Welcome to Knockout Horror. Today we are going to be explaining the ending to Tubi original horror movie Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism. This is a fantastic horror movie but it presents itself as a true life crime case. Today, not only are we explaining the ending. But we are also going to be breaking down the real life case that the movie is based on.
We originally covered this movie as part of our Low Budget Horror on Tubi Feature. For the month of June 2023, the only movies we reviewed were scraped from the bottom of Tubi’s turd encrusted shoe.
Fighting Back Against Expensive Streaming Services
The cost of living is kicking, basically, everyone’s asses at the moment. One of the first things to go, when it comes to saying a few bucks, is streaming services. People originally used these services to cut the cord and save money on cable subscriptions. But now that these companies are increasing prices and reducing content. It’s “Night Night” Netflix. “Piss off” Prime Video and “Hasta La Vista” Hulu. People are donning their hats and sailing the seven seas once again. Heading back to free broadcast television or seeking out free streaming services. That’s where Tubi comes in. It is completely free and has some genuinely great movies.
But everyone knows Tubi has some great horror. We have covered plenty of them in lists and in older reviews. That’s not what we are interested in here. We are looking for the lowest of the low budget. Movies with terrible titles, awful covers and dreadful plots. Movies that you can almost smell before you see them on screen. Real, genuine, stinkers. And man did I find a few of those. The surprising thing is, I actually found some great movies too. ReSet, Death of a Vlogger, Lexi and The Andy Baker Tape were all really decent. On top of that, I found one absolute gem. A movie that earned our prestigious “Featured” tag as one of our highest rated movies. That movie is the subject of today’s Ending Explained – Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism.
A Genuinely Great Horror Movie
We found Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism to be a legitimately great horror movie. Featuring the disturbing tale of a mentally unwell woman falling victim to religious zealots. The story at hand here is one that is both terrifying and all too real. Based on a topic that is horrifyingly tragic and doesn’t get nearly enough media coverage. Godless points a finger at the practice of forced exorcism on people with mental illness. Today we are going to be answering a few questions about the movie. As well as explaining what happened.
As always, this is all my opinion. I may be way off on some parts of the movie. I have to speculate on much of what takes place, as well. So keep that in mind while reading. I do tend to get a little wordy as well. Feel free to use the menu to navigate to whichever section you are interested in. If you read the whole thing, however, you will have my eternal love and gratitude you handsome/gorgeous bastard/bitch, you!
Keep in mind, this is not spoiler free. All of my reviews are and if you haven’t seen Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism yet. I suggest you take a look at our review before heading on over to Tubi to check it out. When you are done, you can come back here and see whether this article answers any questions for you. If you are prepared for spoilers, however, read on.
Is Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism a True Story?
Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism is not, strictly speaking, a true story. It is based on one though and the events play out very similarly to how they did in real life. Something which is incredibly troubling given the context of what happens in the movie. The truth of the matter is, forced exorcisms are worryingly common all over the world. They are frequently performed on women and children. With the result often being the death of the person being exorcised. And the killers frequently being let off with a slap on the wrist. This doesn’t just happen in deprived countries, either. The case being referenced in Godless took place in Victoria, Australia. And this type of thing happens repeatedly in the Western world.
Godless presents itself as a true story. With text at the end of the movie relating the sentences given to the people involved in the killing of Lara. Stating that Daniel, Ron and Barbara were tried for involuntary manslaughter. With all being found guilty and all receiving suspended prison sentences and serving no time. Suspended sentences being a type of punishment where the prison sentence is deferred for a period of time. Offering the accused the opportunity to stay out of trouble. Follow a set list of terms and avoid a custodial sentence altogether. The truth is, the real case that this movie is based on was even more horrific and terrifying.
The Exorcism of Joan Vollmer
Godless is based on the story of the exorcism of Joan Vollmer. Taking place in the small rural town of Antwerp in Victoria, Australia, back in 1993. The killing of Joan Vollmer at the hands of a highly religious community is a truly dreadful tale. 49 year old Joan had, recently, begun to experience some personality changes. Her husband, 55 year old pig farmer Ralph Vollmer, recounts how she would dance wildly in the garden. Wave her arms manically above her head. Scream obscenities into the air at nobody in particular and lurch around bizarrely.
