Haunted house movies are rarely complicated. Some can end ambiguously, like a Hell House LLC or The Deep House. The Night House uses louvre dolls and some really unsettling sound work to create a vibe that keeps you on your edge. The Cellar uses math, physics, to be exact. I know what you are thinking. That sounds pretty awful. Surprisingly, The Cellar is a little like learning about String Theory. There are a few slow bits, and sometimes it makes your head hurt, but by the end, you are glad you took the time. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of The Cellar.
For next to nothing, Keira(Elisha Cuthbert) and her family bought a large remote house at auction. The house seemed too good to be true and included everything inside. Little did they know that included the demon who had done some remodeling in the cellar. Keira and her husband Brian(Eoin Macken from La Brea) thought they were moving to give their children a better life. What they got instead was a nightmare.
The first night in the house, Keira and Brian have to go into the office, leaving their daughter and son home alone. Ellie(Abbie Fritz) goes missing after calling her mother needing help when the electricity goes out. However, instead of counting ten stairs and walking to the fuse box, she keeps counting and walking down stairs that shouldn’t exist. The police think she left home because she was bullied on social media. Brian believes that is a reasonable explanation, but Keira has doubts from the beginning, and as time goes on without any contact, she begins investigating the strange house they purchased.
The symbols on the walls and floor in The Cellar
Almost immediately, the strange symbols carved into doorways are obvious. The carvings on the walls in The Cellar are mathematical symbols that, when put together in a specific order, form a pentagram. Additionally, there are equations carved into the floor of the cellar. When these are recited, they trigger a demon. The Fetherston’s who built the house, all went missing but their daughter Rose. Dr. Fetherston was a physicist who believed in hard science until the day his son became sick without a cure. He then turned to evil magic as a way to save his son. He combined his talent for math with alchemy, and a demonic portal masquerading as a house was the result. Curiously there is one other house in Belgium that has the same markings.
Leviathon and Baphomet
At first, Keira thinks the house is a Leviathon or is haunted by one, but she later learns that a Leviathon would be the least of her concerns. That is a false flag concealing the real monster. Baphomet is an entity that the Knights Templar were rumored to have worshipped. Today’s satanic version is a creation of the famous occultist Éliphas Lévi in 1861. Before and after this shift, he was known for his duality. His hallmarks were cause and effect and universal balance. Thus the phrase on his arms Solve et Coagula. After Lévi coopted the goat-headed demon, he became one of Hell’s greatest soldiers.
Solve et Coagula
This Latin phrase inscribed on the demon Baphomet’s arm means to dissolve and conjoin. It essentially means that for something to become new, it must first be broken down. For the demon and Dr. Fetherston, it means that for his son to live again, he and the rest of the house must be broken down into their basest elements and rebuilt. However, Dr. Fetherston failed to realize that demons rarely care about things being rebuilt. They only care about tearing things down.
The ending of The Cellar
After learning that her house summons Baphomet, who probably has her daughter, she races home and finds her son acting strangely. She doesn’t realize it yet, but it is too late. Dr. Fournet tells her someone answered her phone, and all he heard was counting because evil has already claimed them. Her son begins counting and is briefly missing. Finally, she finds him, but he is blazing hot and now has a pentagram tattooed on his chest. Worse still, he says, he rode the Beast with Seven Heads. Baphomet and this beast are not the same things in Judeo-Christianity, but for the purposes of The Cellar, they are reimagined as one single entity.
It is a mashup of Leviathon, Baphomet, and the demon who brings about the end of the world. Keira’s entire family begins counting, and Baphomet arrives. Keira escapes into the cellar, which has become an endless grey path of dirty, counting people. She finds her daughter among all the people and drags her back to the main floor, where she finds the rest of her family. Temporary, the curse seems broken, and everyone stops counting. All four of them race to the front door. When they open it, they see only a set of stairs like the ones in the cellar. They all turn around back towards the cellar and begin counting again. There is no escape for any of them.
Erwin Schrödinger’s cat
After Keira visits Dr. Fournet, a mathematician who “sees” math after a car accident, she learns that the math used in her house was designed by a physicist named Fetherston. She also learns that her daughter, who is missing, is like Schrödinger’s cat. She is both alive and dead until she is found. Schrödinger’s experiment, which is both a physics and philosophical experiment, puts a theoretical cat in a box with radioactive material that is breaking down. Once it breaks down completely, it kills the cat.
The concept, though, is that you have no way of knowing if it broke down and the cat died without observation. Thus the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened. It was designed to express how people were misinterpreting quantum theory. In the case of Keira and her daughter, it represents both hope and dread, which is where Keira finds herself at the end of the film. She can choose to stay with her family and hope for an eventual escape or let her family wander into the abyss and stay in the house. Keira was the only one to not involuntarily begin counting. She willingly chose it because she would rather be in Hell with her family than alone fighting for escape.
You can read our full review here from SXSW.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.