So Cold the River (2022) The Meaning & Plot Of The Film, Explanation Of The Ending, Similar Movie Thrillers.
A man does not become a monster if he does not live in him: the idea of the thriller So Cold the River.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective, Drama
Year of production: 2021
Director: Paul Scholberg
Actors: Bethany Joy Lenz, Andrew Jay West, Kathy Sarif, Alicia Reiner
Título original: So Cold the River
The meaning of the film So Cold the River (2022) turned out to be difficult to grasp, despite the fact that the film is a fairly accurate adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Korita and transfers a significant part of its content to the screen. And yet, the director lacked something, which is confirmed by the feedback from the audience. Let’s analyze the plot and try to understand what idea its creators tried to put into the film.
What is the movie about?
The girl rides in a car, answers the call of her lover and immediately gets into an accident. Photos from her family album and an image of a triangular house flash by. This is footage from a video obituary by former documentary filmmaker Erica Shaw.
Bethany Joi Lenz played the role of Erica Shaw. Frame from the film.
Somehow, she guessed about the affair of the deceased and included in the selection a photograph of the house, where, apparently, lovers met. In the future, we learn that the heroine has something like psychic abilities and can see what others do not notice.
The deceased’s sister breaks into Erica’s house and aggressively offers Erica a new job involving her dying father, Campbell Bradford. The woman offers the heroine to become a director again and shoot material about this man. The point is to find out about his secrets, which were in abundance. The guest leaves Erika an advance and a bottle of water that miraculously survived the accident, previously kept in the Kempell Bradford safe. The bottle depicts a demon and says “Pluto” (“Pluto”).
The heroine reluctantly agrees to work and first of all goes to the hospital where Campbell is. The man communicates with Erica, but in a mysterious way: the conversation takes place only when the girl looks into the camera lens. Kempell talks about the city where he grew up. This is West Baden Springs. According to Campbell, So Cold the River flows under the city and it’s a good place to disappear without a trace. Erika takes out a bottle and shows it to her. Campbell says, “His blood… His name… The seal is broken… What have you done?”
The heroine arrives in West-Baden and checks into a beautiful hotel with a huge dome. She is greeted by a smiling receptionist, Dylan, who talks about the upcoming rebirth festival and concludes, “Don’t underestimate the charm of our city – we’ll still get you.” Already in the room, Erika has a vision. Before her appears a man in a black suit and a hat. The girl swallows pills and drinks water from the same bottle. Immediately another vision flashes: a boy playing the violin. The water in the bottle gets colder.
In the lobby of the hotel, Erica strikes up a conversation with an elderly woman, Ann McKinney. She talks about West-Baden, about the water from the local springs, which is considered healing, mentions the festival of rebirth and offers to drink for eternal life. At the mention of Kempell Bradford’s name, the woman immediately leaves.
Deanna Dunagan as Ann McKinney. Frame from the film.
Another vision: a man with a hat, a boy and another man on the bridge. And then one more thing: a man in a hat rides a train along an abandoned railway.
To the heroine comes assistant trainee Kellyn Cage. She is a fan of Erica. In a conversation, they recall the documentary “Little Hell” and its hero Loni Wilks. The painting played a key role in overturning the sentence for this man, after which he killed his family. Kellin says that despite all this, the film is beautiful and it influenced her a lot.
And again before Erica appear a man in a hat and a boy with a violin. The girl meets a local laborer, Josiah. He talks about his great ambitions – he wants to rule this hotel and even the whole world, and he also has dynamite hidden somewhere. It turns out that his last name is also Bradford. Erica and Josiah enter the girl’s room and Josiah takes a sip of water from a bottle. There is a small quarrel, a man in a hat flickers in the mirror. The guy leaves.
Visions after another sip from the bottle: again three on the bridge, then a man convicted of murder and nailed to the wall in a hat.
