A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

Loop Track (2023) Ending Explained – What Was Ian Running From?

Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another horror movie ending explained. Today we are going to be explaining the ending to New Zealand horror, thriller, Loop Track from 2023.

We checked this movie out the other day as part of our January Sunny Movies Feature to help us wipe away those winter blues. The gorgeous forest of New Zealand and the glorious sunshine were the perfect combination to help us forget the cold and rain for just a minute. I’ll throw in a shameless plug here for my most recent list – 15 Summer Horror Movies that will Wipe Away the Winter Blues – RANKED. For anyone looking for more summer horror movies to help you forget the gloom of January for just a little while.

Giving the film its due, we really enjoyed it but there is a bit of a problem. There were just so many questions left unanswered. We are going to try to rectify that today by answering some of those questions as best as we can. Obviously this article will contain spoilers so if you haven’t watched the movie yet, why not check out our spoiler free review of Loop Track. When you have done that and watched the movie, you can come back here.

So What Happens?

So let’s summarise this movie before answering some question. A nervous man, Ian (Thomas Sainsbury) heads out on a hike. He is clearly attempting to escape something and he appears to be suffering from severe paranoia and some degree of guilt. Going out of his way to hide from a couple while on the trail. He is shocked when another hiker manages to find him as he is taking a break. The hiker, Nicky (Hayden J. Weal) is something of a jovial personality. Boastful and high energy; he insists on joining Ian on his hike. It would be fair to assume that this is a hiking trail with minimal paths so the pair must be heading in the same direction. Making it difficult for the highly passive Ian to refuse.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

The pair arrive at a hut. These huts are free for hikers to use over night and there will often be a number of them placed strategically across a large trail. The lights are on which makes Ian nervous. He wants to head on to the next hut but Nicky tells him he will die of exposure. Ian reluctantly agrees and the pair head into the hut. The couple that Ian hid from earlier, Austin and Monica, are already staying in the hut. They have come over from Australia on vacation and are hiking the trail to visit a well known waterfall.

Ian Starts Seeing Shadows

The group chat for a little before preparing food. The nervous and unprepared Ian has brought along minced beef and is attempting to prepare a burger. Not wanting to be an inconvenience to his fellow hikers, he refuses to fully prepare the meat. Something which would have resulted in him becoming rather ill if he had consumed. Under Nicky’s insistence, he keeps cooking the meat. Distracted by Monica and Austin having a squabble, the pair don’t notice the meat catching fire.

As the group attempt to control the flames and clean up, Ian throws his bag out of the window and tries to escape. Gazing down the path, Ian notices a large, shrouded, figure in the darkness. Paranoid and scared, Ian heads back to the hut rather than escaping where he is met by Nicky who instructs him to come and help clean up the mess he made.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

After more hiking and a brief stop for food. Ian, while attempting to get some space from the other hikers and their questions, spots some blood on a tree. The group dismiss this as nothing and they carry on. Ian, again, sees a large black figure looming in the distance and alerts the other hikers. He tells them he is being followed but the group, once again, dismiss the notion. Suggesting it is probably a goat or deer.

The Trouble With Goats

New Zealand has no major predators so it is understandable that the group thought the shadow was nothing to worry about. Some of New Zealand’s largest animals are goats. Goats were introduced to New Zealand by colonisers and have become something of a problem. New Zealand is fiercely protective of their natural flora and fauna and goats do a very nice job of eating every last seed and sapling they can find. Doing untold damage to the natural flowers and trees that grow in the forests.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

The country launched a goat extermination program in 1930, initially, to preserve grazing land for sheep. This, however, quickly became an attempt to rid goats completely from certain areas that would suffer for their presence. Remember the woman at the beginning of the movie that surprises Ian while he was in his car? She was setting and clearing goat traps.

