‘Perpetrator’ Ending Explained: Does Jonny Find Out The Identity Of The Kidnapper?

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In Jennifer Reeder’s Perpetrator, there are two things that are happening simultaneously. Firstly, its protagonist, Jonny Baptiste, is undergoing a physical and psychological change that is causing her to hallucinate and bleed profusely at random times of the day. And secondly, there’s a kidnapper on the loose who is picking up young girls in the area and apparently experimenting on them. Jonny is targeted by the local police officer for being an alleged thief, which is correct. But when she trusts the officer and his son, Kirk, to help her solve this issue, things go sideways for her, thereby forcing her to use her newfound powers to get herself out of this sticky situation.

Spoiler Alert


What’s Up With Jonny’s Powers?

Apparently, Jonny’s powers, which allow her to morph her face and create a portal into a pool of water and blood, are hereditary in nature. Her mother and her father both have that ability, and that’s why she has it, too. Since it’s too much for both of them to handle, not only do they go their separate ways, but Jonny’s father tells Jonny to go stay with her aunt because she has a grip on the supernatural stuff. On Jonny’s 18th birthday, she has this psychedelic meltdown where she finally realizes that she isn’t actually hallucinating and that she actually has superpowers. She explicitly asks Hildie (her aunt) to define what this phenomenon is, and Hildie says that she calls it “forevering.” She says that it’s a result of profound empathy for everything that’s going on in the cosmos. She even calls it “reverse possession.”

When Hildie says that she has been buried alive twice for having all these “feelings,” I think that she is hinting at witchcraft. The photos in Hildie’s house indicate that she’s talking about it literally and that she has lived longer than normal human beings do and has been unjustly judged for her opinions or actions. On a metaphorical level, she is talking about how women always have to swim upstream to hold on to their basic rights. And if they do anything that the patriarchal society doesn’t want them to do, then they are “buried,” discarded, or abused. Jonny is on the cusp of adulthood, and she is starting to discover herself while trying to define herself in this rapidly changing and hostile world. Therefore, it’s important for her to understand her powers, both metaphorical and literal, before she makes a decision for herself and those around her.


Why does Jonny get kidnapped?

After escaping the clutches of Officer Sterling during a burglary, Jonny goes for a sleepover with Elektra. The following day, they get into a conversation about the kidnappings, and Elektra points out that all the girls who have disappeared are somehow connected to Kirk, i.e., Officer Sterling’s son. So they corner Kirk and force him to spill the truth. While all this is going on, the Perpetrator hints at the connection between Principal Burke, Marcy (who is undergoing extensive plastic surgery), and Officer Sterling. It doesn’t seem like a big issue as the narrative shifts to a party where Kirk essentially admits that he is somehow responsible for the disappearance of all the girls. They theorize that the kidnapper is using Kirk’s “choice” of girls as a “playlist” of sorts and then abducting them. So, Jonny tells Kirk to put her on this “playlist,” which is a roundabout way of saying that she wants to be the bait. Jonny wants to get kidnapped so that she can get to the kidnapper’s lair and then rescue the girls with the help of her powers.

While Jonny and Kirk are having a conversation about all this in the middle of a cemetery, Officer Sterling magically shows up and offers her a ride home. Since he tells Kirk to go pick up his stepmother, Jonny has no option but to take Sterling’s help. Just as she’s about to step out of the cop car, someone knocks her out, which confirms the fact that Sterling is actually working with the kidnapper to get the girls. Elektra was right about being followed by a man in a mask (the kidnapper) and a cop car simultaneously until she vomited and basically made herself “unappealing.”

Now, based on where you stand politically and ideologically, this piece of commentary can be relevant or problematic, as the film is trying to talk about the police’s complacency when it comes to protecting and rescuing women. We know that certain sections of law enforcement agencies are directly involved in trafficking women because they make money off it. Sometimes, they take bribes in order to drop cases that are looking to punish human traffickers. I don’t know if they aid in the kidnapping of women, but it’s a movie that’s exaggerating that aspect in order to make its point.


Does Jonny find out the identity of the kidnapper?

Here’s where things get considerably icky, as we see that the face-mask-wearing kidnapper has drugged Jonny and inserted a tube into her body via a flesh-like USB port. After ordering Jonny not to cry because he thinks it’s unappealing, the kidnapper proceeds to connect that tube to a hole in his body. I don’t know how else to describe it. All I can say is that it is very Cronenberg-esque, and if you have seen a Cronenberg film, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I am assuming that the kidnapper tries to exchange body fluids for some reason, but Jonny starts to mimic his words and actions, and that freaks out the kidnapper, and he knocks her out again. When Jonny wakes up, she finds herself on a bed under which all of the kidnapper’s victims are hiding.

Aviva, who is one of the victims, says that they are being “stripped for parts,” and I think she means that literally. As in, the kidnapper is literally taking the body parts of the victims and using them. Jonny refuses to give up and traps the kidnapper in one of her blood puddle contraptions, and then escapes with all the victims. Jonny’s birth mother shows up because her special power is her sense of smell. Jonny’s reunion with her mother seems to be the point at which the movie is going to conclude. However, it goes past that point, and the narrative returns to the school.

In Perpetrator‘s ending, it is revealed that Principal Burke is the kidnapper because he has a flesh-like USB port on his chest. Jonny’s mother kidnaps Burke and puts him in her van. When Jonny finds out about it, she fights with Burke and literally pulls his heart out! It’s a pretty amazing moment in an otherwise timid film. Later on, we see the girls attending a dinner party at Hildie’s house, with Jonny learning to embrace her powers and her fangs. Burke, being the kidnapper, confirms the theory that he was replacing his body parts and Marcy’s with those of the victims in order to stay young. It’s a way of saying that older generations hate the younger generations because they can’t return to that phase of their lives again.

What the villains in Perpetrator are doing isn’t exactly possible in real life. But what’s possible is moral-policing youngsters, body shaming them, discriminating against them, and doing every single thing that’ll hinder their mental and physical growth. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to show that the heads of an educational institution are capable of doing such things. I’m not saying that principals and teachers aren’t capable of bigotry, but at a time when the importance of education is being downplayed, I don’t think it’s a good message to send. Anyway, that’s just my opinion, though. Please watch Perpetrator because your opinion may be different from mine.


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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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