The Ending of The Oak Room Unlocked

Reader Rating0 Votes

The Ending of The Oak Room Unlocked. First off – if you’ve never seen The Oak Room – watch it. If you have watched it, you are here for an explanation of the crazy ending. What happened? It just ended? Why, what, where, how?? Someone explain it to me! And holy heck, you know my love of closed box films. This film was actually originally a play… and it converts well to an ultra-low budget mindjob of a film.

Before the Ending of The Oak Room

Let’s do a quick catch up on the movie, alright? The beginning of the movie shows an important shot… a glowing, near empty beer bottle on the bar. Right? The problem? You were staring at the beautiful orange glow, and you missed the most important shot of the movie. WAHT?!? I thought the orange glowing bottle was the take away there! Nope. But we’ll return to this shot in a moment. Feel free to rewind the film and watch it again and see what you missed… maybe you can figure it out for yourself. But if that is too much of a bother… just keep reading.

Jump to a different time period – is it forwards? Backwards? Regardless… we watch as Steve (played by RJ Mitte – who you know from Breaking Bad) walks into that same exact bar. Steve and Paul, the bartender, know each other, and there is a lot of animosity between these two. Why? Because Steve didn’t come to his father’s funeral, and his father was a good friend of Paul’s. Soon after Steve arrives, Paul calls someone named Stelli. And Stelli is some sort of mysteriously nefarious character who may or may not be ridiculously violent. So Stelli is on his way, and should be there within the hour. Steve convinces Paul to listen to a story about something that happened at a bar called The Oak Room a couple of days prior. It’s a story about a closing bar as the storm chases a visitor named Richard – a well-dressed man – through the doors.

Steve continues his story, and explains the tense chat that these two men have. Michael, the bar tender, tells Richard a story (a story within a story) that ends with an argument between the two men. Pulling up another level, Paul tells Steve that he’s an idiot for telling a stupid story. A story about his finding a human finger inside a fish that he had caught while fishing. But we know that the story is a lie because Paul told him he was “juicing” the story. We then jump to the next story, a story about Steve’s father Gordon had told to Paul. In a flashback, we watch as Steve’s father getting drunk and talk about his wasted life. Which is when we learn that the story that Steve had told previously was the actual end of the story (almost the end anyway), and so he continues in telling his story, but this time from the beginning.

The beginning of the story, reveals that Michael… the “bartender,” actually killed The Oak Room’s real bartender… bludgeoned him, and cut off his head. He even places the head in a duffel bag right as Richard enters the bar. And, as soon as we realize this, we know that Richard is also a goner. Which is a good guess because Richard quickly gets bludgeoned to death as well. How can Steve possibly know this story if all the witnesses are dead?? And Paul asks Steve this as well. But the town drunk was there in the corner, watching everything that happened. Appropriately, the town drunk is named Thomas Coward.

So here’s the question. The murderer… the man that killed the bartender, beheaded him with such vengeance, it doesn’t make any sense unless he had some sort of vendetta or larger purpose. Which is when we realize that the assassin actually killed the wrong person. The last name that the killer said before dispatching the bartender? Michael said, “Jimmy Johnson sends his regards.” And Paul? He is mortified at the name… why? Because the Michael the murderer was supposed to kill Paul… He had arrived at the wrong bar.

Now, as the movie progresses, the observant viewer realizes that the person driving to the bar? That is actually Michael. How do we know? It’s the watch. They are the same. And as the movie winds down to the denouement, we come to the realization that the headlights in the parking lot of the bar? They are Michael’s car. And Paul? He realizes there is absolutely nothing he can do. But as the movie just stops, we don’t actually know exactly what happens. But we do! Remember?

The Ending of The Oak Room Unlocked

Cut back to the beginning in order to figure out the ending of The Oak Room. The glowing beer bottle, remember? There are two figures fighting behind the beer bottle, attacking each other back and forth. So, immediately after the film cuts away, we know it leaps to the beginning the a fight breaks out between Michael and Paul. Can’t be Steve, because he was wearing a white sweater. So we watch as Michael gets to the end of the bar, and beats the thrash out of Paul. And we can also guess that it is Michael that eventually overpowers Paul and kills him. Deduction dear Watson! Deduction!

