‘He Went That Way’ Ending Explained: Is It Based On A True Story?


Jeffrey Darlings’ He Went That Way is a hotchpotch of genres that is neither an enjoyable buddy film nor an engrossing crime thriller. Loosely based on a real-life encounter between celebrated animal trainer Dave Pitts and serial killer Larry Ranes. The characters lack depth, and that is all the more reason why their actions and decisions cannot be justified. Jacob Elordi, as serial killer Bobby, and Zachary Quinto, as Jim, do their best to keep interest going.

Driving through Route 66, Jim comes across a tall, slimly-built young man named Bobby, looking for a lift. Jim didn’t mind having company during his long journey, and he agreed to drop Bobby off in Chicago. Jim assumed Bobby was just another high school dropout with a James Dean demeanor, and when he found out the truth, it left him startled. The journey did not turn out the way Bobby had expected either. A chimpanzee in a cage dressed in a sweatshirt is the last thing the serial killer expected to see at the back of the car.

Spoiler Alert

Is The Film Based on a Real incident?

He Went That Way‘s premise is based on a real incident, but the film is heavily fictionalized. In 1964, Dave Pitts, a renowned animal trainer, was traveling with his skating buddy, a celebrated chimpanzee named Spanky, in his Suburban Carryall. When he saw a young man looking for a lift, he generously offered to drop him off in Chicago. Dave was unaware that Larry was a wanted criminal. They stopped at a motel, where Dave caught up on his sleep while Larry slept in the car. It was on their second day together that Larry spoke about the nefarious crimes he had committed. He was visibly proud of himself, and he held a pistol against Dave’s head. Larry planned to kill Dave and steal all his belongings; the only problem was the adorable chimpanzee. If he killed Dave, he had to kill Spanky as well, but there was something so innocent about the creature that Larry could not make himself pull the trigger. He ended up locking Dave in Spanky’s cage while he drove the car.

Dave remembered Spanky screeching and screaming when Larry got in his car, and he later realized that his ape companion had tried to warn him about the danger. Later, Larry and Dave had breakfast together, and for some reason, Larry trusted the stranger enough to fall asleep in the passenger seat with the pistol in his lap. Dave was terrified throughout the journey, and he was relieved when he finally made it to Chicago. Since Larry had stolen his wallet, Dave asked for some money before bidding farewell. Larry handed him 20 dollars and warned him not to inform anyone about the incident for the next two weeks. He apparently intended to commit suicide at that time. He threatened to kill Dave if the word ever got out. Larry Ranes’ next victim was a teacher from Michigan, Gary Smock, who offered Larry a ride just like Dave did. After forcing Smock into the trunk of his car, Larry shot him dead because he was disturbed by the noise his victim was making. Larry got arrested after he boasted about his murder spree to his friend in Kalamazoo.

Larry Ranes spent the next twenty-two years of his life in prison. He confessed to the five murders he committed and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Larry was diagnosed as clinically insane after a psychiatric evaluation. He had grown up believing that violence was what made a man because he had experienced physical abuse at a young age from his father. The trauma from his childhood had affected his mental health to the extent that he developed a hatred towards gas stations because his father used to work at one. On November 12, 2023, Larry Ranes died in prison. Dave Pitts is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and currently resides in Argentina. All his life, Pitts stated that had Spanky not been with him, he would have ended up becoming one of Larry Ranes’ murder victims.

Why did Bobby lock Jim in the cage with Spanky?

Bobby’s initial plan was to murder Jim, but the chimpanzee was an unexpected hindrance. Jim, too, tried to reason with Bobby and followed his instructions without causing any trouble. After leaving the motel, Jim proposed that he drive Bobby to his destination and offer him all his valuables; in return, he expected Bobby to spare his life. Bobby could have had it all just by shooting Jim dead, and as much as he wanted to believe that he did not care about the sweatshirt-wearing chimp, from what it looked like, he found the creature adorable.

Jim took a detour to meet his brother-in-law, Saul. A pastor living out of his van in the desert, Saul did not seem to be as pure a soul as he hoped to be. He had a little girl living with him, and when Jim saw her, Saul told her to get back in the van. Jim doubted Saul’s intentions and did not trust his story of sudden divine calling. Saul owed Jim money, and he wanted to get it back. Maybe he believed that the loan could alter his present situation now that the show was canceled. It was because of Bobby that Jim felt confident enough to confront Saul. When his brother-in-law refused to discuss the loan, Jim tried to use Bobby to get him talking. After analyzing the entire situation, Bobby was extremely disappointed in Jim for trying to use him. Bobby detested those who dared to lie to him, and Jimmy was no different. He realized that Jim had the detour in mind from the moment they met, but he lied about it and tried to use him to get what he wanted.

