Welcome to Knockout Horror and our Mandrake Ending Explained article. So I like to put together Ending Explained articles wherever I can. I think they can be helpful for anyone that was, perhaps, unable to follow the plot. It’s nice to get another person’s opinion on something. Maybe there was something you missed? Maybe you just need something confirming. There are lots of reasons why you may look for an Ending Explained article.
Then, there are movies like Mandrake. These are the types of movies that almost make me shudder while watching. They can be so vague and so steeped in lore. The sheer thought of explaining the ending is terrifying. Images of 4,000 word articles float through my head. How can I break it down in a way that is concise but not too detailed? It’s not a simple task.
A big part of that is due to the fact that movies like Mandrake don’t explain themselves particularly well. Sometimes, poor writing combines with a director that fails to piece events together neatly. Other times they are deliberately vague. They want you to read between the lines. This leaves much of what happens open to interpretation. We can infer certain things from what we see during the movie. Other things have to come down to veritable guessing games.
We Are Still Going to Try
Yep, we are still going to try and get through this in a concise manner. I will have to go into some of the lore associated with Mandrake here. We will try not to get too lost in the reeds, though. The plot of this film is extremely messy. Very little is expanded on and exposition is non-existent. There are a few important bits of lore that play into the ending. We will go over all of that and the general events of the film. This will be a big article so grab a coffee.
Keep in mind, this will not be a spoiler free article. If you haven’t watched Mandrake, you will want to give this a miss. Check out our review first. Go over to Shudder and watch the film. If you are confused, feel free to come back and read this article. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
What is a Mandrake?
Okay. First of all, we need to understand what a mandrake is. A mandrake, or mandragora, is a root thought to have magical properties. A powerful hallucinogenic and hypnotic. The mandrake has long been associated with witches. Basically, throughout history, people have consumed this plant, tripped balls and thought it was magic.
Mandrake was seen as one of the key ingredients in the ointment used to allow witches to fly. Due to it’s long, thick and twisted roots. The mandrake has an almost human like appearance. This has lead it to be used as a homunculus. It is said to offer protection as well as preventing the bearer from becoming possessed. On top of this, mandrake is also known for its healing properties and its ability to increase fertility.
It would appear that the ability to increase fertility and to heal is the key thing in Mandrake. These are the properties Mary seeks from the plant. We’ll go through that a little more later on. First of all, Mary has to obtain the Mandrake. In legend, when a mandrake is dug up, it screams. If a person hears the scream they will die. That leads us to the very first scene of the movie.
Why Does Mary Need the Mandrake?
The movie opens up with a man digging in the dirt. This man is Shawn Duggan. A chain is around his neck. It can be assumed that Shawn is digging up the mandrake. As he attempts to pull it out, it screams. Shawn falls down dead and is pulled away. This was Mary’s first attempt to obtain the mandrake. It likely failed because Shawn Duggan wasn’t of a strong enough resolve to survive the scream. But why does Mary need the mandrake?
Mary was thought to be having an affair with the “wandering man”. Her husband beat her up and set her on fire in retaliation. Mary killed her husband with an axe. In turn, she was given a life sentence in prison. This meant that Mary was unable to raise her child Thomas. Thomas was put into foster care while Mary was in prison.
Thomas and Mary have now, apparently, reunited. It would appear that Thomas has diabetes. We see him using a finger prick test kit and jabbing himself. It is likely that Mary wants the mandrake for its healing properties. She aims to use it to cure Thomas’ diabetes and to fix her damaged legs. So where does Cathy come in?
Where Does Cathy Come In?
Cathy first meets Mary at Mary’s house. She has been assigned to help with Mary’s reintegration into society. Cathy is a decent person that believes in people deserving a second chance. Her relationship with her son, Luke, is strained. Luke suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. It seems Cathy is unable to have children in the future. When Mary meets Cathy for the first time, she recognises this. Apparently Mary is able to read a person by simply looking at them.
It appears as though Mary has some sympathy for Cathy. She is losing her son to another person just like Mary did. Potentially impressed with her strength of character and will to fight. Mary believes Cathy may be able to successfully dig up the mandrake and survive its scream.
Kidnapping Cathy, Mary chains her up and forces her to dig up the mandrake. It is clear that Mary’s earlier suspicion was correct. Cathy does manage to dig up the mandrake and, although she passes out, she survives. The scream doesn’t kill her.
But What About the Two Kids?
This is a little more confusing. Mary kidnaps and kills two children. Why does she do it? Well, it could be that she wanted to use the children to dig up the mandrake. I don’t actually think that this is the case, though. I think Mary needed the blood of the children for a ritual. Notice that their throats are cut when they are lying dead? Mary gives them something which likely knocks them out. Thomas places a bowl under them. Mary instructs him to do the girl first. The blood of children is often used by witches of legend. It can be used to rejuvenate the witch among other things.
When Cathy is knocked out by Thomas in Mary’s house. She is distracted by blood on the cupboard door. She looks into the cupboard and notices what looks like a large container of blood. When Cathy digs the mandrake up, Mary uses it in a ritual. She appears to be pouring blood over it followed by milk. I think it is safe to assume that the blood she was pouring over it was that of the children.
