‘Nefarious’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Does James Martin Finally Become A Believer?

God made man in his own image, and then man defied His orders, so man was cast out from His garden—or so the story goes in the Bible. Directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon made a movie based on this, and it’s the 2023 supernatural horror Nefarious. Jordan Belfi plays psychiatrist Dr. James Martin, who goes into a prison to decide whether a criminal (Sean Patrick Flannery) is mentally fit to be executed, but realizes he’s gotten much more than he bargained for. Shot almost entirely inside one room, the movie raises questions about man’s choices and actions with references to heaven and hell, but it quickly starts reeking of propaganda and not so much horror. Here’s what happens in Nefarious.


Spoilers Ahead

Who Is Nefarious?

After reputed psychiatrist Dr. Fischer throws himself off his multistory office, young and confident Dr. James Martin walks into a prison for the evaluation of a death-row inmate, Edward Wayne Brady. Yes, the name sounds awfully similar to “The Killer Clown,” John Wayne Gacy, and you could guess that the makers wanted to present Edward as Gacy reborn. James has a tough job at hand; he needs to do a complete psych evaluation of Edward before he can declare whether the death-row inmate is mentally fit to be executed or whether he’s insane. Make no mistake, Edward has committed six murders till now and is in no way a saint, but given his behavioral patterns, there’s been reason to believe that he may be insane. Although the warden doesn’t want to bother with the psychiatric evaluation, James needs to do his job and walks into the cordoned-off area, where Edward is handcuffed to a table.


Within moments of their interaction, Edward lets James know two important things: one, he’s a demon possessing Edward’s body, and two, before the night is over, James will have killed three people. James is at first paying no mind to Edward’s rants about him being a creature from the underworld, namely ‘Nefarious,’ no matter how much Edward shrieks and freaks out seeing a priest. James gives Edward permission to inhabit his body if he’s willing to let the psychiatrist speak to the real Edward, but after Nefarious seemingly fails to possess James, the ‘real’ Edward comes out. He’s a mewling, stuttering, crying, twitching, and horribly broken man who says because of Nefarious’s crimes, Edward is punished. James isn’t done with this big baby when ‘Nefarious’ returns because he’s decided that the time is up for speaking to Edward.

Why Does Edward Call James A Murderer?

However, James’s casual demeanor of not taking Edward’s nonsense seriously is shattered when this death-row inmate, who’s been in the room the whole time, questions why James had his mother killed. Ten years ago, James’s mother was suffering from a terminal disease and was in pain, so her son chose euthanasia to relieve her of the suffering, but Edward, aka Nefarious, also believes that her wealth was a big motivator for James’s decision. Amidst his other ramblings, Nefarious adds that ‘they’ wanted James here because he was to be ‘their’ messenger and spread ‘their’ master’s message across the world. ‘They’ are because Nefarious says he’s one of the uncountable minions of the first fallen angel, Lucifer, and it’s up to James to spread Lucifer’s teachings in the world because the “carpenter” didn’t accept the offer. The “carpenter” is obviously the Son of God who died for humanity’s sins, so now Nefarious has chosen another messenger. He also announces that he’s tired of Edward’s body and has opted for the electric chair and proceeds to describe in gruesome detail how the inmate’s body will be toasted—a befitting way to welcome Edward into hell.


Irritated with the increasingly disturbing things the inmate spews, James is about to leave when Nefarious asks where James’s girlfriend is at the moment and what she’s doing. He then proceeds to describe exactly how she’s undergoing an abortion at the moment because James doesn’t want to be a father right now, although the prisoner has no way of knowing that James has committed murder #2. Nefarious rejoices as James’s baby enters hell as the psychiatrist runs out to make a phone call and learns his girlfriend has just undergone her surgery.

Now would be a good time to take a moment and state that the perspective of this movie is a shameless plug for rightist propaganda that denounces everything from euthanasia to abortion because it supposedly goes against what the Lord has preached. The creators make an earnest effort to equate man with evil for his actions because today’s science has allowed us to make choices that weren’t possible 200 years ago. A person deciding they don’t want to suffer pain and humiliation and wants to end their life voluntarily, or a woman who doesn’t want to have a child, are things intrinsically inherent to a person’s own choices and agency, and religion mustn’t have a say in this. However, it seems Nefarious directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon want to showcase James as a murderer because he’s stood quietly as two deaths have taken place.


What Does James Find In Edward’s Cell?

Now back to the plot: James feels emotionally tortured when the warden pressures him to come up with a decision. As James returns to question the inmate, Edward comes out and begins crying before Nefarious quickly regains control and snaps his own little finger as a punishment, then fixes it back as well. Although till now, every symptom was pointing towards dissociative identity disorder, the warden calls James to Edward’s cell to show that the convict has created an entire journal on every detail about James’s life, and there’s also a fat manuscript titled, “I, Nefarious.” As James returns to question Edward about the book, he uncuffs himself and begins strangling the psychiatrist until he begs for his life. The moment James is released, he declares Edward mentally sane and greenlights the execution as Nefarious jeers that James has just committed his third murder for the night.

What Happens During The Execution?

With moments remaining until the execution, Edward cries, moans, and begs the warden to reconsider the decision as the crowd gathers outside the execution room to watch Edward’s death. James sits beside a detective who’s hunted Edward for years, and moments before Edward is executed, Nefarious comes out and asks James about his decision. James refuses to ‘serve’ Nefarious’s master, and a hundred thousand volts of electricity course through Edward’s body twice, in the exact way Nefarious has described. The moment the doctor declares Edward dead, James hears the voice of Nefarious, and for a moment, he goes insane, pulling out the detective’s gun and trying to kill himself. He clicks the trigger three times, but the gun doesn’t fire.

‘Nefarious’ Ending Explained: How Does James Martin Become A Believer?

A year later, James published the book that Edward, aka Nefarious, had written, and appeared on a talk show to discuss the new book. However, James tweaked the book to make it a warning about what the Devil could do if humans abandoned the path of good and fell to evil. He explains that he’d been overcome by an evil entity so great after Edward’s execution that he wanted to end his life, but the gun didn’t fire, which probably could have been an act of something stronger, possibly diabolical. However, James doesn’t believe in the diabolical presence yet and can’t explain whatever came over him that night. He finishes the talk show and is on his way out of the studio when he finds a woman collecting garbage from a dumpster. He offers her some money, and as she accepts it with a bruised finger, she looks straight at James, addresses him by his first name, and says, “Miss me?” in the voice of Nefarious.

We can say James did become a believer after all. He watched a man die ion the electric chair and then heard the voice of the man who’d died in his head. Even then, he didn’t believe in a demonic presence until he found a garbage collector with the same bruised finger Edward had, and she talked to him in Nefarious’s voice. So it’s fair to assume that the moment Edward died, the demon had possessed another person, and, in the end, it had been a demonic possession after all.


That being said, Nefarious isn’t a horror movie in the slightest. Instead, it’s badly made right-wing propaganda where the main message is that man is just as evil as the hell-dwellers because he doesn’t want everything nature throws at him. Nefarious claims throughout the movie that God gave his favorite creation (mankind) willpower and then blames men for using the same willpower to decide what to do with their bodies. The propaganda fails just as the movie does from a horror perspective, and honestly, it bears zero horror elements. It’s just Sean Patrick Flannery’s physical mannerisms that can be worth a watch in this movie and not much else.

Nefarious is a 2023 horror thriller film directed by Cary Solomon.

Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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