Bobby pulled out his pistol and instructed Jim to enter Spanky’s cage. Saul assumed Bobby was on his side, but of course, Bobby did not care about the stranger. Saul had insulted him, and he believed he deserved a bullet. While it seemed Saul was murdered that afternoon, from a phone conversation Jim had with his wife, Esther, we learned that Saul had survived. Jim begged Bobby to let him out, and that was when Bobby decided to have an honest conversation. Bobby was afraid that Jim mistook him for the creature in the cage who would dance according to his instructions. Bobby’s biggest fear was to be caged and controlled, and he was disappointed when he realized that Jim had tried to manipulate him. Bobby had previously murdered men who tried to outsmart him or looked down upon him, but he could not pull the trigger on Jim and Spanky. Jim was later allowed to leave the cage, and they freshened up at a public washroom.

How did Jim try to inspire Bobby to become a better man?

The entire situation was traumatic for Jim, but he did believe that Bobby could be a better man. And perhaps it was his belief in Bobby that made it difficult for the young man to murder him. Bobby had grown up in an abusive household where perhaps no one had ever said any words of encouragement to him all his life. Bobby always spoke about his girlfriend back home, Bonnie, who had left him, and he was hopeful about winning her back. Deep down, he knew that no matter what he presented before her, she would not want to be with him. With nowhere in particular to go and no one to call home, Bobby developed a strange friendship with Jim.

It was soon after their reconciliation that Jim offered Bobby to wear his red sweater. Bobby preferred jackets over sweaters, but Jim convinced him that the color suited him. This scene, in particular, has a homoerotic undertone that is hard to ignore. Bobby despised queers and did anything and everything that would make him look and feel more macho, but Jim challenged his taste. With the red sweater on and a hint of cologne (which Bobby considered queer), Bobby and Jim looked at each other with strange admiration. Maybe it was the first time Bobby engaged with a man who was gentle, and he tried to learn a few lessons from his companion. When Jim finds out that Bobby wants to meet girls, he decides to use Spanky to attract the women. Two sisters showed interest, and they accompanied Jim and Bobby to their motel. Jim initially assumed Bobby was searching for someone to have a deep conversation with, but he soon realized that the killer intended to take advantage of the girls. Things started to go out of control when Bobby misbehaved with the girls, but Jim managed to calm them down. He lied about Bobby being a television star who was simply getting into a character he was about to play. The girls bought into the story, and they ended up falling asleep after getting drunk.

Jim found out that Bobby was searching for advice to impress Bonnie, and he offered to help. Jim advised him to consider being a little less forceful and Bobby went on to prove how gentle he could be. While Bobby received a few useful pieces of life advice from Jim, it was because of Bobby that Jim realized how exhilarating it was to steal and walk away. There was a part of Bobby who was hopeful about his future, and Jim tried his best to help him not ruin his chance. He suggested Bobby surrender his weapon, which resulted in all his troubles, but Bobby doubted Jim’s intentions, and he did not wish to take a risk.

What happened to Jim and Spanky?

Bobby experienced a sense of accomplishment when Spanky had the apple that he offered. He felt immense joy seeing the excitement in Spanky’s eyes when he took a bite of the fruit. He was so much at peace that he soon fell asleep in the car. When Bobby woke up, they had reached their destination, but he could not find his pistol. He Went That Way ends with Bobby choking Jim to get his weapon back. Jim tried his best to keep Bobby away from a life of crime, but Bobby did not know any other way to survive. Bobby walked away after he got his pistol back. He was still searching for a ride when Jim drove up to him in the evening. Jim handed him mementos to remember them by, and he realized that Bobby and Spanky needed to say a proper goodbye. He unlocked the cage, and Spanky hugged Bobby, an emotional moment that Bobby perhaps had never anticipated. Clearly, Jim showed signs of Stockholm syndrome as he struggled to bid goodbye to his captor.

He Went That Way‘s ending revealed that Jim traveled to Chicago to sell Spanky off to a woman his wife had made a deal with. She accused Jim of mistreating Spanky, and she expressed her intention of leaving him in his natural habitat. But Spanky was too attached to his owner and refused to stay at his new home. He behaved aggressively with the buyer, and Jim, too, struggled to leave his partner behind. Jim ends up bringing Spanky back home, and the narrator informs us that they managed to get the show running again. Jim and Spanky went back to living their best lives. The narrator turns out to be Spanky himself, who ends up writing about the strange encounter he had with a serial killer with a cigarette between his lips and a typewriter in front of him. Spanky is quite an excuse for all the fictional elements added to the real event.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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