Cadaver Ending Explained- Sacrificial Lambs Get Led To Slaughter
Heavily symbolic and profoundly bleak Netflix’s Cadaver is a view inside a devastated world where life and hope can’t both survive.
Norway’s Black Metal horror scene isn’t the only thing the country has to offer. With the latest Netflix horror film to premiere, they proved they can create a unique and thoughtful horror film. Cadaver, or Kadaver, as it is known initially, dropped October 22nd, 2020. Netflix has doubled down on genre programming, especially from foreign countries. That commitment has paid off huge dividends with excellent series and films like Dark, Curon, and Bulbbul. Cadaver is a lush fairy tale with a rotting moral center. Gorgeous and depressing, it is a realistic look at the disintegration of society.
Cadaver is the story of Leonora, Jacob, and their daughter Alice who live in a post-apocalyptic world. There is very little food, and corpses line the street. Mathias, a theater and hotel owner, invites people to dine in his hotel and see a show free of charge. He offers a night of escapism and a full belly, something urgently needed. After a lavish meal at the hotel, the guests are told to participate in an interactive theater performance. The family gets split up, and it becomes glaringly apparent that the hotel is not as advertised.
Leo must fight to save her child and her life. Leo learns the hotel is a front for a cannibalism ring in a series of terrible reveals, and Mathias kidnaps Alice. Alice reminds him of his deceased daughter. She represents the life he once had. Jacob loses his life, defending Leo, and she is forced to do the unthinkable. She pretends to be part of the show and exposes the hotel’s secrets. Mathias is killed by Rakel, who is tired of his abuse, and Alice appears unharmed. She flees the hotel hand in hand with Alice and returns to her home, where nothing has changed. Here’s everything you might have missed about the layered allegory.
What’s with the masks?
The masks are a practical way to keep the actors and the guests separate. With an ever-changing team of actors and guests, there would be no way to tell the actors from the guests without the masks. They are also a way to dehumanize the guests that will become meals. The actors don’t know precisely what is happening in the hotel’s bowels, but they suspect something isn’t right. Most actors have a narrow view of their reality in the hotel. They have pieces of the puzzle but aren’t allowed to see the big picture. There are a few exceptions, notably Rakel, but the actors only have suspicions by an large. They think the guests are robbed and their possessions sold for food that they eat and serve to the next round of guests. Most do not realize the guests are the food.
The guest’s masks allow the butchers to kill without concern and the actors to lie without guilt. It’s a perfect set up designed to keep the staff motivated and compliant. The masks themselves are opulent gold on purpose. They evoke a sense of richness and abundance that the theater guests haven’t had since the apocalyptic event happened. By giving these lavish masks to the guests, they are subconsciously telling the guests that they are wealthy and can provide. It further entrenches the guests into a world where Mathias is a savior.
Lamb symbolism is everywhere.
Cadaver wasn’t subtle about its imagery. A picture of a snow-white lamb’s head on a platter opens the film. Additionally, there are pictures of lambs throughout the large hotel—all of them in rich deep reds and yellows. The theater guests are given a lavish meal and then told to don a gold mask and enjoy the bizarre theater macabre-style performance. Of course, the rub is the play is nothing more than a way to lure unsuspecting guests into the tunnels below the hotel so they can be slaughtered for the next round of guests and staff. It is survival of the fittest, and if you are blinded by hope, you are at the bottom of the pile.
A sacrificial lamb is a symbolic animal or person who is sacrificed for the greater good. In this case. all of the guests who do not become actors are sacrificial lambs who are butchered and cooked for the guests that follow them. In the Judeo-Christian Bible, Jesus Christ is depicted as the lamb. God’s child is sacrificed on the cross to atone for the sins of humankind. At the last supper, he offers his wine glass and breaks bread. He tells his disciples they are his flesh and blood. The difference between the theater guests and Jesus is that he willingly gave himself, while the guests were ignorant of their danger. The paintings should have given the guests pause, however.
Hope can keep you alive or break you.
Hope is fickle. It is sometimes the last thing left when there is nothing else. That one belief that things will get better given enough time and effort. It can also be a crippling reminder of how futile things are. In Cadaver, the latter is true. Hope is used as the snare to trap the unsuspecting and desperate prey, and the brutal splash of freezing water that is the final reveal. Leonora was propelled forward by the belief that survival was the essential prize. She hoped that if she showed guests what was happening, they would rebel, and she could escape. As she returns to her home with Alice, she has hopes that she can provide for them. Unfortunately, the destruction and dead bodies that litter the streets tell a different story.
What did Leo’s final look back mean?
After finding Alice and fleeing, the hotel runs back to town. She and Alice are both physically fine but emotionally scarred by the evening and will be just as desperate for food moving forward. Leo was disgusted by what Mathias has been doing. Sure, Mathias’ motivations were initially survival-based, but there was something ugly underneath. The loss of his daughter slowly destroyed him. Coupled with the nightly atrocities, he calls “caring for his flock,” and his heart is stained with corrosive a darkness that continues to grow.
Leo may be returning to her previous life with Alice, but she has lost Jacob and still has a massive starvation problem. The world is burnt out. There is very little food, and nothing has changed about her dire situation. Her look back from the greyed out the world she is returning to at the warmly lit large hotel is resignation and hope. She knows she has no hope of feeding Alice without Jacob, and the hotel offers her the best chance she has at survival. She resigns herself to returning to the hotel and hopes that she can somehow make it a better place where people can thrive as a community. It is likely a fool’s belief. Returning to the hotel means admitting she needs the hotel’s infrastructure even if she deludes herself into believing she can do better.
Whether Leo and Alice return to the hotel is irrelevant. She survived the hotel slaughter, but she is by no means safe. Leo has little hope of providing for her and Alice. She knows it and may be forced to admit that living and surviving are two different things. Cadaver has a nihilistic ending where there are no good choices. Leo has to decide what is important to her, and how far she is willing to go to protect Alice. The hotel beckons…..
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.