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In Reptile (2023), Tom (Benicio del Toro) and Cleary (Ato Essandoh) interviewed a witness, Brenda, who described the man who entered the house where Summer (Matilda Lutz) was killed as someone who "was wearing a hoodie", "walked sort of funny," and "like he had a limp." This made me think that the killer would have these characteristics. The film shows a man with a limp in one scene (no hoodie), but that turned out to be a red herring.

Later, it is revealed that

Will Grady (Justin Timberlake)

is the mastermind behind the murder, but they are not shown to be wearing a hoodie or have a limp in the scene where they encounter Summer. They are also shown after Summer has already been stabbed.

As far as I can recall, the only time the limp is mentioned again is when Tom reads a newspaper article about a suspect who was killed by the police. He expresses his frustration that the article does not mention anything about the limp, or about other of the suspect's traits. The film explains the reason for these discrepancies later on, except for the limp.

So my question is: who actually killed Summer? What is the significance of the scene where the witness gives her description of the suspect walking “sort of funny” and having a “limp”, and why does it apparently not match the final reveal?

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  • Is it not possible that the killer pretended to have a limp, to throw off any potential witnesses?
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 1, 2023 at 10:10
  • @F1Krazy That’s a possibility. However, it raises the question of the significance of the killer pretending to have a limp to mislead potential witnesses instead of using a different tactic. And why was there no reference or explanation of the limp in any other part of the film? Oct 1, 2023 at 11:44
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    Del Toro wouldn't have any connection to another movie where the main antagonist had a vanishing limp, would he? ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 1, 2023 at 15:32

2 Answers 2

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who killed Summer?

It's never said. One of this movie's many "mysteries"1. Reptile it is a film – by narrative choice – full of details and clues which, combined, (should?) lead to the culprit. But its plot adds too many subplots, making the big picture blurry.

how is the witness's description of the killer having a limp relevant?

Many murderers, especially in this era of CCTV, try and hide at the best of their abilities who they might be: hoodies, gloves, glasses, wigs, disabilities and so on... It seems logical that whoever did it, they tried and hid themselves, leading the police on a wrong track. Any potential witness may describe the killer as limping (think "Keyser Söze" here).

Like many questions one might have about that movie (I think of this one too), this one might not have an answer. Some people like that movie and directing style, some (like me), don't. Because, as Hugo Prevost writes it in Pieuvre:

Reptile est donc un drame qui tient bien la route pendant les deux tiers de l’oeuvre, avant de s’essouffler et de se terminer sur un pétard mouillé. Dans le contexte, qualifier le tout de « David Fincher léger » semble approprié. N’est pas Seven qui veut, après tout.

Translation: Reptile is a solid well-constructed drama for the two-thirds of the movie, before slowing down to the point of ending like a wet firecracker. Calling it a "David Fincher light" (read: zero / of the poors) seems appropriate. Not everybody can make "Seven" after all.

Roger Ebert is even more caustic and biting.2 But Netflix explains some of the inconsistencies/twists as part of the plot.3 The writers/filmmaker/producers maybe wanted to show "the good and the bad" as one person, when, like reptiles, shedding skin would symbolize a re-birth, and make the bad become good. But they left too many aspects of the story and the plot unexplained.


1. TIME says it might be "a loner with a Charles Manson-like stare (Michael Carmen Pitt) [because he] is seen slinking around the crime scene and elsewhere—maybe he did it." But it's also said that "*This is why Will killed her – not because of the affair, but because she threatened to expose his scam."

2. Benicio Del Toro slinks and weaves through Grant Singer’s debut thriller “Reptile,” but the film struggles to develop a confident personality around him, ultimately coming apart at the seams. Clearly inspired by David Fincher’s meticulousness—Singer too is a music video vet and has worked with The Weeknd, Skrillex, Sam Smith, and many more — “Reptile” is overly mannered and precious with its details, but its biggest misstep is its failure to understand that procedurals need to get narratively tighter and not just more convoluted. Del Toro always brings it, and this is actually one of his more intriguing performances in a long time, but one consistently wishes that it was in a movie that knew what to do with it.

2. > Why is the movie called Reptile? > “In the movie, characters are introduced as one thing and revealed to be something else,” Singer continues. “There’s a shedding of skin that occurs, and it felt like an appropriate metaphor for the film. Some of the most unethical people in the film can be very likable in moments.” Like anything with cold blood, these reptiles can be perfectly warm under the right circumstances. In a film full of mystery, even the title is a bit ambiguous.

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So my question is: who actually killed Summer?

Wally

He has the strength to do the damage that is seen.

He is the person that Allen is hiding the car for.

In the recap, it isn't Will, as he has arrived (with the other guy he just did a deal with, so he has an alibi) and sees the handiwork has already been done, but his wife is still alive. He's just seeing her die. Or just making sure that she does.

Since Will is in on it, he could have told the conspirators about Eli (who has a limp).

This allows Wally to include a limp to redirect away from him.

Otherwise, the other limping character is Allen, but he is shown to be too weak to have done the damage he did.

I think the limp is part of the writers idea of misdirecting the audience, and not just the lead character.

From reviews, where he says he's just having fun, maybe thats part of it, he's having fun with you too..

Not a great film, but it had a stronger first half and got weaker later on.

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