Christmas Eve. On his way to his in-laws with his family, Frank Harrington decides to try a shortcut, for the first time in 20 years. It turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life.
Release Year: 2003
Rating: 6.7/10 (11,127 voted)
Stars: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain
For the past 20 years, Frank Harrington has grudgingly driven his family to celebrate Christmas with his mother-in-law. This year, he takes a shortcut. It's the biggest mistake of his life: The nightmare begins. A mysterious woman in white wanders through the forest, leaving death in her wake. A terrifying black car – its driver invisible – carries the victims into the heart of the night. Every road sign points to a destination they never reach. The survivors succumb to panic, to madness; deeply buried secrets burst to the surface, and Christmas turns into a living hell.
Writers: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Lady in White
Karen S. Gregan
Man in Black
Jimmie F. Skaggs
(as Jimmy Skaggs)
Read the signs.
Pentagon Pictures |
Release Date: 26 September 2003
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA
Opening Weekend: £52,130
(14 December 2003)
(21 December 2003)
Incorrectly regarded as goofs:
When the family stops the first time they see the girl in white, we see a large dry spot in the road, and a tree. But when they turn around and head back the opposite direction, we see a shot of them passing the same spot and tree in the original direction they were traveling. However, this is possible since the road has the tendency to repeat some of it's elements, like the cabin they reach. The physical presence of the road is not continuous throughout the whole film.
Bang! Bang! You're dead!
A fun as hell genre flick that never pretends to climb Mt. Everest and thus leaves the viewer with more than just a feeling of simple satisfaction, but one of raw enjoyment.
Further proof that Hollywood just doesn't get it right anymore.
When it comes to the horror genre, simplicity is beyond best. It's the
one genre where frequently the more feeble the material, the better it
Dead End is an avatar of this principle. The plot is essentially just a
concept film; family driving in a car, lost on a road that seems to not
end, encountering things beyond explanation along the way. There isn't
anything complicated about that and there shouldn't be anything
complicated about that. It's a script that builds in on itself, instead
of expanding outwards into new territory – yah, I said territory. It
doesn't continue to introduce new elements to the fold, in the first 7
minutes it throws it's hands up and says, "this is what you're gonna
get, so take it." And I applaud the filmmakers for this. It's something
seldom done in the genre these days. All too often do horror scripts
follow a formulaic plot that spirals outwards instead of simply just
constructing a boxed in realm of the film's reality and then letting
the character's react realistically within it. Dare I say it is
actually rather Shakespearean in this way? Oh, I dare. Shakespeare was
known for creating a story, believable characters and then letting the
play unfold as if the characters were realistically responding to the
world created around them. This is exactly the scenario with Dead End.
It avoids the most common pitfall of the genre; characters that act
without logic, without interest and without motivation. It's something
scriptwriters should pay considerably more attention to. Characters
like these possess some kind of magical power that gives a +20 to any
cinematic enjoyment. I cast magic characters! And speaking of those
characters, their actions may be realistically responsive, but if it
weren't for the remarkably energetic performances of all the cast then
all would be for naught. Ray Wise is the man in this movie. He is just
badass without being over the top. He has created out of the father a
man who is just trapped in an obviously humdrum life and transformed
him into someone you just can't help but smile at every time he curses
at his family. He is just great. Great, great, great. If I had to
recommend the movie for any one single reason, it would be to just
enjoy Ray Wise.
The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, Wise doesn't eclipse the few
other actors there are, but they all compliment each other like they
really were a family. It is the definition of on screen chemistry.
Now, the question you're asking, is it scary? Yes and No. No, it isn't
balls-to-the-wall horror. It does fall prey to the optimism of the
genre, but it's excusable and I'll get to that in a minute. The script
is kinetic, always driving ahead and only pausing as long as necessary
to make a point or get in a scare. It's because of this that the film
will never scare the **** out of you, but when it wants to it'll keep
your heart rate elevated to the point that you're aware of it enough to
say to yourself, "hey, this movie is kinda freaking me out." I respect
that. It knows it isn't hardcore, so it does exactly what it should and
keeps your blood pumping a little faster than normal throughout. I love
that feeling. But I also have a wild imagination and so was
consistently prepped for an entry into the negative space of the car
windows or emerging ever so slightly from the edge of the woods. And
that'll freak my junk out more effectively than what you do see.
As for the film falling victim to the optimism of the genre. This is
true, but it is appropriately so. It doesn't establish throughout the
rest of the movie that it should be taken as the hardest of horror, so
no pretending means no disappointment in the end. Oh, and worth an
important note for most viewers, there isn't a whole lot of gore, it
really does leave a lot up to the imagination (as it should), but what
blood there is isn't over the top and there are no CGI scares. Take
that for what it's worth, but it's worth a lot to me.
That said, I would have preferred a different ending. Not solely
because I would have preferred a darker ending, but simply because the
ending has an air of unreliability to it. It attempts to mollify the
question that the movie never asks, but obviously the viewer will
("what exactly is happening here?") and I felt that wasn't really
necessary. I liked that the movie wasn't raising question after
question. I liked that it turned its back to the whole issue, so when
the events of the last two or three minutes of the film hit the viewer,
or me at least, they feel out of place.
All in all, this is movie that strips away the gloss and glamour
prevalent to the genre as of late, establishes the concept and then
happily throws what it's got left at the wall. Yes, it doesn't all
stick, but the little things that don't are more than shadowed by the
much larger portions that do. Dead End is worth your time and money.
Rent it and watch it by yourself or with a date, but not in a group. A
group would kill the pleasant intimacy that makes the film work beyond
I'm hesitant to say instant classic, because obviously it won't be
universally so, but it deserves that accolade in my book. Check it out.
The one sentence review: Dead End is a fun ass genre flick that never
pretends to climb Mt. Everest and thus leaves the viewer with more than
just a feeling of simple satisfaction, but one of raw enjoyment.