‘Herd’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: What Had Caused The Hep’s Outbreak?

The 2023 film Herd by Steven Pierce is a messy zombie thriller that tries too hard to be too focused on the human elements in its storytelling. Written alongside James Allerdyce, Pierce has failed to give the film a consistent vision. At one point, the story revolves purely around the lesbian couple Jamie and Alex. The segment dragged on, and then suddenly the zombie plot resumed. There is also a pseudo-dystopian drama in the middle of it all, and there are moments between characters that seem too random to be appreciated, even though they may have been acted well. The story begins with Jamie and Alex going out canoeing with the motive of mending their broken relationship. Things go south, and the couple is forced to seek help from the locals, who have their own idea of dealing with the ‘Heps’.


Spoilers Ahead

Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?

An old man comes running into a vehicle repair garage, and after he prepares to arm himself, he is attacked by a ‘Hep’, one of the zombie-like humans who had been infected by a recent outbreak of an unknown virus. Soon after, we get introduced to Jamie and Alex, who leave their home to spend a few nights in the wilderness. Their relationship was going through a tough phase. Their adopted daughter had died, and it impacted Jamie much more because of her own dynamic with her father. The trip was supposed to bring some clarity and intimacy to their relationship, but it couldn’t. There were just too many secrets and resentments lurking beneath the surface. Alex confronted Jamie for her distant behavior, and the argument escalated into Alex losing control of the canoe accidentally. Jamie helped pull Alex out of the water, but her leg was fractured. They needed immediate care, and in came Big John with his minions, who had taken up the responsibility of cleansing the towns of the Heps.


The old man seen at the beginning of the film was none other than Jamie’s father. Jamie had called him, possibly to inform him that they were going to camp in a forest nearby Robert’s town. Jamie was Robert’s estranged daughter, and she hated Robert because he was an abusive father. There were flashbacks that indicated that Jamie was traumatized by Robert’s cruel behavior during her childhood. She would never have reunited with him had it not been for Big John. It turns out the town was under his command, and he had created a fortress at Robert’s place. Big John was acting like the protector of the people who were keeping the zombies at bay. His minions Bernie and Tater also knew Jamie. Bernie had even gone to high school with her, but Jamie couldn’t recognize anyone.

How Did Robert Die? Why Did Jamie Decide To Escape?

Alex’s leg needed medical care. They were about to be blown to smithereens by Tater, but thanks to Bernie and Big John, they were taken to safety, and a veterinarian treated Alex’s leg. Their next stop was Robert’s place. When the cohort reached there, Jamie voiced her desire to meet Robert, but he was already dead. What transpired between the events was that Robert had been bitten by one of the Heps while he was in the garage. Nobody came to his aid as everybody was out doing their designated duties. Once he understood that there was no cure, he decided to end his life and commit suicide. Big John thus became the main man of the operation after his departure.


Jamie had so much pent-up emotion inside of her that she didn’t miss the chance to vent it out, even though there was only Robert’s corpse in front of her. She had lost her mother because of his brutish behavior, and on top of that, life had been a series of catastrophes for her. Her adopted daughter had also died. Alex was the only one in her life, but she blamed her for her daughter’s death. Alex had tried to explain her pain on the canoe and how she too felt the guilt of losing their daughter, but Jamie didn’t understand. Now, she was on the verge of losing Alex as well. Nobody paid any attention, but Alex had been scratched by one of the Heps while getting out of the veterinarian’s office. If Bernie or Tater had noticed this, they would have killed her off immediately. Jamie saw her wound, and she had seen them kill another woman in the garage because she had been scratched, Jamie couldn’t risk staying in the place. This is why she decided to take Alex back home, but things got complicated when Sterling, the officer of the National Guard, stopped her and had a shootout with Big John and his men.

What Was The Truth About The Outbreak?

Ever since the opening of the film, even when Jamie and Alex had just begun their trip, there has been a constant broadcast about the outbreak. At one point, the governor of the state was on TV, explaining the dos and don’ts to the public during this time of stress. While the Heps seemed extremely dangerous, one of the tricks to saving oneself was to not provoke them. If they didn’t feel threatened, it was highly unlikely that they would ever attack. Big John and his men had a different idea. They couldn’t tolerate their sight and shot at them the first chance they got. What they had essentially ensured was that they were under constant attack because they never backed down. They had created a mini-society where they had become the guardians and hoped to make deals with Sterling—to get groceries for the families in exchange for medicine from Sterling’s men.


When Jamie survived the shootout, she took Alex back to their hometown in the city. This is where she received the shock of a lifetime. The doctor at the hospital was more worried about the gunshot wound Alex had received during the shootout than the Hep’s scratch. The doctor told her that there was medicine available to stop the virus, and because Alex had been medicated at a very early stage of the virus, she would soon be fine. That opened up many questions in Jamie’s mind. She didn’t know that Big John had also been admitted to the same hospital, and when Bernie and Tater came to see him, she eavesdropped on them to find out what was happening. It turns out that Big John may have known about the outbreak beforehand and decided to fulfill his dream of becoming the savior of his people back in town, which is why he attacked the Heps. It may have been a national conspiracy as well, where the politicians decided to release the virus into certain dangerous communities having their own firepower. All this could have been done to destroy communities or weaken them, so that they could be controlled in a better way. The community killed off its own infected people because they had been made to believe that there was no cure. Sterling, too, killed off the veterinarian because he had been scratched. He too was unaware, perhaps, that there was a cure out there. Or perhaps this was the perfect excuse for the tyrannical Sterling to kill people without second thought. There were many middle-aged dads, like Robert, who, in a misguided sense of courage, killed their families off and then committed suicide. So, was the town deliberately wiped off the map? Perhaps. But it could be that they didn’t listen to the instructions very well and behaved in a violent fashion themselves with the Heps.

Jamie, who had her own internal struggles, realized one thing after the horrifying trip to Robert’s town: She became certain that life was about choices. Robert had made his, but she couldn’t let that become a burden in her own life. It was time to forgive Robert, even though he was a monster. As far as Alex was concerned, she was glad to be alive, and seeing her, Jamie realized that love was the most important thing, and she couldn’t afford to let Alex go. It was truly unfair to dump her trauma on the only person who strived to understand her and love her despite her flaws. Robert missed his family, which was clear from the family lock-screen on his phone. The same photo Jamie had kept hidden out of her sight She decided not to run away from her past anymore and kept the photo in its original position, signifying she had grown past the grief and trauma she had been struggling with. She had almost died when she too had decided to be violent with the Heps, but Alex, in a moment of compassion, had stopped her, and they survived. So this new life was a gift of restraint, love, and compassion, and Jamie was not about to let fear, guilt, and resentments ruin this new life. There was Alex, promising to be by her side if things got tough. If they could survive an outbreak in a remote town, they could survive anything together.


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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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