He described his wife as “acting like a prostitute”. And claimed that she would take on the form of a pig or a dog. As well as, occasionally, taking on the personality of a sheep-shearer. While this strange, and oddly specific, behaviour would hint at a potential episode of psychosis in the eyes of most people. Ralph viewed it as something altogether more sinister. You see, the community of Antwerp had not yet shed its devoutly religious shackles. Though the protestant missionaries that founded the town’s church had long since passed. Christianity was still at the heart of the community.
In the eyes of Ralph Vollmer. There was only one explanation for Joan’s behaviour. She must be possessed by demons and needed to be cured. Ralph, at least initially, believed he could deal with the situation himself. Locking his wife in the basement and spending hours on end screaming at the demons to leave. But, when he was unsuccessful, he decided he needed a greater intervention. He needed the help of God directly.
A Torturous Experience
He first enlisted the help of his neighbours John and Leanne Reichenbach. The group consulted, over the phone, with a 78 year old spiritual leader who advised them on how to handle the situation. After much guidance on how to rid the human body of spirits. The two came to the wild conclusion that poor Joan was infested with over 10 demons. Believing the only way to cure her was through the Lord. They tied Joan to a chair using her own stockings and began an intense prayer session.
Ralph, John and Leanne deprived Joan of food and water throughout the experience. Hoping to weaken the demons inside of her. When she attempted to close her eyes. They were pried open. Lest the demons be allowed to turn away from the word of the Lord. They prayed over her for hours. Forcing her to endure every painful moment, all to no avail. Believing they were not making sufficient progress. The group moved onto more drastic measures. Enlisting the help of 28 year old, fellow church member, David Klinger.
Klinger took the lead. Further restraining Joan and slapping her violently in a desperate attempt to summon the demons. This horrific torture went on for three days. Three days without food. Three days without water, three days of being brutally restrained and violently beaten. By this point, Ralph believed that Joan was no longer his wife. She was simply a host for demons and his wife had completely gone. She was nothing more than an evil spirit that had to be dealt with.
A Brutal Death
By the fourth day, Vollmer stated that all but two of the spirits inside of his wife were gone. The two that remained were strong, violent, male spirits. And to rid her of these the group would go to even more horrifying and drastic lengths. Enlisting the help of a supposed exorcist – 23 year old Matthew Nuske. Nuske came at the recommendation of his own mother. A woman who believed that the boy was strong with God. Gifted and a talented exorcist despite never having performed an exorcism in his entire life. The group handed control over to him.
Nuske instructed the group to destroy all of Joan’s possessions. Claiming that they needed to break all of her links with the demons. The group smashed her beloved garden beds and destroyed her greenhouse. Believing all of them to be consumed by demonic energy. Nuske then wrapped the entire house in cling film seven times to prevent the entry of further demons drawn to the location during the exorcism. He then began to violently beat the weakened and food deprived Joan. Throwing her around the basement and smashing her over the head. Before demanding that the rest of the group sit on her body.
Joan was moved into the bedroom where one final exorcism would take place. Nuske ordered the group to push on Joan’s emaciated body. Starting from the stomach and applying incredible pressure to force the demon out. Working their way up like they were squeezing the last drop out of a human Capri sun. The five of them pushed on Joan’s neck with incredible force. Fracturing her thyroid cartilage and causing her to suffer a heart attack.
A Tragic End
Joan hissed and frothed at the mouth as she let out one final breath. Ralph and the group rejoiced, believing they had finally managed to exorcise the demon. But Joan lay dead at their feet. Finally having succumb to four days of torture and violent abuse. Believing that Joan would be resurrected. The group prayed over her body for two straight days. Leah Clungston, who had earlier advised the group on ridding the human body of spirits. Arrived, claiming to have word from God that Joan would be resurrected upon her touch. Only, that didn’t happen. Clungston’s touch did not revive the swollen, decaying and bloated corpse of Joan. She still lay dead, much to the surprise of the group.
