Deadly Illusions ending explained: Unpacking the climax to Netflix’s wild film thriller

This one took us rather by surprise.

Deadly Illusions - Netflix

*Warning: spoilers for Netflix’s Deadly Illusions to follow*

Advertisement

As Netflix continues to dominate the streaming market, subscribers might’ve noticed a new movie soaring to the top of the charts. Starring Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis and Awkward’s Greer Grammer, Deadly Illusions is everyone’s latest obsession while they try to unravel Anna Elizabeth James’ twisted thriller. With an ending that still has fans reeling, Deadly Illusions plays out as part Fatal Attraction, part Split. So, just what does that baffling ending really mean?

To figure out what’s really going on in Deadly Illusions, we have to go back to the start. The movie kicks off with Davis’ Mary Morrison as a struggling writer who’s pulled back into penning another instalment to a franchise she thought she’d left behind. Here, Mary recruits the help of the Marry Poppins-esque Grace to help look after her children. Mary has already warned she becomes “a different person” when she writes, but as she gets deeper into her book, her feelings toward Grace start to change.

With Mary sure she’s developed a sexual relationship with Grace, she grows increasingly paranoid when she thinks she walks in on husband Tom also having sex with Grace – albeit a very different and more seductive version of her. Mary’s paranoia is passed off as stress, but when best friend Elaine is found stabbed to death in her office, Deadly Illusions gallops toward its break-neck finale as it looks like Mary could be framed for her murder. Everything hinges on a blurry CCTV tape that shows a woman with her face hidden, leaving Elaine’s office around the time of her murder. It doesn’t take a genius to work out this is almost certainly not Mary.

When Mary is released from police questioning, she heads to Grace’s hometown in search of answers. Here, she questions Grace’s aunt about what’s really going on. It’s clear Grace’s aunt has some form of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which apparently runs in the family. It turns out that Grace’s troubled past involved her and her siblings being chained up by their parents. During the trauma, Grace developed a wild and dangerous personality called Margaret. A series of flashbacks show it was Margaret who’d been tearing Mary’s life apart while Grace is forced to endure from the psychological sidelines.

Mary arrives home to find Margaret having attacked Tom in the shower and her husband bleeding out in the bathroom. Similar to the aforementioned Split, the Grace personality manages to break through just in time to try and stop Margaret. The dominant Margaret then takes control, which leads to a bloody fight between Mary and Margaret. Mary manages to smash her over the head with a vase, subduing Margaret and allowing Grace to come forward again. The fight ends with Grace pleading for Mary to take care of her. Jump forward a year and it looks like the Morrison family is back to normal.

While it would’ve been easy to end Deadly Illusions here, the movie continues to amp up the twists and turns. Having finished her book, Mary lays the “untitled” manuscript at Elaine’s grave. The assumption here is that Mary’s book is the titular Deadly Illusions. However, the writers strop just short of confirming this.

Mary then visits Grace in a secure (or not-so) psychiatric facility. The two play cards and seem perfectly content, before the movie’s final scene shows someone leaving the building. Much like the tenuous CCTV that tried to implicate Mary in Elaine’s murder, the mystery woman’s face is obscured. The final credits roll as no one is quite sure whether it’s Mary or Grace/Margaret walking off to freedom. In a movie that’s so packed with laughable twists and increasingly OTT melodrama, it seems just a step too far to wrap up all the mysteries. Here’s hoping it’s not the setup for Deadly Illusions 2…

Looking at the bigger picture, there’s the idea that the dramatic series of events are an American Psycho-inspired work of fiction from the mind of Mary herself. Although we’re never told what her books are about, the various covers hint at a horror/thriller genre similar to what happens during the movie’s runtime. Could it be that Mary’s entire interaction with Grace was simply the plot of her book? There’s also the lingering question of whether Grace is real at all. With two other characters seeming to have DID, there’s a chance that Mary herself is another. After all, this would explain the cryptic “different person” line – though going against the theory that Grace isn’t real, we see Tom, Elaine, and Mary’s kids all interact with the picture-perfect nanny, suggesting she’s not the figment of Mary’s overactive imagination. 

One niggling plot point is what’s actually real and what’s a consequence of Mary’s mind. Although we get confirmation Margaret seduced Tom in the kitchen, it’s unclear how much of Mary’s romance with her actually transpired. From a naked romp in the pool to an X-rated session in the bathroom, there were plenty of steamy scenes that viewers never quite get to the bottom of.

For now, we’re left with more questions than answers as the cigar-chomping Mary Morrison presumably mulls over her next novel. Whether you believe the simplistic ending of Mary leaving Grace in the facility, whether you think Margaret staged her own daring escape, or whether you think it was all in Mary’s head, Deadly Illusions is a puzzling thriller that doesn’t quite hit the mark and leaves us scratching our heads.

Deadly Illusions is streaming now on Netflix – check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix.

Advertisement

For more news and recommendations, check out our Movies hub or our full TV Guide.