New Zealand leads the world in pest eradication. Large scale culls occur each year and members of the public are encourage to trap and kill cats, goats, rats, ferrets, hedgehogs, and other invasive mammalian species but it isn’t without controversy. Aside from ethical issues like those raised by Animal Welfare campaigners when New Zealanders encouraged a cat killing competition for children. Complete with prizes for the kids who killed the most cats. New Zealand’s efforts have focused on easily controlled and easily hunted species. Many of which are predators that control other, more difficult to catch, invasive species. Potentially leading to a cascading effect which will cause a proliferation of predators that are much more difficult to control and will cause much more damage in the long term.

With that being said, the program has produced some significant results with a number of islands being declared predator free. The success of the program is waning year on year, however, and there is little to no research that suggests this goal is attainable by the desired year of 2050. The country’s reluctance to look more closely at alternate method is raising concerns about a deeper crisis in the future. With too little research being put into ways to prevent pest fertility and reduce numbers in a way that won’t cause damage to native species. The idea of an unspoiled natural land is easy to admire but the reality is far more complex.

Ian Accuses Nicky

The group arrive at the next hut where they find two backpacks, seemingly, abandoned. They assume the owners will return to get them and so go on about their day. The group drink and enjoy each other’s company, with the exception of Ian who is feeling desperately tired from lack of sleep. Nicky, waking up in the night with a bad stomach, likely due to him consuming contaminated water from the stream. Spots Ian at the table and offers him a sleeping tablet. The pair chat briefly before Nicky heads to bed.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

Before Ian goes to sleep, he decides to check the backpacks left by the previous inhabitants of the hut. Inside he finds a camera. While checking the camera he sees a photo of a pair of girls and in the background is Nicky. Before he can put the camera back, Ian passes out from the sleeping tablet. When he wakes up the next morning, he tells Monica about the photo. Due to his paranoia, he believes that Nicky has murdered the pair of girls and then headed back down the trail to find more victims. Ian also believes that Nicky drugged him.

Just as Nicky is refuting the allegations and trying to explain why he was in the photo and why he was heading back to the beginning of the trail. The pair of girls who the backpacks belong to return unharmed. Ian is forced to apologise to Nicky and explains that he is just paranoid from lack of sleep. Nicky accepts his apology and it would seem that Ian’s fears are put to rest, at least for now.

The Hike Continues

The hike continues with the group arriving at the junction that splits off into separate trails for the Kauri Forest and the waterfall. Nicky insists that they all go to the Kauri forest as that is the entire reason he was on the hike in the first place. Monica and Austin say that they want to go to the waterfall. Getting the hint that the pair probably want time alone, Ian suggests that him and Nicky head off into the Kauri forest. Nicky eventually agrees and the group go their separate ways.

Ian and Nicky manage to get lost thanks to Nicky’s poor navigating skills and overconfidence. While blindly wandering through the forest, Nicky nearly activates a trap, only to be saved by Ian at the last moment. Ian claims it must be a goat trap which surprises Nicky due to the size of it. Nicky is forced to head off to use the bathroom due to him suffering a stomach bug from drinking contaminated stream water.

Back to The Waterfall

The pair make slow progress through the forest as Ian is constantly checking for traps with a stick. They eventually find their way to the waterfall. Aware that they must be near the trail, the pair carry on. Ian relates his fears to Nicky, suggesting that he feels like they are being watched. Nicky dismisses Ian’s concerns. The pair carry on walking into the night with Nicky offering Ian a torch to stop him worrying about heading into the darker parts of the path.

Ian, somehow manages to trip, dropping the torch down an embankment. Nicky tells him that the torch was $300 and he needs it back. He insists that Ian goes to retrieve it which he reluctantly does. At the bottom of the embankment, Ian suddenly spots the shrouded figure hiding in the background. It’s much closer now and almost looks like a massive bird. Surely that isn’t what this entire movie has been about, right? Unfortunately, yes.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

He runs back up the embankment where he meets up with Nicky. Monica appears on the trail and Ian tells her that he was followed by something. Nicky suddenly appears, closely followed by Austin. Ian accuses Austin of following him. Something which makes no sense at all given the fact that Austin has a bright orange coat on. The group head back to the hut, concerned for Ian’s mental health.

