Directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa
Produced by James Huth, Gabriella Stollenwerck & Yves Chevalier
Written by Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa
Director of Photograpy Alex Buono
Music by Greg De Belles
Cast: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Alexandra Holden, Mick Cain, Billy Asher & Amber Smith

2003/84 mins/Color/2.0 Dolby Surround
1.33:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD

I often reminisce about the late 70s and early 80s when the success of HALLOWEEN gave way to a boom in independent horror films...which actually played in local theaters. (I'm not talking about movies like SAW, which contains well-known stars. I'm talking about truly independent films, starring nobody and nobody's cousin.) While most of these films were awful (in retrospect), many were truly good movies, which used creativity to overcome their low budgets. The film DEAD END, newly released to DVD, may not be from that era, put its plucky independent spirit reminds me of those days gone by.

The Harrington family, father Frank (Ray Wise), mom Laura (Lin Shaye), son Richard (Mick Cain), daughter Marion (Alexandra Holden), along with Marion's boyfriend, Brad (Billy Asher), are on their way to grandma's house on Christmas Eve. Having taken the same interstate to grandma's for years, Frank decides to take the backroads. This decision is a deadly one as odd things begin to happen. After nearly falling asleep at the wheel, Frank notices a strange lady in white (Amber Smith) by the road. After picking her up, a bizarre series of events unfolds. Despite the fact that the family keeps driving and driving, the road that their on doesn't seem to go anywhere. Even worse, members of the family begin to die in horrible ways, and their car is pursued by an eerie hearse. As the tension mounts, and the deserted road stretches out before them, the remaining Harrington's begin to crack under the pressure and reveal their innermost sins.

To say anything else about the plot of DEAD END would be giving too much away, as the film relies heavily on its story to keep the viewer engaged. First-time feature filmmakers Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa have co-written and co-directed a film which is very spartan, but is also mesmerizing. Despite the presence of three recognizable faces (Wise, Shaye, Holden), the film is clearly a low-budget endeavor and most of the film takes place either in the car or on the side of the deserted road. There basically no special effects, and most of the gore is kept off-screen. But, that doesn't detract from the story.

If you've seen many films, you'll probably figure out the ending of DEAD END early on, but somehow that doesn't detract from the film. Even if you have an idea of what is going on, the film constantly provides you with clues as to exactly what is happening, and each scene (especially each death scene) adds another piece to the puzzle. After alerting the audience to the fact that anything can happen on this road at any time, Andrea and Canepa begin to play with the audience, and the film is very suspenseful. As viewers who have grown accustomed to a "Tarantino" type of filmmaking, we are aware of the fact that even the most mundane scene can suddenly explode into action. Thus several dialogue scenes in DEAD END are nerve-wracking, because we know something is going to happen, but we're not sure when. Although DEAD END is one of those films where you realize afterwards that some of it didn't make sense, you won't be bothered by those thoughts while watching the movie.

The film could have stopped there and simply been a shock machine, but the filmmakers have added another dimension by having their characters be a family instead of the usual meat-headed teenagers. As the film progresses, the family dynamic becomes quite clear and we learn the back-stories of the characters. This also adds emotional depth to the film. But, this isn't to imply that the film is needlessly deep. DEAD END is essentially an 84-minute episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Andrea and Canepa also tip their hats to films such as PHANTASM and video games like SILENT HILL by tapping into the collective subconscious and bringing out some very creepy visuals, such as the aforementioned hearse and an antique baby carriage. The film also gets a boost from the great cast. Wise, known to most of us as Laura Palmer's dad from TWIN PEAKS is very good as a man who begins to realize that his whim of taking a new road may have doomed his family. The name Lin Shaye may not be familiar, but you've seen her in most every Farrelly Brothers film (she was the wrinkled Madga in THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) and she shows that she can do drama here. The same holds true for Alexandra Holden, who played Ross' young girlfriend on FRIENDS. I knew nothing about DEAD END going in, and it's been a while since a little film has made me sit up and take notice the way that it did. Don't expect life-changing, but be ready for a suspenseful little move which will have you on the edge of your seat. And, DEAD END gets my wife's highest rating, she stayed up past midnight in order to finish it in one sitting. Trust me, that's monumental.

DEAD END rolls onto DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The film is presented in a full-frame aspect ratio. I am not sure what the film's original aspect ratio was, but I can tell you that the end credits are letterboxed at 1.78:1, so I can assume that the film was shot at least that wide. There is no overt panning-and-scanning during the film. The image looks good, as it shows no grain or defects from the source print. As the bulk of the film takes place at night, the movie is very dark at times, but the action is typically visible. Actually, much of the movie is lit in the unrealistic "bright when we're out in the middle of nowhere" style that we see in so many films. The colors look good and artifacting is kept to a minimum. The DVD offers a Dolby Surround audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects, with no hissing or distortion. The stereo effects are well-done, as are the occasional surround offerings, but these are kept to a minimum. There are no extras whatsoever on this DVD, which is a shame, as I'd love to know more about the production of this movie.




No points were allowed since there are no extras on the disc.


This Film Features:

Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©

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