'Cadaver' Ending Explained: Mathias or Leo, who is the real survivor of Netflix's Norwegian horror film?
Spoilers for 'Cadaver'
In Netflix's Norwegian horror film 'Cadaver', the world is brought to a standstill following a nuclear disaster. The streets are littered with decaying dead bodies, nuclear rains flood the gutters and there is no food left as canned items begin to perish. A family of three - Leonora (Gitte Wit), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad) and Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman) - try their best to survive from one day to the other promising each other to stay close and hopeful.
One day, they are invited to a local hotel for a play and a hearty meal. The entertainment seems like a good way to pass the evening and Leo convinces her husband to tag along. At the hotel, following their meal, the director Mathias (Thorbjørn Harr) explains the premise of the evening. The guests are given masks to distinguish them from the actors, who will be roaming around the hotel in and out of rooms playing their respective characters. Patrons are free to follow the character they find most interesting but are to keep their masks the whole time. Mathias tells them that everything that happens through the night is only a part of the play. Alice had found the character of Rakel (Trine Wiggen) most interesting. And so the trio follow her on her supposed character arc
But just as Jacob had presumed, this offer is too good to be true and soon enough, the hotel stars to show its true colors. Slowly, one after the other, the guests who had arrived alongside Jacob and Leo begin to disappear. It is not long before their daughter goes missing too. Jacob and Leo then begin to look into the many rooms looking for her. They discover that something is definitely amiss with this place and long to find their daughter and flee.
During their investigations, Jacob also goes missing, leaving Leo alone to find the truth. She begins following the staff members, who are dressed in white scrubs carrying clothes and miscellaneous items underground. She discovers that the hotel has secret tunnels via which they smuggled the guests into the basement. And here is the most horrific part - the guests are murdered and then turned into food, which is eaten by the next line of guests. The actors, as it turns out, are all a part of the charade and are basically meant to trap the 'prey' in the tunnels via their intriguing characters.
When Leo is captured by Lars (Kingsford Siayor), she finally gets to confront Mathias, who asks her to join "the survivors". By now, the audience can tell that 'Cadaver' tells a story of the survival of the fittest. The world outside is completely destroyed - how is a man got to survive, what will he eat, what will he feed his family? Another man. It is only a game of survival as the actors and the crew trap the patrons to be turned into meat. Until the next batch arrives, which will also be turned into meat.
After he leaves her for dead, Leo manages to flee Lars' grips with the help of her husband Jacob, who had seemingly gone to the other side. In the scuffle, he is stabbed and dies. Leo then goes out in the open to confront Mathias in front of the new batch of guests. When he pretends like she is an actress too, Leo - a seasoned actress herself who was in her prime before the nuclear disaster - takes the bait and leads the people to the underground revealing the true horrors of the hotel.
Mutiny rises and the guests take over the staff. It is Rakel who stabs Mathias putting an end to his sinister plans. But how does Alice play a role here? What has Mathias done with her? As it turns out, Mathias' daughter had perished in a fire in the hotel. He reveals towards the end of the movie bleeding from a wound in his chest that Alice looked a lot like his own daughter - he couldn't just let her go again.
As Alice falls to the ground finally getting the time to mourn her losses, Alice appears. It can be assumed that Rakel knew where Mathias had hidden her and set her free to reunite with her mother.
After they finally manage to flee the hotel, Leo and Alice walk the despondent streets to their home only to see that there is literally nothing left for them in the outside world. Alice looks back at the hotel still on its ground, standing apart from all the grey around it, and realizes that she might have fled the hotel, but how will she survive outside?
So who was the real survivor in the film? Was it Mathias - who perished in his own game or survival? Or is it Leo, who might have walked out of the hotel alive, but without any means to survive?
'Cadaver' is currently streaming on Netflix.