Midnight in the Switchgrass is a slow-burn action thriller that delves into the murky world of truckstop murders and serial killers. A renegade FBI agent and a dedicated cop team up to find the sinister perpetrator of a string of murders and realize soon enough that out in the switchgrass, things are not as simple as they seem. The narrative darts back and forth, giving us glimpses of the serial killer’s appalling crimes while the two law officials try to find him amidst a dark milieu of truckstop motels, beer, and country-rock music. The ending is fitting but not completely tied up. Let’s dig a little deeper into the climax of Midnight in the Switchgrass SPOILERS AHEAD.
Midnight in the Switchgrass Plot Synopsis
Is Midnight in the Switchgrass a True Story?
The film opens just outside Pensacola, Florida, where a salesman stops by the side of the road to relieve himself and finds the murdered corpse of a young woman in her 20s. Soon enough, local police officer Byron (Emile Hirsch) is on the scene and realizes the murdered body fits the modus operandi of several other murders he’s seen in the area. Try as he might, his senior officer refuses to believe that a serial killer is on the loose.
Meanwhile, FBI agents Karl (Bruce Willis) and Rebecca (Megan Fox) are on a mission (fittingly called “Operation Safe Highway”) to nab killers who prey on young women around highways and truck stops. Rebecca is a reckless agent who insists on putting herself in the path of danger, much to Karl’s frustration. After 2 of their stings fail because the perpetrator Rebecca is trying to catch fails to show up, her partner calls it quits and leaves, calling her too toxic to work with. By then, however, Rebecca has met Byron and the two realize that they are after the same man.
Concurrently, the story follows the truck driver Peter, who rescues a girl named Tracey and promises to take her home to be cared for by his wife and daughter. However, the next time we see her, she is being held hostage in a makeshift padded cell in a shed near Peter’s house. We then see Peter go to a motel after telling his wife he’s busy with extra driving shifts and murder a young girl who invites him into her room. The next night, he heads to a bar where he plans on meeting a girl he met online. Unbeknownst to him, that “girl” is Rebecca, who plans on apprehending him when he shows up.
Midnight in the Switchgrass Ending: Is Rebecca Dead or Alive?
The operation doesn’t go as planned as Byron and Rebecca get separated at the bar, and Peter manages to drug the FBI agent and abducts her. A panicking Byron then begins to piece together Tracey’s kidnapping and finally manages to deduce that the killer’s identity is Peter. He rushes to his house to apprehend him but is told by his wife that he’s not home. Peter, meanwhile, is in his shed interrogating Rebecca after she helps Tracey escape from her cell. He hangs the FBI agent, choking her, but fails to notice the knife she is concealing. Rebecca stabs Peter but is unable to free herself and passes out.
In the movie’s closing scenes, we see Rebecca in the hospital, where Karl commends her for being the bravest agent he knows. She is unable to reply because of her injured throat, which is heavily bruised from being choked. In the film’s closing scenes, we get glimpses of Peter’s wife and daughter outside their house and of Tracey being rescued from a neighbor’s home, where she took refuge after her escape.
Despite us seeing Rebecca pass out from being choked, the closing hospital scene tells us that she is very much alive, albeit injured. Most likely she was saved by Byron, who, after waiting in vain for Peter at his house, decided to leave but got a helpful clue from his daughter Bethany. The young girl had earlier spotted Tracey escaping and, thinking it was an intruder, warned her murderous father that there was someone outside. Peter, realizing that one of his victims might have escaped, had then gone out to his shed.
Bethany tells the cop as much, which is how Byron seemingly finds the shed and the grievously wounded Rebecca therein. He seems to have made it right in the nick of time, considering the shed is about half a mile from Peter’s house, and she’s already passing out from asphyxiation when the young girl gives him the clue.
Is Peter Dead?
The last we see Peter, he is lying on the floor of his shed, heaving after being stabbed by Rebecca. Though we don’t see him die, the fact that he remains quite still and doesn’t even try to get up after his injury seems to suggest that he may very well be dead. Another hint about the fate of the brutal serial killer is that in the closing scenes of the film, we see his wife Karen and daughter Bethany being led away from their house by the authorities. The two look dazed as if they cannot comprehend what is happening, which is understandable since they’ve likely just found out that one of their closest family members is a serial killer.
Of course, there is a chance that Peter survives and is being treated at a hospital whilst closely guarded by the police. However, the theme of brutally killed parents resulting in their children growing up to be self-destructive is strongly hinted in the movie, with both Rebecca and the violent pimp seen at the beginning admitting to as much. This hints strongly at the fact that Peter, too, is dead.
The fact that we see a closeup of his young, impressionable daughter’s face in the closing scenes also seems to hint that the trend will continue, and Peter’s daughter will likely suffer from the trauma of knowing about her father’s actions.
Why Does Karl Stop Working With Rebecca?
Karl comes across as a dedicated agent who genuinely fears for his reckless partner’s wellbeing. He grudgingly agrees to go along with her sting operations where she puts herself in the path of danger repeatedly. When he finally quits, he does so after telling her that she’s toxic and that he’s scared of getting killed whilst trying to save her. The point is slightly more harshly phrased by Rebecca, who calls him weak. It also seems that Karl wants a more relaxed life, as the differences in age, motivation, and energy levels of the two agents are quite apparent. He earlier even mentions his impending divorce as a reason for wanting to discontinue working on Operation Safe Highway.
How Many Women Did Peter Kill?
The local cop, Byron, claims that he has been following murders by the same murderer for over 2 years. As he explains to anyone who will listen, all seven murders that he has seen so far have been committed in a similar fashion, with the corpses seen inflicted with bite marks. In addition, the victims all seem to match the profile of “drug-friendly” young women who moonlight as sex workers around highways. This convinces him that the murders are committed by the same man, which turns out to be Peter. We see him commit 2 more murders (Sarah Kellogg and another girl in a white dress who is found in a bathtub), bringing the total count up to a grisly 9 victims.
However, these are just the murders that Byron has noticed, and it seems like no one else is paying much attention to the string of murders. Furthermore, as Byron explains, the victims the killer chooses are such that not much time is spent investigating their deaths. This means that Peter could’ve committed many more murders than the 9 we are privy to. The bag he keeps hidden in his house containing clothing from his victims also seems to be quite full and most likely holds more than 9 items.
Lastly, Peter seems to have moved to the countryside on purpose, most likely so he could hide his sinister proclivities. Considering he and his family moved into their house 5 years ago, it seems like Peter has likely been killing for several years, and his list of victims could be significantly longer.