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The Ending Of Hidden Explained

Before they started working on "Stranger Things" the Duffer brothers wrote and directed a feature-length film together. Released in 2015, "Hidden" stars Alexander Skarsgård and Andrea Riseborough as Ray and Claire, two parents struggling to raise their daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind) in an underground bunker. The movie takes its time revealing what's actually going on with the family and the world above them, but when that reveal comes it packs a punch.

"Hidden" never saw a wide release, so even diehard fans of "Stranger Things" might not know that it exists. While it might not go down as one of the best apocalyptic movies of all time, "Hidden" does stand out as a fantastic example of the genre. It features a virus that transforms everyone it infects, but like the best zombie movies, "Hidden" is really interested in the human beings left alive and how they relate to each other.

Apocalypses make for grim content, but "Hidden" somehow manages to wear its heart on its sleeve as it examines a dark setting to tell a story that's mostly about the power of love. The movie's pace doesn't let up for a moment, and if that final dramatic reveal threw you for a loop, we're here to connect the dots and explain the ending of "Hidden."

What you need to remember about the plot of Hidden

"Hidden" keeps its apocalypse completely grounded for most of its runtime, looking at intimate family issues instead of worrying about the virus and the larger state of the world. The movie begins underground in a bunker where Ray and Claire have found a safe place for their daughter Zoe. It's clear from how poorly the three of them are surviving that they weren't a prepper family before the apocalypse. Ray says they were granted a miracle when they found the bunker, but now they're struggling to get through their days.

Zoe is preoccupied with worrying about the outside world. She's afraid that something called Breathers will eventually find her family's hiding place. Ray and Claire do their best to reassure her by playing games and working through math lessons, but after 300 days underground, their morale is growing thin, too.

Eventually, the family discovers that their survival has become even more of a question mark thanks to a rat that managed to sneak into the bunker. They find and kill the rat, but not before it eats through a sizable portion of their rations. When it seems like their situation can't get any worse, a lantern in the bunker catches fire and explodes. Ray and Claire manage to put the fire out, but enough smoke has leaked through the bunker's vents that anyone within a mile can find their hideout. The Breathers are coming.

What happened at the end of Hidden

As the Breathers get closer to the bunker, flashbacks show what happened on the first day of the outbreak. Zoe and her family learn that something is wrong when they see their neighbors fleeing their homes. They try to get out of town, but then the military blocks the road and begins bombing the area. As the family runs for cover, they find the entrance to a bunker laid into the ground.

When the Breathers arrive, everyone does their best to keep completely quiet. Unfortunately, Zoe carries around a pull-string doll wherever she goes. The doll's string gets caught on a pipe in the bunker, and moments later the Breathers know exactly where Zoe and her parents are hiding. Zoe and her mother escape the bunker through the vent that let out all the smoke earlier, but Ray can't fit through the opening and stays behind to fight the Breathers.

The Breathers don't take long to capture Zoe and Claire. It's here we discover that the Breathers are actually soldiers wearing masks. They realize that Zoe and Claire are both infected, but when the soldiers threaten to kill Zoe, Claire becomes enraged and transforms into a monster and kills them. Ray jumps into the fight, revealing that the virus has transformed him too. Ray is killed in the battle, but Claire and Zoe return to their human forms and eventually find their old neighbors hiding underground with another group of infected people.

What sets the apocalypse in Hidden apart?

"Hidden" borrows more than a few devices from other apocalypse stories, but it manages to combine different elements and tropes into an original story that's as engaging as anything that came before it. The virus at the heart of "Hidden" helps the movie distinguish itself from other apocalypse stories, but so does the framing of the movie's overall plot.

For most of the story, "Hidden" acts like it's another zombie movie. We learn fairly early on that some kind of infection ravaged the world outside Zoe's bunker, and we also get hints that the virus makes people change and become violent. The fact that infected people only change into monsters when they lose control of themselves is a secret for most of the movie, but it has huge implications for the world of "Hidden." Since infected people aren't always violently dangerous, there's a good chance that the world outside of Zoe's hometown isn't as ruined as we're used to seeing in typical apocalypse stories.

The movie doesn't really explore those larger implications, but it frames the story in a way that makes the audience actually root for the infected. The rules that Zoe and her parents recite to each other sound like survival tactics, but at the end of the film we find out that in reality, the rules keep them from transforming into monsters. The transformation may be incredibly dangerous, but if people can learn to control it, then civilization in "Hidden" may have better odds of survival than it did in something like "The Walking Dead."

Did the flashback scenes have a deeper meaning?

A vast majority of "Hidden" is spent inside the bunker where Zoe and her family have been surviving for most of a year. The climax of the film takes place outside, but otherwise, the only time we leave the bunker is in flashbacks. Luckily, the flashbacks are sparse, and they actually play a major role in what the movie is trying to do.

From the perspective of the characters, the flashbacks actually have a place in the story. "Hidden" ties each one of the scenes to something that the characters are experiencing in the present. Smoke fills the bunker, and Claire thinks about the burning pan she left on the stove when the infection first broke out. Small details like that prevent the flashbacks from feeling arbitrary.

Outside the world of the story, the flashbacks are carefully positioned to influence the audience. The story itself would work just fine if we never learned about how Zoe and her parents go into their bunker, but watching their desperate race for survival helps us get more invested in them than ever. When the final flashback reveals that the military bombed their town, we're primed to discover that the Breathers are actually humans. Throughout the movie, the flashbacks tie viewers closer to Zoe's family while also carefully setting them up for the twin reveals at the climax.

What is the real significance of the infection?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but an apocalypse is rarely just an apocalypse. From "Night of the Living Dead" to "The Last of the Us," stories about infections tearing apart civilization always have something deeper to say about human nature. Most of the time, the infection stands in for the darker parts of humanity, and the various monsters it creates reflect our deepest fears.