She Has the Mandrake. What Happens Next?
So Mary has the mandrake, she pours the children’s blood over it followed by milk. She then cuts the mandrake extracting the restorative sap from it. This sap is then stored in a jar ready to be used. Mary forces some down Cathy’s throat. This results in Cathy’s injured leg healing overnight. Cathy heads downstairs in the morning. Holding a phone behind her back, she attempts to call the police. Spotting Mary, it is very apparent that Mary no longer needs her cane and is walking completely fine.
Mary tells her that she took hers with the sun. Now it is Thomas’ turn to take it. His diabetes will be cured and he will be fully healthy for the first time. Mary points out to Cathy that her leg is healed. She also tells her that she will now be able to have children again. Cathy protests, pointing out the two children Mary killed. Mary notices that Cathy has made a phone call and tries to get the phone off of her. In the struggle, the jar is broken on the floor. Thomas realises that his chance to be cured is gone. He cries while trying to scoop the sap up off the floor.
So Why Does Thomas Kidnap Luke?
So Thomas, dressed in the elaborate, slightly creepy, costume. Heads off into the woods and kidnaps Cathy’s son Luke while he is with Grace. Why does he do this? Well, the jar fell and the sap from the mandrake was lost. This means the ritual needs to be performed again. One of the ingredients needed for the ritual is a child’s blood. Luke just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While this is happening, Cathy is making her way through the woods. Also heading into the woods is a mob headed up by the parents of the deceased children. They are looking for revenge and to find Bloody Mary. Cathy comes across Thomas carrying Luke. She hits him around the head and rescues her son. Later on that night the mob catches up with Thomas. The group hang Thomas from a tree branch as revenge for the children’s murder. Mary watches on in horror as her son is murdered.
A Quick Roundup
So let’s run through a quick checklist of what’s happened.
- Mary’s husband burns her leaving her scarred and needing a cane.
- Mary kills him with an axe in retaliation
- Mary is sentenced to a life term in prison
- Mary has to give her son up due to being in prison
- Mary and her son Thomas are reunited when she is released from prison.
- Thomas is suffering from diabetes
- Mary and Thomas kidnap two children
- Mary kills the two children to use their blood for a ritual
- Mary and Thomas kidnap Cathy
- Cathy is forced to dig up the mandrake. She survives its scream
- Mary uses the children’s blood in her ritual and extracts sap from the mandrake
- Mary uses the sap to heal Cathy’s leg wound and to restore her fertility
- Mary cures her own scars so she can walk without her cane.
- Before Thomas can use the sap, the jar is broken.
- Cathy escapes
- Thomas heads out to kidnap a child to perform the ritual again.
- Thomas kidnaps Luke but Cathy finds him and stops him
- The group lynch Thomas leaving Mary distraught
So we are left with Cathy returning to her home with Luke. Luke’s dad was murdered by Cathy’s boss Bill. It’s likely that Bill was under some form of bewitching spell and at the mercy of Mary. He kills Jason to protect Mary. He then kills himself when Mary tells him to. Grace, who is heavily pregnant, finds out that Luke is safe. She is distressed when she is told that her husband Jason has been killed. Back at Cathy’s home, Luke finds the mandrake. This suggests Mary was well aware of where she lived.
So What’s With Those Final Scenes?
So Cathy visits Grace who now has a young baby. Luke now lives with his mum due to the death of his dad. Grace looks exhausted and is upset to hear that Mary has still not been found. Grace and Luke fall asleep on the couch. Cathy walks around with the baby. All of a sudden, it seems she senses something. We see a vision of Mary standing naked in front of a fire. Cathy seems to feel her presence.
It is likely that Cathy and Mary are now linked. They both consumed the sap from the mandrake. The two are seemingly connected and can sense each other. Mandrakes can be used for possession. There is a possibility that Mary will possess Cathy to kidnap the baby. That isn’t really hinted at, though. This seems more like a nod to the fact that Cathy knows Mary is still alive. The two are connected by the mandrake and always will be.
Was Mary a Witch?
I think it is safe to assume that Mary was a witch. Of course, it is a more modern interpretation of a witch. Maybe a darker version of a wiccan. She seems to have cast a spell on Bill to bewitch him. He is willing to murder an innocent man to protect her. When she tells him to kill himself, he does.
Mary is able to read a person. She knows everything about Cathy despite having never met her. Mary also does the same in her brief meeting with Jason. She is able to extract the sap from the mandrake using a ritual. Her house is full of writings and artifacts associated with witchcraft and the devil. I think it is pretty apparent that Mary is a modern day witch.
And That is That?
So the second half of this movie is a bit of a mess. Following the narrative requires a lot of leg work from the viewer. I understand that folk horror can be a little on the vague side. This is on another level, though. There is so little in the way of exposition. The film almost begs a second, third and fourth watch. Whether you will find it engaging enough to warrant that second viewing is up to you.
I might be way off on some of these points. Ending Explained articles are always opinion based. This movie is vague but I have tried my best to explain it in a way that makes sense. I hope this article helped and thanks for reading. It has been a bit of an epic but that’s what you get with such a convoluted story.