The Dead End poster says, “Read the Signs.” And if you are any sort of horror fan, you will certainly be able to read the signs. You will guess the big twist of the movie at mark 2:41, because it’s very obvious and because the twist is easily the single most over-used twist in horror movies. And because you’ll get the twist, you won’t enjoy the movie, because it doesn’t offer anything else. Not character, or beautiful cinematography, or thrills, or emotional content. It’s all about intriguing you awith what the heck is going on, so when you catch it, you will spend the rest of the film totally bored. And insulted, really, that the filmmakers believed they were really getting you with such a hackneyed, lazy plot device.
Dead End doesn’t just have a road trip intro. It takes place almost entirely inside an SUV. The SUV is packed to the gills with a dysfunctional family. Have you ever been confined in a small place with a group of people who are endlessly bickering? This movie gives you that effect for 85 minutes. And it’s not an 85 minutes over the course of which you learn more about the characters and thus about humanity. Nope, you just spend an hour and a half with very unpleasant people who don’t change, except when the plot demands that something specific occurs, even if the act falls out of the range of possibilities of even such a thinly-drawn character.
Who are these characters? There’s the angry dad. The in-denial, perky mom. The successful daughter and her boyfriend, and the rebellious, 35 year-old younger brother rocking out to Marilyn Bronson. They’re driving through the woods to grandmother’s house a-going, when they come across a “lady in white” who needs help. They decide to drive the lady in white back to a cabin they passed. But they need to make room for the dazed, injured woman in the car, so the daughter gets out. WITHOUTHERBOYFRIEND.
That’s right. For reasons of plot, the boyfriend lets his girlfriend walk alone through the woods at night, preferring to be crammed in the backseat between some strange woman he doesn’t know and his girlfriend’s younger brother who he hates. The parents don’t even suggest he go with their daughter. And it’s all downhill from there.
Like I said, the entire film hangs on you not guessing the twist, which you’ll guess if you’re a fan of the horror genre, which seems more ready to do endless rip-offs of fresh ideas than any other. There are films that use this twist that are not only watchable, but are re-watchable. Unfortuantely, for spoilers’ sake, I can’t tell you any of these better movies. I can say that one common trait between these films is that they play it straight. The makers of Dead End knew they were giving you hackneyed crap, so they played it up as a joke. The young 35 year old son, played by a Jimmy Fallon lookalike, may be the most unlikable character ever put to film, and so they soon have him literally masturbating in the woods to a pinup stuck to a tree with chewing gum. The mother suffers severe post-traumatic stress at one point, has a break from reality, and acts like a toddler, saying things like “I don’t like you anymore” and “Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” It’s an insult not only to people who suffer from PTSD, but to the entire audience, who, coincidentally might all suffer from PTSD after watching the movie.
Anyway, the thing is shot on decent film, and isn’t totally amateurish, so I’m giving it a reluctant 4 out of 10.
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