Clungston called a local baptist minister who agreed to visit the house. When he arrived he found the group entirely unmoved by Joan’s death. Casually sharing lunch as Joan’s body lay decaying in the afternoon sun. He called a doctor who, in turn, called the police. Joan’s body was retrieved for autopsy and proper burial. And a criminal investigation was opened into what took place. When questioned by reporters. Ralph Vollmer declared “God has made a solemn promise that she will rise on the day of the funeral and he wants us to witness it.”. Only, Joan was gone and was never going to rise.
No Justice for Joan Vollmer
At her funeral, four days later. Vollmer wept as he realised his wife was not coming back. There would be no resurrection and there would be no justice. With the group receiving paltry sentences for the horrific ordeal they put Joan through. Leanne Reichenbach was sentenced to four months in prison for false imprisonment and manslaughter. David Kilnger was sentenced to three months for the same crime. While Matthe Nuske somehow avoided prison altogether, receiving a suspended sentence.
Ralph Vollmer, who was the first to imprison and torture his wife. Received no time in jail. Eventually going on to leave the small town and live happily ever after with his new wife. A truly tragic case and just one example of something that has been happening all over the world for years.
Godless is Based on the Joan Vollmer Exorcism
So now that you know about the exorcism of Joan Vollmer. It is probably pretty clear that Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism is based on the Joan Vollmer Exorcism. The events that take place in Godless are extremely close to the events that really took place 30 years ago in Victoria, Australia. The movie even opens with references to Lara dancing in the garden. We see Lara dancing naked with her arms in the air. Much like Joan Vollmer was doing, according to her husband Ralph.
The reality of Joan’s situation is that she, likely, was suffering from some form of mental illness. Potentially schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or a combination of the two. And had been experiencing a psychotic episode of some regard. Causing her to act bizarrely and leading her highly religious, and potentially uneducated, husband to believe she was possessed.
Mental Illness is often mistaken as demonic possession in religious communities. Although it is more likely to occur in deprived areas and places where education is insufficient. This is something that still happens in the Western world all the time. With people frequently undergoing exorcisms when they probably just need medication. Unfortunately, the result is often tragic. With one case as recently as Autumn of 2021 where a 3 year old girl was killed during an exorcism in San Jose. Godless may not be a true story but it is very much grounded in fact.
Was Lara Actually Possessed?
No. Lara was definitely not possessed. Although the depiction of the character sometimes leaves that open to interpretation. It would seem that Lara was suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition where you suffer from both psychosis and a mood disorder. The Schizo part of the word refers to symptoms of psychosis. And the Affective part refers to a mood disorder such as Bipolar or Depression. People with Schizoaffective disorder will suffer from symptoms common in schizophrenia such as psychosis, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. As well as symptoms common in mood disorders such as depression, mania, racing thoughts, impaired social functioning and irritability.
Shizoaffective disorder tends to come in two distinct forms. Schizoaffective Depressive Type; which is basically schizophrenic symptoms and psychosis with depressive tendencies and low mood. And Schizoaffective Bipolar Type; Schizophrenic symptoms and psychosis with episodes of mania and, potentially, depression as is seen in bipolar disorder. Some psychiatrists see Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder as two opposite ends of a scale. With Schizoaffective disorder falling somewhere in the middle between the two. The symptoms of Schizoaffective disorder can be far more severe than either condition, however. Due to the combination of consistent psychosis as well as mood fluctuations.
I, personally, suffer from bipolar disorder and have known sufferers of Schizoaffective disorder. Some were able to manage the condition well. Finding it to be more responsive to medication than my condition is. Others suffered tremendously. Spending excessive amounts of time in hospital and needing round the clock care. Lara seems to have Schizoaffective Bipolar Type. As her doctor refers to her bouts of hypomania. She also suffers from hallucinations and paranoia as a result of psychosis. Her condition responds well to medication but her husband doesn’t want her to take medication.
