Directed By: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa
Starring: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain
Tag line: "Read the signs"
Trivia: Won the Audience Award at the 2003 San Sebastián Horror and Fantasy Film Festival
Dead End, a 2003 horror film from writers / directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, is one creepy-ass motion picture.
It’s Christmas Eve, and Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) is doing the same thing he does every year: driving his family to visit his mother-in-law. None too happy to be making the trip, Frank argues with his wife Laura (Lin Shaye), while their two kids: college student Marion (Alexandra Holden) and teenager Richard (Mick Cain), as well as Marion’s boyfriend Brad (Billy Asher Rosenfeld), are at each others throats in the back seat. For a change of pace, Frank takes a different, more out-of-the-way route, and while driving along he accidentally falls asleep at the wheel. As a result, he nearly collides with an oncoming car, but it isn’t until Frank picks up a mysterious young girl in white (Amber Smith) that the evening takes a truly horrific turn.
Playing like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, Dead End has its share of plot twists, all of which do their part to keep things interesting. To be honest, I figured out the main twist early on (before the half-way point), and it’s to the film’s credit that, despite its failure to protect this most important secret, it still manages to give you the willies. This is, in part, due to the solid performances of its entire cast. As the tension escalates, each member of the Harrington clan suffers a mental breakdown of sorts. Ray Wise’s Frank crawls into a bottle of booze (which, instead of taking his mind off the terrifying situation, only intensifies his feelings of imminent doom), while Lin Shaye’s Laura, as the result of a terrible tragedy, loses control entirely (though there might be something to her claim that she sees ghostly figures in the surrounding woods, waving at her). The three younger performers have their moments as well (especially Alexandra Holden as Marion), as does Amber Smith as the ominous “Lady in White”, but it’s Wise and Shaye who shine the brightest.
For a film set primarily inside a moving car, Dead End knows how to get under your skin, which is exactly where it stays well after the end credits roll.