‘Kill Your Lover’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is Axel Dead Or Alive?


Kill Your Lover can be best described as a horror drama. The plot is straightforward, and there are no distracting sub-plots. As a low-budget film, the horror elements were quite ambitious, but the execution was flawed. You cannot take the film seriously when your entire focus is on the badly drawn blue veins on the characters’ bodies. Overall, it is one of those horror films that you forget immediately after watching, and you are never going to recommend it to your friends.

Coming to the plot of Kill Your Lover, Dakota had made up her mind to break up with her boyfriend, Axel. She was frustrated with the relationship, and she was convinced that they did not have a future together. Dakota had been preparing her breakup speech with her best friend, and by the time Axel returned home, she was confident that she would end their relationship that very day, but things took an unexpected and violent turn.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Dakota want to break up with Axel?

This was not the first time that Dakota decided to end her relationship with Axel. She had previously tried to break up with him, but it never worked out. He always managed to convince her that they deserved another chance. Dakota was tired of the constant manipulation, and she believed it was time that they both admitted the obvious: that they were not meant to be together. Dakota was a different person when she and Axel hooked up for the first time. She used to be a part of a band, and she had the typical punk-rock aesthetic. Axel was particularly disturbed to see a semi-nude photograph of her and her roommate, Rose. Maybe he was attracted to the idea of dating someone who was nothing like him and then molding her into the woman he approved of. He had almost made it his life’s project to transform Dakota from a weed-smoking free-spirit to a homely woman whose life must revolve around him. Over the years, Dakota changed. She was afraid of upsetting Axel, and she agreed to the many changes that he made in her life. Even when she tried to protest, she was always made to believe that every decision he made was for her own good.

Even though Dakota struggled to meet Axel’s expectations, she did not know how to end their relationship. He had supported her during a critical phase of her life, and she owed him financially. She was too enwrapped in the mess, and leaving did not seem to be an option. The randomly placed photographs of her bandmates on the wall were replaced by perfectly framed pictures of Dakota and Axel. She had her life’s mantra tattooed on her arms, and it read, “Everything was replaceable,” but after being in a relationship with Axel, she had to extend her tattoo and add “with exceptions” to it. Dakota had come to realize that Axel had complete control over her life and her surroundings. She was not happy with the person she had become, and she decided it was time that they parted ways.

What was wrong with Axel?

Axel was sick when he returned home. He had overheard Dakota and Rose go over the breakup plan, and he was prepared to discuss it. He initially tried to gaslight Dakota by insinuating that she was the reason why they were having troubles in their relationship, but it did not work in his favor, and he ended up apologizing and begging to start over again. Dakota momentarily considered not ripping off the bandage just yet, but things took a turn when a chemical substance started to ooze out of Axel’s body. Axel was infected, and a strange vein-like growth started to spread all across his body. When Axel grabbed hold of Dakota’s wrist, he ended up burning her. The chemical was deadly, and Dakota did not know how to react to the strange situation. Axel was in discomfort, and Dakota decided to call the emergency helpline. The chemical seeping out of Axel’s body symbolized the toxicity he carried within himself. The relationship brought out the worst side of him, and the toxicity had almost become impossible to contain within himself, resulting in a physical manifestation. Axel and Dakota were never meant to be, but Axel could not accept it. He manipulated his way into Dakota’s life, knowing well that she had a very different personality. It had almost become his obsession to mold Dakota, and when she resisted, he gaslighted her. 

Kill Your Lover is all about the horror that unfolds when Dakota attempts to get out of her toxic relationship. The chemical burns that Dakota suffered signified the damage that Axel had caused throughout their relationship. When the paramedics arrived at their apartment, they could sense that Dakota was in an abusive relationship. They were surprised when Dakota stated that the burns did not hurt, suggesting that this was how she coped in the relationship—hiding away her pain or learning to live with it.

Dakota wanted to run away from Axel, but given his situation, she chose to stay. She encouraged him to go to the hospital, but he was afraid that the minute he stepped out of the apartment, Dakota would disappear from his life. Dakota stated clearly that they made each other miserable and that it was best for them to part ways. The vein-like growth kept on spreading, indicating Axel’s struggle with the resentment that he felt. The toxicity in their relationship was getting worse, and there was only one solution—cutting off ties. Axel killed both the paramedics after they intervened. Surprisingly, Dakota too had the strange germ growing inside her. The growth was visible on her body too. It is suggested that Dakota suffered from the same illness after they became sexually intimate. This can be interpreted as Dakota running out of time to become her own person. Axel’s strong influence could result in her being trapped forever.

Why did Axel refuse to let Dakota leave?

Axel handcuffed Dakota after he realized that she did not want to be with him anymore. The conversation indicated that Axel’s parents were in a bad marriage, and their constant fights affected him when he was little. This was perhaps why Axel was obsessed with the idea of becoming the ideal couple, and leaving was never an option for him. He grew up witnessing a bad marriage, and his biggest fear was perhaps ending up alone after a few failed relationships. He blamed Dakota for being selfish and choosing herself over their relationship. He was still willing to work on their issues instead of letting go of her, and this was not the first time that he had begged Dakota to stay. Dakota wondered why he wanted to be with her when he found everything about her too repulsive, and Axel did not have a very concrete answer to that. Dakota tried to escape when he got emotional, but Axel managed to stop her. The two eventually ended up getting into a physical fight. They both could burn one another and in the end, it was all about survival. Love was no longer a part of the equation; it had come down to obsession and one’s desire to be free. During their brawl, they remembered all the times they had fought before. Their differences had only gotten worse over the years, and the fight turned quite deadly in the end.

What happened to Dakota and Axel?

The growth from Axel’s body started to cover the walls of the apartment. Meanwhile, Dakota smashed their framed photograph. She remembered how they were arguing when the photograph was taken. They were never really happy in their relationship, and she was desperate to walk out of the apartment, free. Dakota grabbed hold of a piece of glass, and she walked up to Axel. She allowed him a chance to let her leave without interrupting her, but Axel wanted to put up a fight till the very end. Dakota admitted that she too made mistakes in the relationship, and maybe her actions had affected Axel. She strongly believed that the only way forward was by letting each other go. She hoped that deciding to end the relationship was the last thing they could do together, but Axel was not ready for it.

In Kill Your Lover‘s ending, Dakota stabbed Axel in the chest, and she pulled out his heart. She tried to end it on a peaceful note, but he refused to let her go. Ripping his heart out was the only way she thought she could ever be free, and she did what she had to do. The final scene can be interpreted as Axel completely losing himself after Dakota finally left. Though the literal ripping-out heart scene is acceptable just the way it is considering the obsessive-possessive boyfriend that Axel was, maybe that was the only way she could get away from the demon that he had become.

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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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