It's great to see character actors Lin Shaye and Ray Wise get the chance to star in a movie, but what makes that fact even better is that the movie they're in just so happens to be a damn fine film also.
French director-writers Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa have come up with one of the more bizarre low-budget horror flicks in recent memory as Dead End packs in all sorts of odd events leading up to its, admittedly, predictable ending. It starts off with a bickering family in the middle of a road trip to wife Shaye's families house on Christmas Eve and if the in-fighting and son Richard's (Mick Cain) constant sarcasm wasn't enough they soon find themselves stuck on an endless stretch of highway when father Wise takes a shortcut through the woods and sees a lady clad in white clutching a baby standing at the side of the road.
This leads to all sorts of off-kilter events that includes the woman's baby being a corpse, the family members starting to disappear in the back of an ominous black hearse, mother Shaye losing her grip on sanity, and them being unable to get off the road as it seems they're stuck in a constant loop. Then there's the aforementioned twist ending, which would have been satisfying if it wasn't so obvious.
Playing out like an episode of Twilight Zone, Dead End has a lot of good things going for it as it gets strong performances from its cast (Shaye is especially good and in scenes where she's gone completely nutty her performance slips into agreeable camp and demented humour), has plenty of wacko set pieces such as when a baby carriage appears in the road and Cain gets his lip bitten off by the lady in white, and it's filled with all sorts of absurdities and black comedy. But it does suffer a bit due to it's real lack of focus (sure, it's great to have all these things happening, but it's sometimes hard to put your logic on hold) and the fact that if you're a real movie fan you'll see the end coming miles off.
Marking an above average debut for Andrea and Canepa, Dead End is a completely watchable time and does show promise for the two filmmakers in the future. If they can just streamline their script a bit more next time they're sure to make a movie that's even better. Recommended to people looking for something different than all the lame creature feature and dull slasher movies littering the video store shelves lately, and worth seeing just for Shaye's performance alone.
Busy character actor Shaye you might recognize from her small roles in almost all the movies from the Farrelly Brothers (Kingpin, Dumb & Dumber), but she's also the sister of New Line Cinema CEO Robert Shaye, a man instrumental in bringing the Nightmare On Elm Street series to the screen. (Chris Hartley, 11/9/05)
Directed By: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa.
Written By: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa.
Starring: Ray Wise, Alexandra Holden, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain.