Who Killed Cooper Dunn Ending Explained- Who Killed Who And Tricks Of The Mind
From the first moment, you know that something terrible has happened. It’s in the title, after all. Who Killed Cooper Dunn opens with one of a group of friends being questioned about the dead body found near their campsite. We then watch as the events of that evening and the next few days play out. Who Killed Cooper Dunn is a tricky little mystery that keeps you guessing through to the shocking end. You may think you know who did it, but you will be wrong. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of Who Killed Cooper Dunn or Stillwater as it was titled when released in Canada.
On their way to a reunion, a group of high school friends camps out together, hoping to recapture their glory days. This group has history together, and it’s evident that as tight as this group might have once been, there are significant cracks. Life has worn many of them down. Jealousies and old wounds flare almost immediately in awkward moments between the group. A D-list actor is worried about being unable to keep up with his social media, and you can practically hear the eyes roll. When a trio of goth oddballs shows up, invited by a well-meaning but clueless friend Leech(Eric Michael Roy), things go from bad to worse.
That night the group parties together, indulging in hallucinogenic drugs and gallons of beer. When they wake up the next morning, Cooper is dead. The group splinters trying to decide what happened and what to do next. As the hours pass and more bodies pile up, the group panics. Little by little, the story is teased out, making the group and the viewer ask as many questions as they get answers.
Initially, some of the group wants to go to the authorities, while others want to solve the murder themselves before going to the cops. Wizard and one of the girls are missing, which leads them to think he killed Cooper and ran. They return soon after finding his body, but the pair’s flippant attitude does not help their cause. Things get out of hand when Wizard, a drug dealer, pulls out a gun and begins pointing it at people. Ritchie, a war veteran struggling with PTSD, attacks Wizard, and Vera is shot. Ritchie then turns to Wizard and beats him to death. The group then decides to tie up Fauna and make a plan.
After Ritchie jumps into the river with a rope around his neck attached to a bag of heavy rocks following the murders of Wizard and Vera, everything completely breaks down. All of their mistakes, and there were sizable ones, catch up to them. The group assumes Ritchie killed Fauna and disposed of all of them, including Cooper, in the river because they watch him toss one body into the lake. We later learn that isn’t exactly what happened, though.
It’s the ultimate unreliable witness. We had been trusting what Willie told the detective as fact. He seemed so traumatized by what happened we believed his version of events. Nothing is as it seems, though, and Nino Aldi’s film revels in a magician’s misdirection. We should have questioned what we were shown and told. The clues were there. Dawson wouldn’t have released Fauna to get help if he had killed Cooper. We should have thought about the logic. We didn’t because Willie is so convincing, and we are asked in the title Who Killed Cooper Dunn?
Who Killed Cooper Dunn?
At first, it seems like Dawson killed Cooper. After Ritchie’s death, they find a camera that captures everything from that night. They watch as Dawson and Cooper argue after everyone had gone to bed. Cooper pushed him down, and then Dawson chased him into the woods. Dawson, the one with the coolest head all along and the one who seemed the kindest of the group, claims he killed Cooper. Jack and Leech bludgeon Dawson to death with rocks after he admits to killing Cooper because he was having sex with his wife.
Most of that was a lie. Finally, when Detective Hastings pushes Willie to continue his story, the real truth emerges. Shortly after killing Dawson, Cooper walks up confused and wondering about his wild last few days. The group looks shocked at him, and he, in turn, looks shocked at his friend Dawson lying dead. At this point, we flash back to the interrogation room, and everything becomes clear.
Cooper never died. He knocked himself out with a branch after leaving alone to cool off. Because Willie is a terrible doctor and panicked at seeing his friend dead, he thought he was dead. He saw the head wound and didn’t account for the drugs in Cooper’s system, making his pulse very low. Everything that happened after that was a product of his misdiagnosis. Ritchie would not have killed Vera, Wizard, or himself. Dawson would be alive, and none of them would be destroyed by this experience.
The film closes with the detectives wondering if Willie is a genius pretending to have had a psychotic break or someone who was so disturbed by everything he saw and did he snapped and concocted an alternative reality where he was an innocent bystander. Willie didn’t seem to have any motive for killing Dawson other than confused anger. Detective Hastings pushes him to realize that if Cooper wasn’t dead, then there couldn’t have been a confession from Dawson. That would mean another innocent person died, and at that moment, we see that Willie strangled Dawson while the others tried desperately to stop him.
Was Willie a sociopath? It seems unlikely. He certainly wasn’t smart enough to avoid multiple lawsuits at work and missed Cooper’s pulse and breath. More plausible is that he was broken by what he thought he saw, and his brain protected itself. Our brains are capable of creating false memories. Sometimes we are manipulated into believing things happened that didn’t, and sometimes, our perception is skewed by what our brains think should have happened based on contextual information. Witnesses can give inadvertent false testimony, and emotionally charged circumstances produce faulty memories. Strong negative emotions, in particular, produce the most inaccurate memories. Seeing what you think is your friend’s dead body and later watching another friend kill two additional people would qualify as strong negative emotions.
The biggest takeaway from Who Killed Cooper Dunn seems to be that men are savages who can’t control their baser urges. They have affairs with their friend’s wives, consume more substances than they should, react violently when pushed, and even commit murder. I guess, given the right set of circumstances, the movie posits we are all capable of murder. Who Killed Cooper Dunn is available on Showtime right now.
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.