‘The Infernal Machine’ Ending, Explained: Who Is William Dukent? What Happens To Elijah And Bruce Cogburn?


Written and directed by Andrew Hunt, “The Infernal Machine” is an intense and surreal account of how the author’s mental instability and guilt cause his existence to be an uphill battle of tragic carnage. His life has given him both the finest and worst things at the same time since he wrote his classic work, “The Infernal Machine.” He attained the pinnacle of popularity before being shaken by an exhilarating incident that took a toll on his creativity. So, let’s find out what the book’s deepest secret is and how it affected the author’s life to turn into a fidgety fluctuation.

Spoilers Ahead

Who Is Bruce Cogburn? Who Sent Him The Letters?

“The Infernal Machine” begins with a voiceover lamenting the Knoxville tragedy, in which a gunman entered the campus of Knoxville Baptist University on June 21 and killed thirteen people while injuring 26 others. Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States throughout the 80s and arrived on the scene, as indicated by the voiceover.

The scene gradually shifts to a hilly woodland in Southern California, 25 years after the incident. The protagonist of the story, Bruce Cogburn (Guy Pearce), steps inside a phone booth with a letter in his hand. He dials the number and calls someone named William Dukent. He is curious as to how the visitor obtained his address because it has always been kept private, but he surmises that it must have come through his agent. He denies doing any interviews about the discussion of his writings, which might be what the stranger wrote him about. Bruce leaves a voicemail for the unknown person, not anticipating a response. He hangs up the phone and leaves. But the letters keep coming, and Bruce is frustrated to discover more of William Dukent’s letters as he checks his P. O. Once more, he leaves a voicemail complaining indignantly about the obnoxious letters that keep demanding to know why he didn’t compose the second part of the book, “The Infernal Machine.” In response, Bruce tells him about the horrific catastrophe that occurred in Knoxville on June 21 and assures him that William should be aware of the event that forced him to stop writing any new books.

Bruce Cogburn is a famous writer, especially known for his classic, controversial book “The Infernal Machine,” but the bite of old age has made him a slacker and addicted to smoking. The interior of his house is as messy as if a storm had swept over it, and he is quite grimy. He has a nightmare of a fire that wakes him up, and for the rest of the day, he is haunted by letters from his obsessed fan, William Dukent. Dukent’s gifts arrive at his home, including an ink ribbon that he used to write his famous book. He realizes that Dukent has a lot of information about him, so he sends a threatening voicemail to this weird stranger, wanting him to stop sending letters or anything. Bruce’s exterior is troubled because inside, he is terrified. He adopted an Alsatian dog named Saul to escape loneliness and fear. He is worried and afraid of something; he always thinks someone is following him and is even suspicious of the numbers read in German on the car radio. He cannot sleep at night, and finally, he brings home the loaded stack of letters sent by Dukent.

What Is The Connection Between ‘The Infernal Machine’ And The 21st June Massacre?

Bruce frowns after receiving 19 letters from Dukent in one day. He keeps leaving voicemails for Dukent in a phone booth far from his house while intoxicated. In his letters, Dukent insists that Bruce should uncover the idea for his upcoming book, but Bruce refuses to assist him and advises him to do it on his own. He collapses there after drinking heavily, and the following morning, a female police officer named Higgins (Alice Eve) saves him and brings him home.

Bruce softens his anger and decides to invite Dukent to the cafe next door without any threat this time, but no one shows up despite waiting for a while. As a consequence, Bruce leaves the place quickly. Despite his rage, he decides against making another threatening call to Dukent and instead visits the Rapido Express Service office, from where his letters are received. Instead of acquiring Mr. Dukent’s address after arriving there, it is discovered that no such letter made it to Bruce’s address via Rapido Express. Bruce consults Higgins, who is on vacation with her kid, after realizing someone is pulling a cruel trick on him. Higgins informs him that there may be a connection between this case and the gunman who carried out the June 21 attack.

Suspicious in Bruce’s mind, he searches on a computer in a nearby cyber cafe about the June 21 Knoxville incident, where we come face-to-face with a controversial truth in his life. On June 21, 1981, Dwight Tufford (Alex Pettyfer), a seventeen-year-old youth, was responsible for the horrific massacre in Knoxville. He killed 13 people and injured 26. But the truth is, when his investigation begins, he puts all the blame on Bruce Cogburn’s “The Infernal Machine.” As soon as the news flashes again before his eyes, he panics and leaves right away. According to Dwight, the book has influenced him to go against God, which might be his misinterpretation, but whatever it was, due to the controversy, the book and its potential writer, Bruce Cogburn, gained too much publicity. Thus, the connection between the book and the mass shooting changed Bruce’s life since the killer’s confession.

Who is Dwight Tufford? How Does The Book Influence Him To Commit Mass Murder?

After a few days, Bruce discovers a dilapidated house with a Rapido Express car parked outside. Bruce is intrigued by the car and enters to discover a replica of the mass murder in Knoxville. He discovers all over the walls of the adjacent room that only pages of his diplomatic book are taped to them. In his pursuit of the answers, Bruce enters the room with Officer Higgins and discovers a CD of Dwight’s interrogation in which he discusses God’s Dominos. He admits that Bruce Cogburn’s famous novel had a massive impact on him. He has been convinced by the book that it is only reasonable that God should be punished for making humans with impairments because God created them as mortal beings who would eventually perish. After reading “The Infernal Machine,” Dwight decides to exact revenge on God because having a distorted psyche is also a disability that he may have been living with for a long time. Most likely, it was only his misunderstanding, but his actions led other readers to wrongly interpret the author’s actual intentions.