Ian Wasn’t Crazy, Nicky is Killed

Back at the hut, the group agree that Nicky should walk the trail with Ian to get him back to his car. He agrees and the pair head out in the morning. Taking a break after making good progress. Nicky’s stomach, once again, is acting up. Nicky heads off to take care of business. When he doesn’t return, Ian heads off to find him. After a short walk, Ian looks horrified. It is very apparent that he has just found the half eaten body of Nicky.

We next see Monica and Austin heading along the trail. Ian comes running out of the bush terrified. Assuming that Ian has probably lost his mind and wondering what has happened to Nicky. Austin threatens Ian with a knife and the pair go to look for Nicky. While taking a break, Monica is pulled into the forest. Austin runs after her, closely followed by Ian. Austin is unable to find Monica but eventually sees Ian hiding behind a tree. Ian is looking at Monica’s remains. Austin runs over and, for some reason, still believes that Ian is responsible. Apparently he is dumb enough to believe that Ian is strong enough to pull her through the forest and bifurcate her before Austin could even find them.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

Ian makes it clear that he did not do anything and that they need to get away while they have a chance. Austin attacks Ian, who runs away leading him into a goat trap. Ian apologises and tells him he didn’t harm Monica. Grabbing a stone, Ian tries to release Austin. While doing so, the pair hear a rustling noise and suddenly spot the real thing that killed Monica and Nicky. A big, ridiculous looking, 10 foot tall man-eating bird. Bet you weren’t expecting that? Ian gets Austin out of the trap and the pair make their way to the next hut.

Ian Fights Back

The try to block up the door of the hut but Austin thinks it is no use. He is sure the bird will come tonight and kill them. I am not sure why because they stayed at all the other huts over night with no problem. Hell those two girls from the last place spent a night in a cave and were completely fine. Why the escalation all of a sudden? Austin’s fears prove to be well founded, however, because the bird appears and breaks in to the hut.

The bird impales Austin through his head. Ian attacks it with an axe before poking it in the eye and literally choking it to death with his bare hands. This whole scene reminded me of those awful movies you find on Sy-Fy channel at 2 in the morning.. I really didn’t see it going like this. In fact, the whole scene is kind of ridiculous. When day breaks, Ian starts making his way back to the car park. Naturally, there wasn’t going to be only one of these creatures. Why would there be? Ian, on the way, finds a nest containing massive eggs and sees more of the birds in the distance.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

Ian is attacked by another bird again close to the car park. The bird stabs him through the leg but Ian manages to shed his shorts and get away. Another really weird visual to be honest. He gets to his car but I guess his keys were in his pants that the bird is now wearing as a mask. Ian heads onto the main road. Eventually meeting up with a car and, we can assume, being driven to safety. The End!

What Was The Bird / Monster in Loop Track?

So I suppose this is a pretty obvious question that deserves an answer, right? Well, the easiest one would be to say it was a huge, black, 10 foot tall, man-eating bird of some form or another. But that’s not all that satisfying is it? Funnily enough, in the credits of the movie, there is a snippet that reads “At least one giant bird thing was harmed in the making of this film”. Which kinda suggests that even the makers of the movie have no clue what this is.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

Shall we try to add a little lore to it, though, to make it more interesting? I think so. Despite New Zealand’s vast natural history and interesting fauna. They have a serious lack of cool cryptids. But one of them that is worthy of note here is the Poukai. The Poukai is a man eating bird in Māori legend that some say gets its inspiration from the now extinct Haast’s eagle. This eagle weighed up to an enormous 15KG of body weight with a wingspan of up to 3 meters (10ft). Compared to the current largest living eagle, the Harpy Eagle, that’s an extra 6kgs of body weight and a few extra feet of wingspan.

