Strip it of its contemporary setting, and the spread you’re treated to in David A. Roberts’ Lovecraftian indie is practically medieval. Take its insistently poised dialogues for instance, the bleeding heart and sacrificial soul of a film with its eyes on just one man. Yet none of it, not even the looming Doomsday when a prophesied light will allegedly pour out of every creature disemboweled, is able to shoulder the stakes Older Gods relies on. While it may partly be the blanket antipathy for Lovecraftian terrors in me talking, Roberts’ vision for the sinister deity’s catastrophic purpose will likely only resonate with those ready to devour anything the subgenre serves up. Here’s my understanding of Older Gods and its quasi-doomsday agitation:
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Older Gods’ Film?
A grief-stricken man in a Welsh countryside cottage haunted by the memory of the very loss; a worldwide, apocalyptic cult couldn’t have found a better quarry. Although that’s not how Chris sees himself when burdened by a behemoth manila folder holding the convoluted secrets of his best friend’s suicide, he shows up at the cottage where Billy took his last gasp for air. We’ve intruded into this world, ignoring the bloodied warning of a man being sliced open, an omen foretelling the horrors that will wreck the mind of a troubled man. Chris left his pregnant wife Karen behind without a word. If he couldn’t be there to help Billy through the last year of his tremendously troubled life, he might as well relieve some of the guilt by looking into his death and hopefully proving that he wasn’t the “sick” man that the world remembers him as. It’s pretty convenient that Billy, rupturing the fabric of time and that between the two worlds, speaks to Chris through a videotape he’d left behind, exploring the overwhelming horror that’s been inflicted on him and his group of researchers. Plunging into the world of the most primal, most ancient fear of having little to no significance in the grand scheme of things didn’t end well for Billy or anyone else who made the same mistake.
What’s ‘The Origin’s’ Purpose?
The initial introduction of the concept of The Origin and the freakishly deadly lore around the ancient being who dreams our world into existence is as metaphysical as it gets. It unfolds in phases for the unsuspecting Chris, who can’t even fathom the dangers that lie ahead if he doesn’t pack up and leave right away. The ever-present, cloaked Watcher’s menacing presence around the cottage aside, just the very fact that The Origin’s acceptance into their acknowledgment of existential mysteries drives people to insanity and death should’ve been reason enough for Chris to take off. But the gnawing desire to absolve his late friend of the accusations of murder has Chris in its grip like thorny vines.
No amount of inexplicable break-ins, flocks of birds dropping dead, and white-eyed, almost zombified people begging him to cut them open scares him enough to want to leave. And by the time it does dawn on him that he’s going down the same path that led Billy to his death, it seems to be too late. The cursed knowledge of the being who awaits an awakening to wipe all traces of hope and love off the face of the earth was what plagued the subjects that Billy and his team interviewed. Some of them, the ones who chose insanity over ending their own lives to stop being hunted, even sacrificed their own families for the grand blessing of being by The Origin’s side when he awakes and consumes existence itself. By the time Billy could even wrap his head around just how far and wide the cult’s deadly branches were spread, he was coming back from Bosnia leaving a trail of bodies at every stop he’d made, cursed with a life of being accused of butchering his own team.
‘Older Gods’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Chris?
Demons tend to fill the void left by another. It’s when a person’s already been touched by one that another gets a whiff of their emotional vulnerability and aims at them for its next meal. The Origin is no different. The closer Billy got to its nefarious roots and the disastrous poison of mass manipulation it releases in the guise of “blessings,” the more it recognized his wound and saw him as a suitable target. Billy’s childhood, darkened by an abusive father, saw to it that he grew up to be a man with a mind unguarded against further attack. And who’d be a better keeper for The Origin’s sinister intentions than a wounded man already intrigued by its awful proclivities? And to follow it up with another man, crushed by the unbearable weight of guilt over failing to save his friend, it’s no wonder that the Watcher and his followers are more powerful than ever.
Chris’ overwhelming bargain with guilt is what the Watcher preys on as he attempts to recruit the broken man into the army, ready to do anything to open the door to The Origin’s awakening. It’s not that Chris doesn’t fight, but for a man so troubled that he’d not pay heed to his wife, who’s pregnant, and go AWOL, going down the rabbit hole is inevitable. For a while, the psychological hold The Origin’s remorseless claws have on his mind seemed unfaltering. The eldritch deity is told to be all-knowing and so powerful that it creates existence itself and terrorizes God into not answering the prayers of the faithful. It knows who to weaponize and when to topple the first domino to start a chain reaction of terror.
Letting Paula, Billy’s assistant, survive her near-fatal brush with the legion was its way to trigger a chain of events that’d lead to Chris watching her die on video later on and following her dead eyes to the Watcher, who’d bear the torch through the fatalistic maze to oblivion. It’s not even the same Chris who calls up home and wages war against the real Chris by trying to burn bridges. It’s not the same Chris who slices through a blue-collar worker with a machete. It does make you ponder over the fact that if Chris can descend to a heinous version of himself who’d be capable of sins that the real Chris isn’t, who’s to say that under The Origin’s dark influence, Billy didn’t butcher his teammates? But Chris perseveres, following the formidable example set by his best friend, who gave his life lest he be turned into a killing machine operating on The Origin’s command.
With a sharp piece of wood through the neck, meeting his soon-to-be-born son is at stake as Chris makes his amends with Billy in the limbo of his orchestration. Billy harbored no grudge against the friend who shined bright enough to illuminate his path as well. But it wasn’t time for Chris to end his journey. There’s a far darker possibility to the climax, which sees Chris shocked to find himself alive on a hospital bed and his wife having forgiven him, strengthened only further by the black bird dropping on the floor. There’s been a stage in Older Gods where it was quite a challenge to ascertain if the Watcher was concocting tales about Billy to manipulate Chris or if there was some truth in his accusations. The possibility that Billy was under the grasp of The Origin, functioning on his murderous order is even more undeniable when you see the turn of events with some amount of cynicism. It might as well be that Billy did, in fact, mean to lead Chris down this path and, when his suicide attempt disrupted the design, convince him to go back to life so he could open more doors and light more ways.