Dead End (2003) / Horror-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for violence, gore, nudity, and sexual content
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Alexandra Holden, Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain, Billy Asher, Amber Smith
Director: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Screenplay: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Review published November 29, 2004
Dead End is a silly, blackly comic horror film that will probably please die-hard genre fans, but few others. Basically, we're in the realm of the visceral, where very little makes sense, and soon it becomes obvious that the creators of this low-budget misfire just want to play with our minds. As clever as they think they are, this premise has been done before, especially in recent years, although I won't spoil it for you by making comparisons, as you'll know exactly what to expect should I reveal them. Hopefully I haven't piqued your curiosity by doing this, as I definitely don't recommend this film to anyone who isn't going to watch this for some mindless scares.
Dead End takes place on Christmas Eve, with five people in a car on a deserted country road out to spend Christmas with a loved one. In the vehicle are Frank (Ray Wise, RoboCop), his wife Laura (Lin Shaye, Boat Trip), their son Richard (Mick Cain), their daughter Marion (Alexandra Holden, The Hot Chick), and Marion's boyfriend Brad (Billy Asher). This isn't a road Frank normally takes, but he is falling asleep at the wheel and bored, so he decided to spice things up a little. The road is dark and free of other vehicles, but something catches Frank's eye in the form of a woman in a white dress (Amber Smith), and he stops to investigate. After this, the horror begins, but try as they might, the family seems to be on the road to nowhere.
I don't really claim to be clever, but I was way ahead of Dead End long before the reason as to what is going on is revealed. As such, I would say this was a complete waste of my time, but I will acknowledge that others may find the revelation to be fascinating. Regardless, even if I were completely stymied by the whole thing, there just isn't enough entertainment value to be had here to justify such a long build up to a simplistic resolution. Perhaps if this were an episode of "The Twilight Zone", I'd be more forgiving, but like the road in the movie, the plot is repetitive and somewhat straightforward, although the final twist will probably have people talking like it's a movie worthy of serious contemplation.
Dead End is a French film with American actors, but outside of the French names in the opening credits, you'll be hard-pressed to notice. Taken as a campy B-movie horror excursion, it has a nice look and does keep your interest, but in the end, its just not that noteworthy, except perhaps to people who don't get out much to the movies. If you do manage to sit through this to the end, don't turn it off until you get to the very, very end, or you'll miss an additional scene, a somewhat humorous farewell in the credits, and a final picture to ponder. Or better yet, turn it off before getting to the opening credits, and put on a better movie.
©2004 Vince Leo