Harpy eagles have a diet that includes sloths and monkeys so could the Haast’s eagle have been capable of eating humans? Would this be a good basis for the legend of the Poukai? Well, perhaps. Even golden eagles have been known to kill animals as big as bear cubs so it is not out of the realms of possibility that the Haast’s eagle could have killed smaller humans and even consumed them. It was a massive creature, after all. Perhaps New Zealand really does have a history with man eating birds. But I know what you are thinking. “The Poukai looks like an eagle, idiot! This thing didn’t look anything like an eagle!”. And you are correct. But that brings me onto one of the Poukai’s potential prey items and another bird of Māori legend.

The Moa and The Hakawai

The Moa are an extinct group of flightless birds that were endemic to the islands of New Zealand. Some of the birds from this group stood up to 12 foot tall and could weigh up to 230kgs. These birds were hunted to extinction within 100 years of human settlement on New Zealand but, up until that time, they had only one natural predator – The Haast’s eagle. If we take a look at an image of a bird from the Moa group, we can see something that looks fairly similar to the bird in Loop Track. Note the feet, in particular.

An artist's depiction of the extinct Moa bird.

It is another bird that is described as being the same size as a Moa, but is often confused with the Poukai that we are interested in here, however. The mythological Hakawai, otherwise known as the Hokioi. The Hakawai are often depicted as being small birds not dissimilar to New Zealand’s national bird the Kiwi. But in Māori legend, the Hakawai are considered to be one of eleven sacred birds belonging to Raka-maomao, the God of Wind. They were said to only descend from the heavens at night and were described as being massive birds of prey. A Ngāti Apa chief related his experiences of the bird with the governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey in the following statement.

Its colour was red and black and white. It was a bird of (black) feathers, tinged with yellow

and green; it had a bunch of red feathers on the top of its head.

It was a large bird, as large as the moa.

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/transactions-and-proceedings-of-the-royal-society-of-new-zealand/1892/00/00/-25

Could this be the bird depicted in Loop Track? To be honest, I am not sure that that much thought has gone into it. If anything, it just seems like an amalgamation of a number of different types of birds. Its beak doesn’t seem fit for tearing and consuming the flesh of large prey. Its size doesn’t necessarily indicate that it would be carnivorous, let alone man eating. There are plenty of massive birds throughout history that survived on vegetation and insects alone. Its eyes are placed on the side of its head indicating it would be more likely to be prey than predator. And it doesn’t seem all that well equipped for killing.

It seems clear, here, that the thinking is something along the lines of “Well the Moa existed, and some people think certain species survived. Why can’t there be a carnivorous version of the Moa that we didn’t know existed but somehow survived”. Which is fair enough and makes for a unique creature for this type of horror movie.

I think something that was closer to the extinct group of birds known as Terror Birds (Phorusrhacidae) would have been far more scary. Some examples from this group could grow up to 10ft tall and they had beaks specifically shaped for tearing flesh. Couple that with a physiology that suggests that they could exert significant downward force with their heads. And you have a monster bird that is far creepier and more fitting.

As it stands, though, let’s just assume that the creature designers from Loop Track where paying homage to their home land of New Zealand and created their own version of the killer bird known to the Māori as Hokioi. That’s the most fun way to think about it, after all.

What Was Ian Running From?

Being honest and upfront with this one. I am not sure that we can truly “explain” in perfect detail exactly what people want to know about this movie. I mean, let’s be real, you are probably here because you want to know what the whole deal was with Ian, right? Thomas Sainsbury presents this whole story as if there is some intriguing mystery surrounding Ian. He is running from something, he is very paranoid and he is unable to sleep. Did he murder his family? Did he do something bad? Is he on the run from the police? I see so many people tremendously angry at the fact that the movie never answers this question.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

The reason the movie doesn’t answer this question is because the answer is rather benign and not all that interesting. It’s also not that important to the story. But what was wrong with him? What was he running from? We see that Ian’s phone is full of missed calls. We hear him tell Nicky that he used to run a business and we see him tell the group about his ex-wife. He is paranoid, he is nervous, he doesn’t believe in himself and he can’t sleep. He claims he wanted to get away and experience some quiet but, now that it is quiet, all he can hear in his head is his own mind chastising him for his failings.

