in Review, Shocktober

Dead End (2003)

You know a movie has a good premise when your mom can sum it up and one sentence and you’re immediately hooked. “A family on a road trip stuck on a never-ending road.” That’s an idea good enough to make Rod Serling rise from his grave and give a bony thumb of approval. It’s a good film too. Dated but simple and effective. A film that by all means should have launched the career of Jean-Baptiste Andrea into the Hollywood spotlight. Yet all he did after this was a dark comedy with David Schwimmer and the script for a movie called Hellphone. Anyways, let’s talk about Dead End

French made, though shot in English in America with American actors, Dead End is the story of the Harrington family driving along a remote forest road on their way to a Christmas party. There are the parents Frank and Laura, played by cult favorites Ray Wise and Lin Shaye, their adult daughter Marion (Alexandra Holden), Marion’s boyfriend (Billy Asher) and the shittiest most annoying on-screen little brother of all time Richard (Mick Cain). As you would assume large sections of the film are the family quarreling with each other. Ray Wise and Lin Shaye are perfect as always. The kids are okay. Richard spends most of the movie rattling of lame wisecracks and swearing. There’s also a part where even though the family is lost Richard goes to jack off in the woods. He seriously is the biggest piece of shit but that’s more in the wiring than the acting.

The script to Dead End is weird. At times the film is a clever white-knuckle thriller with witty dialogue and good pacing. Other times it feels like a shitty direct-to-video American Pie spinoff. Needless to say, there is bad dialogue. “What’s up little critter, I’m you’re Uncle DICK!” That’s classic Richard for you. Then again there’s great dialogue too. My favorite reoccurring gag being Ray Wise being unable to remember the name of Marilyn Manson.

As the film speeds along, eh? They encounter a mysterious woman in white (Amber Smith) carrying around a dead baby. The mysterious woman also picks off members of the family in violent fashion. This leads to the family’s descent into madness. Particularly Lin Shaye who spends the rest of the movie giggling and spouting gibberish. She also eats a whole pie. She’s a pro and I love her.

Dead End feels like a movie I would have rented from Blockbuster when I was twelve. A movie with a cool title and premise, a short run time and lotsa spooks It’s nothing you’ll remember by next Halloween but it’s still worth a (insert driving pun).