"Hidden" manages to avoid being a zombie story by a slim margin, but that doesn't stop it from taking the usual zombie symbolism and turning it on its head. There's no denying that Zoe, Ray, and Claire are terrifying when they go into their infected monster form, but the reason behind their transformation is anything but terrifying. All of them only change when their loved ones are threatened, and they only attack the Breathers to defend each other.

In this story, the infection actually stands in for the love that binds Zoe and her family. When the Breathers capture Zoe and Claire, one of them says he has a little girl just like Zoe. Despite that, he doesn't have enough compassion to let the two of them live. In "Hidden," the infected are actually more human than anyone else, and their love is what gives them literal and figurative strength.

Will Zoe get to live out her life?

Ray and Claire might have believed they were the only family left, but they definitely didn't act like it. Rather than just focusing on their day-by-day survival, the two of them continued raising Zoe as if a normal future awaited her. They made her keep practicing math and her school lessons, and they taught her how to control her emotions so the virus inside of her wouldn't transform her into a monster.

Zoe's parents couldn't have known that she'd ever get to leave the bunker again, but the tragic events of the movie forced her back into the world, and thanks to all the work that Ray and Claire put in, she might actually be prepared to face it. At one point in the movie, Claire tells Zoe that some rules need to be broken, and Zoe learns that for herself when she lets the virus transform her in order to save Claire's life. By the end of the movie, Zoe is already putting her parents' lessons into action.

What happens after the credits roll is anyone's guess, but there's a good chance that Zoe will go on surviving. She and Claire found a new home with other infected people hiding out from the Breathers, so now they have a new opportunity to learn, grow, and survive. If Zoe keeps applying everything she's learned to whatever conflicts come up, it's easy to imagine her living well into adulthood.

How is the world going to change now that some infected survive?

"Hidden" focuses on a small group of people with a specific set of problems. The limited scope really helps the story land, but even though it goes unexplored, the broader effect of the movie's virus is fascinating to think about.

There's no real indication in "Hidden" that the virus has spread outside the confines of Zoe's town, but Claire does point out that the virus must have gone airborne before it infected all of them. If that's the case, there's no reason to think that the rest of the world is safe from the virus. It seems likely that millions of people have become infected, and any infected person who loses control of their emotions will go on a murdering rampage.

After 300 days of the virus outbreak, society is probably in a state of collapse — but things aren't going to play out like they do in most zombie movies. Since the infected eventually return to human form, they get to play a more active role in whatever happens next. We see at the end of the movie that many of the infected have gone into hiding, but if the military keeps killing them indiscriminately, that might change. In their human forms, the infected can collaborate and come up with a plan, which could make their rebellion against the Breathers even more dangerous than a typical zombie attack.

What has Alexander Skarsgård said about Hidden?

"Hidden" deserves some serious credit for hitting multiple emotional beats. The movie isn't just a grim story of survival. It also celebrates the love between parents and children and ends on a somewhat positive note. That said, the movie definitely spends most of its time dwelling in the darkness, and that seems to be what stuck with Alexander Skarsgård the most after his time working on it.

Skarsgård told GQ that "Hidden" was a particularly challenging shoot for him. He knew what he was getting into, though. Skarsgård was sold on the film after watching a 3-minute short from the Duffer brothers telling roughly the same story. Part of the challenge was the physicality of playing someone on the brink of survival. "I had to lose weight for it, so I was kind of running on fumes for two months," Skarsgård said. "I was always starving."

The other part of the challenge came from the emotional toll of the role. Skarsgård spent the shoot working with just two other actors, and they spent the majority of their time in a dark basement pretending that the rest of the world outside had collapsed. "It was just, like, a lot of darkness," Skarsgård said. He dove straight into the depths, and his effort paid off in the movie.

What have the Duffer brothers said about Hidden?

Matt and Ross Duffer are big names now. Their work on "Stranger Things" has skyrocketed them to success, but back when they were working on "Hidden," their future in the entertainment business seemed anything but sure. The movie was their very first feature, and its development traveled a rocky road.

The Duffer brothers told Vulture that after selling their script to Warner Bros., they thought everything would be smooth sailing. Just a few weeks into the production, however, they realized that the executives backing the film weren't thrilled about the entire thing being set in a bomb shelter. After some behind-the-scenes drama, the brothers realized that they were going to get to make their movie, but the studio wouldn't be putting in much effort to help "Hidden" find an audience.

Now they look back at the whole ordeal as a learning experience. Ross Duffer said, "At the end of the day 'Hidden' was a great experience because we know what it's like to fail. And we know it will happen again." That attitude carried the two of them into "Stranger Things" and the success they've found in the years since "Hidden" debuted.

Could there be a sequel?

One of the biggest strengths of "Hidden" is that the movie leaves you wanting more. It holds back its dramatic reveals until the very end, and just when a whole new world of possibilities has exploded on screen, the movie cuts to black. The movie's big twist will keep it lingering in your mind, and it's only natural to wonder if a sequel could work.

On one hand, the path to a "Hidden 2" seems clear. There's a massive, apocalypse-ridden world that the Duffer brothers could explore in a follow-up. The sequel could focus on what happens to Zoe and Claire after they move into the new infected community. Maybe things go smoothly for a time, then the Breathers find them and chaos breaks out once more. Maybe the sequel moves on to new characters and takes a wider look at the state of the world post-virus.

Unfortunately, there's a big difference between "could" and "will" when it comes to movie sequels. There easily could be a "Hidden 2," but there more than likely won't be. The original wasn't exactly a box office smash, and it already tells a mostly complete story. The truth is, the Duffers made the movie they wanted to make, and they've probably got their minds on all-new stories for the future.