Dead End (2003)

APRIL 8, 2008


Two goddamn full frame movies in a row! This is unacceptable! (It’s also the 2nd movie in the past few days to be adorned with a quote from B-D). Though, take the good with the bad – Dead End was distributed by Lions Gate long before they became the bane of the home video world, which means that while we have to suffer through a full frame transfer, we do NOT have to suffer through 18 trailers for truly awful movies like The Eye or whatever.

And the movie is pretty good. The cast is a big part of its success; few can pull off darkly humorous hysteria like Lin Shaye and Ray Wise, and the kid playing their son is pretty good as well (if overly, and randomly, homophobic – of all the people in the car who’s definitely NOT gay, it’s his sister's boyfriend, yet he consistently alludes to him being a homosexual). With a less capable cast, this one would probably be a giant bore, but Wise and Shaye keep you entertained with their off kilter reactions and dry delivery. At one point, Shaye, who is going a bit crazy after the death of her son, draws a picture of her daughter’s boyfriend, who was found dismembered all over the road, and shows it to her:


It also doesn’t feel too padded, which it easily could since the movie is essentially four people in a car driving on a road without an exit. Unlike the similar Wind Chill, writer/directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa had the good sense to keep the movie moving along, make the characters somewhat likable, and consistently seek ways to keep the movie from becoming too much of a Moebius strip, even when at its core that is precisely what it is. Nice job.

Alexandra Holden is also in the movie, as the daughter (once again, she plays the daughter of two genre faves that don’t resemble her at all, a fact written into the plot). She’s pretty much the only character who never made me laugh, which is a bummer. Oh well, still hot.

The theme of the movie appears to be dirty secrets – everyone eventually reveals something about their past that comes as a shock to everyone else – Holden is pregnant, Shaye had an affair, etc. It’s a nice idea but I would have liked to have seen it worked into the finale, which (spoiler) is merely a decent twist on the ‘it was all a dream’ ending. It was all a dream, yes, but everyone else is STILL dead, which is a plus. Makes it easier to swallow (the underrated Reeker had a similar denouement). However, this presents a few holes, or at least provides some genuinely disturbing information about the surviving character. There’s a scene in the movie in which the brother goes off into the woods to jerk off. But if this was all one of his family member’s hallucination, why the fuck would they be imagining that?

All in all, a decent little movie that deserves a better DVD (in addition to the shitty video, the sound is merely stereo) . Region 2’s release is widescreen, with a few extras to boot. If you can watch R2, I urge you avoid the region 1 disc. Had I watched it at night instead of 11 am, it’d probably be even more effective, as it’s the type of low-budget creepfest that would scare me as a kid when I’d watch them when it was dark and everyone was in bed. Watch it in the dark, folks!

I'd also like to point out that this is the 3rd "Dead End" film in HMAD history, following Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, and Dood Eind (aka Dead End). How many more will there be? Call now and vote!

What say you?


  1. I saw this a couple of years ago, but I remeber thinking it was pretty cool. I think the kid is the one in that show "Aliens in America," but I could be wrong.

    I do remember thinking that this would have been a really kick-ass thirty minute episode of an anthology series or an episode of "Masters of Horror." It amazes me that no one can get a decent anthology series on the air anymore, but yet their are so many horror films out there that would work much better in this type of format.

  2. I've been a big fan of this one for a few years, and have the widescreen dvd which looks great. As you said, the acting is what makes this one work so well.

    In regards to the ending, if it is all just a dream, how do you explain the note found on the road at the car wreck in the final shot?

  3. I watched this and liked it okay, at least until the "twist"--the whole "they were dead all the time!" only worked for me in ONE movie ever, and that was the original Carnival of Souls. Since then it's been so overdone (and over-done badly) that it just makes me roll my eyes.

    The the post-brain trauma mama was meant to be funny, I guess, but just gave me a headache. :)

    Not the worst "No Exit" variation I ever saw, but I didn't dig it as much as you did.

  4. If it wasn't a dream then why would the town they were heading to have the same name as the doctor? But I suppose either way not everything adds up...

  5. Absolutely, I was hoping you had the answer up your sleeve there somewhere;-)

  6. OH-MY-GAWD! (that's the Valley Girl in me peeking out). I frickin' loved this movie just because it was so off the wall. The mother drawing the picture of the dismembered kid was brilliant!(thanks for the screen shot) The thing that makes this movie so memorable is that they all tag-team going crazy and NO ONE tops mom. 2 years later my boyfriend will spontaneously break into the crazy mom character.
    But no one does nice guy crazy like Ray Wise.

  7. I have seen this movie long time ago, I just searched for it, was not sure about the title. I personaly think it is a great form of movie, which plays with the audience. I am not a fun of horror movies, but this one is pretty good. Worthy to see

  8. (Spoilers)The best way to explain the ending is they were all in a sort of limbo/purgatory throughout the film just before the accident actually took place. In the beginning of the movie, the dad swerves the car to avoid hitting that other car, when in actuality he did hit it. Even though the film panned over an hour, it was only seconds to the characters in the movie.

  9. As low-budget horror films go(i.e. those awful SciFi originals), this was a good, character-driven one. Actually, it's vastly superior to most of the big-budget garbage they churn out as well. Ray Wise is outstanding(really carries the film with his performance), Alexandra Holden holdens-up well(bah!), and Lin Shaye plays out the insanity pretty well(if a bit annoyingly). I can also say the writers were very obviously influenced by 'Phantasm': the inexplicable happenings, the dreamlike feel, the hearse, the 'girl-in-white' portending death like the reaper(much as the Tall Man did) and all the death symbolism, the young girl's loss of her guardians, and the nightmare-is-a-dream-is-reality twist . . . it's all there.
    It's not without flaws, however. The plot is nothing new('No Exit', 'Phantasm','Jacob's Ladder', 'Tales from the Crypt', 'Dr. Terror's House of Horrors', etc.). Things also get a tad predictable; once the boyfriend dies, you know that the other characters will wander off stupidly and get themselves killed until one's left standing. When all the plot elements come(or fail to come) together at the end, you know the dream-is-real twist is coming. The brother & the boyfriend also have you rooting for their deaths early on; bad writing & performances.
    Still, it's an enjoyable watch that does have you guessing what the hell is going on at points, and Wise does give a tour de force performance. The filmmakers really did a nice job of foreshadowing the conclusion by having Frank fall asleep and have the "near-miss" so early on, something that pulls all the incoherency together if the resolution leaves you scratching your head.

  10. I loved the movie, I even made a picture that's pretty funny. If you've ever seen little tortilla boy naruto on youtube you'd appreciate it.

  11. It wasnt a dream. If you wait till the end of the credits, theres a little scene of the garbage men sweeping up. You can see the dad's list and on it, it says..

    "1) Buy an Atari
    2) Be the coolest grandfather ever "

  12. can anybody explain to me what the ending is about its a gud movie and all i just need to know about the man in the black


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