Spiderhead is bonkers. Part Black Mirror, part The Cabin in the Woods-style piece of warped experimentation, the new Netflix movie starring Chris Hemsworth as drug trial lead Steve Abnesti keeps viewers guessing throughout. Fittingly, the Spiderhead ending is also suitably out there, throwing several new revelations at Miles Teller’s Jeff, before saying farewell with one final headscratcher of a question.
Before we dig deep into the movie’s key themes and puzzling questions, let’s acknowledge (see what we did there?) what came before and run through a recap of the Spiderhead ending so we’re all on the same page. Fair warning, it gets pretty dark. Or should that be Darkenfloxx?
Spiderhead ending explained: the recap
Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth) has his very own experiment set up on Spiderhead, an island that takes prisoners from incarceration and sets them up as test subjects under the watchful eye of Steve and his assistant, Mark.
The tests involve dosing each prisoner with several new drugs via their MobiPak’s, a device that pumps the substances into their body. Each drug affects a different side of the patient and intensifies their human emotions. Luvactin makes people fall in love and see hallucinations, Laffodil sets people off into fits of laughter, Phobica makes people scared of mundane objects, and so on.
One of Steve’s most important subjects is Jeff (Miles Teller), who still holds regrets from the car crash that killed his friend (and, as we later found out, his wife, Emma). He undergoes several tests, including two with Luvactin, which makes someone suddenly fall in love with another person. He ‘falls in love’ with two women: Sarah and Heather. Steve tries to make Jeff choose which one gets Darkenfloxx, a hugely powerful drug that makes the victim suicidal. He eventually gets Jeff to make a decision by lying to him and telling the prisoner that the board have told him to press on with the experiment.
Jeff doses Heather, who freaks out and smashes her MobiPak, flooding her body with Darkenfloxx. She dies by suicide. While Steve rushes to her room, he drops his keys. Jeff picks them up and uncovers the truth behind the experiments: there is no board. Steve owns the company, Abnesti Pharmaceuticals, and is testing those drugs for his own ends.
Jeff grows closer to another prisoner, Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), and the two fall in love. Steve uncovers this and decides to use it as an experiment. Steve tells Jeff to pump Lizzy full of Darkenfloxx. He refuses, which causes Steve to pressure Lizzy into revealing she’s in prison for killing her baby. She’s then given Darkenfloxx.
It’s then revealed that Jeff secretly worked with Mark to take Steve’s own MobiPak (which he reassures himself he’s using just so he can have first-hand experience of the drugs for scientific purposes) and fills it with a mind control drug called B-6. It doesn’t completely work as Steve attacks Jeff with a knife, but Jeff slips away in the chaos. Jeff has called in the police and manages to save Lizzy and escape the island by boat.
Steve also flees the island with the authorities closing in. He heads to his plane and, as he ascends, his MobiPak goes haywire, giving him a cocktail of all the drugs he’s used in his experiments. The Luvactin overpowers him, and he mistakes a rockface for a beautiful ray of sunlight, crashing his plane.
What are the different types of drugs? And what is B-6?
There are several drugs used throughout Spiderhead in the various experiments. N-40 is Luvactin, the drug that causes people to fall in love and feel intense sensations. That’s most memorably used in the pair of sex scenes between Jeff and Heather, then Jeff and Sarah.
G-46 is Laffodil, in essence a quick pump of drugs that acts as laughing gas. The higher the dose, the funnier things become. Ray is given some in the opening scene and finds pretty basic one-liners overwhelming hilarious, as well as not-so-fun facts about genocide.
I-16 is Darkenfloxx, the drug that causes its user to feel intense sadness. As Jeff puts it, it makes you feel ten times worse than anything you’ve ever felt. And that’s just the start. On the highest levels, it causes its user to self-harm.
There’s also Verbaluce, which lets its user unleash their own inner poet, which proves useful for Steve as he uses Jeff to note down (with increasing lucidity) exactly what is happening to the subjects in front of him. And don’t forget Phobica, which causes its user to become extremely scared.
