‘In A Violent Nature’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Johnny Kill Kris?


The landscape of the slasher genre is heavily laced with trope landmines. And while sidestepping them is nearly impossible, director Chris Nash has found a glitch in the game with his feature film debut, In a Violent Nature. And instead of coming up with a fresh story bereft of genre cliches, he achieves a unique narrative with just a change in perspective. You’re not accompanying the characters in the cabin. You’re out in the woods. Walking alongside the Jason Voorhees-esque predator.

Spoiler Alert

What happens in the film?

The tottering remains of the old fire tower are home to a terrifying secret that the group of teenagers on a weekend trip to the park are unaware of. And by nabbing the gold necklace resting on a pole, they release a violent spirit, Johnny. And boy, does he have a bone to pick with anyone who gets in his way! What we’re essentially following is this killer’s walk through the park towards the goal of locating the necklace. And in between making us follow him as he pulls off the gnarliest kills in the history of campy slashers, In a Violent Nature ticks the villain origin and half-fleshed-out victims off the list of things it needs to do. 

Did Chuck have the necklace?

A considerable chunk of this indie horror has us just a little behind Johnny as he goes on this meandering hunt for anyone he lays his eyes on. And the journey’s only just started by the time he saunters through the woods and walks into Chuck’s cabin. After a rather spirited back and forth, the ranger has just left Chuck with a warning against leaving traps in the park. So Chuck’s a little off his game and misses the towering zombie entering his cabin. It’s here that Johnny has a flashback that clarifies two crucial things about his past. The necklace that was keeping him tied to the ground under the old fire tower belonged to his mother. And since his dad passed it down to him as the last souvenir of his mother, it’s the only thing this silent, undead killing machine has any attachment to. The decomposed fox that Johnny stepped over was killed by one of the traps set by Chuck. So he’s up for a pretty karmic death when he runs into the woods to get away from Johnny and gets caught in one of his own traps. This is the only kill that happens off-camera. So by no means should you let your guard down. Now that the answer’s in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene, you might be a little confused about the necklace Johnny found in Chuck’s cabin. He did mistake it for his mother’s necklace at first, but when he goes back after doing away with Chuck, he drops it on the floor because it isn’t the necklace that he was looking for. This is also the only time you can take comfort in In a Violent Nature‘s sense of humor. The necklace was marked with the same slang as the one on Chuck’s cap. He was basically a detestable poacher with terrible taste in jewelry. 

What’s Johnny’s backstory?

So Johnny’s the local boogeyman of sorts. And Ehren happens to have all the details on him thanks to the stories he heard from his uncle. When Ehren gets that much of a validating push from the group to titillate them with the story of the “White Pine Slaughter,” we get to know bits and pieces about how this murderous zombie came to be. So about 70 years ago, back when the forest was leased to a logging company, the lumberjacks had it out for Johnny’s dad. And the “slow” kid Johnny used to bear the brunt of his dad jacking up the prices of the goods he’d sell to the lumberjacks. To punish Johnny when one of the lumberjacks tripped on his toy car and broke his ankle, they lured him to the fire tower to give him a good scare. The prank went horribly wrong when Johnny died from a fall from the tower. And his dad’s murder by the lumberjacks was covered up by the logging company. You’re probably thinking the same thing as the people hearing Ehren’s story. That doesn’t sound bad enough to be called a massacre. Well, that’s because the real massacre happened when the lumberjacks were all found torn to shreds sometime later. It was passed off as a bad case of food poisoning, but locals claimed to have seen a guy wearing a firefighter mask, likely Johnny’s spirit, around the spot where the lumberjacks were killed. The vengeful spirit who’s now out to get them and is actually listening to his own story from afar is the same “mentally hindered” kid who was practically murdered by the lumberjacks and came back from the dead to avenge his and his father’s deaths. And since we don’t know what went behind his zombification, we can assume that the horrible nature of his death ensured there was no peace to be found in the afterlife. So Johnny was tied to the forest forever. And the unsuspecting group had no idea that they had summoned death itself by stealing that necklace. 

How does Johnny kill off most of the campers?

In a Violent Nature is pretty unforgiving with the trope-y kills. So, as you see this group of youngsters tangled up in their personal drama, you get this ominous sense of dread, knowing what awaits them. From the way Johnny slices through his mouth and cuts his head in half, you’d think that he didn’t care much for the story Ehren was telling. But after he drops Ehren’s body off at the ranger’s station, dons the old firefighter mask, and grabs the ax and the hook with a chain, that’s when the killer really starts to take shape. After that, it’s one jaw-dropping kill after another. Brodie dies underwater, and Aurora, the girl who really likes her yoga and was looking forward to “stretching,” gets the stretching of a lifetime when Johnny puts his hand through her stomach and pulls her head in through that hole with the hook. It really gets your “stomach in knots,” doesn’t it? Now, for the most part, we hardly ever get to know what’s going on with the people Johnny’s hunting. And it’s only when Johnny makes his way closer to Kris, Troy, and Colt that we get to hear a little bit about their trepidation. So apparently, when Aurora was clicking a picture of the group by the campfire, Johnny did show up in the background. And even though they didn’t pay much heed to it at first, their friends going missing certainly amps up the fear.

The obnoxious doofus that Troy is, out of his jealousy over Colt and Kris’ closeness, chucks the car keys into the woods to keep them from driving to the cops. When we see Johnny play with the toy car keychain, it corroborates what we’ve heard from Ehren. Johnny did love his toy cars. With Kris and Colt driving off on the ATV, Troy’s still pretty confident that he and Evan can take on anyone who may be out there. The thing is, bullets can’t kill Johnny, but he can be slowed down with a shot to his chest. He’s already messed up Troy’s leg with the ax when Evan shoots him. But before they can escape, he flings his ax at Evan’s head and smashes Troy’s with a boulder. And here’s another little piece you’d find interesting. When Johnny was eavesdropping at the campfire, he saw Troy putting that necklace in his pocket. But Johnny doesn’t find the necklace on his corpse because Troy obviously gave it to his girlfriend. Likely the only gift he’s ever given Kris, and it turns out to be a cursed totem a killer zombie is after? You might want to date better men, Kris. 

