‘Bad Things’ Ending, Explained for the Shudder Horror Movie
What do you get when four (sort-of) friends go to a run-down hotel full of potential ghosts for the weekend? A recipe for disaster, of course. So begins Stewart Thorndike’s 2023 horror film, Bad Things, for Shudder. After Ruthie (Gayle Rankin) inherits a hotel in her grandmother’s will, she struggles with the decision of whether to fix it up or sell it. Her mother’s desperation to make money off the property is transparent, while Ruthie’s partner, Cal (Hari Nef), wants to invest in the hotel and franchise it.
On the weekend leading up to the decision, Ruthie invites her friends for a final stay which is really an excuse for a final blowout. But Ruthie’s issues regarding her mother inevitably surface, as do questions of infidelity. Group together four people who all have problems with each other, and something is bound to blow. But is it just interpersonal drama, or is this hotel haunted?
Creepy Brian never stood a chance
What this movie really wants you to understand is that women do bad things. That may not have necessarily been up for debate, but Bad Things hammers it home that terrible things happen to women who are left alone with each other. Trouble first arises when Maddie (Rad Pereira) invites Fran (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), who stirs up trouble almost immediately. As the black sheep of the group, Fran increases tensions by flirting with Ruthie, who is already on thin ice with Cal. Because of Ruthie’s previous infidelity, Maddie urges Cal to break up with her.
The Fran problem worsens when she is the only one to see specters in the hotel. While looking for the rest of the group, she spots recurring guests left and right. Two joggers who eerily keep in time with each other. A little girl with frostbitten hands. But things take a turn for the worst when Brian (Jared Abrahamson), the paramour of Ruthie’s mother, keeps showing up looking for her. When the specters seem to take physical shape, Brian is the first to go by way of a chainsaw. In the snowy and horror-filled LGBTQ+ homage to The Shining, killing the straight white man first is a no-brainer. But it also gives rise to many questions. What exactly is going on in this hotel, and is everyone else in danger?
The crew certainly seems to think so after getting rid of Fran. Sure that she was hallucinating all of the specters she claimed to have seen, Ruthie and her friends trick Fran and abandon her at the local train station before going back to the hotel. This episode is an obvious instance of how “bad things” saturate the film, and it doesn’t have to do with the supernatural entity. Everyone on some level seems to hate each other, which is only exacerbated when the hauntings don’t disappear. Strange occurrences continue to happen, and Ruthie is convinced that Fran has come back to have her revenge. Maddie encounters a crazed maniac who cuts them while Ruthie spirals further into madness.
Ultimately there is no evidence for Fran’s return, and it’s the group’s underlying issues with each other that become the main concern. Cal learns that Ruthie has become unfaithful again, turning her against her partner. Cal and Maddie decide that Ruthie is behind everything, and she is making Fran up. But it stands to reason, what is actually going on here? Are their ghosts, or is this just all in Ruthie’s mind? The end of the film seems to suggest it’s going in one direction but doesn’t make it clear one way or another.
Mother issues are the real problem in Bad Things
Events take a turning point when Ruthie is left alone in the hotel. For the entire film, she has argued with Cal that she doesn’t want to run a hotel as her life’s work. But after the hotel psychologically torments her, she changes her tune. While on her own, she meets Ms. Auerbach (Molly Ringwald), a hospitality consultant whose sermons she has been watching on YouTube. There to help her with this transition, Ruthie sits down with the lawyers her mother has urged her to meet. At the last second, Ruthie pulls a complete 180 and decides to keep the hotel. Ms. Auerbach commends her decision and provokes Ruthie into hugging her when they are alone.
This moment is a clear parallel to Ruthie’s issues with her mother. For the entire film, she practically begs her mother to come to the hotel while everyone around her comments about what a deplorable person she is. Ruthie never gets the emotional connection she desires, and Ms. Auerbach represents that. To make it even more heavy-handed, Ruthie comments that the consultant smells like her mother. The duo parts ways on good standing, and Ruthie goes to tell Cal the news. But when they meet, it is under dire circumstances. Cal and Maddie have discovered Brian’s body and accuse Ruthie of the crime.
In the final act, Ruthie reaches a breaking point in her mind. She flashes back to all the terrible connections she has with the hotel. She thinks back to when she was a little girl, and her mother abandoned her there, leaving her to almost die of frostbite.
This revelation also lines up with Maddie’s journey as they discover a locked room in the hotel that has a decomposing body. The body resembles Ms. Auerbach, but it’s safe to say that Ms. Auerbach never existed. After Ruthie cracks and kills all her friends with a chainsaw, she returns to the room to flashback to a moment with Brian and the redhead played by Ringwald. Ruthie’s mother dismisses her from the room saying that she’s busy as Ruthie walks mindlessly down the hall. Ruthie had imagined her mother was Ms. Auerbach, coping with her mother’s failures and the murder she almost certainly committed. But even as the credits roll with the confirmation that Ruthie killed everyone within the hotel’s walls, many questions still remain.
Was the hotel even haunted?
Looking at the facts, it certainly seemed as though legitimate hauntings were going on. Fran recalls a frostbitten girl who represents Ruthie when she was a child. But how could Fran see that girl when she had no prior knowledge of Ruthie’s traumatic backstory? Perhaps it was a hallucination because of Fran’s post-cancer treatment, but a shared hallucination with Ruthie seems a little far-fetched.
Maddie passes specters of their own and is later attacked by a forceful visage. But was Ruthie the culprit? It’s entirely possible. These facts become even more confusing by the end of the film. After Maddie finds the body of Ruthie’s mother, they go to save Cal, but it is too late. Ruthie has lost it and takes a chainsaw, cutting down her friends. But she does so in full view of the public where pedestrians are walking by. No one visibly reacts to this, and Ruthie leaves the cut-up bodies there to return to her reclusiveness at the hotel. The narrative seems to imply that Ruthie imagined not just her mother and the lawyers, but maybe the entire weekend. This makes the logic of the film even more questionable.
When did Ruthie start to break? Did she come to the hotel with good intentions but, after being flooded with memories, lost her mind? Or were there supernatural entities that appeared as past recollections the ones responsible for breaking her? The underlying themes of oppressive mothers seem to indicate that Ruthie’s trauma was the real villain and drove her to everything that she did. But are Cal and Maddie still alive? Is Fran undergoing cancer treatment back in the city?
Bad Things fails to offer enough evidence either way for anyone to make an educated conclusion and will decidedly not end up on any best Shudder horror films list. The trouble with psychological dramas, which fail to stick to the logic of the narrative, is that begrudgingly accepting “we will never know” remains the only option available.
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