One of the last spots on Steve’s warped bingo card is B-6. He was set to call it O-B-D-X (Obediex), and the clue is very much in the name: it makes the user obedient, though they can still never see hurt the thing they love. It’s explained that Steve has been using it throughout the movie as a means to test how far the subjects would really go against the people they love.
Why is Jeff in Spiderhead?
Throughout the movie, we see flashbacks of the event that caused Jeff to get locked up. His drink-driving caused the death of his friend and, in a later reveal with Lizzy, it’s shown that his girlfriend Emma was also in the car as it explodes.
In terms of the actual Spiderhead program, Steve explains that Jeff simply applied for it, though it’s implied he’s there as some form of penance for his guilt over Emma. The final lines of Spiderhead, narrated by Teller’s Jeff, prove as much: he wants a drug to make him forget.
Why does Jeff keep calling Emma?
This is probably one of the few questions that isn’t explicitly answered in the third act. Jeff clearly feels guilt for the accident that caused Emma’s death, and his updates on her answering machine is certainly a way of communicating that.
What’s more important, though, is the moment where Emma’s voicemail is filled up. At that point, Jeff breaks free of his dangerous, self-loathing cycle, pushes back against Steve, and eventually escapes with Lizzy in the hopes of building a new life together. It’s not quite a happy ending but, for Jeff, it’s a start. And that’s all he can hope for.
Why can’t Steve leave Spiderhead?
This one is a bit more twisted. Steve loves science. Like really, really loves science. He’s not only hooked on his own drugs, but he doesn’t want to return to the mainland because he’s intent on perfecting the mind-control drug B-6.
It’s revealed that he wants people to become ‘good’ through obedience and not spiral off into their own self-destructive tendencies. That’s because his own father left him at a foster care home at the age of eight. It’s his life’s work and, more than that, it’s a way to make him up his past traumas so no one else has to suffer. It’d almost be admirable if it wasn’t for, y’know, that whole ethics thing.
Why is Lizzy in jail?
Lizzy is hiding a secret throughout Spiderhead. We know she’s a damn fine cook, but there’s something else bubbling underneath. In the finale, we discover that she killed her child by leaving her in a parking lot while she went to work.
Why didn’t B-6 fully affect Steve?
B-6 isn’t perfect. Its biggest flaw is that, despite being an otherwise immaculate mind-control drug, it can never make the user hurt what it loves. In this case, Steve loves his experiments, so would never do anything to shut it down or force its closure.
Why did Steve crash his plane?
Steve’s final moment doesn’t feel deliberate. Instead of intentionally crashing his plane to avoid the consequences, it appears to be a result of a faulty MobiPak, which is pumping all manner of drugs into his system. He goes from fear, to laughter, and finally to serenity as the Luvactin kicks in and he sees a surreal glow in the distance. Unfortunately for him, it’s actually a very real, very physical rockface. Plane, meet ground.
Are Lizzy and Jeff still on drugs? Or do they have free will?
Lizzy and Jeff are still feeling the after-effects of their experiments as they speed away from Spiderhead on a boat. Their laughter would indicate a more morbid ending and a similar one to that of Steve: they’re trapped by the drugs’ effects. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however.
Take note of Lizzy’s word ‘Nice.’ Steve scolds Jeff for using that word earlier in the movie, instead boosting his vocabulary with Verbaluce. That indicates, then, that they’ve both got it all out of their system and are now free to spend their lives together, without Steve (or anything else) telling them how they should feel.
Who is Shit-Finger?
Let’s save the best ‘til last. Throughout the movie, Ray was hunting for ‘Shit-Finger’, a mystery prisoner who was smearing faeces on the walls of the complex. As Lizzy and Jeff escape, they discover Sarah, Jeff’s one-time sexual partner, was the one doing the deed.
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