In the morning, Erica is greeted in the lobby by Dylan, who advertises local healing water baths for her and asks, “Ready to be reborn?” The girl refuses.
The image of the man in the hat now haunts Josiah as well.
Erica interviews Ann McKinney, who talks about Campbell Bradford. It turns out that Josiah is his great-grandson and the only one left here from the Bradford family. Ann says that Campbell was a terrible killer.
He wanted to own the whole city, but he couldn’t get the hotel because the owner refused to sell it. Then Campbell killed the owner, kidnapped his young son, and then killed the sheriff and the FBI officer who went looking. The boy was never found – only his violin. Ann concludes: “Campbell was an absolute monster. If it settles in your head, you will start seeing it everywhere.”
The customer calls up Erica and asks to stop working, but the girl got a taste and does not want to stop. She tells Josiah that Campbell Bradford is still alive, and provokes the guy to give a revealing interview. In it, he blames his great-grandfather for the death of his relatives, although they died under different circumstances and not at the hands of Kempell.
Erica pretends that the camera is off, cheers Josiah up, says that she believes in him and urges her to stop thinking about the family curse. Then another person seems to move into the guy. He defiantly admits that he is a loser and reveals that he was fired for stealing dynamite from his job. He says that he wants to become a real element, that he can bring down a huge building in an instant, and laughs ominously. Josiah also states that Bradford’s curse is actually a gift. It is death that is in his blood.
Frame from the film.
Kellin is discouraged by the camera-off feint, but Erica says that’s how the beautiful films the trainee admires so much are made.
Vision: Campbell burns the owner of the hotel in front of the boy. Meanwhile, Josiah is talking to Campbell. He says: “This is not a curse, but a gift. My blood, my name is the best you have. You can’t run away from yourself, and even more so from me.” The water in Erica’s bottle turns red.
Kellin reviews the footage from the hospital and discovers that Erica was actually talking to herself. She objects: she believes in the reality of visions and says that they become brighter thanks to the water from the bottle. And with the help of these visions, you can discover the secrets of the past and make wonderful films again. Kellin retorts: in the works of Erica, she was attracted not by the gloom that everyone saw, but by the grain of something bright and kind – the way the director coped with darkness.
The trainee wants to leave. However, Erica stops her and tells the shocking truth: she knew that Loni Wilks was guilty, she saw his true nature, but between art and truth she chose the first and does not regret it. The director asks the trainee, “Do you think you would have done things differently? If you were one step away from the goal that you have pursued all your life, would you act according to your conscience? Kellin will answer: “No, that’s why I’m leaving.”
Erica takes the bath that Dylan advertised for her, sees the three on the bridge again and the scene of the murder. She is a man in a hat – Campbell, who is becoming more and more material. The heroine faints in the lobby of the hotel. The water in the bottle turns to ice. After – a shot with Erica’s crazy look.
Kellin, still staying at the hotel, talks to Ann, who, looking at the preparations for the rebirth celebration, says: “I see a city that does not allow anyone to send it to oblivion,” then asks about Eric: “What do you think she sees? “. Kellin is at a loss: “And which of us is right?”
Frame from the film.
Feast of Rebirth. People raise a toast to eternal life. Josiah goes down to the basement, followed by Ann and sees a bag of dynamite. The guy kills her and starts drilling the wall. Hearing a noise, Kellin descends into the basement looking for the missing Erica and discovers a dead body and a bloodied Josiah with an explosive in his hand.
He is going to blow up the people participating in the celebration and invites the girl to run away. But she tries to stop the villain. Josiah is predictably stronger. The trainee is saved by Erika, who pierces the guy’s head with a hammer.
Coming out of the basement, Kellin asks Erica if she believes in the curse. The trainee herself is convinced that a person cannot become a monster if he does not initially live in him. She asks the director to give her Josiah’s phone, because it was with his help that he was going to bring down the building. Her hunch is correct: Erica took the phone and is going to make an explosion herself and film it all on camera for her new “masterpiece”. There is a close-up of Campbell with the hat. Kellin takes out a knife and slits Erika’s throat. She bleeds out and falls into the pool.
