah’s advances eventually, he runs away in the night. And it is during his running that we get the flashbacks of Nick telling Sam to defend himself, and to not put up with his father’s abuse. And that is when we clearly learn that Sam indeed did kill his father.

Which is why, at the end of the movie, we see Sam flash back to his talk with the head of the camp. Gary gives Sam the same advice that Nick gave him, which was, your dreams (memories) are subject to your command. Just decide that they don’t exist anymore. You control what is and isn’t real in your head. These memories are only as real as you want them to be. FADE TO BLACK.

Let’s Talk Strange Ones Theories of Explanations

The themes and ideas of this movie are galling and horrific to consider really. But this movie’s editing and ambiguity sits in my wheelhouse 100%. It is fairly complicated to unpack. It is confusing to figure out exactly what happened, and why. And after receiving my first comment, 3 words of their comment forced me to sit down and totally redo this section entirely. Instead of telling you what happened, maybe there are several possibilities.

Possibility #1 – The Literal Strange Ones Theory

Theory one is just a straight up and down literal reading of what the movie gave us. Robert is abusing Sam. Sam is staying with Nick and he is sexually abusing Sam. Sam is persuaded by Nick to kill his father. Nick and Sam flee and head back to Nick’s old childhood stomping grounds. So, with this theory, we realize that we have a triangle relationship of abuse all the way around between Nick, Sam, and Robert. Robert is physically abusing Sam. And Nick is sexually abusing Sam. Both are preying on him. Even worse? Nick psychologically preyed on Sam, and convinced Sam to kill his own father. Horrendous.

Think about this in the real world. Where people are generally sane. If you find out that a neighbor is being physically abused by their father, you call the cops. Right? I mean, that’s how it works. They then bring in Child Protection Services, and find out what is going on. But instead, Nick gets all up in Sam’s mind, and convinces him that if he were to stand up for himself, the two of them could runaway and live happily ever after in the woods, at a cabin he spent time in as a child. He sells him on this idyllic life of the woods, the cabin, and the animals. No one else to bother them.  And Sam? Murdering his own father? And then watching as the house burnt down?

Possibility #2 – The Carnage of Trauma Strange Ones Theory

I’m not going to bury my lead here. Amanda commented, the first comment actually, and blew my mind with her comment. And here’s what she said, “You are off. Nick is Sam. You need to look deeper.” So let’s just take that at face value. Nick is Sam, and Sam is Nick. How could this work?

If you’ve watched Fight Club, or Mr. Robot, or other fractured psyche type movies, we know that cinema is an interesting way to show the duality of self in unique and mind bending ways. So what if, at a high level, the timeline wasn’t like I posited above, but rather, more like this:

  1. Sam’s mother goes AWOL
  2. Robert abuses Sam
  3. Sam regularly stays with neighbors
  4. Sam is regularly sexually abused by said random neighbors
  5. Sam’s mind splinters, and he begins referring to himself as Nick
  6. Nick grows, and his father is considering a new job out of state
  7. Nick kills Robert, his father
  8. Nick goes on the run, back to his childhood haunts
  9. He’s caught in the cave in a shootout and dies
  10. His younger self mentally explores the world around him as he dies
  11. And as Nick dies, Sam commits suicide in the road

Amanda? Did I get what that would look like right? But there are problems (enormous ones) with this theory. The sexual abuse between Nick and Sam is pretty clear. It’s never shown, but it is definitely happening. Which, breaks my brain to think about. And who are these random neighbors that Sam stayed with if they weren’t Nick? I dig the out of the box thinking here though. Kudos where kudos are due, Amanda.

Possibility #3 – Determinism vs. Free Will Strange Ones Theory

One of the themes of the movie, a repeating cadence in the film, is this idea that you can control your own thoughts, dreams, and past. That all you have to do is will these thoughts into non-existence. Nick says it to Sam first. He obviously knows what happened and why Sam is freaking out. And it is repeated again at the end of the film by this ick-factor-level-10 camp director who tells Sam that he can control his thoughts. Why? What is the movie saying by this mantra? I mean, it’s obviously fiction. Because we cannot obviously just turn off the horrors of our past. Which brings us to free will and determinism…

In the world of Philosophy, there literally is no bigger question than that of free will. Can we decide on our own our thoughts, and our actions? Or are we determined towards some pre-determined path that is grooved into our cranium somehow? This movie is basically positing that despite the horrors and evil of our lives, we can just will it away. Decide that it doesn’t exist. Decide that it would decide our next steps or our outcomes.

But, who cares about philosophy, what happens if we play this theory out, it is just Sam willing things into and out of being. Nothing is firm anymore. And we have to be OK knowing that we can’t know really anything from the perspective of Sam. There is no way to know, because he is capable of changing things at will to suit his interpretation of the world around him.

What do I believe Happened in The Strange Ones?

At the end of the day, I believe Sam was manipulated by Nick to do what he did to his father out of selfish reasons. He setup this utopian idea in Sam’s head of the cabin and the woods. He instructed Sam not to take his father’s beatings lying down and to stand up for himself instead of taking him to the authorities. Nick attempted to keep Sam nearby when his father was ready to move. And it was Robert’s beatings that drove Sam towards Nick and into the sexual abuse that would come from that. Sam, is obviously not a free agent in this movie. This argument of willing memories and actions away? Just utter idiocy. If anything, Sam has been forced into this toppling of dominos. Sam has been beaten emotionally at every turn until no options remain. Like Harris’ comments on free will, Sam too is unaware of the background causes forcing him this way and that.

So we let Sam off the hook for killing his father as an audience. We see the abuse at all sides for what it really is. Again, did I mention that I am definitely NOT recommending this movie? Right. Good. Because I’m not. But it lead to an interesting discussion of some really fantastic philosophical concepts anyway. So there is that. What did you guys think of this movie… those of you that made it through anyway.