Why Does Ron Not Want Lara To Take Medication?
It seems as though Ron doesn’t want Lara to take medication as he doesn’t believe in the diagnoses. Ron believes that Lara doesn’t need medication, she needs help from god. Highly religious, it can be inferred that he has a contempt for psychiatry as a whole. He doesn’t think mental illnesses are a real thing. He thinks Lara’s condition is down to demonic possession and wants her to be referred to the church so that they can receive help. This is the only reason he has agreed for Lara to visit the psychiatrist. He wants the psychiatrist to sign a declaration that Lara can not be helped by modern medicine. When they have this declaration, they can apply to the church directly for help.
It can also be inferred that Ron does not like the way Lara acts while taking the medication. I can say from personal experience that psychotropic medications can have side effects. They often leave you tired and with a very flat affect. Making it difficult to show much in the way of emotion. Something that Ron probably felt was an indicator that the medication doesn’t work. The truth is, this is part of taking medication for severe mental health conditions. You have to find a balance between side effects and quality of life.
The Medication Helps Lara
Lara is beginning to take medication again at the start of the movie. Resulting in her being tired. We are not shown what medication she is taking. But it can be assumed she would be prescribed a type of mood stabiliser. For example Lithium, Sodium Valproate or a Valproate Semisodium. And, due to her psychosis, an anti psychotic. Potentially Quitiapine, Olanzapine or Risperidone. All of which lead to some tiredness. This would wear off after a few weeks and things would improve. The key thing is, however, that the medication helps. When Lara is taking medication, she sees improvements and her psychosis goes away.
Lara tells the psychiatrist that she feels better on the medication. Prompting the psychiatrist to refuse to sign Ron’s declaration. Due to the fact that the statement that Lara can’t be helped by modern medicine is untrue. It is Ron’s abusive attitude and constant pressure that forces Lara to abandon medication. Leading to a worsening of Lara’s condition.
What Happened to Lara’s Baby?
Lara was driving with her baby, Elliot, when a horrific crash occurred. It would seem as though Lara suffered, what may have been, her first auditory hallucination while driving. She was playing with the radio and heard something talk to her. The voice mentioned demons being among us. Confused, Lara began playing with the tuning on the radio. While doing so, she turned around to look at Elliot before driving head on into another car.
Lara was pulled from the car leaving her baby, and presumably her husband as well, to burn to death. She screams for them but nobody can help. Incidentally, Lara had been discussing minerals in the water with her husband when she crashed. And the person she crashed into was the plumber that is fixing the sink at her house. You know the one who complains about minerals in the water? Hinting that there was never actually a plumber at the house at all. It was Lara hallucinating and seeing the man who burned in the car crash in her home. A result of Lara’s cutting her medication and her condition worsening.
Why Does Ron Enlist the Help of Daniel?
Daniel is a radical exorcist. A devoutly religious man and something of a con artist. He uses extreme measures to deal with supposed possessions. We see him brutally handling a poor man while surrounded by a congregation. Claiming to have exorcised him but, in reality, actually just traumatising him. Leading to him urinating on himself and looking terrified.
Because Lara’s psychiatrist won’t sign a declaration to say that modern medicine can’t help Lara. The pair won’t be able to receive help directly from the church. Ron decides to go to more extreme lengths. After Lara suffers a psychotic episode in the car. Ron talks to the heavily religious Barbara and asks her for help. He tells her he needs to use the person that helped her. He wants to know how much Daniel knows about demonic possession. This sets up the horrible torture of Lara.
Daniel Arrives and Deceives Ron
Ron is instructed to bring Lara to Barbara’s house. Barbara then calls on Daniel who agrees to come. He tells Barbara to cover the house in cellophane to keep the demons out. Exactly the same way it happened in the Vollmer case that we discussed above. Much of Godless is true to the story of Joan Vollmer. Daniel and Ron chat briefly and Daniel sews the seeds of doubt in Ron’s mind. Telling him that he doesn’t know anything about who Lara was before. Basically implying that she is a demon and is trying to deceive him. He questions whether they have restrained Lara. Barbara tells Daniel that they haven’t and that Ron refused to. Daniel tells Ron that the demon is deceptive and will try to trick them. If not restrained, it could throw people through windows or rip people’s throats out.
