Dead End (2003)
Director: Jean-Baptiste Andrea/Fabrice Canepa
Amber Smith/Lady in White
Quick-lipped Frank (Wise) and his family are driving down an interstate on their way to a X-Mas family gathering. But when good old Frankie decides to take a “shortcut”, they find themselves on a never ending road that is plagued with mysterious happenings. Ho Ho Ho! You see! X-Mas does suck!
Aaaahhh...simplicity, it could do wonders for a horror film, if done right. Well good news guys; the French duders behind "Dead End" hit the whore on the head when it came to the execution of their sly premise and their skillfully character-driven screenplay. Playing like an old school Twilight Zone episode “Shaked and Baked” with a very modern-day sensibility, Dead End’s spicy ingredients all came together to deliver an engaging and fun "ChickenMcFunStuff".
Personally, the flick’s strongest asset was that most of its characters cranked my dial to “I give a fudge”, therefore keeping me deeply hooked in the shenanigans at play for its duration. Lin Shaye, cutie Alexandra Holden and the man, the myth...The Wise, all had me by the lapel throughout. All three actors were asked to provide multi-layered performances and delivered gangbusters in every aspect. Since I had mucho emotional investment in the leads, the barrage of refreshingly classic horror devices (loved that creepy black hearse) worked me like a crack whore in need of a fix and a delousing session. The film’s subtle and suggestive approach when it came to injecting me with high dose of chills proved that you don’t have to sport gallons of blood or an army of CG to spook. You just need to know how to reel your audience in like a fish and show just enough to let the mind gap the rest. It takes talent to pull that off! "Dead End" had it and I was its trout!!
Furthermore, the bleak, and mostly circumstantial, humor on hand made sure to boost my enjoyment factor off the charts. Balancing horror and laughs is quite a feat and "Dead End" played that game flawlessly, never dropping a ball during its ambitious juggle. One second I was shitting a house with an indoor garage, the next I was laughing my silly butt off! That made for quite an entertaining ride in that the film took me through a wide gamut of emotions swiftly and efficiently non-stop. Add to that, the clever and unpredictable nature of the narrative keeping me juiced and the film’s oppressively morbid atmosphere and you get a bumpy and creepy ride for the whole family…yes, Grandma too!
On a “dead end” note, there were two things that hurt the picture, in my useless opinion. One was the rebellious supposed-to-be-young teen Richard (Cain). Mick Cain didn’t look like a teenager to me (felt in his 20’s), had lots of bad lines and his delivery was "barf", clashing with the credible actors around him. His character also didn’t fare well on paper. A) He was a movie pothead-- you know the type, one puff and he was high as a “joint toking” kite…COME ON MAN! One puff???? Sheesh! B) He liked to jerk off in the woods. 'Nuff said on that…I didn’t buy it and it grossed me out too much to be funny. Lastly, "Dead End" had a twist, and it was a predictable one. Actually, just by reading the film’s synopsis, I had already guessed its “nature”. But although the last frames didn’t have the impact that they should’ve had...they didn’t severely hinder my overall enjoyment of the film either.
When all was said and road-killed, "Dead End" wound up being a quality filled, cleverly humorous, classy and spine-tingling road trip to hell that should be seen by all. Wanna take a ride on the wild side? (Yes, I’m quoting Motley Crue!)
We get a bloody rag, a ripped off lip, a burnt arm, a bloody open wound and an open cranium that revealed some brains. Not a gore-fest, but the film sported an effectual blend of graphic and suggestive.
I adore Ray Wise (Frank) and he can never do wrong in my eyes. Here he gave a meaty performance, hitting all the required notes and even echoing his work as Leland Palmer at times…but saner. Good show, my man! Alexandra Holden (Marion) handled herself admirably in her focused and credible display. Lin Shaye (Laura) blew my mind in her grounded and varied show of acting chops. I didn’t know she had it in her! Mick Cain (Richard) didn’t sell me-- actually he annoyed me so much that I had to pinch myself so that I wouldn't yell obscenities to my television. Amber Smith (Lady in White) looked yummy and did the “eerie” and “sexy” thing well.
T & A
Amber Smith (Lady in White) showed us her Apple candy ass! Too bad her other assets were kept hidden. What a looker! The ladies get Ray Wise being the great mofo that he is!
Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa did well in working tandem where the flick never felt like it was shot by two different people. They kept to the same highly atmospheric, skillfully tense and moderately stylized approach. NOTE: I loved those overhead shots of the car driving down the lonely path smack in the middle of the ample woods. The filmmakers really milked that stretch of road! Talk about striking!
I was on and off when it came to the music in this flick. During some moments, it worked like a charm (dug that opening credit ditty) while at others, the score felt "off" in terms of the scenes it was backing. Mixed bag!
Who said a low budget was negative again? Dead End’s lack of coin forced both the filmmakers and audience members watching it to use their imaginations, creating frightening images that no practical or CG concoction could have created. On the whole, this bouncy journey was an entertaining, inventive, moody, frightening and funny watch with great actors to boot. Sure, if you know your horror, you’ll guess the ending at frame 2 and teeny-bop Richard’s presence was easily the most annoying thing since Jennifer Lopez started pretending she was black, but that didn’t stop the flick from being a blast. If a picture that taps into an old fashioned feel while at the same time, delivering its joo-joo via a very “modern” highway talks to ya, make a U-Turn and hit this DEAD END!
This film will be released on DVD on November 9th.
Jean-Baptiste Andrea was born on April 4, 1971.
The flick was shot in Los Angeles, California USA.