But, if you are curious as to Steve’s ending? We can’t know. There was no sort of clue as to maybe some sort of relationship between Steve and Michael that would have saved him. Maybe he is able to take a play out of Coward’s playbook, and hide in the corner, and eventually make a run for it? But I’m betting, with the way that Steve is telling the story, that he probably is connected to Michael in some way. He is telling the story too coolly. He knows the punchline, the person that is on his way… and he’s not running. Why? He had an hour. But he stuck around to see the story out. So yeah, my bet? Is that Steve maybe even hired hired Michael. It makes sense to me anyway… and when Steve realizes Michael screwed up, he went to visit Paul’s bar to keep him from going too far.

Wrong Turns as a Motif

The story is cold and dark. The snow storm is unrelenting. It is continuing now, it started a week or so earlier, and is omnipresent. But more importantly, throughout the intensity of the darkness, the cold, and drifts of snow, is this idea of a key character making a wrong turn. Michael… on his way to a bar, gets lost in the darkness, and heads his way to The Oak Room instead of towards his intended target of Paul, and his bar. In the synchronicity of the lake palace, lake bluff, and lake shadow, our killer assumes he’s on the right path, but is not. He is on his way to murder someone, so whether or not he’s literally in the right place or not, he’s in the wrong place… if you take my meaning.

All of these characters have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Do we know why, or what? No. Actually not even a little bit. And that is what enraptured me about this movie more than anything. But we know these guys. We know the hapless bar tender who is killed for absolutely no reason. We know the prodigal son who refuses to come home. These characters click with the world that we know. And even the extreme characters in this film seem not too far off the path we are on today. Just one wrong turn? Maybe we find ourselves hacking someone’s head off with a hacksaw, and placing it in a duffel. Maybe? Or maybe we’d recognize the wrong turns that we had made and admit our wrongness? Or maybe not. But I think this single wrong turn is a larger metaphor for a deeper meaning that permeates this particular film.

The Ending of The Oak Room Unlocked – What Happens To Steve?

We’ve already put two and two together and ascertain that Michael most likely murdered Paul. It was what he had intended to do all along. And maybe it was Steve that came to check on Paul, that signaled to Michael that he’d screwed up… “Hey, dummy, you went to the wrong town.” It does seem like more than coincidence after all. Or Steve could have just coincidentally known about the murder a town or two over… and maybe coincidentally, he came by to get his dad’s ashes, his things, and to settle up. And along the way he picked up the story to share. And maybe it’s just weird how life just catches up with you. But it’s my bet that Steve is the prime mover in all of this. He’s the one that called in the hit on his father’s friend knowing full well that Steve would want his money, and would have nothing but grudges to bear. And hey, maybe? Maybe there is a much deeper slight happening here… something that sent Steve to leave his father and his father’s best friend years earlier. Who knows.

Also. What about that scene where we watch as Steve heads to the bathroom and melts down a bit? He screams at the mirror and looks as if he might put a fist through it… or heck, his head through the wall. It seems like a truly important moment in the film. And yet, nothing really comes of it. But it sort of tells us a story behind the story. An insight into the underlying drive that is Steve’s psyche. Maybe? Hrm. Or maybe not.

Do we really need to know? Not really. It sort of all clicks together though that Steve is the one behind it all. What do you think? Is Steve a hapless victim in all of this? Does he die soon after Paul eats it at the hands of Michael? Thoughts? Regardless, this closed box blender started slowly, but really picked up some good steam at the end of the day. So, thanks goes out to Chris over on Discord for finding this one, and to Jeff Marr who posted the movie recommendation in the red tab on the screen below… you too can recommend movies for all of us to discuss as well.

Edited by: CY