Daniel continually refers to Lara as “It” to desensitise Ron to his wife. Removing the human element from her so Ron will see her only as a demon. Much like in the Joan Vollmer case that Godless is based on. Daniel tells Ron to not feed, bathe or give water to Lara. Telling him that they need to keep the demon weak. Daniel manipulates Ron by telling him he was sent by God and Ron must listen to him. He tells him not to listen to anything the demon says. Effectively making it so Lara’s cries will fall on completely deaf ears.
What Happens to Lara in the Barn?
Lara is taken to the barn against her will. She is then tied to a chair. Left alone with Daniel, Lara pleads to be let go. Daniel refuses, believing he is talking to the demon that is trying to deceive him. This is where the story deviates from the real life case of Joan Vollmer quite a bit. There is no period of simple praying and shouting at the demon in Godless. Daniel, who is basically the representation of Matthew Nuske from the real life case. Is incredibly aggressive and becomes violent almost instantly. Smashing a bible across the face of Lara and causing a wound in her mouth.
Lara screams in defiance prompting Daniel to throw a jug of, what we can assume is, Holy Water over her. Lara thrashes around on the chair wildly. We then cut to a scene of Daniel talking with Ron and Barbara. It seems he thinks they will need additional help to deal with the demons. Hence why they summon Barbara’s congregation to assist in the exorcism. A group of radical religious people who firmly believe in what Barbara, Ron and Daniel are doing. Well, all of them with the exception of one woman who will help Lara soon.
Lara’s possessions are piled up in the barn. The group gather around and the intensity of the exorcism increases. Lara is choked, slapped and screamed at by Daniel. Much like in the Joan Vollmer case, Daniel begins smashing Lara’s possessions. Claiming it will break the demon’s link to the world. Ron is beginning to have doubts about Daniel’s rough treatment of Lara. Daniel, however, manages to convince him that this is the way it has to be.
Lara Briefly Escapes
Instructing the group to take a break. One of the congregation appears to take pity on Lara. When the others leave, she goes to help Lara who has fallen onto the ground. Lara asks her to take the card from her jacket and call Dr Walsh, Lara’s psychiatrist. The woman takes the card and leaves. Lara manages to retrieve a piece of broken ceramic and cuts through her restraints.
While the group are eating Lara manages to escape from the barn. She runs through the woods but the stress of the situation. Combined with the food and water deprivation and the lack of her medication. Causes her to experience a psychotic episode. She sees a demon calling to her. The demon stands beside a burning cross. Lara goes over to the demon in a, seemingly, trance like state. She then begins to see her dead child. Dancing with the child held above her head. Unfortunately, Ron arrives. Finding Lara dancing in a field. He grabs her and she is returned to the barn.
Why Does Lara See Demons?
Experiencing hallucinations that revolve around demons or religious figures is rather common with schizophrenia. The movie Saint Maud goes into this subject at length. In fact, some studies suggest that around half of Schizophrenia sufferers will experience some form of religious hallucination. This is more prevalent in sufferers who have been raised in a religious family. But this is certainly not a prerequisite to experiencing religious based hallucinations. Religion is all around us and the impact it has on the subconscious mind can not be understated.
It would seem as though Lara’s hallucinations have always revolved around demons. Something that was, potentially, exaggerated after Lara became more exposed to religion through Ron, Barbara and the congregation. Whereas Godless blurs the lines a little too much between what is a hallucination and what is possession. Potentially misrepresenting psychosis on a number of occasions for the sake of entertainment and horror visuals. It is safe to say that Lara is hallucinating and nothing more. She is not possessed and dancing with the demon inside her. She is suffering an episode of psychosis and is seeing things that aren’t there.