The Truth About Ian

Ian is suffering from a mental health crisis, it’s as simple as that. He is going through what would have been called a nervous breakdown many years ago. It is clear that he runs a business and the business is failing. The economy is difficult on everyone with the current cost of living crisis. Many small businesses are falling apart and Ian’s is one of them. He is responsible for a number of people in his employment and feels as though he is letting them down. He can’t cope with the stress of it all. Compounding that is his failing relationship. When anxiety builds from money troubles and failing businesses. Relationships are, often, the next thing to collapse.

Ian is going through a situation where he is about to lose his business, his relationship, and the very foundation of his life. Instead of facing this head on, he suffers a crisis and heads off into the middle of nowhere. He ignores the phone calls that he is getting and goes into the wilderness where nobody can find him or contact him. In other words, he is running away because he doesn’t feel capable of coping with the things going on in his life. He feels like everything is falling apart because of him. He feels responsible and unable to deal with it.

A screenshot from horror thriller movie Loop Track (2023)

This happens all the time. Many people go missing every year and many of those people go missing for these exact reasons. Some never come back, others manage to recover and make their way back to society to carry on with their ordinary life. Ian’s peculiar behaviour is a simple result of anxiety. He is nervous because anxiety leads to increased cortisol – the stress hormone. His body is in a constant state of fight or flight. Leading him to be paranoid and suspicious of those around him. The increased level of cortisol also leads to racing thoughts, a condition where random and, sometimes, nonsensical, intrusive thoughts play out in your mind. Leading you to feel as though you have no peace and potentially causing insomnia. All of which Ian was suffering from.

It was Ian being in a constant state of fight or flight that lead to him being more cautious. He felt the bird’s threat long before the others did and trusted in his fears, even when doubt started to creep in. This allowed Ian to fight back and escape. Proving that he isn’t completely useless and, perhaps, giving him the strength to go back to his ordinary life and fix the things that are wrong there. Rather than run away from them. In a small way, Loop Track is a movie about the human condition and fight or flight. Showing that we can overcome our fears and concerns even when it seems they are going to consume us.

How did Nobody Know About the Birds?

This is my big question with Loop Track. These birds were right near the entrance to the trail and all the way throughout it. How did nobody know about them? Why were goat traps laid out? Wouldn’t the area’s goats have been consumed by the birds? What other large prey could they find, after all? I think Nicky might have given us a hint at the truth somewhere during the middle of the movie.

Remember when he nearly steps on the trap? He remarks on how big it is. Could the truth be that the park rangers knew about the birds all along? The traps weren’t for the goats, they were for the birds. After all, New Zealand depends heavily on tourism and is known to be extremely safe for hiking and backpacking thanks to its lack of big predators. Having massive birds eating people can’t be good for business.

Remember the ranger at the beginning of the movie collecting bits of dead goat. Maybe she was removing the remains of the goats to stop people realising that the goats had been predated on by something massive. Or even better, maybe she was placing dead goats out in the open to feed the birds so that they don’t resort to eating people. I actually quite like that theory.

Thanks for Reading!

So that’s another ending explained in the books. I know it isn’t particularly satisfying. I think some extra exposition regarding Ian’s past life would have been nice. It certainly would have let a few more people enjoy the movie for what it really is. A tense and fun creature horror. The bird monster lore could have used some work, as well. Something to hint that it is an ancient bird that has been in the area for years or something. It’s a fun movie, regardless.

Thank you very much for reading. I really appreciate you spending your time at Knockout Horror and I appreciate even more anyone who sticks around to check out another article. Why not take a look at some horror reviews, some horror ending explained articles or some horror lists while you are here? My latest list aims to wipe away the winter blues by checking out 15 Summer Horror Movies.