True to its name, ‘The Old Ways’ is a Spanish-English bilingual body horror movie fraught with cultist symbolism and cultural allure. Helmed by Christopher Alender, the folkloric tale follows a reporter — out of sync with her roots — going back to her maternal village in search of a story. The situation goes out of hand when she ends up in a cave of La Boca, as these caves, according to local belief, are infested with demonic spirits. Locals believe her to be possessed, and a bruja (shaman) and her son perform a series of rituals to make the devils manifest.
Although the horror of the movie exhibits in ways visceral and cerebral, the absolute horror lies in the thought of people forgetting their cultural lineages in this fast-paced modern existence and becoming empty. The reporter remembers her roots in the end, and a surprise twist awaits the viewers. The body horror images are chilling to the core — at times even stomach-churning. Some aspects may be obscured in smoke, and if you seek to revisit the final moments, let us guide you. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Old Ways Plot Synopsis
Mexican-American Journalist Cristina Lopez comes to her birthplace Catemaco for a story on the local tribes and their seemingly enchanting old ways. However, she finds herself confined in the house of a bruja (local shaman) after running a survey of the caves at La Boca. The caves are teeming with supernatural creatures, and there are cases of people disappearing.
Cristina’s estranged sister Miranda visits Cristina in confinement, and she is shocked to know that Cristina cannot speak Spanish. On the other hand, Cristina is stunned to learn that Miranda is the one who handed her over to the brujas. Luz and her son Javi perform several rituals, and the evil manifests in different ways. Although initially a skeptic, Cristina is altered by the experience. Now she cannot dismiss demons as merely tribal superstition since she has seen them.
The Old Ways Ending: Is Miranda Cured?
The old and wise bruja Luz passes away in a ritual to manifest the demon called the Broken Man. In the ceremony, the bruja summons the demon by nailing a triangular structure made of sticks to the ground. With every nail, Cristina groans in pain, and suddenly she goes back to the cave of La Boca. In her video documentation, Cristina claims that she knew of her fate before visiting the cave. In her own words, Cristina visited the cave, knowing she would die. Thankfully, Miranda rescues her, and she ends up in the bruja’s custody.
According to the belief, empty people go back to the cave to be consumed after being tagged by a demonic spirit. As the past is reconstructed, we see that Cristina was wounded when her mother suffered a similar demonic possession. Cristina goes into the cave and sees a boy she had seen earlier and thought of as a local. The boy is undoubtedly a demonic spirit, as shortly after the boy’s sight, she sees her own dead body lying on the ground. The camera shows that the same boy was present during the episode of demonic possession of Cristina’s mother.
The bruja attempts to cast the demon out, but she is powerless before the immense diabolical force. During the ritual, she concedes a blow and passes on to the realm of the dead. Miranda pleads with Cristina to keep the old ways alive since she has read the books and knows the process. Cristina initially does not pay much heed to the request and goes out to receive her editor Carson’s call. However, as Cristina comes back, she discovers an enraged Miranda and sees her wounds. A possessed Cristina scratched Miranda earlier in the wrist, and the place is swollen.
Apparently, the old bruja did not succeed in casting out the demon altogether – the demon only leaped from Cristina to Miranda. Miranda, now possessed, asks Cristina to leave, but Cristina has something else in mind. She wears the makeup of a bruja and begins the rituals. Despite the protest of Miranda, Cristina keeps on reading chants in Nahuatl. The old ways still live inside Cristina, and Luz guides her during the process. It seems that with the death of Luz, the power of seeing is transferred to Cristina.
Postehki reveals itself after the ritual, and a fearsome confrontation ensues. Cristina blows the death whistle to cast out the demon and inflicts a wound with a sharp tool. But she is still a novice in the old ways, and the monster breathes on her neck. However, Miranda inflicts the final blow in the structure and assails the demon. Therefore, one can conclude that Miranda is cured. With the last turn of events, estranged sisters Miranda and Cristina become a tag team of indigenous exorcists.
Who is the Postehki?
According to Miranda, the Postehki is the demon that possessed Cristina’s mother, and in turn, Cristina herself. It is the same demon that has Miranda and manifests itself in the final gruesome battle. Although the Postehki seems to be a name conjured for the story, the image of the ghost is related to the larger body of Aztec mythology invoked in the movie. The bruja utters chants in Nahuatl, the ancient language of the Aztec and Toltec civilizations. Even though the language and its culture are increasingly endangered, more than 1.7 million people still speak in the language or some variant of it globally.
The Postehki is a ghost who feeds on the emptiness of the people in the modern technocratic civilization. This is the same ghost who called Cristina back to her birthplace in Mexico. The image of the demon is partly symbolic, as it represents the fear and cultural amnesia of modern civilization. The Postehki is perhaps the physical representation of the horror of cultural forgetfulness. When people forget their own culture and language, they live in a limbo — in an in-between space — much like Cristina in the early moments of the story.
The demon calls back the departed, only to consume them. The devil is said to be starving – starvation is also a mirror of cultural depravity. This reading marks the story with a diasporic sensibility, as it captures the utterances of the titular old ways of the story. Cristina’s attempt to communicate with the demon boy denotes her early ignorance. She even attacks Javi, which opens up the avenue of further discussion between the two. However, Cristina comes to remember her roots and gets rid of the demon in the end.
Is Carson Possessed?
In the end, Carson comes to meet Cristina at her village in Veracruz. However, Cristina knows that Carson is an agent of the devil since he is the one who sent her to revisit her town. Cristina has transformed herself into a bruja by the penultimate sequence, and Miranda helps her in her chores. Two local guys help them in performing an exorcism, and they bring in Carson. Carson concludes that Cristina has gone mad and tempts her by offering money. However, a brief look into Carson’s eyes assures Cristina about his demonic possession.
As the camera zooms into Carson’s eye, the viewers see something moving in his iris. This sight makes Cristina sure about Carson’s possession. She disregards his beguiling cries and keeps on performing the ritual. The audience sees the presence of something sinister before the screen moves on to credits. This sequence seemingly sets the story up for a sequel, as it keeps viewers on the hook. And we say amen to that.
Read More: Will There be an Old Ways Sequel?