‘Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever’ Ending Explained & 2023 Film Summary: Is Gunver Dead?


Ole Bornedal’s Danish thriller Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever takes a PTSD-stricken trip down memory lane and goes back to the cursed morgue from his 1994 classic Nightwatch. It’s not an absolute must for you to have watched the original to try dipping your toes into the sequel, but you do need a little bit of background on the characters and what they went through 30 years ago. So, let me help you out with that before I get into breaking down the sequel. In 1994, law student Martin made the biggest mistake of his life by accepting a job as the night watchman at the Institute of Forensic Medicine. He inadvertently got sucked into a serial killer case when the real killer, Detective Superintendent Peter Wormer, went on a rampage, scalping and killing prostitutes. Martin and his girlfriend Kalinka barely evaded the same fate themselves when his friend Jens shot Wormer and saved them. But now that we’re back in the same creepy setting of the yellow-lit morgue 30 years later, it’s clear that the nightmare is far from over.

Spoiler Alert

What happens in the film?

Martin’s a middle-aged dad in Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever, and not a very good one at that. But you’d want to cut him some slack knowing what he’s been through, especially as you get to know from his daughter Emma that Kalinka killed herself some time ago. Martin’s been stretching her patience as it is. But she can no longer put up with Martin’s trauma fueling his self-destructive traits and making him an emotionally checked-out father. Emma needs answers to the questions Martin’s been dodging religiously all his life. It’s a bold move to take the same cursed job at the same nightmarish place. Yet maybe only to trigger her dad into finally talking about the life-altering events 30 years ago, Emma took up the job of night watch at the very same place where her parents were once tied up and brought dangerously close to death. She’s both alarmed and intrigued by the fact that Wormer’s actually very much alive and is being held at St. Hans Psychiatric Hospital. 

Why does Emma go to meet Wormer?

It’s clear that life hasn’t quite treated the survivors of the prequel well. Martin and Jens got away and married their soulmates with the hope that they could leave that horrifying night behind. But the trauma runs deep. Wormer might not have succeeded in claiming Kalinka’s life that night, but paranoia overcame her in the following years. As Emma hopelessly recalls her mother’s faltering condition when she talks to her more-than-friend Frederik, we get to know that Kalinka never really felt that she was safe from Wormer. The only way she knew how to escape this anxiety was by ending her life. Martin was in no state to even come to terms with the loss, let alone be capable of being there for his daughter. His career went to hell as he resorted to drugging himself numb. Now, this big, bad monster, Wormer, is only anecdotal to Emma at this point. So, despite the innumerable risks, she made up her mind to face this demon who’s practically taken her parents from her. What gets her going is partly her need to see if he’s really someone who warrants that kind of self-destructive fear and partly her desperate wish to fix her dad. The Wormer she sits in front of in that dark cell is a weak, blind, whiny creature. She videotapes Wormer with the hope that if Martin could only see him in that feeble state, it’d loosen the fear’s grip on him. The trouble is, Emma went to St. Hans under a false name. So when she’s inevitably caught by Gunver, the psychiatrist in charge, she’s forced to spill the truth. Gunver’s offer to see Martin for crisis therapy is taken well by Emma. But when she does show the video of Wormer to Martin, it has the exact opposite effect that she intended. Martin’s all the more paranoid now that Wormer knows about the existence of his daughter. 

Why does Bent kill Lotte?

Now, here’s where things get a little tricky. We first saw Bent in the opening scene of Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever when he was being interrogated by Detective Superintendent Kramer for scalping and killing a vicar. Bent was a patient in St. Hans and was seemingly under Wormer’s influence. He comes off completely unhinged when he cracks his head open by slamming it on the glass window and is taken to a hospital. You wouldn’t immediately think that the guy who can barely form sentences was up to something elaborate. But Ben’s not to be underestimated. He was indeed under Wormer’s influence. And when Emma paid a visit to Wormer, he touched her hair, and that kind of triggered that old craving for scalp souvenirs in him. The vicar that Bent was convicted of killing was Lotte, Emma’s godmother and Jens’ ex-wife. But Bent didn’t actually kill Lotte. He merely volunteered to be the fall guy while a copycat killer wearing a Wormer mask was actually getting their hands dirty. It was Wormer’s first strike of terror. And pretty soon, things get pretty grim for a number of people close to Emma when Bent breaks out of the hospital and comes looking for her. Emma’s friend Maria couldn’t have picked a worse night to do Emma a solid and sub in for her at the night watch job. Bent never got a good look at Emma. So it was easy for him to kidnap the wrong girl when Maria was at Emma’s desk wearing the apron. Stuck to a pillar with a chain at a cabin in the middle of nowhere, Maria fails to reason with her infantile captor, Bent. It’s only when the copycat killer with the Wormer mask comes in that Bent gets to know that he’s kidnapped the wrong target. That doesn’t mean Maria gets set free, though. But Bent’s naive enough for her to trick him into taking a nap on her lap and strangle him to death with the same chain that’s holding her down. 