Edited by, CY

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65 Responses

    • Heather McCollum

      What if you are all off. Sam is nick. As well as the farmer. Oddly enough the farmer is working on a farm with kids and quotes nick eventhough he had never met him? Sam. And nick both, could have been the farmers alter egos in this scenario.

  1. Jay

    Agreed, Sam and Nick are one and the same. The advice Gary provides and Nick’s advice confirm this. If you choose either analysis you provided other than this one the movie is fairly weak and I would not recommend it. However……if ya chose The Clockwork Orange twisted Nick/Sam approach it is a suspenseful masterpiece. It would be most interesting to hear the author speak on his work!

  2. Harry

    I’m leaning towards theory #1, but I’d argue that Nick didn’t try to convince Sam of killing his father, I’d also add that Sam committed suicide because he couldn’t handle the loss of Nick; evidence of that would be Sams weeping devastation in the bath after he got the news, also him rejecting his friend on the bed (who found out and said that Sam was quote “in love” with Nick!). The ending speaks to the theme of a loveless childhood shaped by abuse, unavoidably ending in tragedy.

    So I don’t think Nick was suppose to be a pedophile (their were several hints throughout) that’s the authorities’ story Sam didn’t contradict, so he would’t become a suspect in the murder. Nick made no advances and told Sam once to put his shirt on and he masturbated in the shower, also the physical examiner stated their was no penetration. In addition to that Sam was jeallous of the girl at the motel, with whome Nick propably slept, so he messed up their residence arrangement. Nick actually portrayed a protective surrogate father, with whome Sam fell “in love”!

    Nick didn’t go to the cops so Sam wouldn’t end up in a foster home and they went on a trip so we’d have a movie.

  3. Chris

    Perhaps Sam did everything and Nick took the blame. Sam was being abused by his real father and Nick cared for him like a father. Sam fell in love with Nick and when Nick talked about being defensive Sam killed his father. Then called Nick for help who took him away so that he wouldn’t get in trouble. From Sams point of view being in love with Nick perhaps he made the relationship more sexual than it was and in reality Nick was just caring for him. This can be seen with Nick flirting with the motel girl and wanting to stay but Sam lying to the girl saying Nick didn’t want to stay and therefore could also have been lying when saying Nick doesn’t like girls. Sam just said that because he was jealous and by provoking suspicion knew it would make Nick and him have to move away from the girl. Which led to Nick slapping him in frustration because he was helping him but Sam was acting out. Much like a Dad punishing his son in a very tense situation. The sleeping in one bed scene of course gives a sense of pervertedness but perhaps Nick was just comforting like a father does a son helping him sleep. Evidence for this with Nick not sexually abusing Sam is found a couple times. Once in Sams dream watching Nick please himself in the shower. If Nick was abusing Sam he would have no need of “relaxing” in the shower he would easily take advantage of Sam who was already in love with him. Another big flag is when they did a medical examination of Sam and said there was no sexual abuse indicated. One more piece of evidence is found in Sams interview when he lies about Nick killing his father therefore he also could have been lying about Nick touching him pushing the blame for his fathers death off him and onto Nick. Sams suicide could be suggestive of the grief for the death of Nick he loved and the guilt of lying about him.

  4. Harry

    Agreed completely; thanks for your great elaboration which underlines my thoughts in the comment from March 28th – no more far-fetched speculation, that is what happened in the film!

    • Sandy

      INDEED!! As you explained, and Chris elaborated upon, this is the only acceptable way to interpret this well-made, albeit bizarre, movie. So, we can accept the following as facts:

      1. Robert physically and emotionally abused

      2. Nick was a real person, as …
      a. Robert left Sam in his care
      b. He owned a home and car, the lat-
      ter which Sam would unlikely have
      been able to drive
      c. He likely had sex with Kelli, really not
      something she’d have imagined
      d. He shot and killed a police officer

      3. Sam/Jeremiah killed his father, as we’re
      definitely shown through his flashbacks

      4. Gary was real, and his own person, as he
      ran the work camp for wayward kids

      5. Sam committed suicide when he followed
      the black cat (his guilt physically manifest-
      ing itself), to his own death (the deep,
      dark cave/pit), by walking onto a busy
      road. He DID NOT walk away from that!

      As for the rest of it … the cup is/isn’t there, the “how’s the arm” question, all of that could’ve simply been some of Sam’s quirky imaginings. Or, perhaps Gary was asking him if it was sore after doing all the hard labor Sam wasn’t used to.

      So, that’s my take on this truly sad, and weird movie!

  5. Kassy

    This film is based on the true story of Alex and Derek King, who killed their dad with a baseball bat after being groomed by their paedophile neighbour, the story is very similiar they just changed a few details, look it up. So the original synopsis is correct, all the other bizarre alternate theories are wrong.

  6. Layden

    This movie was actually adapted from an Original short by the same title. If you search online for “The Strange Ones short movie”, you will be able to find a copy of it. I found it on Dailymotion.

    The movie, which is said to be an original fictional story, is about a young boy and the man who abducted him.

  7. Gina

    Kinda agree with Chris up to the point of Sam in the lake. He sees someone across the lake, he doesn’t say anything cuz he is hurt that nick hit him,like his dad did. He is upset to hear nick dies cuz he is regretful.
    Also I wondered if he also killed his dad because he didn’t want to move.
    Just some thoughts.
    Also did agree with the sam is nick thing at one point as well. Guess it’s however you see it

  8. The Quick Flick Critic

    “The Strange Ones”: Too Enigmatic for it’s own Good

    I like atmospheric. I like edgy. I like esoteric. I just don’t like to be bludgeoned into a stupor with it. That’s what watching the mega-weird murder mystery drama “The Strange Ones” conspired to do to me.

