Netflix’s murder mystery film, ‘Reptile,’ takes the audience through many twists and turns before getting to the bottom of the truth. It follows Detective Tom Nichols as he tries to crack the mystery of Summer Elswick’s death. Her dead body is found in one of the empty houses she was prepping to sell. She is stabbed so brutally that the knife gets stuck inside her bone, leaving the cops with a murder weapon and many more questions.
As Tom starts to peel out the layers of the case, some startling truths come to light, which make him reconsider everything he thought he knew about the people around him. By the end of the film, the relevance of its title becomes evident. If you are wondering why the movie is named ‘Reptile’ and how it plays into the film’s plot, here’s what you should know. SPOILERS AHEAD
Reason Behind the Title
In an initial scene in the movie, when Summer Elswick is cleaning up the house to prepare it for sale, she finds a shed snakeskin under a houseplant. This is perhaps the only direct reference to a reptile throughout the film, but it hints at the metaphorical reptiles that have shed their skins to blend in with normal people and hide their identities as ruthless criminals.
In conversation with Netflix Tudum, director Grant Singer revealed that he loved the idea of “one-word titles” and came up with the title ‘Reptile’ early on while making the film. Apart from being catchy and unique, he also found it relevant to the film’s plot and how its villains can come off as regular, often jolly people who like to have a good time. They can be warm and welcoming, but when the time comes, they shed that exterior and reveal their true form.
In the film, Tom Nichols comes to Scarborough after getting hounded over a case involving his ex-partner, who turned out to be crooked. Here, he finds friendship and acceptance in his fellow officers, which include Allen (Tom’s wife’s uncle) and Wally. They make him feel at home and offer him help whenever things get tricky. He can rely on them when things get tough, or at least, that’s what he thinks.
Digging into the mystery of Summer’s death leads Tom to discover the corruption in the police department. It turns out that Summer’s boyfriend, Will Grady, and his mother are in cahoots with Wally. He plants drugs at houses, which are later seized and then sold by the Gradys. It is a profitable endeavor for both. The Gradys sell the houses in Summer’s name to dodge taxes, but she doesn’t get her commission. It is invested in a property under the control of the Gradys.
As Tom thinks about exposing Wally, he stumbles upon the evidence that proves Allen’s involvement in the case. This is a huge shock to him because Allen is practically family and the closest person to Tom. Another surprise awaits Tom when he discovers that the chief, to whom he went with the proof against Wally and Allen, is also involved in the shady dealings. It looks like Tom can’t trust anyone.
Everyone Tom thought was his friend quickly turns into an enemy who will not hesitate to get him out of the way when he discovers the truth and threatens to expose them. These warm people become cold-blooded killers who will go to any lengths to protect their interests. It feels as if they were wearing different skins to show different sides of themselves to people, but in the end, they shed all pretenses and reveal their true nature. This is what the title of the movie hints at, and that’s why it’s called ‘Reptile.’