Is Jens dead?

Having Jens come down from Thailand was part of Wormer’s bigger scheme. But Jens didn’t really have a choice when Gunver called him up and gave him the news of Lotte’s death. He’s still just the same blend of odd and wholesome. His presence may be fleeting in Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever, but his time with Martin and Emma makes a lot of things rather clear. He’s quite explicit about his failed suicide attempt. And that, coupled with the football stadium conversation between Martin and Jens, where Martin opens up about his wish to kill himself, tells us that Wormer’s terrorizing shadow loomed over all three of his survivors. So much so that one of them actually killed herself and left a child and a husband behind. He’s also the first person to ever talk about that night in front of Emma. His heartbreaking tale of how he lost his thumb is the first real knowledge Emma has of that night. Unfortunately, though, the man who saved Martin and Kalinka in the original Nightwatch is killed in Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever. On his way back from the stadium, Jens has his throat slit open by the copycat killer, marking the second kill of the movie. 

Who is the real killer? Is Gunver dead?

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever isn’t too bothered about keeping us in the dark about who the killer is. But it has its fun with the slow, gradual walk to the revelation and the truckload of hints for you to piece together. The only solid distraction from the real killer was the fact that Emma was looking at a possible son-turned-copycat angle in the mystery. Wormer’s son was first mentioned by Gunver when Emma was caught falsifying her identity to meet Wormer. And ever since that seed had been planted in her head, Emma found herself repeatedly going back to the same theory—Wormer’s son is seeking revenge for his father’s condition. It got all the more real for her when she stole a bunch of pictures of Wormer and his son from his cell. And after that, when Lotte’s body was brought into the morgue, she heard Gunver talk about “vatersehnsucht,” or in English, longing for the father, which happens to be a Freudian take on a father-son relationship. A whole lot of words for daddy issues! Apparently, children who grow up without fathers are 80% more likely to become sociopaths. Yikes! 

By the time Kramer comes over to give Emma the tragic news of Jens’ death and tells her that Wormer has a daughter, not a son, we’ve kind of already figured out who the real killer is. It’s always made the most sense for Gunver to be the killer. She had free reign in the psychiatric facility Wormer and Bent were in. And now, she’s captured Martin under the pretense of treating his PTSD. You might remember that Gunver was the one to mislead Emma the first time she met her by planting the idea of Wormer having a son in her head. But she could hardly contain her rage and almost painted Wormer and his son as victims of the incident 30 years ago. She pretty much says the same things to Martin now that she’s paralyzed him by drugging his tea with Flunitrazepam. But there’s no need for her to hold back now. So, she goes on this rant about how Martin and her friend ruined her life. Quite self-aware, Miss Fatherless-kids-become-psychopaths! But in all honesty, her story’s pretty tragic, too. After Wormer’s admission to St. Hans, Gunver went into the system and had a foster dad abuse her. She must’ve gotten a new identity and a degree to look after her blind father. As she makes abundantly clear to a paralyzed Martin, revenge only became an active pursuit for Wormer and his daughter after Emma’s very “disrespectful” visit, where she spat on him. 

Maria’s misunderstanding sadly costs Kramer her life. You see, she heard Bent address the copycat killer as “Detective Superintendent.” So she assumed that the killer was Kramer, the current superintendent. On her way to St. Hans to get her dad, Emma gets the scare of a lifetime, thinking the person driving the car, Kramer, is the actual killer. By trusting Gunver over Kramer, Emma basically signs Kramer’s death sentence. She’s then chased around the gloomy corridors of St. Hans by Gunver. With a paralyzed Martin right in front of him, Wormer’s about as excited as a kid with a new toy. Thankfully, by the time Wormer knifed up to go for the scalp, Martin had regained some mobility. His blindness gives Martin the upper hand.

In Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever‘s ending, as Martin sticks Wormer’s own knife up his head, he puts an end to the nightmare that’s crippled him for his entire life. As a wholesome token of appreciation for Jens’ character, Emma shoots Gunver to death with Kramer’s gun. In the ending sequence of the original “Nightwatch,” it was Jens who shot Wormer. The thumb tax is missing though. Come on, you know Jens would’ve loved this joke. As we see Martin, Emma, and her friends unwinding at the beach, we get the sense that Martin’s a lot happier than he’s ever been in his life. Gunver might’ve been a psychotic killer, but she did leave Martin with some astute parenting advice. Children suffer when their parents hold on to their trauma and pass it down. In the process of fixing her father, Emma was practically losing her own identity. She was fighting a battle that wasn’t hers to begin with. It takes a near-fatal trip through the dark alleys of his trauma for Martin to finally be a good dad. And before you ask, I think they can count on their happiness to last now. I really don’t think Ole will resurrect Gunver for another sequel. She’s most certainly in that morgue now. 

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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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