    The only remotely redeeming aspects to recommend here is the spooky score by a pair of killer flutists and the performance of the great character actor Gene Jones.

    The rest of this plodding trash can be tossed deep into that creepy cave and abandoned.

  9. John

    One more thing…why does Sam repeatedly refer to himself as “Jeremiah”? I didn’t like this flick. But it certainly motivated me to reflect. As it evidently did with all on this thread.

  10. Ron

    Kassy is correct. The duo that wrote, directed and edited the film talked about researching true crime (kidnapping) stories. If it isn’t based on the crime that Kassy mentioned, it’s as close to it as possible.

    I read a book based on that case:

    Manipulative child molester
    Absentee and abusive father
    One of the brothers who was sexually abused believed he was in-love with the abuser
    Fear that the father would stop relationship spurred on by the manipulation of the molester
    Brothers hit their dad over the head with a bat while he’s drinking a beer in his easy chair.

  11. Vern

    Nick and Sam can’t be the same unless most of the movie is a hallucination or death dream which is kind of a boring, simplistic, deus ex machina kind of thing. If it was “all a dream” than anything else could have happened so why this? If it were that kind of story I would have prefered a more rigid fit like “The Sixth Sense” or “Momento”.

    Just one glaring example is that through out the movie there are people who “see” and interact with both of them together as unique individuals. And no, you can’t rewatch it and see that it’s an “illusion”.

    I have not quite put together or decided on a specific theory about what the freakin’ heck was going on. The coffee cup bugged the heck out of me because it happened once early on setting a possible false tone about this movie… or maybe not false?

    And at the end, crossing the road (I expected credits to roll), then the camp director asking about his arm… what the heck? Wasn’t he out of the camp by then staying at that girls house? Did I have a stroke and miss a few minutes? Or did the editor put a small bit in the wrong spot? I do that all the time in Adobe After Effects.

    I LOVE movies with this type of strange odd structure, but this one went too far. I wandered off into the woods and fell asleep in a cave… woke up in time to see the credits and still scratching my head.

  12. Brianna

    Nick is in Sams head he made him up to help him cope even killed him for his mind to make him more real … remember the dinner where Nicks cup disappeared? Nick kept trying to yell sam he isn’t real. Sam made them romantic then took it away because it wasn’t right … the people they encountered only really talked to Sam and gave him funny looks when he responded as if someone was there … the director tried to make it seem like nick was real but he was never there!

  13. Shell

    The girl that owned the hotel obviously saw Nick. There is no way to unexplain that. Also the neighbor girl referred to Nick as well. I want to know, what was up with the black cat? None of you have mentioned it.

  14. Maryann Elizabeth

    I liked the movie very much, even though it’s based on a very dark subject matter, I can appreciate that it was not made obvious until towards the end. I also liked how they did not include any explicit/disturbing scenes showing this but rather, it’s implied. The movie was vague in many aspects (but that was the point anyway) but in my opinion not to the extent that I thought Sam had a shattered psyche and everything I saw on screen for 90 minutes was not what it had appeared to be. I took it for what it was. No theories needed. The film makers, writers and ESPECIALLY the two main actors did a superb job.

    BTW I believe this movie was loosely based or at least heavily inspired by a case here in my home state of Florida from back in 2001. A lot of the plot seems to share many of the same details as this case:

  15. Killian Courtney

    Definitely and 100% about Alex King and Rick Chavis. They cut out the parts involving his brother Derek. From the bat to the head, fire and being manipulated, molested and hidden by Rick Chavis. Almost exact except for some dramatic additions.

  16. Killian Courtney

    The story is about Alex King and Rick Chavis. The only fiction is Alex’s suicide and leaving out his brother Derek. Even the cult, which was really a sanctuary for kids who committed murder, is a real place…Estrella Vista. this ain’t rocket science folks, it’s called google.

  17. Bb

    I have spent WAY too much time trying to decipher ‘what was what’ in this movie. For a long time, I had the same theory as two other commenters above had — that it was actually the boy who was gay and in love with the man, while the man was more of a surrogate father wanting to protect the boy. I never thought the “they were the same person” theory was right, but I did wonder whether my theory was wrong and it was actually the man abusing the boy.

    To my understanding, the 2017 long film is based on the 2011 short film. So I just watched the 2011 short (thanks to the person who put the link above), and in the short it seems more clear (at the end) that the man is the abuser. So apparently my theory that the man was a surrogate father was wrong. He was in fact abusing the boy.

    That’s my take now anyway, after watching the short. Although I’m only about 90% sure. Lol.

  18. Ashley

    As I thought about if Nick was real or not, and started going back to scenes to verify that nobody mentions Nick by name but Sam, one thing that seems to stand out in favor of Nick IS Sam.

    At the end while talking to the head of the camp (which is a troubled teens work camp) the counselor says “how is your arm?”

    At no point does it show Sam sustaining an arm injury. It does however, show Nick being shot in the arm in the woods.

  19. Adam R

    Wow, I read all the comments above and feel Nick was real and not an abuser, but Ashley’s point above just made me doubt.

    Also, the teen work camp thing confuses me. He just happened to walk up onto a teen work camp? Or was he sent there by the court system? Why does he tell his friend he would like to try farming and raising animals. When he mentioned that, I felt like he was he or she should have said “since i was just doing it” or “since i was just at that camp”

  20. Guil

    Well… you missed the animals…
    The black cat is always there… ( cat is the symbol of femininity, Black cat is of course symbol of witchcraft, curse… and it follows and leads…anywhere)
    the deer Nick hits is the same the one his dad shot.