Lara is Taken Back to the Barn
Lara is taken back to the barn and locked up again. We later see Ron and Daniel talking. Daniel has found the cast of Elliot’s foot and asks Ron about it. Ron says that Lara doesn’t like to talk about it but feels responsible for her baby’s death. Daniel tells Ron that there are only a few demons left. And that they need to make one final push. We then see the group gathered around Lara. Each of them bearing a crucifix and holding them to Lara’s head. Daniel instructs Ron to destroy the cast of Elliot’s foot print. Believing it to be the last link the demon has to the world. Ron smashes it with a hammer, prompting cries of grief from Lara.
Realising that the demon hasn’t gone. Daniel has the group pin Lara down on the ground. Under massive stress and tremendously afraid, Lara begins to hallucinate. Seeing the demon at the door of the barn. Daniel instructs everyone to push on Lara’s stomach. To force the demon up through her body. Much like in the case of Joan Vollmer that Godless is based on. The group being applying enormous force to her. Likely doing tremendous internal damage to her organs.
Daniel climbs on top of Lara. Screaming religious statements as Lara has flashbacks to the car crash that killed her baby. Daniel begins forcing his hands into Lara’s mouth. Prying apart her teeth to allow the demon out of her body. In the process, tearing her skin and snapping her jaw. As he forces her head back, Lara’s neck snaps, killing her instantly. The group look on in horror. Ron begins sobbing and stroking Lara’s face. It’s clear that something has gone horribly wrong.
Will Lara Rise Again?
Much like in the tragic case of Joan Vollmer. Daniel attempts to calm the group and claims that Lara will rise again. He viciously attacks anyone that is crying. Challenging them for doubting the word of God. Ron lies next to Lara sobbing uncontrollably. Lara is dead and it is the congregation’s fault. We then fast forward to a few days later.
A local police officer is driving with Lara’s psychiatrist. It appears that they are heading to the funeral of Lara. In an unlikely turn of events, they have been allowed to hold onto the body after making a deal with police. Something that did actually happen with the Vollmer case. When they arrive, there is a carnival like atmosphere. With people playing music, having fun and congregating in the area. It seems like word of Lara’s death has spread and the visitors all believe that she will be resurrected.
Lara’s body lies decaying in a coffin. As the funeral finishes, it becomes very clear that Lara won’t rise again. Much like Joan Vollmer did not rise again 30 years ago. The police officer instructs Daniel to follow him to his car. He will be arrested for manslaughter. Lara’s psychiatrist walks over to Ron to speak to him. Ron claims that the only reason Lara didn’t come back is because she is happier with God. Still completely in denial about what happened. Feeling no remorse, unwavering in his beliefs and not understanding that Lara was murdered.
The Tragic Reality
The movie plays out with a note that the people involved were all given suspended sentences and did not serve jail time. Just like in the Joan Vollmer case where the maximum served sentence was only 4 months. Obviously this is just flavour text given that this is not, strictly speaking, a true story. But it is no less accurate given the history of this happening.
We sadly learn, through more text, that this is still occurring to this day, all over the world. With the case of 22 year old Janet Moses in New Zealand, Morgan Freeman’s 33 Year old step granddaughter E’Dena Hines in New York, a 2 year old infant from Virginia USA and a 3 year old from California. All being stark reminders of how this still happens far too frequently in major Western cities.
Thanks for Reading!
Thank you very much for your time. This was a great film and an interesting article to write. I am a big true crime fan so it is cool to get into some of the darker side of reality. Especially a subject that, really, doesn’t get enough attention. I know this was a long one but I like to deep dive wherever I can. Hope you managed to find any answers you were looking for.
If you did, why not stick around? Let’s be real, who else is going to write nearly 5,000 words about a Tubi original horror movie? Check out some more Ending Explained articles. I also review horror movies and I also recently started writing horror lists. I update nearly every day of the week so there is always something new. On top of that, I never put out fluff. Just substantial horror content for horror fans to get their teeth into.