Worried and panicked about all this, Bruce comes out of the room. Having found the address of Dwight’s prison, Bruce visits him, where he anonymously asks him about William Dukent. Conversations with Dwight reveal that he is extremely mad with Cogburn because he thinks he is in this situation because of him only. He strongly believes that Bruce Cogburn should be arrested and put into prison because, according to him, the author of the book has inspired him to commit mass murder. He mentions the German number reading and says that Dukent promised to introduce him to Bruce Cogburn. The German number reading that Bruce has heard numerous times before may be a ploy to get his attention somewhere. Bruce’s silence on the matter suggests to him that the person sitting in front of him is actually who Dwight is looking for. Dwight becomes enraged and hostile, wanting to murder him, but Bruce can flee without being killed.

Bruce learns a bigger truth on his journey. He discovers that his interaction with the daughter of Officer Higgins was only a staged game. He conducts additional research and discovers Officer Higgins’ police uniform, with which he feels that Higgins has misled him about everything. When he finds Higgins in a restaurant, she tells him that she is only a conduit through which Bruce has been intimidated. However, she assures him that Dukent will reveal to him the remaining truth when they eventually meet. Everyone at the dinner gradually starts to feel as false as Higgins, as if everyone is conspiring against him.

The manuscript, which Bruce never authored and never delivered to anybody, has been received by Jerry, Bruce’s agent, who informs him over the phone. When Bruce eventually gets in touch with his agency, the manuscript astounds him. Bruce’s conversations with everyone till this point are recorded on page after page of the scripts. Bruce even discovers a CC recorder tied to his dog’s neck, which he then opens and discards. At this point, he is certain that he is under continual surveillance.

‘The Infernal Machine’ Ending Explained: Who Was William Dukent? What Is The Truth Behind The Book?

After being released from jail, Dwight ultimately makes his way to Bruce’s home to kill him. Dwight ends up being injured by Bruce, despite his unsuccessful effort to strangle him. While Dwight recites a few passages from “The Infernal Machine,” Bruce shoots him to death, claiming that he did not truly write it, ending Dwight’s obsession with the book. Saul, his dog, gets hurt in this instance, though. He then drives Saul to a veterinary clinic, where he gets a flashback to his time as a teacher, where a young guy (his pupil) reads him a book he had written. It reveals that this “Infernal Machine” has been written by that young man. As Bruce, who is likely penning a confession, makes his way to the post office, he once again hears the number read in German. He realized that the number reading might lead him somewhere, where he would find the root of the mystery. He believes it is coming from a distant tower, which he follows and ends up reaching a strangely desolate camp. After much roaming around, Elijah (Jeremy Davies), that old student of Bruce’s (who appears in flashbacks and looks like he has been burnt and paralyzed for some reason), is finally introduced to Bruce. Bruce’s confusion lifts as he understands that it was Elijah who had been writing to him for such a long time as William Dukent and that the entire story is his design. He explains to him that since Bruce stole his first manuscript, then Bruce should be the one to assist him in writing his second book. However, even though Elijah is the creator of the novel, Bruce manages to survive every terrifying second of it. As a result, he tried to send Jerry, the publication’s agent, an email with a copy of their final draft. However, just as he was about to send the email, Bruce pulled out his confession letter to reveal the truth. It wasn’t something Elijah had expected in his grand scheme of things, but before he could do anything, Bruce walked out of the premises, and Elijah’s implanted bomb caused the camp to catch fire and explode.

In actuality, Bruce Cogburn had no existence prior to the publication of “The Infernal Machine.” His writing was rated as mediocre. Even though he had no intention of stealing it in the first place, he got greedy after reading Elijah’s manuscript of “The Infernal Machine.” However, Elijah, apart from being a great writer, might have been born with an abnormality that led him to oppose God and question his injustice. But after writing such a great creation, “The Infernal Machine,” he started to feel regret for defying God, so he committed suicide by setting himself ablaze. Bruce publishes Elijah’s work under his name despite having witnessed such a horrific death. The book has gained him enormous popularity but has also landed him in controversy ever since the June 21 slaughter. The horror comes to an end when a half-burned and dead Bruce crawls to the post office and mails his letter of confession.

What Is Bruce Cogburn’s Final Role? The Writer or the Character?

The film narratively portrays a writer’s journey that follows a battle to preserve his own identity and a tough confession. Guy Pearce’s breathtaking performance brilliantly emphasizes the psychologically nuanced aspects of Bruce Cogburn’s character. His character has been concealing the truth from the start, and he is often required to explain it after having an unnerving meeting with a riddle. Even slowly, he started to suspect that there was a secret plan behind everything. He feels terrible about stealing his student’s work, so after the June 21 massacre, he disappeared from the public eye.

In flashback scenes, Professor Bruce used to ask his student, “Who Am I?” In response, he used to elaborate on the purpose of a character. He clarified that a story is about a protagonist’s journey to transform himself, but the path would not be so easy to find out who he really is. When he learns that his alleged dead pupil wasn’t actually dead, Bruce finally understands that he’s simply been the victim of vengeance. On the other side, Bruce is the protagonist of Elijah’s second novel, “The Divine Apostate,” where Elijah suggests the story’s conclusion by letting the protagonist die by blowing up the camp. But finally, Bruce decided to admit the truth rather than play the part in his subsequent stories. Therefore, Elijah’s revenge has no purpose anymore. Bruce steps outside to mail the letter of confession to put an end to his regret, but the explosion burns him. He realizes that he will never be the writer of that story but rather remain one of its characters. At least, in the end, his journey becomes successful as he finally accepts his fate and becomes true to himself.

“The Infernal Machine” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Andrew Hunt.

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami is an artist and an aspiring screenwriter both by profession and passion. Apart from writing stories, poems and songs, studying cinema is her obsession. She is also a freelance painter yet it is the world of cinema that fascinates her the most.

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