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The Esoteric Meaning of the Movie “Prisoners”



Prisoners is a 2013 thriller about the abduction of two girls in Pennsylvania. Behind this crime story is an underlying spiritual subtext and subtle symbolism that gives the movie another layer of meaning – one that comments on religion, morality and the hidden forces at play in society. 

Warning: Gigantic spoilers ahead!

Prisoners is the kind of movie that stays in your mind long after the ending credits roll. This is not only due to its gripping, dramatic story but to the spiritual subtext that underlies it all. As the film unfolds and the crime investigation progresses, esoteric concepts and symbolism are also introduced, giving the movie an entirely new dimension. What appears to be a story about the abduction of two little girls turns into a profound spiritual journey of humans facing adversity and finding themselves lost between good and evil, right and wrong, and morality and immorality.

Prisoners takes place in an average American town, Conyers, Pennsylvania during the time of Thanksgiving. The grey, gritty and unglamorous setting of the movie allows the characters to shine through, as the story is driven by their pains, struggles, and dilemmas. Through the background and evolution of each character, the movie comments (and sometimes condemns) some aspects of American society. Some items that are touched upon: Christianity, “preppers”, secret societies and mind control. Let’s look at the most important characters in the movie.

Keller Dover, the Father

Mr. Dover is really, really pissed.

Mr. Dover is really, really pissed.

Played by Hugh Jackman, Keller Dover is a family man, a devout Christian and a “prepper” – someone who maintains a massive stockpile of various goods in his house in case of a major disaster. He is also very patriotic, for example, his favorite song is Star Spangled Banner. While not specifically stated in the movie, Keller somewhat has the profile of a Libertarian or close to the Tea Party movement. However, we quickly realize that in the context of this movie, these traits are far from helpful. In fact, they pretty much lead him to his downfall.

In the very first scene of the movie, Keller Dover recites a prayer right before his son shoots a deer. This sets the tone to the movie where religion mixes with the death of an "innocent bystander".

In the very first scene of the movie, Keller Dover recites a prayer right before his son shoots a deer. This sets the awkward tone of the movie where religion is associated with the death of an “innocent animal”.


He's a "Jesus fish on the pickup" and "cross hanging from the mirror" kind of guy.

Keller Dover is a  “Jesus fish on the truck” and “cross hanging from the mirror” kind of guy. To make things more Jesus-related, Keller is a carpenter.

We also quickly learn that Keller is a “prepper”. On the way back from hunting, Keller gives his son the same advice his father gave him:

“Be ready. Hurricane, flood, whatever ends up being. No more food gets delivered to the grocery store. Gas stations dry up. People just turn on each other. All of a sudden, all that stands between you and being dead … is you.”

Mr Dover's basement is a well-organized stockpile of supplies of food, tools, weapons and even gas masks.

Keller’s basement is a well-organized stockpile of food, tools, weapons and even gas masks.

Although there is nothing wrong or illegal about stockpiling items in one’s  basement, people around Keller act weirdly about it. We get the feeling that it is a taboo subject. When the detective visits Keller’s basement and discovers his “prepper” secret, Keller immediately becomes a suspect. In short, the movie communicates the idea that this type of person is suspicious and not trustworthy.

Upon learning that his little girl has probably been abducted, Keller becomes distraught. As the movie progresses, his desperation turns into madness and Keller kidnaps a guy whom he believes is the culprit and proceeds to torture him.

Although he was considered innocent and released by the police, Keller is convinced that Alex Jones is the culprit. He kidnaps him and tortures him for days to get him to talk.

Keller Dover kidnaps a weird guy named Alex Jones because he appears to know his daughter’s whereabouts.

Although Alex Jones kind of looks and acts like a child molester, we find out that he is innocent. Even worse, it turns out that he himself was abducted as a child and his odd behavior is the result of years of mind control that impaired his intellectual development (he has the IQ of a ten-year-old boy). The name choice of Alex Jones is interesting because, as many of you might know, it is also the name of the “conspiracy” radio host who promotes the “prepper” movement, constitutionalism and other elements Keller Dover probably agrees with. However, in the movie, Alex Jone’s name is associated with a mentally deficient boy who gets beaten up by Keller. Is this a way to “diss” Alex Jones and the people who agree with him?

Whatever the case may be, by kidnapping and torturing Alex Jones, Keller only further traumatizes an already-damaged person.

Going further into madness, Keller builds a a custom torture chamber where Alex is confined in a little dark space and is showered with scolding hot water.

Going further into madness, Keller builds a custom torture chamber where Alex is confined in a little dark space and is occasionally showered with scolding hot water.

For the rest of the movie, all we see of Alex is his one eye, lighted by that one hole, perhaps a symbol of his perpetual state of mind control.

For the rest of the movie, all we see of Alex is one eye (perhaps representing his perpetual state of mind control), lighted by the hole in his chamber.

So, instead of helping authorities find his daughter or even comforting his family, Keller lashes out at an innocent person and becomes a kidnapper himself.