What happened between Johnny and the forest ranger?

The fact that Johnny and the forest ranger share a grim history was first hinted at when the ranger warned Chuck against leaving traps in the park. He mentioned a certain “something” that might break out and come for him. And assuming that “something” was meant to indicate Johnny’s presence in the park, I don’t think the ranger would be fearful of a local legend if he hadn’t had a personal brush with the ghoul. Things get a lot more clear when Kris and Colt seek the forest ranger’s help and Johnny breaks up the party. Like I said before, bullets can slow him down. So, at the cost of postponing what needs to be done, the ranger shoots Johnny and proceeds to explain how he knows what he knows about him. Johnny has a tendency to rise from his grave. After the White Pine Slaughter, the forest ranger’s father was the only person who survived. He confined Johnny’s spirit to the old fire tower and stuck the necklace to the pole that stood over him to hold him there. 10 years before the current timeline, someone must’ve messed with the necklace and accidentally freed Johnny. This was the story that Ehren was about to elaborate on at the campfire before he was shut off by the group. The forest ranger claims that when Johnny rose from the grave 10 years ago, he killed the people he cared about. And if that’s true, I guess we’ve seen the ranger’s dead friends in that picture Johnny was holding when he went to the ranger’s station to dump Ehren’s body.

Unfortunately, by the time the ranger’s done telling his story, Johnny’s awakened again. And even though Kris and Colt get to run and concoct a plan to lure Johnny to the fire tower, the ranger is paralyzed by Johnny. Johnny takes his sweet time tormenting the ranger before beheading him on the woodcutter machine; all the while, he was conscious and couldn’t move a finger. Is Johnny capable of holding a grudge? Who knows. But he certainly relishes putting the ranger through the most excruciating pain for having been trapped in the grave by him 10 years ago. 

What is the significance of the woman’s story?

When has a slasher ever taken the victim’s side? If anything, the kills are even more effective when they come with the dissatisfaction of watching a plausible plan fall apart. In a Violent Nature is almost never victim-centric. And its tendency to avoid anchoring the violence to a reasonable motive means that we don’t know much about the way Johnny functions. And since we know his prey even less than we know him, there’s no telling how well thought out their plans against this nightmarish killer actually are. But we can somewhat grasp the outline of Colt and Kris’ trap from that can of fuel and Colt’s lighter. Likely well-versed in pop culture’s take on how to kill a supernatural entity, they probably planned to lure Johnny into the old fire tower and light him on fire, hoping that’d be the end of this vicious spirit. But they don’t know how quick he is with his ax. So when Colt’s head is unprecedentedly cut in half and Kris has to hear the constant thud of the ax as it repeatedly strikes his body, we’re thankful that she has the sense to drop the necklace and run. 

Nearing the end, In a Violent Nature goes atmospheric with the paranoia of its final girl. Fear must be the only thing that’s kept Kris running. The sound of the ax becoming an earworm meant she didn’t feel safe for a second as she cut through the dark woods. Even when she wakes up the next morning, screaming at the pain of having a piece of sharp wood pierce her leg, what keeps her moving is just an overwhelming sense of dread. In the ending sequence, Kris has found the road and a kind woman to give her a lift to the hospital. No matter how far the car goes, the distance from Johnny fails to reassure Kris. It’s here that you have to acknowledge that Kris doesn’t know anything about the killer whose hook she’s escaped. She doesn’t know how fast or slow he is, only that he’s butchered her friends right before her eyes. And even though the woman’s story about her brother, who was mauled by a bear and turned out “right as rain,” was supposed to comfort Kris, I think it kind of did the opposite. Some of the details about how this woman’s brother, who was a game warden, tracked a bear that was leaving a trail of mutilated animals are bound to make you wonder if they could’ve mistaken Johnny for a bear. Animals torn to shreds but not eaten? Sounds like something  homeboy would do. But considering the mention of bear tracks, I think the story was just supposed to mess with us before taking the shape of an exposition used as a thematic device. While remembering how her brother explained this odd behavior from a usually methodical predator, the woman mentioned Henhouse Syndrome. It’s a phase where animals kill more than they need for sustenance. It’s when they kill for no reason. So, while the bear wasn’t Johnny, they were very similar in nature. They walked through the woods with a singular instinct puppeteering them—to kill and maul for no reason. And that’s something you’d fear way more than a killer with a motive and a specific choice of victim. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for In a Violent Nature‘s final girl to overcome this fear that’s been deeply embedded in her very being.

In In a Violent Nature‘s ending, even though there’s got to be miles between Kris and Johnny, she’s still terrified that his firefighter mask will appear out of the woods at any moment. A numbing anxiety is all her face communicates when the woman stops the car to secure her wound so she won’t bleed to death. When we see the shot of the can of fuel in the woods, right where Kris left it, there’s no necklace on it. So Johnny’s gotten his bloody hands on the keepsake he was after and went about his way. Given how Johnny’s basically Jason Voorhees reincarnate, the ending is also the film’s way of paying homage to the classic. The good samaritan helping the Final Girl escape the deadly woods is played by Lauren-Marie Taylor, who played Vickie, one of Jason’s unfortunate victims in Friday the 13th 2.

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
In cinema, Lopamudra finds answers to some fundamental questions of life. And since jotting things down always makes overthinking more fun, writing is her way to give this madness a meaning.

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