It feels like I've already spent a lifetime trying to figure out the enigma that is Netflix's Horse Girl, and the movie only dropped today. First, Netflix announced the name of the movie, begging the question: Does there really need to be a movie about the weird girl in your high school? Then, they dropped the trailer, begging a new question: Was the horse girl in my high school abducted by aliens? Now, my question is simple: What the hell happened in Horse Girl???
We've known since the trailer that we were going to be dealing with some trippy stuff. Sarah, played by Alison Brie (who also co-wrote the film with director Jeff Baena), is a lonely young woman working at a craft store with a tragic family backstory and an obsession with a fictional supernatural show called Purgatory. As the film progresses, however, we learn that Sarah's family has a history of mental illness that she's worried is catching up with her. She begins waking up in strange places, finding mysterious scratches on her walls and in her car, and having dreams of alien abduction that might be real. The entire film is a battle between what's happening and what's in her head.
The ending is when things go off the rails. With thoughts of clones, time loops, and alien abduction in our heads, Sarah dresses up as her grandmother (or, depending on what you believe, actually is her grandmother) to take her horse Willow out into the woods. There, she is abducted into the sky, peacefully. The movie provides no other explanation. It's up to you to believe if the ending happened as-is, or is a part of Sarah's delusion.
"We crafted it that way on purpose," Brie previously told Refinery29 in an interview. "I think most importantly, whatever you believe is happening at the end of the movie, it's mostly about having a blissful surrender for our main character. A real moment of self-acceptance — that's the most important thing.”
But, if you do want to pick a side, we broke them down below.
Team It Was All Real:
While people in Horse Girl may not believe Sarah, we've been with her throughout the whole movie, and some things are hard to explain away. For instance, she does dream about people who she then ends up seeing in real life, like the plumber and her roommate in the psychiatric facility. Then, in that scene with Joan (Molly Shannon), she does hear the words that Joan is going to say before she says them.
Speaking of Joan, she spots the back of a horse at the beginning of the film, which we later see is Sarah in a supposed time loop walking Willow through the parking lot. If Joan is talking to Sarah and seeing a horse that is also being lead by Sarah — and Joan is an outsider in all this — then wouldn't that make everything objectively true?
Team It Was All In Her Head:
As convincing as that may sound, there are aspects of Sarah's breakdown that can be explained more rationally, including her memory lapses and waking up in new places after sleepwalking. Whereas Joan is an objective witness to the potential reality of the situation, Sarah's psychiatrist, played by Jay Duplass, is an unbiased witness to her mental illness.
There is also the fact that, at the very end, Sarah is lifted in the sky towards a sun that looks like the "Mark Of Hades." The "Mark Of Hades" only exists in Purgatory, the fictional television show that she loves. It does not have a significant meaning IRL, which just as much proves that all of this is happening inside her psyche.
As for the real answer? Brie says it's up to Reddit to decide.
“If there’s not a Reddit message board about this movie, I would be shocked and frankly appalled,” she told Vulture. “I want Reddit fans to know we were keeping them in mind while making it.”