Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dead End (2003)


Dead End (2003)

Throughout the month of October, I'm blogging about horror movies and Halloween-appropriate Christmas crossover entertainments.  This is all a part of a series entitled Countdown to Halloween which is a group of participating blogs also covering horror and Halloween-appropriate content throughout the month of October.  Please check out the other blogs participating by clicking on this link.

My last several posts discuss horror movies set at Christmas time.  Did you know my book The Christmas TV Companion has an entire chapter devoted to macabre and horror Christmas entertainments?  Click HERE to see more about that book.  One movie I discuss in The Christmas TV Companion is 2003's Dead End, written and directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa.

The Harringtons driving to Grandma's house.  Front seat: actor Ray Wise as Frank, Lin Shaye as the mother Laura.  Back seat: Alexandra Holden as Marion and Mick Cain as Richard.  Not in photo: Billy Asher as Brad.

In this story, the squabbling Harrington family takes a short cut on the road to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve.  Thus begins a nightmarish journey filled with terror, emotional confessions, mental breakdowns and even death.   Much like 2007's Wind Chill (click HERE to return to that previous post), this film takes place mostly inside the car.  Their odyssey begins when Frank Harrington, the father of the family and driver of the car says he's going to take an alternate route to their destination. Having driven by way of the interstate for twenty years, he would like to try a new route.  But the family quickly grows bored with this isolated road surrounded by nothing but darkness.  Soon everyone falls asleep.

The family keeps seeing signs for the town of Marcott but they never reach it--or any other town.

Frank dozes off too but awakens just in time to avoid a head-on collision with a car coming from the opposite direction.  The family members are disturbed by his careless driving but the journey continues.  Tensions fill the car as teenager Richard continuously heckles Marion's boyfriend Brad.  Parents Laura and Frank have their own reasons for not looking forward to tonight's annual family Christmas celebration.  Soon the family realizes they are not reaching their destination as planned, the darkness makes it difficult to recognize landmarks and there seems to be no other traffic on this road--except for the car Frank nearly collided with earlier.

In the backseat, Brad tries chatting up the mysterious Woman in White.

Frank suddenly spots a Woman in White on the side of the road and stops to pick her up.  This creepy woman doesn't speak much and seems to be carrying a baby.  They invite the hitchhiker into the backseat of the car to transport her to a safe place and to call the police.  But when the family stops to inspect a cabin for a telephone, she disappears--as does Brad! 

Brad is seen in the back of the car as it passes by!

 As the family looks for Brad on the road, a car drives by and they can see him in the back window!  The family engages in a high speed chase following the vehicle, only to come across Brad's burnt and mutilated remains in the middle of the road!  Horrified, the family gets back in the car and continues down the road to look for the police or a town to ask for help.

A flat tire forces the family once again out of the car, only for another family member to go missing!

Unfortunately, they are the only car on the road, they never reach any towns--or even an intersections--and the dashboard clock has stopped.  They don't know how long they've been driving on this road to nowhere!  Lost and confused the Harringtons continue forward, hoping they'll reach a destination soon.  Unfortunately, they find themselves repeating this nightmarish situation: they see the Woman in White, they exit the car to investigate, another member of the family disappears only to be seen in the back of the passing 1940s or '50s style vehicle, and their burnt and mutilated remains are found further up the road!

A gun offers no help to the Harringtons on this road to nowhere.  The gun had been a Christmas present they intended on giving to an uncle waiting for them at Grandma's house on Christmas Eve.

This is a horror movie with a sense of humor.  Actor Ray Wise does a lot to encourage this wicked style and tone.  Do you remember Wise from his role as Leland Palmer, Laura Palmer's father, on the enigmatic TV show Twin Peaks?  Yeah, he's got this smirky, over-the-top quality that really works well here too.

The POV shots from each of the corpses also adds to the sense of humor and unexpected tone of this movie.  Here, brother Richard is re-claiming a cell phone from Brad's body found in the middle of the road.  Unfortunately, Richard won't be able to get a cell phone signal from it.

While the Harringtons continue along their route to nowhere, they experience repeated obstacles and emotional breakdowns followed by life-changing confessions!  You really just don't where this story is going--it's a giggly thrill ride not just for the Harringtons but for viewers as well.

Frank becomes philosophical after his night filled with trauma, death and a lot of driving.

This story has a twist at the end, leaving viewers with the experience of a vintage horror film or perhaps even an episode of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt despite its more contemporary release date.  I certainly don't want to spoil it.  You'll have to see it for yourself to figure out how the Harringtons reach their destination and to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.  I really like this movie because it's both creepy and funny--I just can't get enough of Ray Wise.  My advice: next time you decide to take a shortcut and get off the interstate--make sure you have a map or GPS device and a strong cup of coffee.



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