While Keller’s actions may have stemmed from a noble purpose, he distinctly crosses the boundary between right and wrong. This conflict is further emphasized when Keller turns to prayer to find strength and, perhaps, answers. At one point, during a torture session, Keller recites the Lord’s Prayer:

“…and forgive our trespasses as we forgive …”

But he stops at the point where he is supposed to say “those who trespass against us” –  indicating that he cannot live up the Christian ideals described in the prayer he is reciting.

In short, Keller reacted to his daughter’s abduction in a violent matter, stubbornly focusing on a sole (innocent) person. Instead of providing comfort or seeking actual facts about his daughter’s abduction, Keller relied on instinct mixed with ignorance and anger. Through Keller’s response to the family crisis, the movie does not shine a favorable light on the “religious, patriotic, prepper” profile. Far from being prepared for disaster, Keller became paranoid, irrational, and prone to madness. Furthermore, behind his “good Christian” surface hides an infinite “stockpile” of anger, hate and rage.

Luckily, the detective in charge of the investigation is the exact opposite of Keller.

Detective Loki

Unlike Keller Dover, Detective Loki is rational, methodical, and never strays away from the law. He does not appear to have any kind of family and is portrayed as a loner dedicated to his job. Despite receiving constant verbal abuse from Keller, Loki stays focused on his task and manages to save pretty much everyone involved in this drama.

Loki is the name of a Norse god known to be crafty, quick-witted and sometimes heroic. He is also known to be a trickster, a shape-shifter who eventually turns against the gods. Does Detective Loki share traits with the Norse god he’s named after? It does symbolically represent the antithesis of the monotheistic, Judeo-Christian beliefs of Keller Dover. Furthermore, Loki definitely uses his intellectual powers to achieve his aims.

While Keller is associated with Jesus fishes and crosses, Loki is covered in occult symbols:

Detective Loki's Masonic is clearly shown a few times during the movie, often when he is shown using his brain and researching clues regarding the investigation.

Detective Loki’s Masonic ring is clearly displayed throughout the movie. It is most visible during scenes where he is researching clues or reflecting on what is happening. Loki represents the Masonic ideal of obtaining truth through one’s own means and intellect.

Loki has astrological symbols tattooed on his right fingers, which are important symbols of occult mysteries.

On his right hand are tattooed astrological symbols which are also extremely important in occult Mysteries.

On his neck is tattooed an eight-pointed star. In occult symbolism, this is known as the Star of Ishtar, a babylonian goddess associated with the planet Venus.

On his neck is tattooed an eight-pointed star. In occult symbolism, this is known as the Star of Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess associated with the planet Venus.

In short, Loki is associated with the rationality and enlightenment claimed by occult secret societies. In this sense, he is the opposite of the irrational, emotion-based Keller.

Merely through the varied symbolism associated with the characters of Keller Dover and Detective Loki, the movie criticizes the “religious prepper” type while glorifying members of secret societies. But Keller is not the only negative representative of Christianity in the film. While going through a list of sex offenders living in the area, Detective Loki ends up visiting a local priest … and finds him passed out on the floor, drunk. Then Loki finds a dead body in his basement (although it’s the body of a child abductor).

Prisoners also features another poor representative of Christianity:  Holly Jones, the kidnapper.

Holly Jones the Child Abductor, Mind Control and the War on God

Holly Jones standing next to an ironic painting of an angel watching over two children.

Holly Jones stands next to an ironic painting of an angel watching over two children.

Toward the end of the movie, we learn that Holly Jones (Alex Jones’ “aunt”) is the one who kidnapped the two little girls. She claims that she and her late husband used to be devout Christians and that they used to drive around “spreading the good word”. However, since they lost their son to cancer, they turned against God. She tells Keller:

“Making children disappear is the war we wage on God. Makes people lose their faith. Turns them into demons like you”.

As we learn about the modus operandi of the Jones couple, we discover that they use basic mind control techniques on the children: They drug the captives, traumatize them by throwing them in dark holes and subject them to crazy mind games. This system is represented by one important symbol: The maze.

The Maze

Detective Loki observes a picture of Holly's husband wearing a maze pendant.

Detective Loki observes a picture of Holly’s late husband who is wearing a maze pendant.

The symbol of the maze is extremely important throughout the movie. It represents the system that abducts children and, more importantly, the state of mind control these children are forced to live in.

The kidnappers gave children maze books saying "Finish all of the mazes and you can go home". This innocent game can become a traumatizing ordeal for a victim of mind control.

On this maze book is written “Finish all the mazes and you can go home”. This is given to the abducted children to mess with their minds.

After days of torture, Alex Jones finally says to Keller: “I am not Alex Jones”, implying that he was abducted by Holly and that he was given an alter persona. When Keller asks him where the kidnapped children are, Jones replies: “They’re in the maze. That’s where you’ll find them.” Of course, Jones does not refer to an actual maze but to the state of mind control, the children are subjected to.

Later, Detective Loki finds a suspect named Bob Taylor who acts in a bizarre matter and who was also a victim of Holly Jones. He stayed at her house for three weeks and was drugged with an LSD/Ketamine drug cocktail, which is classic a mind control technique. Bob managed to escape from the house, but while Bob is free, his mind is definitely not. We quickly realize that he is still “stuck in the maze”.

