Dead End is one of those rare films that are both terrifying and funny simultaneously. When I say terrifying, I mean it. Throughout the course of this project (about 110 + horror movies at the time of this review) this was one of the three or four times I have actually been scared. I literally got up and turned on the staircase light just to make sure there wasn’t a creepy lady dressed in white waiting for me.
The filmmakers spin a deadly tale, on a decidedly small budget, of a family going on a road trip to visit some relatives for Christmas. The dad (Ray Wise) opts for scenic route instead of the boring old safe interstate. This is what we in the business call a RED FLAG. Yes, I DID just put myself into the business. On the way through the scenic route the family encounters a creepy lady, her baby, and a black car.
With only a few different scenes and locations the film centers on the characters. In this case, the family is just as dysfunctional as your family, but funny. The back and forth banter between all the characters is witty and well written. This isn’t some cookie cutter family that yaps like you expect families to in movies. They are a realistic family talking and acting like a realistic family.
Essentially, the movie is a comedy for about 6-7 minutes then shocks the viewer with a disturbing event. Rinse and repeat. Early on, this effect may seem cheesy but over time I, at least, found myself focusing more on the horror of the situation. Basically, I went from laughing my butt off to that nervous, “Oh shit! Don’t look inside that baby carriage, it’s gonna kill you!” feeling.
The gore factor is minimal but allows for imaginations to run wild. A charred arm is in the foreground of a scene while the actors talk about how terribly mutilated the arm’s body is. Brilliant stuff. I have seen enough horrifying mutilations in my life that the picture in my head was certainly more intense than anything a budget and time constrained director could create.
Now for the ending. Ugh! The ending is a big letdown.
As opposed to telling you about it I will let Stewie and Brian from Family Guy give their take:
Brian: So, what you’re saying is that what you experienced in the simulation didn’t really happen, or even matter?
Stewie: Yes, that’s correct.
Brian: So, it was sort of like a dream?
Stewie: No, it was a simulation.
Brian: Yes, but, theoretically, if someone watched the events of that simulation from start to finish, only to find out that none of it really happened, I mean… you don’t think, that would, j– be just like a giant middle finger to them?
Stewie: Well, hopefully, they would have enjoyed the ride.
Brian: I don’t know, man. I think you’d piss a lot of people off that way.
Still one of the finest horror films from 00s.
Snore Factor: ZZ