The Ritual Killer (2023) Movie Ending Explained: How Was Dr. Mackles Involved In The Rituals?

The Ritual Killer

The Ritual Killer (2023) Movie Ending Explained: The idea of Morgan Freeman playing a patient and ingenious man aiding a troubled cop to catch a diabolical serial killer has resulted in one of the most unnerving thrillers of all time. However, history does not always repeat itself, even if the same formula is employed again. In the 2023 thriller, The Ritual Killer (2023), Freeman plays a professor of African studies who uses his skills to help a cop catch a mysterious murderer.

While the premise of The Ritual Killer strongly resembles David Fincher’s classic Se7en (1995), this clumsy thriller barely holds the candle to the neo-noir masterpiece. Sloppily edited, lacking thrills, and ideologically bland, The Ritual Killer is a muddled mess that not even Morgan Freeman’s presence can salvage. Despite a flicker of potential in the screenplay, The Ritual Killer wastes its premise on a generic, made-for-tv thriller that ends with one of the most ludicrous plot twists in recent memory.

In this article, we painstakingly look at The Ritual Killer and answer some of the questions posed by the film’s preposterous ending!

The Ritual Killer (2023) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:

The film opens in Rome, where local police officer Mario Lavazzi (Giuseppe Zeno) finds a woman’s corpse amidst ritual paraphernalia. Later, Lavazzi chases after his suspect, a tall black man called Randoku (Vernon Davis). During the chase, an imposing Randoku slays several police officers and manages to escape.

In New Orleans, United States, Lucas Boyd is a detective with anger issues and a depressive past. During one of the missions with his partner, Maria Kersch (Murielle Hilaire), Boyd rescues a young trafficked girl from the clutches of an older man. When Kersch leaves with the girl, an angry Boyd shoots the man considering death a fitting punishment for his crime. When his superiors inquire about Boyd’s actions, he lies, saying he shot the man in self-defense. Throughout the film, Boyd has visions of his young daughter’s corpse floating in the pond.

In Rome, Randoku meets with a wealthy businessman, Shelby Farner (Brian Kurlander). Farner wants Randoku’s help in “harvesting power,” and Randoku gives his card for further communication. Later, Farner returns to his home in New Orleans and calls Randoku.

After this, two mutilated corpses of children are found by the police with their eyes and genitals missing. During the investigation, Boyd and his team find the victim’s bodies amidst an altar containing ancient herbs, gold powder, and messages written in an African language. To decipher these messages, Boyd decides to enlist the help of Dr. Mackles (Morgan Freeman), a leading scholar of African studies teaching at a college in New Orleans. When Boyd shows the herbs and symbols to Mackles, he is horrified and refuses to help.

Back in Rome, Detective Lavazzi meets up with a black informant who identifies Randoku and reveals that he is a “Sangoma”—a witch doctor who carries out rituals for rich and powerful clients.

Boyd again meets up with Mackles and details the horrific murders of the children. Mackles is still reluctant but agrees to accompany Boyd to the crime site to decipher the cryptic messages there.

The Ritual Killer (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

What Is ‘Muti’ And How Does Randoku Uses It?

Mackles reveals that the ritual carried out on the murder site is an ancient African ritual used to access power. He then elucidates upon the practice of ‘Muti,’ which traditionally means medicine but has been used for centuries to acquire power. In ancient Africa, warriors used Muti to enhance their strengths and be successful.

The ritual of Muti uses specific human organs to gain particular powers. For instance, genitals are used to strengthen one’s virility and bring good luck. Similarly, the eyes are used to increase farsightedness, and the brain increases one’s knowledge. Mackles also reveals a horrific detail about Muti—the ritual is carried out when the victim is still alive. This is important because the screams of the victims are used to evoke Gods who grant these powers.

To gain access to these powers, the client must drink the victim’s blood and the desired body part. Mackles further warns that Randoku has only killed the two children to increase his power and will strike again to acquire prey for his paid client.

How Do Boyd and His Team Catch Randoku?

Farner later calls Randoku requesting that he requires a beautiful and intelligent young woman with beautiful eyes for his ritual. It is later revealed that Farner is using the ritual’s powers to increase his chances of winning the elections.

Per Farner’s request, Randoku goes to a bar and starts a conversation with Terry (Talia Asseraf), a beautiful pre-med student who fits the profile Farner demands. But before Randoku can abduct Terry, two police officers enter the bar after seeing the van used by the abductor. Randoku slits their throats and escapes. Boyd and his team arrive on time to save Terry, but Randoku manages to rush inside a decaying apartment complex.