    Besides, Sam is leading everything, he’s lying a lot, he makes up his own reality. I think he’s in love with Nick (Jealous of the girl, devastated when he dies) even if I think he’s treated like an imaginary friend.
    Everybody is following Sam, works with him, he’s the only one “free” in this story. Nick wants to stay, Sam wants to go, they go. Sam stops the car, Sam runaway, Sam decides not to give real names (Nick does, and Sam calls him stupid…)
    And before killing his dad… he’s locked up in his room. Nick just tells him not to watch, it goes with “you decide what is true and what is not.

    Even if it’s based on a true story (camp looks like a thing for juvenile delinquents, but the symbol is to start over, to make new things grow, to create life…), the cave is the real symbole of the whole thing.

    The whole movie/story is told through Plato’s allegory of the cave… through Sam’s eyes and mind.

  21. Anna

    Kassy is correct. This is an adaptation of the Alex and Derek King true story. Sam is Alex. Nick’s character is a pawn used to portray Derek (the older brother) as well as the pedophile neighbor. The teens changed their story several times especially Alex who once admitted to being the mastermind. Alex was even so clever as to alter is grammer in writing to make himself appear to be even more of a victim. He was truly a victim due to the convicted pedophile neighbors grooming and sexual assault. Look up Estrella Vista. That was the camp in the film. That’s why the old man welcomed alex so warmly and was trying to help him as a counselor would. Much like the founder of Estrella Vista in Texas. So Sam is not Nick. Nick is pedophile but at the same time he isn’t. You’d have to learn more about the King brothers case. Hope this helps.

  22. Nikola Novak

    “The sexual abuse between Nick and Sam is pretty clear. It’s never shown, but it is definitely happening. Which, breaks my brain to think about.”

    That’s a strange thing to say these days as evidence is overwhelming that people who have been abused as children abuse themselves as adults through various addictions, sexual behavior, even by cutting themselves or otherwise physically hurting themselves on purpose.

  23. Matthew G.

    I just finished the movie and turned it off half way thru…to me , it was way too convaluted and incoherent. So I jumped online to see what it was actually about when I came across this page…and with a combination of your 3 scenarios and allowing the film to run onin on background, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the characters are one and the same…unfortunately this movie fails in its attempt to illicit a thought provoking story of nature vs nurture….IMO there was alot of smoke and mirrors in the build up to the last 10 mins. Here’s my summary of why Nick = Sam…

    I didn’t get it until Sam walks up to the cave at the end…and then it hit me…Nick said he stayed there one night after running from his father and didnt remember anything except he “CAME OUT” a different person from then on…To me this is two fold…Nick losthis life and his innocence there after accepted that he was sexually abused and attracted to males…I also think this movie isn’t a real time story but more like a visual autobiography in a way…just like this happened to this person…not this is happening while we watch so to speak.

  24. Chad

    The reason so many people on Letterboxd and other movie apps come away from the film thinking it’s “trying too hard” to have more meaning than it actually does is because they believe the movie is to be taken literally… or, as in Theory 1.
    I could see why that might be a common opinion IF that was indeed the reality of the film.

    However, this film does weave actually memories with Sam’s fractured view of his neighbor and his brother (Derek), as well as the allegory of the cave (as noted previously by another commenter).
    – The cave is a key visual element. As is the reappearance of the cat, and the appearances of deer in the film.

    Sam is trying to come to terms with the events, and to do so he is having to sort through and resee “memories” that have been fracture and previously reinterpreted from reality. This film is that unfolding. Thats why scenes are scattered, and come to him in pieces.

    But again… the cave. At the end, he enters the cave and as noted previously by the Nick character, it’s from there that everything will come out. He knows to enter into it as a means to clarify everything. But it took everything he sees/experiences in the film to get to that point.

  25. Garnet

    Thank you for sharing your review T.H. and for taking the time to fully present the various plot perspectives. Powerfully expressed.
    After watching the film I wanted to see what others thought, so, here I am. Firstly, the direction, performances and editing were moving, incredibly well-done. However, this is a movie which is dealing with the extremely horrendous subjects (abuse, murder, manipulation, mental illness, grief), depicted in a quiet and humanistic way. I agree, the directors and screenplay appear to convey all of the above are taking place within the film.

    I had the impression Sam was beaten by his father, as some totally reprehensible, lack of parenting — the father couldn’t cope that his son was gay. It’s horrible. His son was becoming a person he couldn’t relate to, or control. I disagree with the commentor who felt Nick was not having a sexual relationship with Sam. As the audience, we see the uncomfortable intimacy (this is child abuse); clearly, one does have more influence over this situation, both are emotionally manipulating each other to a degree, in a deeply twisted relationship. I’m not going to explain how the physical exam given to Sam would not disprove the extent of what may have taken place between Sam and Nick. There are many hints, which is what the film-makers have taken time to weave into this story. In particular, around 20 minutes in, Sam is disgusted with Nick for his attraction and encouragement of the young woman who is the caretaker there; Nick covers his own face (shame) with his hands and sighs… Like a lover who has been caught and reprimanded for being “unfaithful”. Yep. Truly uncomfortable and wrong, between this man and a preteen boy. I agree that there are two main perspectives to this tale and it appears the film-makers’ intended to make us think all of this at once; these plot events happened to the characters we are watching. We are made to feel there must have also been a person who represented Nick in Sam’s life and Nick is likely Sam as a grown up… Reminds me a bit of David Lynch’s, “Mulholland Drive”, plot events happened, they were also twisted in memory to the main character’s view, ultimately, that character is the one who is entering their own abyss.

