‘Old Man’ Ending, Explained: What Did The Box Signify? What Is The “Purple Lake”?

Lucky McKee probably tried to make a psychological thriller film with “Old Man,” but the end results are quite a blur. Even though the film doesn’t deliver what it promises, there are some very intriguing moments that need to be mentioned. However, as a psychological thriller, it fails completely. One of the reasons for such an odd failure is the film’s narrative, which tries to over-explain itself at the end. In other words, if this movie had an open ending, it could have been so much better.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens In The ‘Old Man’ Film?

We see an old man sleeping in a cabin in the woods. He wakes up all of a sudden, as if from a bad dream, and looks for his dog, Rascal. He doesn’t find him, but his doorbell rings. Taking out his gun, he opens the door. When he gets there, he sees a stranger and pulls him inside by grabbing his jacket. He is very startled to see a young man at his door, so he feels a bit threatened. He asks the young man silly questions, such as whether the old man’s wife had sent him to keep an eye on him or if he was a serial killer. We find out that the boy’s name is Joe and that he has gotten lost in the woods. He had come in front of the house after following the smoke coming out of the chimney. He just wants to know which way to go so that he can get back home on his own. But the old man doesn’t seem to believe him; he instead wants him to stay and answer all of his questions.


Soon, we can see that they are both very comfortable talking to each other. They begin to talk about their past lives. In this way, the old man learns about Joe and Genie, Joe’s wife. He finds out that Genie is having an affair because she thinks Joe is infertile. In one scene, we see Joe’s knife is covered in blood, which makes us think he probably killed his wife, Genie, and ran into the woods.

At night, when the old man is getting ready to cook food for both of them, Joe suddenly runs away. Rascal comes in not long after that. We find out that Rascal is not a dog, but a very dangerous person, whom the old man is very scared of. Rascal says that he went hunting to get food for both of them. Then the plots start to become linear, and we find out that Joe is just a younger version of the old man. He saw his wife getting intimate with another man, which made him so angry that he couldn’t control himself. He killed them both, and his wife’s ghost still comes to haunt him in his dreams. We can tell that Rascal might have been the man his wife had an affair with since they have similar faces. He made up all these present characters, which is something he often does. He never sleeps because all he can think about are the ghosts of his past.


‘Old Man’ Ending Explained: What Did The Box Signify? What Is ‘Purple Lake’?

When the old man sees his wife standing in the box at the end of the movie, we get the feeling that the box has something to do with the murder of his wife. Maybe he used this box to store his wife’s belongings. There is a picture of her and a seahorse in the box. Well, the simplest theory is that he probably threw his wife’s body into the ocean or a lake. The old man now tells a story about how he treated a Bible salesman who came to his house. He gave him a lot of pain and then let him go. At the end of the movie, though, we find out that the salesman in the Old Man’s story was actually the man with whom Genie was having an affair. This instance gives us the certainty that the old man makes up stories about people from the past.

So, if we talk about the box, it seems likely that Joe, the old man, killed his wife and put her body in the box afterward. Then he threw it into a nearby lake. Now, the old man tells Joe a story about how he once fought a leopard and killed it with a rock. He said that he killed the leopard by stabbing it in the neck with the stone. He had killed his wife the same way. So, we can assume that he made up the story about killing the leopard right after he killed Genie. In his psychic dream, he saw himself killing a leopard, not Genie. This is why, at the end of the movie, the stab wound is replaced by the eye of a leopard. So, Genie’s body was probably dumped in the box, which is why the old man used to see Genie standing in it. Rascal also makes the old man get into the box against his will. When the old man got out of the box, he remembered killing his wife all over again. The purpose of the box in the movie is hence made clear. 


Let’s talk about the “Purple Lake.” It’s easier than you might think. When Joe threw Genie’s body into the lake, it was full of blood because she had been bleeding for a long time. So, when it got into the water, the color of the water started to turn red. Even Joe was probably covered in Genie’s blood, so he went to the lake to clean himself. The water had already turned a bit purple because of all the blood that came from Genie’s body. So, he made up a new story in his head about the “Purple Water” or “Purple Lake.” He said that when animals get hurt, they go to the “Purple Lake” to get better. He thought that by throwing Genie’s body into the “Purple Lake,” he had given her the peace she needed. He may have thought that the “Purple Lake” would heal Genie’s wounds, which were caused by him. Joe was going through a grieving process, so he turned everything he saw into a story to fill the void he would have to live with for the rest of his life. He made up the character of Rascal, whom he fears. That’s because he carries the burden of killing him and fears his ghost will haunt the old man constantly. This is why Joe, the old man, thought of Rascal as someone who had more control over him. It was just the fear of the person’s ghost, whom he had killed for having an affair with Genie. So, we can summarize all the thoughts to understand that whatever the old man saw, everything was happening inside his head. In reality, none of the characters the Old Man made up ever existed, as described by him.

Is The Old Man Alive?

Well, you could say that the old man is dead and is seeing all these things in his afterlife. It’s not one of those theories that can be easily denied. We can see that there is a lot of smoke in the woods and that the chimney is always on. He wants the chimney to keep working very much. If we take this place to be hell, the fire that won’t go out stands as proof of that. The outside of the room was very bright. We saw that when the old man opened the door. The old man also said that he only got to this cabin by following the voice of a woman. We have heard a lot about the voices that people hear when they are about to die. So, the old man’s cabin represented hell, and the outside, where he was afraid to wander, was heaven.


“Old Man” is a psychological thriller film directed by Lucky McKee.

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Shovan Roy
Shovan Roy
Shovan Roy is a creative content writer. Formerly he used to write film reviews on an international film festival website named Beyond the Curve International Film Festival. He also interviewed global directors. He also interviewed one of the characters from the show 'Trailer Park Boys', Mr. Bernard Robichaud, platformed in Netflix. Shovan tends to write through the third person narrative and he loves to do psychoanalysis. He can't say that he has mastered it but that is some sort of hobby of his. Film is a platform where he loves to spend most of his time learning.

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