Dead End (2003)
By: Andrew Gillies on March 29, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MRA (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 89 minutes
The Movie
Directors: Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa
Starring: Ray Wise, Alexandra Holden, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain, Amber Smith, Billy Asher
Screenplay: Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa
Music:Greg De Belles
Country: USA/France
First time Writer/Directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa debut with the psychological mystery horror Dead End which, I must confess, scared me more times than I would have liked. The film creates an element of tension and horror through its brilliantly crafted mystery, and although obviously low budget, the movie does not suffer but infact uses this to its advantage; sustaining a well written story and maintaining good character development.

The film depicts a family travelling the road on their annual Christmas journey to visit the relatives. However, not so routine is the shortcut Frank decides to take, steering the troupe from their usual route onto a desolate road at night. After spotting a woman dressed in white wandering the forest, Frank stops to lend a helpful hand. But who is the woman in white, and why does she seem to bring death with her, and just what the hell is that creepy black car doing? Dead End follows the survival of a family who must escape the road and the haunted past it brings with it.

Although the DVD cover may look a little cheesy, and the name might imply something less than ordinary, Dead End truly is a movie that has come up with a genuinely creepy and entertaining story. Unlike much of the PG-13 watered down horror (The Ring, anyone?) we get these days, Dead End projects itself as a disturbingly horrifying and gloriously graphic tale. The picture is not a nice one, and is intended to make you feel uncomfortable and awkward. And it succeeded; I actually cringed through many scenes due to the nature of what had happened.

The movie isn't overly gory; most violence happens off screen or is only suggested. Clever camera angles help hide aftermath gore, yet still enable a sense of horror to be felt. But gore hounds shouldn't be disappointed, what is seen onscreen is enough to satisfy many. With that being said, the film doesn't hold back in the detail, and the audience gets a pretty good idea of what happens. The film also creates a sense of dread whenever the woman in white, or the black car, appears onscreen, indicating to the audience one of the movie's more unpleasant moments.

Being a psychological horror mystery, and set on a long stretch of road, one might wonder if this is a boring epic. Far from it, this plot heavy fright flick creates believable dialogue and likeable characters so that the interactions seem real, allowing for emotional value. The performances of the actors are pretty darn good. Ray Wise, who fought the Creeper in Jeepers Creepers 2, leads the cast in an entertaining and engaging fashion. Lin Shaye, probably best known for her comedy roles including There's Something About Mary does a complete genre turn around, and plays a worried mother who slowly looses her mind. Without the excellent performances, the movie would've fallen face first and failed to rise to the level of quality it has achieved.

Andre and Canepa have delivered a satisfying and gruelling horror movie. With the often-funny moments juxtaposed against the disturbing scenario, Dead End has presented itself as a worthwhile movie that all should watch and enjoy.
Being an MRA Entertainment release, I was ready for a fullscreen VHS quality transfer. I am shocked to praise MRA for a really nice print! Dead End is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The print is relatively clean and clear throughout. Visually, the picture is stunning. The print shows no blemishes, and perhaps minor grain through some of the earlier sequences. Colours are pristine, and nothing seems to bleed, which is always nice. Some sequences did seem a little fuzzier than others, but this was rare, and I suspect this to be the camera itself, and not due to a dodgy transfer. MRA has delivered a movie with a great video transfer.
Yet again, MRA have surprised me with a great sound set-up. The 5.1 English track is one of the better tracks I've heard in a long time! The sound is great, and since this movie relies on a lot of noises to scare, it is not let down by the audio quality. Dialogue is constant and never too low, with forest noises coming from all speakers around you. The front and back speakers both get a lot of action. The forest surrounds you, and you can't escape the scares that the movie throws at you. I literally jumped and was ready to attack whoever had snuck up on me, but realised it was the left back speaker playing tricks instead. Music comes through all speakers and is divided well. The audio quality is a blast (no pun intended) and as I mentioned before, one of the better uses of a sound system I've heard in a long time.
Extra Features
This is the only problem with MRA's release of Dead End. There is only a small selection of annoying trailers for movies, none of them for the film, and one of them looking like a direct transfer off a bootleg tape, and a filmography for three of the actors. This movie definitely deserves a special edition treatment. I'd love to hear a commentary, and watch a making of. In fact, the Region 2 UK release contains deleted scenes and a making of documentary. MRA have once again failed in the department of special features – nothing I didn't expect.
The Verdict
Dead End is great. Watch it, because it's a movie that really works well with the few resources it has. The story is well crafted, the scares are sufficient, the acting is good, and the characters are ones your care for. Video and audio quality are outstanding, and a surprise, which only compliment the film. Unfortunately the disc falls short, and loses a lot of cool points because there are no extra features, for what should be a packed DVD. MRA you're on the right track, but you've got to go the extra mile. The movie gets my high praise, but the lack of extra features courtesy our friends at MRA prevent this disc from getting a perfect score.
Movie Score
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