‘The Devil Below’ is a survival horror tale directed by Bradley Parker that stays neatly, almost cautiously, within the boundaries of its genre. The setup of the film shows us a small mining town in the Appalachian mountains that has disappeared along with all its residents. All that is left are the mines, in which fires inexplicably continue to blaze for many decades. A team of researchers decides to study the mines and realize there is a lot more than just fire in them. One by one, people start dying as the team scrambles to survive and make sense of just what the creatures (referred to as “monsters” henceforth) living down in the mines are. So, without further ado, let’s explore what that ending is all about, shall we? SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Devil Below Plot Synopsis
The film opens with a flashback from sometime in the 1970s. The owner of a coal mine in a small town in the Appalachian mountains watches helplessly as his son is dragged away and mangled by a mysterious, fast-moving biped. The film then shifts to the present day, wherein five researchers are on their way to try and locate a small mining town called Shookum Hills.
On the way, they discuss the strange case of the old mining town, which suddenly disappeared along with over a thousand residents many decades ago. Their main reason to try and locate the town is to verify the rumor that there are fires in the coal mines there that have been burning for decades. The leader and organizer of the expedition, Darren Atkins (Adan Canto), is confident that all the strange phenomena point to there being some extremely rare and valuable material down in the mines. The rest of the team seems more skeptical.
After reaching the location where Shookum Hills was formerly located, they look around for remnants of the town as well as for the mines. When the team finally finds an entrance to one of the underground caves, it has a rudimentary but electrified cover which they disable and lower a probe down into it. As they’re listening to readings sent up by the probe, Dale (William Mark McCullough), is pulled into the underground cave. The rest of the team tries to rescue him, with leading lady Arianne (Alicia Sanz) even going down after him, but to no avail.
The team flees and is picked up by the locals and brought to meet with Schuttman (Will Patton), who seems to be the de facto leader of a group of residents working to keep the monsters contained within Shookum Hills. The team now realizes that they have made a grave mistake by opening the underground entrance, and soon enough, they are surrounded by the monsters. In classic survival horror style, the team members are picked off one by one until only Arianne and Darren survive but are both captured by the monsters and taken to their underground liar.
The Devil Below Ending: What Happens to Darren and Arianne?
Darren and Arianne regain consciousness to find themselves paralyzed in an underground cave surrounded by the monsters. Nearby they see Shawn (Chinaza Uche), who tells them that the monsters are an alternate species that form colonies, “like ants and bees.” Shortly after that, they watch helplessly as Shawn is picked up by two monsters and fed to an enormous monster that is looming in the background. Still mostly paralyzed and losing vision, Darren notices their last grenade lying next to him and kicks it to Arianne, who, after a few attempts, manages to grab it.
When it’s her turn to be fed to the giant monster, Arianne throws the grenade into the mouth she is about to be fed into while Darren distracts the monsters with his phone alarm. We see the grenade explode in the throat of the giant monster as the two run away and start climbing out of the cave. One of the monsters manages to cling on to Darren, and he sacrifices himself, letting Arianne escape. By now, Schuttman’s men have rallied and pushed back the monsters with firepower to rescue Arianne, who is the only remaining survivor of her team.
As she gets ready to leave Shookum Hills to tell the outside world about the monsters, Schuttman asks her to stay back instead and help them fight the monsters. Skeptical at first, she eventually agrees and joins him in his truck. As they drive away, we see the gates of the enclosure encircling the entire town of Shookum Hills, containing both the monsters and them. The gates have numerous locks holding them shut.
Why Does Arianne Stay Back in Shookum Hills?
Since the beginning of the movie, Arianne is described as a lone traveler. We later find out that she is traumatized by the memory of having to cut her partner loose during a climbing expedition to save her own life. She seems to believe that she is always the one that abandons her team to survive. So when Schuttman asks her to stay back, she decides to break her pattern and stay with the group this time. Additionally, Schuttman’s confident affirmation when she asks him whether he believes that they can defeat the monsters gives Arianne more of a reason to stay back.
Where Did the Monsters Come From?
The origin of the monsters is never explained in the film. As Shawn explains near the end, the monsters are an alternate species that colonize like ants and bees. Schuttman, who has been dealing with them the longest, says this about the presence of the monsters: “Everybody here has their own beliefs about what this is.” The only inference we can draw about the monsters is that they seem to be of biological origin rather than mythological or magical, which is why they function as a colony and are shown to be feeding.
What Happened to the Residents of Shookum Hills?
The question initially posed in the film about what happened to the thousand-odd residents of Shookum Hills is never really answered. When the team examines one of the homes, Darren notes that residents left in a hurry and without any planning. This could mean that once the danger of the monsters became known, most people ran away immediately. However, this seems unlikely as there are no runaway survivors from Shookum Hills that are mentioned.
It is more likely that the monsters were able to capture most of the residents with their speed and paralyzing ability. Also, the giant monster underground is fed humans. Since there were so few people left in the town and no new people coming in, it seems to point to the fact that most of the residents were captured and used as food by the monsters.
Will Shookum Hills Ever Go Back To Normal?
At the beginning of the film, we see a flashback in which Schuttman’s son is savaged and most likely killed by one of the monsters. Later, Schuttman says, “It took my son, and I’ve been fighting him ever since.” This tells us two things. Firstly, Shookum Hills has been in the state that we see it in, a desolate containment zone, ever since the 1970s when the monsters first attacked Schuttman’s son. Secondly, despite there being so many monsters out there, he uses the word “him” to describe the monsters, signifying that there might be one individual leader of the monsters.
Even Shawn compares the monsters to ants and bees just before he is consumed by the large monster that all the smaller ones seem to be tending to. Does that mean that like ant and bee colonies, the monsters have a leader of their colony too? This would certainly help in getting rid of them as Patton and his team could focus on destroying this leader of the colony as their main priority. We have seen that the monsters can be hurt by conventional weapons.
One possibility could be that Arianna, who manages to frag the large monster in the climax, is the first one to do so and goes back and gives the idea to Schuttman. We must keep in mind, however, that since they have been trying to fight the monsters for decades and still haven’t succeeded, the monsters must have something that is being able to thwart Schuttman and his team’s attempts to kill them.
Could Schuttman be Behind It?
It feels sacrilegious to even suggest it, but could Schuttman have a reason to prolong the situation at Shookum Hills instead of solving it? It’s been at least 4 decades since the monsters first attacked and Shookum Hills was abandoned. We have seen in the movie that they can be hurt by knives, guns, grenades, and flamethrowers. So why haven’t people just mounted a big enough offensive to kill off the monsters once and for all? Or why, for that matter, hasn’t the military been called? The only reason seems to be that Schuttman does not want to ask for help from the outside, a reason that is not further explained by him.
Not asking for outside help seems like illogical machismo. He also asks Arianne what she will do now that she knows the truth. Will she go out and tell somebody, or will she stay and fight? The smile that he has on his face when he says this seems to suggest that he thinks of his job of containing the monsters as some form of sport, in which he is the team captain. It might be that Patton doesn’t want any outside help as that would reduce his importance and role in the fight.
It is also likely that he wants to be at the forefront of the fight against the monsters as he feels some form of guilt and responsibility for their presence. After all, they did appear in the mines that he owned. He also regretfully mentions that earlier in life, his sin was greed. When Arianne asks him about what he thinks Shookum Hills is, he says, “Maybe it’s purgatory.” This could all point to the possibility that Schuttman sees the whole situation as some form of personal redemption for his past sins and hence feels the need to fight the monsters on his own terms.
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