    (The camp seems self explanatory to me, a structured place where troubled kids are rehabilitated with care)

  26. AIMEE

    The plot is plain as day. Nick and Sam are in a relationship. Even though it’s illegal and morally wrong. Sam is physically abused by his dad and kills him because he doesn’t want to move because he’s in love with Nick, and has obvious psychological problems from being abused physically, emotionally, and sexually. After things don’t work out and it’s not like he imagined and hoped, Sam commits suicide and the whole wayward camp thing is his conscious/imagination and the.end scene with the cave symbolizes Sam joining Nick in the afterlife. You’re welcome everyone! ;)

  27. Carolyn

    You’re making it too complicated. Maybe Sam killed his father and Nick came in or maybe Nick came in while Sams father was abusing Sam… Nick cares about Sam in a paternal or fraternal way. People are way too quick to presume if some one cares about a non-related person, it’s perverted. Try looking at the movie with your mind out of the gutter. Sam was so screwed up, he caused Nick to be killed. He grew up abused and no one in the neighborhood helped him. Sam was schizophrenic.

  28. Easy

    I never comment on these forums but this one was bugging me I think Sam is nick when nick stared in the cave with Sam he said said to Sam “ I stayed in here when I was you’re age I felt like I traveled in time I came out a new man” meaning nick is Sam in the future backed up by the fact nick tells same he’s taking him to where he stayed as a child and it ends up to be not far from this mysterious camp my personal thought a mind control camp growing gmo food and brainwashing kids with trauma more evidence is the fact that at the end Sam also goes to sleep in the cave and comes out a new man “nick” also The quotes repeated about memories being a choice said by nick and the camp leader is what the camp leader said to Sam before he slept in the cave and turned into nick that’s why the speech is identical maybe the sexual abuse was from the camp leader (guess) and in the con
    fusion of past and future he muddles his traumatic experiences as he attempts to forget them but I do think I almost hit this one on the head with the help of Amanda

  29. Susan

    Taylor. Dude. You’re correct. Sam wasn’t/ isn’t Nick. Sorry,Amanda. This movie freaked me out & I hated it, for the exact reason you aren’t recommending it. I too, especially hated that memory crap posited by the camp director. There’s another horrifying movie very similar to this, and weirdly, I liked it much better, though I really was freaked out and uncomfortable. I wish I remembered the name… it’s a brother/ sister incest movie.(just… NO, am I right?) but I promise, I was amazed at how well it was filmed, presented, etc. I think I ‘found’ it on Netflix.

    *** I don’t blog on my WordPress site anymore, maybe I should get back to it, huh?

  30. Elizabeth

    It doesn’t really make sense for Nick and Sam to be the same.
    1. CPS asked Sam whether Nick was sexual with him. It wouldn’t really matter if he had been sexual with him if Nick wasn’t a person separate from himself.
    2. The woman at the motel asked “do you guys need anything else for your room” and “your brother said you guys might stick around.”
    3. Sarah told Sam that her mother knew someone who had dated Nick.

    These all suggest that Nick had a character and physical presence apart from Sam.

    My theory is that they’re not the same and Nick might not have even been inappropriate with him–I think that the line, in Sam’s mind, is just blurred between them. They’re two different people, but due to trauma (from his father or from Nick), he can’t keep the events or the timeline very straight in his head. Remember the old man asking him in the end “how’s your arm,” making me think he may in fact have been the one, not Nick, to take a bullet. The plot is unsteady and inconsistent because Sam is unsteady and inconsistent.

  31. Allan Neumann

    Well for a film most say they did not like it sure spurred some deep thought evidently… Well the basis of the story may come from a real life story I think the film makers are saying everything is open to one’s perception…interpretations… While its impossible to recommend as most would be dazed and confused and think they have had a stroke and missed the plot…. I think the misdirection is intentional… A philosophical debate of what is each of our realities and truly we all do have different realities. I’ve walked out of much simpler films and had contrasting views and think that is mystic appeal of this film. Imagine if the directors had just made it straight forward… There would be no debate here. I admire there willingness to take this challenge and make a film that can have 6 perceptions. Does Nick even really die? Yes the social worker says so but maybe she is deluding Sam so he won’t try contact Nick again. Remember Nick mentions he went into the cave and never came out again. It kind of makes me think of that series Dark, also a magical cave. Still too much is left in the air and there I agree the directors did push the illusory nature of reality too far… And needed to just give us a bit more detail ….and Sam’s black cat? His familiar? Maybe the directors will fill us in one day…I’d love to know never mind that bloody cup….

  32. Rose

    Definitely what Harry said this movie was definitely laid out weird but Nick wasn’t the abuser. It seemed to me, Sam was getting abused and of course didn’t want to tell on his father to the cops, he confided in Nick who gave me more big brother vibes than sexual abuser. He cared for him, wanted him to stand up for himself and also let him know that he had his back if anything went down. If sexual abuse was happening Nick wouldn’t have been so guarded about everything even with Sam. He seemed more like he was protecting him and Sam began to fall in love with him. When Sam got jealous of Nick and that girl and sabotaged it all and messed their hiding spot out, you realize Sam is kind of selfish

  33. Kyle

    I believe what we’re seeing is Sam doing as the older camp director told him when he was a kid and making the past disappear like that mug over and over again when he’s not happy, but the truth of the past reps creeping back in like we see in the flashbacks of him killing his father and the black cat which we know was left at the burning house. When the film ends with Sam walking into the cave that Nick said he spent a night in and came out a new man, we are seeing Sam rewind in his mind and start a new recording over of his past to restart a new life of his psyche.

  34. Arthur G.

    The acting by Alex Pettyfer was mysterious and nerve-wracking. Trying to figure out the ambiguity of these two was mind-boggling. James Freedson-Jackson makes evil manipulation look easy. Great acting from both actors and an absolute mind-bending journey.

