Welcome to the Ending Explained for Sweet River, a horror film directed by Justin McMillan and starring Lisa Kay, Martin Sacks, Genevieve Lemon, Rob Carlton, and Eddie Baroo. The film comes from an original idea by Justin McMillan himself, but Eddie Baroo and Marc Furmie write the screenplay. The film tells a horror story using the mysterious location of the outback in Australia. Inland Australia is one of the most mysterious settings in fiction and also one of those places that still hide a sort of primal energy underneath the Earth. It is the perfect location to set a kind of story just like this one.
Sweet River might be one of the most solid horror films of the last couple of years. It isn’t perfect, that is for sure. The pacing seems to be an issue because our main character Hanna spends too much time setting up in her new location while the audience must piece together several clues to make the start of the movie work. It is great to trust your audience to be active viewers, but it seems everything goes slow in the first act just because people are not communicating with each other, and there is no reason for it. It creates fake drama and slows things down to a crawl. Thankfully, the performances and a powerful third act helped a lot in the end.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Sweet River. Read at your own risk.
Why Is Hanna Renting A Cottage In Town?
The film begins with an introduction to the town of Billings, located somewhere in inland Australia. The town seems almost like a ghost town. All the buildings are falling apart, the roads are vacant, and the few people we see around seem to have experienced better times before. Here, we meet a man named James Lipton. Lipton is drinking his sorrows at the local bar, and he explains that he needs money, so he will need to harvest the fields behind his cottage.
Everyone at the bar looks upset at this, and Lipton exits the bar and goes home. However, while on the road, the combination of alcohol and the ghost of a girl on the road makes him crash his truck.
The next day we meet Hanna, our main character, an English woman who has rented Lipton’s house for an undetermined period of time. She sees the cops putting a sheet over a corpse as she reaches the cottage.
She goes to the house next door and meets John Drake and his wife, Eleanor. Eleanor seems a bit hostile, but John gives her a warm welcome. Hanna says she is just here to have a change of scenery. However, when John checks up on the corpse and sees that it is Lipton, the police warn John that the new woman living in the cottage will bring trouble.
Hanna starts unpacking, and John visits her. At first, he thinks she is just a reporter coming to check on the town. Here, it becomes clear that something really bad happened in the town, so bad that they have received multiple requests from reporters looking to write a story about it over the years.
Hanna is invited for dinner, and there we discover that she lost her son, Joey, and that John and Eleanor also lost their daughter, Violet, long ago.
Hanna continues her investigation around town. She starts relating herself to the local drug leader and the liquor store. Hanna is not in a good place, both physically and mentally. It seems her son’s loss has been more than she can bear, which is understandable.
One night, while jogging, Hanna sees a group of kids going in and out of the fields behind her cottage. They are quite creepy, but they are also the only kids she has seen since her arrival. Confused, she finds Eleanor walking around, and she brings Hanna home to talk.
What Is Happening In The Fields Of Billins?
During their talk, Eleanor becomes more receptive to Hanna. They share a common pain that is so big that only they can understand each other. Eleanor informs us that Violet was adopted, but they loved her all the same. We also discover from John’s mouth that Violet drowned.
Not long after Hanna lost her kid, there was an accident in town. A bus full of kids ended up in the river, and they all drowned, including Violet. The tragedy shook up the town and left it in its current situation. Hanna learns that the bus driver knows Larry Simpkin, her son’s killer, and so he goes to talk to him.
She finds that the bus driver is filled with survivor’s guilt, as he was the only one who survived the bus accident. Hanna learns that Simpkin worked for the Drakes, and she confronts John about it. He only responds that, at that time, he has a lot of people working for him, including Simpkins and even the bus driver.
At night, Hanna continues to see the kids, but this time she identifies Violet among them and an older kid named Max, whose father has become the town’s hobo. When she goes to talk to him, the man says that whatever there is in the fields, that is not her son. She sees that Eleanor knows about the kids at night, and she goes there every single night to talk to Violet’s ghost.
At this point, it has become clear that the ghosts of the dead kids are all there in the fields. They have been unable to move on, and they appear at night every night. Joey’s shoes appear in front of the porch, and Violet appears to Hanna, saying she can show him where Joey is buried but that Max wants her away from there.
Hanna follows Violet to her kid’s grave, but Max scares her off. She shows the shoes to the local police, who only warn her to stop her search and go home. Hanna goes to visit Max’s father one more time but only finds a stack of photos. There, she discovers one with the truth.
Simpkins was John’s son, which means that his son killed her son. It is quite dark, but Hanna begs John to burn the fields. It is time to let the kids’ souls go. John thinks nobody will want that, but he is convinced. However, he is attacked by Max and dies. Hanna takes matters into her own hands, grabs a flamethrower, and burns the fields, liberating the kids’ souls forever. The movie ends with Hanna finding closure for her suffering and meeting Eleanor halfway. She leaves town, having changed it forever.