Coming straight of the mid-90’s Sixth Sense fad and colliding with classic John Carpenter directing – a la In the Mouth of Madness – comes a UK phenomenon entitled Dead End. Directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, Dead End takes a turn off the page of classic horror cinema by mixing a bizarre sequence of events with terrifying imagery and a simple story, while maintaining it’s integrity throughout the entire film.
The story involves a man named Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) who is taking his wife Laura (Lin Shaye) and his two kids Marion (Alexandra Holden) and Richard (Mick Cain) to his wife’s family for a nice Christmas eve. Frank decides he’s going to take a shortcut – for the first time in 20 years – and it becomes a decision he wishes he never made.
First off all, both Andrea and Canepa blew my mind with their casting choices – the only person missing was Jeremy Sisto. The script acted as if it were written for the actors/actresses whom starred in Dead End. If anyone has seen Lin Shaye in action (Detroit Rock City) then they know what an incredible actress she is. While lost on this “short cut” all of the characters at one point or another go insane, and when Lin loses her marbles, you’re in for such a treat. Her mix of hysterical antics and creepiness go hand in hand in adding to the suspense of the movie, while giving us some great dialogue while we embark on our journey. I also loved the addition of Ray Wise to the cast, he felt like the “reality” boy of the group. I felt like I was watching Sam Niel act right out of In the Mouth of Madness! Sure he whooped the Creepers ass in Jeepers Creepers 2, but he was just plain awesome in Dead End. But you’ve got to have a tension breaker, and Richard was quite the character for the job. He spends the entire first twenty minutes of the flick making fun of Marion’s boyfriend (who’s also on the ride). Marions boyfriend Brad suggests some hints of relaxing that he learned on his baseball team and Richard breaks the ice with the following comment, “Was your entire school gay, or just the baseball team?” He’s filled with great one-liners that will keep you laughing early on in the film – and yet, the tension never drops – I blame that one the incredible visual work.
The movie is dark, and grainy, which gives you an unsettled feeling while you watch the film. The humor seems to be an attempt to relieve this tension, only it doesn’t work. All you see is forest, and a few random creepy items lying in the middle of the road. I especially loved the shots from the sky of the car driving down this endless road; every time they showed the shot, the camera would be higher and higher. By the end of the movie, you could see nothing but trees after trees in this dark dark forest with little headlights gleaming so gently through the woods. Other great visuals was the way the directors showed the car speeding through the film, the put a camera close to the road and showed the yellow stripes speeding by. The final thing I want to share with you is that during some scenes, a few of the people get “taken away” by a mysterious black car. The visual of the person glaring out the back of the car is eerie, twisted and morbid and only adds to this truly astounding flick.
But what really makes this film good is how they can make you laugh one moment and then all of a sudden get your panties in a bunch. There are things appearing in the pitch black, babies crying, and best of all is a little trick they play on you. Every few scenes, they come to a stop on the road, because something – or someone – is blocking the road. Everyone gets out and comments on this “thing” only you dont get to see it right away. The directors toy with you, and give you a sense of dread without actually showing anything. It was brilliant directing and brilliant camera work. Eventually you get a taste of what you want to see, and that’s all you need in the end.
After tons of great scenes, great one-liners and a few interesting deaths – the film eventually pans itself out and everything is explained. Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa must have been inspired by the mid-90’s horror genre (not the Scream crap), because the ending seemed a little “worn out.” If I had seen this film 3-4 years ago, I was have been screaming “HOLY SHI!T!” The fact of the matter is, its weak for now, but try and put your mindset back a few years because this film really is a piece of kick ass art and I cannot wait to see this bad boy again! Lucky for everyone in the US, Lions Gate Films has acquired the rights to the movie and is pending on a 2004 release for it. Click the link at the top to check out the official site.