Bob's house is fully covered in never-ending mazes.

Bob’s house is covered with never-ending mazes.

While being interrogated by the police, Bob obsessively draws mazes which he claims are "maps" to the kidnapped children.

While being interrogated by the police, Bob obsessively draws mazes which he claims are “maps” to the kidnapped children.

While Bob’s “maps” do not actually lead to the physical location of the children, it leads to their psychological state: Trapped in the mind control maze of their handler. In actual mind control, mazes are an important trigger image that accurately represents a slave’s mind state.  “Maze maps” are programmed into the victim’s internal world to keep them from accessing their core/true personality.

Bob tries to help the police, but his damaged mind does not allow him to give out actual information. When Loki gets aggressive during interrogation and asks for specific answers, Bob says “I can’t …” and kills himself. Actual MK slaves are often programmed to commit suicide in these types of situations.

As Loki examines Bob’s house, he discovers that Bob is completely obsessed with the child abductors and their tactics (he recreates child abductions using dummies as a hobby). While searching Bob’s stuff, Loki finds a book that appears to be written about the Jones.

At Bob's house, Loki examines a book called "Finding the Invisible Man" which was written by an ex-FBI agent.

At Bob’s house, Loki examines a book called “Finding the Invisible Man” which was written by an ex-FBI agent.

According to Loki’s colleague, the book is about a “theoretical suspect believed to be responsible for a bunch of child abductions”. He adds that the book was “totally discredited”. The last page of the book contains an unsolvable maze, which was used by the Jones’ as a sick game to traumatize children.

While the book was discredited, “The Invisible Man” appears to accurately describe the Jones and their system of mind control. However, one can ask: Do the Jones work for a higher organization? Is “The Invisible Man” actually the MK Ultra system of the occult elite? Does the fact that the book was discredited imply that powerful people covered up that story?

Whatever the case may be, the movie has a “happy” ending: The children are rescued and returned to their family. So who is the true prisoner?

The Prisoner

In his frantic search for his daughter, which leads him to kidnap and torture Alex Jones, Keller Dover crosses the line between good and evil. He tries to justify his actions by claiming:

“He’s not a person anymore. He stopped being a person when he took our daughters.”

But by dehumanizing his captive in that manner, Keller stooped to the same level as the child abductors. He became one of them.

Later, when Keller realized that his daughter was at Holly Jones’ house, he rushed there in order to torture her. However, Holly had a gun and forced him to jump into a dark hole.

Instead of saving his daughter, Dover found himself trapped in the same hole his daughter was previously trapped in.

Instead of saving his daughter, Keller is thrown into the same hole his daughter was previously trapped in.

Therefore, Keller himself turns into a captive. After a period of moral tribulation, his time in the dark hole can represent his spiritual death and can be compared to the three days spent by Jesus Christ in his tomb before being resurrected. In ancient occult secret societies, candidates for initiation were held in darkness for several days to represent the death of their “old self” before they were “spiritually reborn”.

While investigating Holly's house, Loki hears Dover blowing in a whistle found in the hole. The movie ends like this.

While investigating Holly’s house, Loki hears Keller blowing a whistle he found in the hole. The movie ends like this.

Guess who ultimately saves Keller from the hole? Detective Loki. In a sense, Loki is Keller’s savior, the one who frees him from spiritual death and toward a second life. Loki, a representative of Masonic-like occult secret societies, is therefore portrayed as the one who pulls Keller, along with his irrational and hypocritical fervor, out of the hell he put himself into.

While Loki probably saved his life, Keller will nevertheless have to go to prison for the crimes he committed. In the end, there’s only one true prisoner in the movie: Keller Dover.

In Conclusion

Through the characters of Keller Dover and Detective Loki, Prisoners comments on specific elements of society, casting them in either a favorable or unfavorable light. Keller is a family man that is religious, patriotic, and prepared for disaster. While at first, he appears to be the hero of the story, he somewhat turns into a “bad guy”. The attributes that positively defined him, in the beginning, turn into gigantic flaws causing him to become irrational, sadistic and paranoid. The one who saves the day is Detective Loki, a character literally covered in occult symbolism, hinting that the way of secret societies is the “true light”. Loki’s enlightened ways ultimately give Keller a chance to be reborn.

Prisoners’ narrative and treatment of its characters reflects the direction of mass media today. The Keller Dovers of this world, who are either openly religious, patriotic or prepared for disaster, are often deemed suspicious and prone to negative action. The values represented by Keller Dover are increasingly being frowned upon by mass media. Are these traits not desirable in the America of the New World Order? In an America where fundamental rights and freedoms are being slowly and steadily revoked, people like Keller Dover are the most likely to take action about it. And the elite does not want that. Perhaps that is why the Department of Homeland Security creates training videos portraying “constitutional, patriotic militias” as terrorist groups. Perhaps they want to find a way to turn them, like Keller, into prisoners.


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