Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Movie Review: Dead End (2003)


I always put these random movies in my queue after reading the description once and thinking, "Meh, this sounds interesting. I'll save it and watch it later." Then I keep skipping it over when I'm looking for a movie to watch because I'm so sure that it's not going to be as good as I hope. Well, today I finally decided to give Dead End a chance. And holy guacamole, it seriously wasn't that bad. I really liked it.

The plot maze: A family driving to grandmother's house for Christmas encounter a strange woman on an isolated road when dad decides to take a shortcut. But that's just the beginning of their problems as the road they are on seemingly goes on forever and a doomsday black car starts to mean death for all of them.

There are many things about this movie that make it similar to other movies you've probably already seen, but then there are a few things that really set it apart from those other movies at the same time. The actors are quite fantastic in their roles and there are episodes of dark humor that make parts of this movie more enjoyable than they probably should be.

The film is both character driven and plot driven, but while you're wrapping your head around the crazy plot, you're also enjoying the craziness of this family. First there's Frank, the father, who is not comfortable going to his wife's, Laura, mother's for Christmas and who gets stuck driving on this crappy road for most of the movie. The kids are Marion and Richard. Richard is a hard-rock-listening-to, pot-smoking teenager with a heart of gold. Marion is an aspiring psychiatrist or psychologist traveling with her possibly gay boyfriend, Brad. Brad's not really that popular with anybody so thank goodness he dies pretty quick.

Lin Shaye as Laura is perhaps the highlight of Dead End, for she is amazing in this piece. The timing of her humor, especially in the darkest moments, are hysterical to watch. Her shining moment is of course after the discovery of Richard's dead body. When Frank and Marion get back in the car, Laura is in the back seat, scarfing down a whole pie with her bare hands. She then makes a stick drawing for Marion of her boyfriend's dead body. Hi-larious.

As for the gore, there's really not much to talk about here at all. And for this movie, that works. Okay, I was a little disappointed at not being able to see the supposedly mutilated body of Brad, the first victim, but the reaction from the actors and Brad's bloody ear pretty much tell you all you need to know. There's also an interesting moment where the Lady in White bites off Richard's lip but nothing else aside from that.

Oh wait, no, I forgot! Let's just say that rubbing your own brain through a bullet wound is NOT COOL. And I leave it at that.

Can you even see this picture? It's really dark, yeah?
The setting is rightfully spooky, and the endless darkness of the night along with the seemingly endlessness of this road they are make for a great atmosphere. Strangely the film feels a little claustrophobic at times too. The filmmakers include several shots throughout the film of the single, straight, lonely road completely surrounded by dense forest and other than that, most of the movie takes place either inside the car or very close to it on the outside. As many times as they stop and as far as they go down the road, still nothing changes. The scenery is monotonous and closes our characters in on themselves.

Maybe viewers can catch on to the "twist" ending before it is revealed but there are a few theories to think about. A lot of the synopses I read about the movie make it seem more about the patriarch of the family, Frank, but by the end, I'm thinking maybe the movie is about Marion. Spoilers abound here, as usual, so brace yourself. So we find out that the whole family actually died in the car when the father falls asleep at the wheel and almost hits another car - all except Marion. Turns out they actually DID hit the car and the rest of the movie is a dream or a vision or some other kind of supernatural shit. I haven't actually seen Carnival of Souls yet (I KNOW, I KNOW, it's in my queue and I'll get to it soon) but I know the story and I'm thinking there are definite references or inspirations from that here.

But the rub against that theory is that Marion is not dead at the end. It still must have been some kind of dream of hers, though, because once they notice the sign indicating they are heading for Marcott, that becomes the real driving force behind their actions. Marcott ends up being the name of the doctor treating Marion at the hospital. So if Marion can get through this crazy ride or dream, losing her family along the way, yes, then she will finally get out of this and end up at Marcott, where she will maybe be safe. Does that make sense? I don't know. It makes sense in my head.

Dead End is a fantastic reminder of how a simple story and well paced story with fun characters can make for a most enjoyable horror movie. See it!

13 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterMay 11, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    Michele, i trust you`re talking about the 1962 version of "Carnival of Souls" as opposed to that hogwash from 1998.

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  2. Indeed a really great movie, awesome job and very accurate. :-)

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Hey i loved the film and it was a great review but i honestly cant understand whats happened at the end and its stressing me out.... Someone please

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  5. Original Carnival of Soul is a boring movie. Never saw the remake.

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    1. The 1962 COS has found a second life for highway historians. It showcases the Saltair Amusement Park on the old Lincoln Highway on the south end of the Great Salt Lake, which, alas, has since been demolished. It's kind of fun to watch a room full of highway geeks (moi, included) totally ignoring all the horror elements to concentrate on tiny bits of architecture.

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  6. ITs a strange and wonderful film that's a black comedy about a dysfunctional family and only incidentally a horror movie. The acting is good and the film has a wonderful cheap retro 70's feel about it. ITs a film that suggests the the real Hell actually IS other people.

    If you watch the post credit sequence you find out that its not a dream. Watch it again and you will see the answer.

    IF you

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    1. Bah, I didn't even know there was a post-credits sequence! I'll definitely have to check that out...

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    2. There are also more than a few shout outs for Twin Peaks fans...

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  7. This movie had me totally mind screwed at the end. There aren't many movies that I watch that leave me in the wtf mode after I watch it. I have a different opinion than everyone apparently on what it was about. The post credit is important here because of the fact that it proves it wasn't a dream. When people die suddenly like in car crashes, murders, stuff like that, it is said that they don't always realize that they died. They weren't ready to go so they hang around longer. I think that's what was the plot to the movie. The family members did not realize they were dead because of it happening all of a sudden. They drove and talked just like they would have normally if he actually did not get into an accident like they thought. One by one they moved on. Every time one of them was found in the road dead, or when the mom realized her head wound was showing what happened to each one of them in the crash. I think the sign with the doctors name was just there because the daughter was in a coma and I think it represented that. I could be TOTALLY wrong, but because of the ending and the post credit sequence, it's just what makes the most sense to me. I will agree that this movie still has me mind screwed to completely understand it.

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  8. This movie had me totally mind screwed at the end. There aren't many movies that I watch that leave me in the wtf mode after I watch it. I have a different opinion than everyone apparently on what it was about. The post credit is important here because of the fact that it proves it wasn't a dream. When people die suddenly like in car crashes, murders, stuff like that, it is said that they don't always realize that they died. They weren't ready to go so they hang around longer. I think that's what was the plot to the movie. The family members did not realize they were dead because of it happening all of a sudden. They drove and talked just like they would have normally if he actually did not get into an accident like they thought. One by one they moved on. Every time one of them was found in the road dead, or when the mom realized her head wound was showing what happened to each one of them in the crash. I think the sign with the doctors name was just there because the daughter was in a coma and I think it represented that. I could be TOTALLY wrong, but because of the ending and the post credit sequence, it's just what makes the most sense to me. I will agree that this movie still has me mind screwed to completely understand it.

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  9. I actually was thinking the same thing as Margaret W was. I just finished watching. I also believe the guy in the black car could be Death himself or a representation of Death. What makes me think this is first he drives right past Marion while she's walking down the road when the family picks up the lady in white. Since Marion is the only truly live person he can't take her. He takes the others one by one who don't realize they've passed. He then takes the lady in white at the end after she tells Marion that he's there for her not Marion. Later he tells the doctor he is a collector and offers her a ride in his hearse when her car doesn't appear to start. Of course I could be completely wrong about all of it. I also enjoyed it better than I thought I would.

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