Today’s glut of straight-to-DVD horror films can be partially blamed on the two low-budget VHS offerings that Fangoria Films kicked out way back in 1999: LADY OF THE LAKE and I, ZOMBIE. Neither film was mind-blowing, but both were diverting, and I rented them impulsively the moment I saw them on the shelf, much like one might purchase a particularly lurid tabloid while standing in line at the grocery store. And in my mind, that has been the focal point of the entire direct-to-DVD industry: the IMPULSIVE horror fan. Somehow The Man finally learned that there are a few of us who can’t resist the allure of box art when it features a rotten zombie head, bloody cleavage, or a blatantly cheesy tag line, and we are slowly being bled of our expendable income because we can’t resist the urge to pluck KILLER TOONS from a Blockbuster shelf at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning.
After writing and directing LADY OF THE LAKE and the underrated SLASHERS (2001), Maurice Devereaux disappeared from the scene, but he makes his return with END OF THE LINE, an apocalyptic horror film set in one of the creepier genre settings: the subway. Karen (Ilona Elkin) waits to take the subway home after a day of work at the hospital. While at the station, she’s briefly harassed by a leering perv but is promptly rescued by the endearing Mike (Nicolas Wright), a guy so geeky that if REVENGE OF THE NERDS was a PS3 game, he’d be an end-level boss. During the film’s early scenes, Devereaux lays on the tension by preying on our existing fears of the subway: an empty station full of stark pillars, dimly lit by flickering fluorescent bulbs; the train suddenly stopping on the tracks and going completely dark. In fact, END OF THE LINE is reminiscent of Smith’s CREEP (2004) in its impressive ability to rape our ever-present fears of the underground railway.
While Karen and Mike are on the train, a pernicious religious cult known as the Voice of Eternal Hope is signaled to take over the world, “saving” souls by hacking up non-believers with kick-ass pewter crucifix knives (and the occasional broad sword). Karen and Mike band with a handful of diverse characters—a horny couple, a punky Asian chick, Neil (Neil Napier, who played “Spartan with stick” in 300; good luck picking him out), and a couple of subway maintenance men—in their attempts to battle the evil cult in the dark underground tunnels, hoping to eventually escape to the surface streets.
END OF THE LINE features some harrowing scenes, notably the initial cult takeover of the subway train, a segment that seems eerily accurate in its depiction of the emotional detachment of homicidal religious fanatics. The movie was impressively gory, with convincing make-up effects, and although it was rife with cheap jump scares, there were also several GENUINE scares that demand respect. Maurice Devereaux is a talented horror auteur who always manages to squeeze some rich moments of terror out of a miniscule budget, and with the arrival of END OF THE LINE, there’s hope that he’ll continue to release quality movies into an oversaturated direct-to-DVD market.