Director – Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Cast – Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain, Alexandra Holden, Billy Asher, Amber Smith, Steve Valentine
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Dead End is a film I had heard/read many positive things about, so I was pretty stoked to give this one a watch. I was surprised at the film’s high level of comedic content, which I did not see coming with the film’s plot and poster, but what really surprised me was that I did not enjoy this film as much as I wanted it to, and found it a borderline-positive watch in the end.
Ray Wise(Jeepers Creepers 2, Swamp Thing, One Missed Call remake) stars as Frank Harrison, who is taking his wife, son, daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend on a weekend trip to his in-laws for the Christmas holiday. It is late, and Frank is having a hard time staying awake and decides to take a short-cut for the first time after making this trip on numerous occasions. What started off as a harmless and justifiable move turns out to be a regretful one for Frank when they come across a strange girl on the side of the road and offer her a helping hand.
The film is simple and of low-budget proportions, which usually amounts to a great watch due to the filmmakers being forced to get creative(such as Sam Raimi in his epic The Evil Dead) or suffer delivering a terrible watch. In the case of Dead End it seems the creators got creative enough for this one not to suck, and I can appreciate them doing what they can with very little.
Two directors deliver this watch to us, Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, and for the most part their direction is on the positive side. We get a fun tone from the film in the form of some wit and smartass-ness from a few of the characters, and despite not showing much we do get some fair tension as well. Our directors do a good job of executing the scene involving the antagonist of the film, the strange girl, and they manage to deliver some fairly cool girl, although much like everything else in the film…we don’t see much of it. On numerous occasions you are left with “what you don’t see is scary” scenarios, which I did not find scary but did find some joy in. I did however absolutely hate the execution regarding Frank’s wife Laura Harrington, portrayed by the usually awesome Lin Shaye(A Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters, Critters 2, 2001 Maniacs, Snakes On A Plane, 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, Driftwood, Hood of Horror). I will not say that her acting was bad because I am sure that her performance is what the directors wanted, and that is what left me disappointed. I found her character horribly executed in regards to her performance, which was so bad I was losing much interest in the film when her character really took off in the latter half of the flick.
Story-wise the film is quite simple to begin with, which is the area of the film that I enjoyed the most. We are left in the dark for quite some time as the carnage ensues, which I found to be a great idea and a good way to get things going. We get the majority of the film’s real humor during this first half, and it also comes with the most satisfying kills as well. Speaking of kills, the first few were downright awesome in nature, but sadly that is where the storyline positives end. The latter half of the film lost the feeling the first half set up, and we were instead given some very stupid scenes involving Laura Harrington(yes, I said it again), stupid usage of the other characters, and way too many unanswered questions left at the film’s climax. I normally do not mind an ending that leaves me asking questions about the film, just as long as I am given enough information to ask the questions and enjoy them. With Dead End we are given a climax that I found very unsatisfying because I really did not know what questions to ask regarding it because so little information was given involving the back story. We have seen it time and time again where a film starts off awesome and completely collapses during the latter half of the runtime, sadly that is the case with this one.
Overall, this is a film I really wanted to like and did find a few positives in thanks to the flick‘s awesome first half, but sadly the story takes a turn for the worst and gives us some unforgivable silliness thanks to some dumb story ideas that also came with negative direction. The positives the first half delivered weight in over the negatives we get in the second half, but barely, resulting in just an OK watch in the end.