  35. Joe

    Briana, I think hit on it closest. Sam is physically abused by his father. He is locked away in his room the whole time his father is gone. Everything we see in the film is in Sam’s head. He plays out all kinds of different scenarios in his head. This is why the story jumps all over the place. “Cabin Fever” drives his mind to different extremes. He creates Nick as sort of a big brother/friend/father. This is everything Sam’s mind thinks he needs. As things go along, the continued loneliness and physical abuse starts to enter into his self-created “somewhat idealistic” world inside his head. This cracks his mind further and he can no longer trust his own creations. So they get twisted. This is what brings about the changesin the return to parts of his stories. As they break down, Sam becomes more fragile. Hiding in the barn is a time when he was locked away without water, for example. It causes his mind to create another “retreat” that also breaks. The “you control your dreams” is his mind releasing and giving to desperation. One day, his father lets him out and the “broken” Sam snaps, kills the old man, and burns down the house

    His mind tries one last time to create some sense of past normalcy, the cat. Knowing the only escape is death, his twisted mind takes him to the busiest road in the middle of nowhere, creates the cat for him to seek out one last time. Then the director “Pet Sematarys” his ass like toddler Gage Creed. Any ladt things we see are created as a result of dying.

  36. Lisa

    I know I’m late to this party but that first comment is way off. The movie is deep but not that deep and Sam and Nick are definitely 2 people. I just think Sam was abused by both him and his father. He has nightmares and Lord, who wouldn’t after that kind of abuse coming from everywhere. When he’s talking to his girlfriend you can tell he was in love with Nick or what his limited scope is of love which in reality was abuse. It reminded me of the guys from the Leaving Neverland documentary because they too were left with very skewed ideas of what real love is and what is abuse.

  37. Cheree

    I think there is a mild suggestion of something sicker you didn’t consider or mention, and it’s at the top of the list to me as to why I wouldn’t recommend the movie.

    There is a slight suggestion that Nick and Sam were “in love”, or more clearly that Sam was in love with nick. I found this to be the most disturbing note of the whole movie.

    This would be a 4th theory. Sam was in love with Nick, and that was his primary reason for not wanting to move. Despite the beatings, it was being separated from Nick that pushed him over the edge. It was jealously that caused him to tell the manager that his brother was a liar.

    There was no sign of sexual abuse, other than Sam’s words. If he was or wasn’t touched isn’t truly clear.

    In the end Sam distraught with the death of Nick. We watch that weird scene where he gets hit by car, then he returns to that cave where Nick said he went in and came out and it was like it was a different time.

    The fact that Sam May have been in love with Nick was breeched in the movie itself makes the entire project trash. Just some gross deranged story.

  38. Matt

    Don’t overthink it too much. No, Sam is not Nick. And Nick is not Sam. They are two separate people who had a physical relationship of some kind, and Sam ultimately fell in love with Nick (reminiscent of the Derek and Alex King murders). This is evident in Sam’s crying reaction in the bathroom, his peeping-tom-ishness when Nick is masturbating in the shower, and his “memories” which may or may not be entirely accurate as Sam is contently being coached to “block” out the ones he doesn’t like and create the ones that he wants. Sam was also jealous of Kelly. The night before Sam’s filthy morning banter with Kelly, Nick left the room for what appears to be at least a few hours. Sam is seen channel surfing and ..again…peeping out the window to gaze upon a half-naked Nick swimming with Kelly. Sam becomes worried that Nick might leave him or – If they stay at the motel longterm like Nick wants – Sam will have even less time with Nick. OR…Sam may simply be uber-pissed off that Kelly ruined his first evening “alone” with Nick in a “real bed.” Remember, during the car trip, Sam asks Nick, “Will the cabin have real beds?” Pedophilia is all about mind manipulation and control. Nick may have even purposefully wanted to make Sam jealous by flirting with Kelly to keep him submissive and always wanting him more. Wasn’t the look on Nick’s face kind of creepy when he introduced Kelly to “Jeremiah” at the pool? Kinda like, “See kid? I can have anyone that I want. Don’t piss me off.”

  39. Aimee

    I agree with Matt and I even left a comment on here in 2018 about Sam and Nick’s sexual relationship. But what’s even more shocking to me than the two leads love for each other, is that people are still leaving comments about it on here, how hilarious and awesome! lol

  40. Warren

    I have a different take, which builds on Amanda’s thought that Nick and Sam are one and the same. Yes, but not literally. It’s their experience that is the same. Sam is being abused by his father, and Nick was also abused by his father. This is what generates the bond between them. Nick loves Sam, but not in an abusive sexual way. He longs to give Sam the love and nurturing that he never had. He also wants to give him the courage to fight back, which he never did. Nick sees himself in Sam and wants to give him the love and the father that he never had. This is why Nick can’t simply call the police on Sam’s father. He’s struggling with his own unresolved issues and Sam is his vehicle to redemption.

    It is Sam who has fallen in love with Nick. It is Sam’s jealousy that leads him to trash Nick to the girl at the hotel. Sam kills his father because it is he who doesn’t want to leave Nick. And Sam understands that the killing will link him even closer to Nick and satisfy Nick’s need to rectify his own childhood. So when Sam does kill his father, all Nick can do is protect him.

    There is no evidence in the film of Nick abusing Sam sexually, not even forensic. There is however a deep and abiding love and protectiveness on the part of Nick towards Sam. And there is a deep, underlying resentment on the part of Sam towards Nick, who understands that even though he has killed his father, he will never get from Nick what he really wants.

