Dead End

Starring: Ray Wise
Pathe Distribution Ltd
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 17 May 2004

Frank Harrington is driving his wife Laura, son Richard, daughter Marion and her boyfriend Brad Miller to the in-laws for the Christmas holidays. Whilst normally taking the interstate he this time decides to take a smaller road which extends through woods. After a near accident when Frank falls asleep at the wheel, they spot a woman in white at the edge of the trees. She carries a wrapped baby and appears to be in shock. They pick her up and take her back to a cabin they passed, hoping to find a phone. There is no phone, and Brad discovers that the baby is dead and decomposing. Shortly afterward Marion sees a black car drive past with Brad trapped in the back. The others give chase in their car, only to find Brad's mutilated body on the road. This begins a nightmare series of events which involve the whole family as they try to reach the unknown town of Marcott...

Dead End is written and directed by the French partnership of Jean -Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa. Attempting to pitch their screenplay to French film companies, they were told that this genre isn't generally preferred, and that the vast majority of output is naturally in the French language, whereas the duo were determined to have it made in English to be accessible to a wider audience.

As with many pairings, we have the talkative one and the quieter thoughtful counterpart. Whether my assessment of them is correct or not, it appears to have worked well here. With low budget or intended claustrophobic scenes the acting has to be spot on, because there are no other distractions. The actors which comprise the family work well together. Ray Wise (wasn't he in Columbo every other week?) is quite a casting catch, and the other mainstays come across as being genuine. They laugh one moment, bicker the next, are terrified, contemplative, melancholy, angry... Just like normal people. This is good acting, with the tension steadily building.

This is a good original take on the other-dimension scenario, which reminded me of the scene in John Carpenter's In The Mouth Of Madness when Sam Neil's insurance investigator is driving through a short tunnel and emerges from night into daylight. It's that Twilight Zone moment. Without giving the ending away, I will just say that Dead End neatly avoids the normal stereotypical trappings, and although some people who regularly watch this genre might guess the ending, it isn't blatantly obvious. The mini-twist right at the end, however, is totally unnecessary.

There is a making-of documentary on the extras, as well as some trailers, but a commentary (usually interesting from writer/directors) is strangely missing. But for those not too worried about special features, this is a great spooky suspense thriller.

Ty Power

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