This article contains major spoilers for the Roh ending. You can check out our full spoiler-free review by clicking these words.
Netflix’s new (and very good!) Malaysian horror Roh isn’t a clear-cut exercise in storytelling. In fact, it’s deliberately obfuscated, rife in symbolism and metaphor, and much more concerned with atmosphere than plot. Thanks to that, it’s a difficult film to unpack and make sense of, but we’ll attempt to do so anyway.
Events are sat into motion when Along and Angah, after ominously discovering a dead deer hanging by its neck, take in a little girl whom they name Adik. They clean, clothe and feed this child with the help of their widowed mother, Mak, and she repays them by prognosticating their demise and slitting her own throat. Admittedly, though, Mak had kept them up late with the story of a forest spirit that hunts animals and children. This, it turns out, is only the beginning of their problems.
After leaving Adik’s body in a clearing, the family return home to be told by a creepy shaman named Tok that the rocks that have suddenly appeared around their secluded cabin are a bad omen. Other supernatural happenings begin, including a lookalike spectre of Adik chasing Along out of the crawlspace under the property. Shortly after she takes ill and Tok advises a ritual that involves the sacrifice of two birds, but Angah, too sensitive for that, lets one of them go.
Along’s condition only worsens. Her sleepwalking leads her to Adik’s grave and facilitates more encounters with what appears to be her ghost. She’s eventually discovered by Adik’s father, Pemburu, a hunter-tracker whom Mak is suspicious of. At first, when he comes a-calling looking for the girl, she turns him away. Later, when he returns a delirious Along home, she accuses him of kidnapping her in the first place. Eventually, Along tips him off to what is happening and he’s able to find his daughter’s body, while Along brutally kills herself by repeatedly slamming her head into a sharp piece of metal protruding from the cabin’s floor.
This is only the beginning of several grim traumas that help to comprise the Roh ending. Following this, Angah disappears, Mak blames Pemburu for his disappearance (and the death of Along), and follows him into the woods, where he finds and kills Angah by slitting his throat, shortly after which Mak stabs him through the neck with a spear. All this death is attributable to Tok, an iblis utilizing the bodies of humans to commit dastardly deeds. And Tok has unequivocally “won” by the end of the film, since every human character has either died already or is burned up when Along torches the family cabin.