[Movie Review] Dead End (2003) ★★★★★

baby carriage on the road in Dead End 2003

Dead End is a surreal nightmare brought to life with whimsical dread.

Dead End is a supernatural horror movie that has dark humor and surreal terrifying strange and mysterious events. With an intimate storyline of only five main characters, this film focuses on the dread they experience on an abandoned road while tension between them rises but in a very playful way. With a creepy and surreal atmosphere this film takes you on a journey into a nightmare that never ends. While this film has a big mystery and a great twist, it’s recommended to know as little as possible before watching. This review is without spoilers. 

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It’s Christmas Eve and Frank, Laura and their teenage son Richard and grown up daughter Marion and her boyfriend Brad are on their way to celebrate Christmas with Laura’s family. In the car the tension rises, but when Frank decides to take a shortcut through the woods, there seems to be no end to this road. When also strange things start to happen, it’s going to be a long evening full with terror and dread.

Why you should watch it

Dead End is a horror but with a very clever plot and some dark whimsical humor. Five people in a not too big of a car is already asking for problems and the tension between them soon rises. Emotions are running high, while they all have very strong personalities that also clash with each other. It’s a great setup for family troubles even before they reach the in-laws and more family. It’s a close environment and the dark road doesn’t help. This also deepens the characters more and the viewer gets to know them on an occasional evening, but there’s nothing really off with this family, just standard family struggles and issues. Which makes it relatable and also funny. 

Laura is trying hard to keep the spirits up. But in the end she’s the one to lose her marbles. Richard is the annoying teenager, who is annoying to his parents and sister and who is annoyed by them. So that works very well. Marion is a psychiatrist and tries to analyse and solve everyone’s issues, but is soon completely paralyzed. Frank is the man of the house and tries to act that way but he lets his anger overrule his mind. And Brad is just here because of Marion. Poor guy. It’s a perfect mix to let things spiral out of control even without weird supernatural happenings. 

The dialogue adds to the tension and the dark humor and on the dark road it works like a catalyst. The atmosphere is dark and claustrophobic both inside and outside the car. It enhances the scary and weird happenings they come across on this deserted road with no end. It’s an ideal surrounding and setting for surreal events that pile up the farther they go. This combination of personal tension and the isolation, creepy encounters and deadly events create a mysterious vibe. The woman in white along side the road, the classic baby carriage in the middle of the road, the scary old automobile that keeps driving by and a very dark wood on both sides, with a creepy cabin, result in a tale of dread. 

Although there are only five characters, one setting and only few occurrences the focus is very intense and intimate. It’s a film that is strong in its simplicity and that intimate take adds to the scary feel of the story. With almost no gore and with the emphasis on atmosphere and the mystery, it’s a very well told and acted film that uses psychological dread and surreal terror to create an authentic horror story. 

My favorite part

I loved the character Laura portrayed by Lin Shaye. She’s sweet, is keeping up the courage and tries to middle between her children and Frank, until one special events and she completely falls apart. That part is wonderfully shown. It’s tragic and realistic and also very surreal and full of dark whimsical humor. The bag of crisps is a perfect example of not coping very well. While Marion is hopeless in her own way trying to fix everything.  And not to speak of the men who are too easily seduced and lost. What’s so good about this film is that they all are relatable people and probably everybody knows the tension to visit the in-laws at Christmas. Don’t try to take a shortcut though.


Rating: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Surreal factor: ★★★★★

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★

Cast and crew

Dead End is directed and written by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa. It stars Alexandra Holden (Marion Harrington), Ray Wise (Frank Harrington), Lin Shaye (Laura Harrington), Mick Cain (Richard Harrington), William Rosenfeld (Brad Miller) and Amber Smith (Lady in White).

Duration: 85 minutes. Music: Greg De Belles. Cinematography: Alexander Buono. Edited by: Antoine Vareille. Produced by: Sonja Shillito, Gabriella Stollenwerck, Cécile Telerman, James Huth. Production company: Sagittaire Films, Captain Movies. Distributed by: Lions Gate Films.

Check the trailer below

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