Terry reveals that the man who talked to her was named Randoku. Using this information and the fingerprints on Randoku’s beer glass, Boyd and his forensic team manage to retrieve information about him. It is revealed that Randoku is a South African citizen whose fingerprints have been found in several cases in Europe. Boyd and his police force enter the apartment complex to catch Randoku. But he manages to escape again—and slits Detective Kersch’s throat. A critical Kersch is rushed to the hospital.

The Ritual Killer

Horrified by this injury to his partner, Boyd becomes desperate to catch Randoku and takes Mackles to the apartment site. Mackles tells Boyd that his parents were medicinal doctors who worked with the African tribes. At the apartment site, Boyd also locates the card of detective Lavazzi and contacts him.

During the call, Lavazzi details his investigation and reveals that he has footage of Randoku meeting with a businessman, Shelby Farner. However, he has no incriminating evidence against Farner. Boyd goes to threaten Farner but cannot arrest him due to a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, Randoku goes to Mackles’ office to politely dissuade him from helping Boyd. Mackles is, however, unafraid and decides to continue helping Boyd. Soon it is revealed that Randoku has abducted a bright young student called Kate to sacrifice her for Farner’s ritual.

Boyd and Mackles head over to a riverside property owned by Farner to rescue Kate. As Boyd holds Randoku at gunpoint, he is attacked by Farner from behind. However, Mackles jumps to the rescue and slits Farner’s throat. Randoku approaches and begins to strangle Mackles. But the latter stabs him in the stomach.

How was Mackles Connected To Randoku?

Despite having been stabbed, Randoku manages to escape. When Boyd wakes up, he sees no sign of Randoku or Mackles. The police rescue Boyd and Kate and take them to the hospital.

At the hospital, Boyd receives a shocking call from Detective Lavazzi, who reveals that when Randoku was in Rome, he attended several lectures taught by Dr. Mackles. He also met up with Mackles several times after the lectures.

Later in the hospital, Boyd goes up to check on his partner Detective Kirsch but finds her room empty. Boyd breaks down, believing that Kirsch has succumbed to her injuries. However, he is comforted by a doctor who mentions that Kirsch is doing fine and has been transferred to another room. She also reveals that a mysterious friend of Kirsch showed up at night and prayed in her room using what he called ‘Muti.’

Boyd understands that the ‘friend’ must have been Mackles, who used his knowledge of Muti for benign purposes and to restore life to Kirsch. Even though Mackles was aware of the power of Muti and taught about it in classes, he did not end up exploiting an age-old tradition for money and power. It is also inferred that Mackles taught Randoku these techniques. Nevertheless, the latter was unaware of Randoku’s nefarious intentions. Another clue hinting at Mackles’ deep-seated knowledge about the ritual stems from the fact that his parents were doctors working with primitive tribes.

Boyd’s Visions Explained

Throughout the film, Boyd experiences several visions of his daughter drowning in the pond. When he returns home after solving the case, it is finally revealed what had happened to Boyd and his daughter. Once Boyd took his daughter near a pond and took a short nap while his daughter sat by the wooden bridge. While Boyd was sleeping, his daughter fell into the water due to her regular seizures. By the time Boyd woke up, she had already drowned.

Boyd’s wife constantly blamed him for carelessness resulting in several arguments between the couple. Unable to bear the loss of her daughter, his wife further ended up shooting herself to death.

After Boyd comes back from solving the case, he sleeps peacefully for the first time. During his sleep, he has a vision of his wife, who apologizes to Boyd for taking her life.

What Do Boyd and Lavazzi Receive in The Package?

Before the film ends, it throws a ridiculous nonsensical twist at its audience. Both Boyd and Detective Lavazzi receive a no-name package at their place. When Boyd opens the box, he receives a note from Mackles. Mackles reveals that he has managed to kill Randoku. The package also includes Randoku’s eyeballs—in an eerie resemblance to the Muti ritual. Boyd looks at the eyeballs before ingesting them in a horrific final shot—implying that he seeks to gain the farsightedness as promised via ‘Muti’ by eating Randoku’s eyeballs. Whether this act of cannibalism is Boyd’s way of gaining access to powers or showcasing his anger is left ambiguous. Boyd smiles at the camera before the screen cuts to black.

It is hard to predict whether this last-minute twist was included solely for shock value or to lay open doors for further sequels. And by the time the credits begin to roll, you would not care enough to dwell deep into this silly plot twist.

Also, Read: A Brief History of the Struggles of Blacks in Cinema

The Ritual Killer (2023) Movie Links: IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
The Ritual Killer (2023) Cast: Cole Hauser, Morgan Freeman, Murielle Hilaire
Where to watch The Ritual Killer
Parth Pant

Worshipper at the altar of the holy trinity of Sidney Prescott, Wes Craven, and Kevin Williamson. A connoisseur of everything related to cinema, especially the dark and depraved.