As with the book, Lee Tourneau turns out to have raped and killed Merrin, and as in the book, it isn’t much of a surprise, though screenwriter Keith Bunin treats it like one. Lee’s innate goodness, loyalty, and dedication to his old buddy Ig gets played up, but Max Minghella plays him a bit like a zombie in the pre-“Braaaaaains” stage, and his lack of affect or even basic personality certainly makes him stand out as a probable sociopath just waiting for someone to notice that he never changes expression.
More surprising is the way the film suddenly morphs into a tragic love story at the finale, with Ig giving up his humanity in one conscious, deliberate burst of Ghost Rider self-sacrifice, in order to obliterate Lee once and for all. Lee’s death—by horn-goring and multiple penetration with snakes—grotesquely mirrors Merrin’s rape, in an Old Testament-meets-Grand-Guignol way. But the climax is heavily dependent on CGI effects that again don’t mesh well with the rest of the film, and it feels both prurient and silly enough to undermine the melancholy of the ending. Ig doesn’t embrace his demon side and ascend into a triumphant furnace of his own making, he dies and goes to a sort of eternal sex-heaven of hanging out with Merrin under that tree, in that sun-dappled picnic moment. It’s a happily-ever-after of a sort, but symbolically, it doesn’t make much sense. The book version is a fantasy too, but at least it’s one with both internal and emotional logic.