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Netflix's Thriller Movie Ending Explained

How does Netflix's Thriller end, and what does the ending mean? The new slasher movie is the latest low-budget Blumhouse production to get wider distribution through the streaming service, joining the recent Mercy Black and 2018's Cam. While similarly indie-spirited, Thriller has name value attached to it in the form of Wu-Tang Clan frontman RZA, who produces as well as plays a high school principal and provides the soundtrack for Thriller.

Indeed, Thriller touts itself as a kind of hip-hop version of Prom Night - a teenage murder-fest with an all black and Hispanic cast set within a small borough in South-Central Los Angeles. Touching on issues of drugs, class, prejudice, and adolescent hopelessness, while also covering the standard tropes of teenage melodrama, Thriller is an auspicious attempt to represent the life of a young person of color within genre constraints.

Related: 10 Hilariously Bad Horror Movies on Netflix

Thriller's plot and ending cover a lot of bases, with a third act twist predicated on examining pre-conceived biases, the way cruelty and abuse can reverberate in subtle ways, and privilege. Thriller leaves a lot for the viewer to consider what goes beyond its harrowing death scenes.

What Actually Happens In Thriller's Ending

Thriller is a revenge film, but not in the way it wants you to believe. For the most part audiences are led to believe the killer is Chauncey, an intellectually disabled boy who served four years in juvenile detention when an attempt to scare him with a cruel prank went awry. Now free and back home with his alcoholic mother, Chauncey is believed to be the hooded menace that is carving up the friend group that committed the prank.

At the group's high school homecoming dance, what began as a trickle of victims becomes a flood as the friends are killed left and right. One couple is killed in after making love in the parking lot, while another two are brutally murdered during a lover's quarrel. Lisa is thrown off the top of a school building, but she miraculously survives and manages to help subdue the masked killer in the climax, only for the culprit to be revealed as Derrick, and not Chauncey as previously thought.

Caught and in custody, the final scenes show the killer's room and manifesto for the murders being discovered as he himself is restrained in a hospital, much to the pleasure of Chauncey, who watches with a smirk.

Why Was Derrick Doing It?

Having had a crush on the girl who was killed in the opening incident, Derrick was so consumed by guilt and resentment that he wanted to punish his so-called friends for orchestrating the incident that brought about the tragedy. Most of them had found a way to walk away from what happened, despite having condemned someone to prison, choosing to live better lives and work towards escaping their neighborhood. Derrick had a rage and fixation that only festered over time, though, and nearing in on high school graduation, he had to take his chance if he wanted everyone in one place to be picked off.

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There's also an implication the murders are motivated by his loneliness. Being a film about teenagers, there's a healthy amount of relationship drama in Thriller, and a homecoming rejection is framed as a contributing issue to Derrick's mindset. Not that it makes it right, but it does add a tinge of toxic masculinity and entitlement to the grief and anger otherwise.

Page 2 of 2: Who Survives Thriller & What Happens To Chauncey?

Who Survives In Thriller?

A select few people manage to come come away from the carnage in Thriller. The most prominent is Lisa, the promising college academic and homecoming queen. She managed to stave off plunging to her death by hanging onto a ledge, and comes back to help apprehend the antagonist. In as much as anyone can be innocent in a story predicated on someone paying for a crime they didn't commit, she represents a kind of wholesomeness that can be preserved. She has the right idea about breaking free and going to university to build a new life rather than buying into ideas of toughness or stature, and though peer pressure got the better of her, she was clearly against the fatal practical joke that put Chauncey behind bars.

Lisa's homecoming date and fellow survivor, Ty, is similarly gunning for a football scholarship. Them surviving draws a tacit line between the value of academia and sports and aspiring towards those versus becoming disillusioned about the inevitability of becoming part of a gang or dying young.

In one key scene, Derrick uses high mortality rates of young black people as a way of shrugging off a teacher's concerns over his grades. Of course, we know that this is also part of a justification for why he thinks killing his friends is okay, but that moment is a frank depiction of why it can be hard to get through to young people from lower class and non-white backgrounds. Lisa and Ty are lucky that they grew up in the right kind of nurturing household and childhood trauma didn't do much harm to their psyche. The third is Gina, who escapes more through luck than anything else, showing that sometimes coincidence is on your side even in the most chaotic of circumstances.

What Happens To Chauncey Now?

A very real darkness permeates Thriller's premise. When it comes to false imprisonment, nobody can give someone their years back. Chauncey lost four years of his life - some of the most integral and important years to anyone's development - to a bunch of bullies. And that's it, that time is gone. Whatever hope Chauncey had of making it away from his addicted mother has been severely dwindled by those kids lying about him to save themselves.

Derrick will surely be punished for his crimes, but will Chauncey get some form of reparations for what happened to him? Not likely, and whatever's given probably won't amount to much. Maybe his record will be expunged, or his family will be financially compensated. But that doesn't mean much when you're someone who obviously requires assistance with a guardian in the throes of addiction.

Chauncey is trapped and he probably won't ever be able to get out, and that's just life for so many people in his situation. The class disparity isn't going anywhere until a lot of real work is done and more representatives like Principal Hurd are listened to and understood. Until then young people are going to keep turning to what's around them for escape and salvation, like working street corners as dealers, or pulling horrible pranks to pass another long day stuck in this endless maze.

Next: 10 Best Thrillers On Netflix (That Isn't Bird Box)

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