    The end is weird. Why does the camp leader mention his arm. His arm is never injured throughout the movie, so it seems to imply this is after him being hit by the car, and he survived, and he’s now back at the farm where he wanted to be. And he follows the cat, which shouldn’t be there, to the cave where Nick became a new person. And he enters, seeking the rebirth, comfort, nurturing and love that Nick had promised?

  41. Jeff Buck

    Two references that you can’t miss:
    -1- MATRIX: “there is no spoon” -> “there is no cup”
    -2- MATRIX: “the black cat” is the SIGN of a déjà vu

    I propose for Possibility # 1 but enriched.

    All the facts really happened, BUT, the kid can manipulate them in his mind to change or omit the bad parts.
    BUT, tha black cat is an “anchor”, when it appears it is to remember that this is the original version of the memory. For example, he finds the cat after killing his father and after he and Nick gave the house to the flames (which is the real thing that happened).

    There also an argument so it is not possible that Sam and Nick are the same person.
    When we have multiple personalities one il the “real/dominat” one. In this case is the KID (it is undeniable, he is the protagonist, and he is present throughout the all movie), so … how can he drive? how can he flirt with an adult girl? etc.

  42. Jeremiah

    I think Sam’s clothes are clues. He is wearing the same hoodie, brown shorts and brown shoes in the following scenes:

    1. in all his flashbacks to the night of his dad’s death
    2. in the epilogue (following the suicide)

    This makes me think the epilogue part is just his last thoughts, kind of mixed up visions:
    – being back to the farm
    – going into the cave
    – talking to Gary
    …So he only imagines telling he killed his dad. Kind of guilty conscience. In reality he conveniently blamed Nick for the murder. I also have the feeling he only makes up the inappropriate parts of their relationship to give a more believable reason for Nick to have done it.

  43. Fuzzy Logic

    The relationship between Sam and Nick is consensual. Not abusive and it might even be Sam who pursued the sexual relationship with Nick. This is evidenced by several “tells”. The first tell is where Sam gently strokes Nick on the nose in the truck. The second tell is when Sam told the female caretaker, almost in a controlled jealous rage, that Nick was gay, insinuated he was dangerous such that she would stop making advances on Sam’s lover, Nick. Another tell was when the camera showed a shot of the bed the two of them had been sleeping in, with the other bed untouched. The final tell was where the girl who had a crush on Sam told him “you love him, don’t you”, and he didn’t deny it.

  44. Kristy

    So here’s my question…why is no one considering the possibility that Robert was sexually abusing his son? The doctor says Sam was physically and sexually abused but there’s no evidence that it was Nick. Sam tells his friend that the touching went both ways but all she asked was “Did he…?” Again, no evidence it was Nick. And the scene with Nick in the shower…why would he masturbate in the shower if he was abusing Sam and Sam was present? Seems like that would have been an opportunity for said abuse. What if Nick’s dad abused him when he was younger and when he saw it happening to Sam he did whatever it took to get Sam out of the situation? Maybe the mantra of the movie is exactly how Nick made it through life after his experiences with his own father and that’s why it’s passed on to Sam. The affection he shows could be a kindred spirit type thing and not sexual at all. As said by someone else, we cannot fully trust Sam’s view of the world.

  45. Amelia

    Possibilty 4: Nick is literally Sam. The cave is a portal. Nick says outright, I was a little older than you. I don’t remember my time in the cave. (Maybe a lot of time??) I came out of the cave, I had changed. I was the same person, but it was like I had traveled through time. Everything was the same but different….Then he went back to help and comfort his child self who was physically abused and neglected by his father. The doctor even said there was no sign of sexual abuse so that leaves open the possibilty that there wasn’t. At the end, Sam is now a little older and enters the cave exactly as Nick described. He even drew those drawings of the cave/portal. The waitress, manager, and hikers all saw both of them so there were two different people but yet the same person.

  46. Michelle

    I just watched this movie. Very confusing. But my take on it is that Sam/ Jeremiah is actually the “ bad guy” in the movie. I believe that Nick came to care for him( in a brotherly way) and even more so after learning that Sam was being abused by his father. Sam killed his father and Nick tried to help him.Sam did have a crush on Nick however.The doctors even said there were no signs of sexual abuse.Once Sam learned that Nick had died he found a way to put blame on him for everything that had happened. The black cat was making him paranoid because he felt it was his father watching him.( Reincarnated).

  47. Derek Matt Rowland

    Ooooh. I like this theory. It’s different from mine, but I think it’s very plausible. 50/50 now.

  48. Hugo Lefebvre

    This film left me so unsettled… I’m not sure I liked it, but I have to admit it raised a lot of questions in my mind. Who killed the father ? What is the true nature of Sam and Nick’s relationship ? Why does he come back to the farm after being hit by a car ? Is he dead ? What is this cave ? I’m happy to see I was not the only one who couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening. All your theories are so intriguing.. I think I might watch it again someday

  49. Hugo Lefebvre

    This film left me so unsettled… I’m not sure I liked it, but I have to admit it raised a lot of questions in my mind. Who killed the father ? What is the true nature of Sam and Nick’s relationship ? Why does he come back to the farm after being hit by a car ? Is he dead ? What is this cave ? I’m happy to see I was not the only one who couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening. All your theories are so intriguing.. I think I might watch it again someday.

  50. Danielle

    I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet…but one idea i’m working on is more of a battling with sin/self condemnation theory: Sam killed his father THAT we know. And he has to make a choice: repent/forgive himself/and choose a path of light/speak/open up/admit/take responsibility with the camp leader and release himself from his nightmares/be Jeremiah (biblical names being used here at the camp-possibly an Eden reference) OR remain the tortured Sam/killed his father and is tormented and now left alone that he’s lost Nick and eventually chooses to follow the black cat and go into the pit — the literal black cave. (I see the black cat always as a foreshadowing of something bad to happen.) Camp = heaven/enlightenment). Cave = hell/condemnation.