Ending vision: A black man wearing a Campbell hat tells the boy, “Now you’re mine, but you won’t have my blood or my name.” He shoots at the villain and takes the bottle, filling it with water from the cold river and the blood that got into it.
The old man is dying in the hospital. Kellin towers over Erika’s dead body in the water.
So, the explanation for the ending of So Cold the River is this: the old man dying in the hospital is not Campbell Bradford at all. This is a grown-up boy with a violin – the son of the former owner of the hotel. He killed the man in the hat – Campbell.
Why did he need a bottle of water from a cold river and the blood of a villain? Judging by his words in the hospital, the meaning is that in this way he symbolically locked the curse in the vessel. The boy outplayed the monster. He claimed that the child was his and he would not have any blood or Campbell’s name. But it turned out the other way around: the boy took both the blood (literally), and the name (last name – Bradford), and the soul of the monster itself, locking it in glass.
In the ward, the old man wanted to tell Erika that by taking the bottle, she had done a terrible thing – “broke the seal” and freed the name and blood of the killer. Probably, the man in the Campbell hat really possessed terrible magical powers and could take possession of people. This is what happened in the finale: under the influence of the curse, Josiah, and then Erica, decided to blow up the hotel with people.
However, the evil spell did not seem to work on Kellin. Why? She herself answered this question at the end: a person cannot become a monster if he does not live in him. Erica initially made films, being on the side of evil (specifically, the killer of Loni Wilks). Josiah originally wanted to blow up the hotel and take over the world. Kellin was attracted to the light. She saw him even in Erika’s dark writings. The girl never wanted to go against her conscience.
Frame from the film.
This meaning of the ending of the film So Cold the River gives an answer to the question posed before it: “Which of us is right?” ) – a monster, the third (Kellin) – goodness and light. Everyone is right in his own way: it all depends on what is in his soul.
The meaning of the film So Cold the River
Does So Cold the River have some additional, hidden meaning? It seems that various symbols hint at this: water, a demon and the word “Pluto” on a bottle, a violin in the hands of a boy, a huge hotel dome. But no – it seems that everything is pretty banal here.
So Cold the River and water are symbols of death, the demon is the messenger of evil, Pluto is the name of the ancient Greek and Roman god of the underworld and also death. The violin is intended only to show that the boy was on the side of good. This is the tool with which he brought light to people. The dome of the hotel and the hotel itself, which exists in reality, have inspired the director since childhood and serve only to enhance the atmosphere.
Erica’s flashing visions of characters from the past don’t require further explanation either: they fit exactly with Ann’s description of Campbell’s serial murders. Even the mysterious holiday of rebirth only hints at the fact that everyone interprets this concept in their own way: Erica and Josiah, faced with evil, are “reborn” into villains (the latter, with the help of dynamite, is going to give everyone and himself eternal life in his understanding), the boy is “reborn” into another person, defeating the monster. Kellyn follows suit.
The essence of the film So Cold the River can easily be caught if you do not miss the final author’s interpretation (pretty crumpled) of the meaning of the entire previous action. Everything is quite simple: evil will not consume you and will not win if you do not have it.
Frame from the film.
- Through a Dark Glass (USA, 2020): a woman searches for her missing daughter, uncovering the sinister secrets of a small town;
- “The Shining” (USA, UK, 1980) the cult film adaptation of the novel by Stephen King from Stanley Kubrick, which also inspired the director of So Cold the River;
- “1408” (USA, 2007): a skeptic writer settles in a hotel room where dozens of people died – another adaptation of the work of Stephen King;
- “Bates Motel” (TV series, USA, 2013-2017): mother and son buy a hotel in a quiet town – a kind of prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “Psycho“, which discusses in detail the nature of evil.