  51. Troy

    I have what I think is a far simpler explanation. Sam is both gay and insane. This film belongs to the genre of “unreliable narrator” films, and I think it is making a statement about the way gay children are harmed by parental disapproval. Sam’s father is physically abusive when not absent precisely because his son is gay and he hates him for it. Sam eventually retaliates by killing his own father, stealing the family car, and basically hallucinating/inventing the rest of the film.

    Imagine that Sam is NOT a young boy. But perhaps an older teen, say 17 or 18. But he sees himself as a young boy in this film. Further, imagine that Nick doesn’t exist at all. He’s a construct of a perfect love interest for Sam’s tortured psyche. Alex Pettyfer has LONG been seen in film as a “perfect” object. A paragon of male beauty. This film capitalizes on that perception.

    Sam doesn’t make it far. He flees the scene of his father’s murder, has a few confusing experiences and dies in the road. The entire events of the film are his jumbled real and imagined experiences just before his death.

  52. Jake

    Didn’t the doctor say there was no evidence of sexual abuse, my mind could be fading. Perhaps nobody was sexually abusing him and his father kept him locked up in his room like the dream showed us. Maybe a modified theory 2 explains it all. He changed his memories to handle the murder of his father with an imaginary friend or split personality.

  53. BlessMePLZ

    Everyone is missing three points that Nick was sexually abusing Sam. Point one was during the examination, the doctor clearly states that it is hard to tell with boys. Point two is when Kelly looks into their hotel room and only one bed has been slept in, indicating Sam and Nick slept together. Point three is when Nick told Sam to put his shirt on and then had to relieve himself in the shower.

  54. Joe Cohen

    How about possibility #4. Think of the movie as having a reality portion and an imaginary portion. The real events are: (1) father physically abuses Sam; (2) neighbor babysits and sexually abuses Sam; (3) Sam kills father and burns down house: (4) Sam runs away alone but is captured by the police; (5) police detective investigates and determines Sam is emotionally disturbed and needs to be placed in a child services camp for such adolescents; (6) Sam receives counseling from Gary during his time at the camp; (7) during his time at the camp he explores the area and discovers the cabin, the cave and the motel.

    All else is fantasy constructed by Sam around those camp experiences which accounts for the lack of linearity of the film. In reality, we are, at times, in Sam’s mind experiencing his imaginations as he is experiencing them-out of sequence. Here are some examples: (1) When Sam is told by Nick that he can control his thoughts it is fantasy because the coffee cup disappears. It is really Gary telling him this and Sam attributes it to Nick as they run away. (2) the interview by the police woman is real; however, Sam recreates it to fit the narrative that he has run away with Nick; (3) the people who shoot Nick are wearing overalls, not police clothing which would be unlikely, and I think Sam is slowly stripping away his imaginary constructs by killing off Nick. This is a result of his counseling sessions with Gary; (4) while driving with Nick (a fantasy), Sam tries to explain that he is having visions, not dreams and I believe this is actually being revealed to Gary in one of their sessions; (5) the visit to the cave and being killed by a car is Sam’s way of finally controlling his thoughts and the last steps in his counseling which means he has recovered. Remember that Nick tells Sam he once slept in the cave and came out different but could not explain specifically how this difference was manifested; (6) the meeting with Betty at the motel is another session with Gary where Sam explains he was molested by Nick.

    In summary, much of what takes place in the movie is part of Sam’s experience and recovery at the correctional camp. He first creates an imaginary history that is slowly stripped away by Gary until Sam is healed emotionally and can take control once again of his thoughts. In any other context I would not have liked this movie but the thought provoking, first person narrative, and bouncing about in Sam’s imagination made it a movie I would recommend. I might recommend a second viewing within the context I have suggested.

  55. Joe Flynn

    Nope. Nick doesn’t actually exist in reality. He is an invention in Sam’s mind of the nurturer that he wished his father could be. At the end of the movie we see Sam actually killing Nick (Robert and Nick converge into the same person here ). You see In Sam’s mind, Robert was the cruel abusive father but Nick was the caretaker alter-version of his Dad whom every child yearns for in a parent. The trauma of physical abuse predisposed to Sam to a psycho sexualization of the father figure.

  56. I

    Ok I felt complied to reply after reading some of the theories in the comments. I think that some of the comments are REALLY reaching and trying harder to convince themselves of Nick being innocent than what the movie implies. I think Nick was very clearly abusing Sam. There is no situation where the dynamic between him and Sam is not abusive. Nick was very clearly grooming Sam from early on probably years in the making from when he babysat him. The thought that Sam endured so much abuse and killed himself at the end is horrible but I think that’s what happened and what the film seems to imply the most.

  57. Doug

    I don’t think I can support Amanda’s theory that “Nick is Sam”, but I do pretty much agree with your conclusion. However, I saw the end of the movie a bit differently. I don’t think he killed himself, but that in his state of mind just didn’t realize there was a car coming. I think he was only injured (his arm) when the car hit him; hence the head of the camp asking him about his arm feeling better. The camp, as I saw it, was a place for troubled youth; hard work used to discipline their character and counseling. There may be indications that Sam broke and revealed the truth about who killed his father. So, Sam as a troubled youth himself, ended up back at that camp. It’s clear that Sam was manipulated by Nick, but I believe that Sam did feel love for Nick. His going into the cave at the end was simply his trying to connect to the place Nick was last alive. Kind of like family visiting a place on the highway where a loved one was killed. The movie ends there letting the viewer decide Sam’s fate. My thinking is that he eventually returns to the camp where he continues dealing with his issues.


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