Horror, suspense, and thriller films have always frightened us, leaving us wondering whether there are demons lurking beneath our beds and if we should open the basement door or hide in the attic during a game of hide and seek.
And if the French decide to make it, my friends, brace yourselves for it will send shivers down your spine! In today’s video, I’m going to discuss a comparable film. Dead End, a minimalistic French horror and thriller film starring Lin Shaye, Ray Wise, Mick Cain, Alexandra Holden, and Amber Smith, was written and directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and his wife, Fabrice Canepa, and published in 2003.
It follows a normal American dysfunctional family as they are chased by a mysterious hearse and a woman dressed in white on a never-ending road in the middle of a forest on an ordinary Christmas Eve excursion.
With the arrival of their new passengers, the trip becomes dark and treacherous, and the family’s numbers swiftly dwindle in a series of seemingly unrelated, terrible roadside accidents. The road seems to stretch on forever, and hell begins to seem very real.
The Tale Of Dead End
Some families seem to get along perfectly. Their road trips are joyful, enjoyable, and festive. No one dies under strange, mysterious, or supernatural circumstances. Unfortunately, the Harringtons do not fit this description.
The movie starts with Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) choosing to take a detour through a secluded spot while driving with his family on Christmas Eve to his in-laws for their annual dinner. His wife Laura (Lin Shaye), son Richard (Mick Cain), daughter Marion (Alexandra Holden), and her boyfriend Brad (Billy Asher) are in the car with him. Feeling exhausted, Frank decides to take a shortcut, thinking that the change of scenery will keep him awake.
The rest of them are asleep in the car, and it is late at night. Frank’s eyes begin to droop as the road becomes increasingly dark and vacant. He is startled awake just as he is ready to fall asleep by the sound of a car that is about to collide head-on with him. He narrowly escapes colliding with the car, terrifying everyone inside. Laura is perplexed as to why her husband did not take the usual route to her mother’s house, to which he claims he was plain and simple “bored” and wanted a change of scenery.
After things have cooled down, Frank inspects the car and finds no damage, so they continue on their adventure. He is awake now, as Frank puts it. Things appear to be good, except for the incessant squabbling of the trio in the rear, until Frank pulls over to the side of the road, believing he has seen a woman dressed in white carrying a baby standing in the woods. The lady comes to Frank’s window, clearly distressed.
Marion, witnessing the woman’s anguish and realizing that she requires assistance, volunteers to walk so that they may transport her in their car to a place for aid. The woman gets into the car and remains mute while the family asks her questions and eventually, they settle on taking her to a cabin that they passed a little while back. This, at first, seemed a little weird and cliched to me, but the movie became much more intriguing as it proceeded further.
When they arrive at the wooden cabin, Laura and Frank walk inside to take a look around. Meanwhile, Richard walks to the woods to masturbate to a magazine, leaving Brad with the woman and her child in the car. While Brad interrogates the woman and tells her about his plans to propose to Marion, Marion goes down the street to meet up with the family and prepares to break up with Brad. The mom informs Brad that her child’s name is Amy and hands her over to him. When Brad questions the child’s ability to breathe with the sheets covering her face, the woman grins and informs him that the baby is already dead.
Brad, perplexed, pulls the blanket to see what looks to be the child’s body and then screams as if he has just seen a ghost. The camera returns to Richard, who hears the scream, and his moment of pleasure gets interrupted by fear, leading him to sprint back to the car. The woman and Brad are nowhere to be seen now. On the other hand, Marion notices a vehicle going down the road and turns to find Brad struggling and pleading for assistance in the back.
She returns to the family and insists they follow the vehicle. After hitting something on the road, Frank stops the car once again. While he discovers Brad’s mangled body, Marion is in a state of shock, and Laura tries to contact the cops using Brad’s cellphone. It is a little disturbing when Frank attempts to take Brad’s cellphone out with a stick, and finally, Richard takes it out to find it attached to Brad’s mangled ear.
A lady begging for assistance is on the other end of the call. Laura is disturbed by this and does not inform the rest of the family. Marion sits motionless as they resume their journey. Laura begins to doubt Frank’s ability to lead them as the strain mounts. They fight, and he informs Laura that he despises spending time with her family. When Frank spots a baby carriage on the road, he immediately stops the car once more. Richard jumps out to have a look and then pretends to be dragged into the carriage, to which his parents are frightened to death.
They get back into the car, only to come to a complete halt. The same vehicle once again picks up Richard just as before. Frank sees the “Lady in White” again as the three race to save Richard. Laura begins to show indications of insanity once they discover Richard’s body. Laura loses it entirely and confesses to Frank about Richard not being his son. She goes back in the car and devours an entire pie, after which she makes drawings on the empty container and starts making statements that make absolutely no sense. She even goes to the extent of saying she can see people amidst the forest, dead people, waving at her.
Marion looks to have reverted to normal when traveling with her father in the front seat, as the family passes a sign that reads “Marcott.” Frank deduces that it has to be a military route, which explains why it is not marked on the map. At the next stop, Laura starts behaving irrationally and shoots Frank in the leg with a shotgun that Marion unwrapped, which essentially was a gift for a family member. They resume their drive after treating the wound. Laura keeps on blabbering and then talks about seeing the face of a buddy who had perished in the woods 20 years ago.
She asks to see her buddy who has passed away, and when Frank refuses, she leaps from the speeding car. Frank comes to a halt, and they hunt for Laura until the vehicle reappears. When Laura emerges, Frank tries to shoot the driver, but the vehicle begins to back up. She’s disheveled and starts rambling, her brain protruding out the back of her skull, showing Frank had shot her by accident. Laura passes away after collapsing. Frank and Marion continue driving after loading her in the back of the car. They come across the same ranger station or cabin where they had previously stopped, and the lady in white assaults Frank in the dark.
However, like his wife and daughter, Frank has a notable shift in his mood and starts uttering things in aggression that do not make sense and ends up striking Marion unconscious. He watches the woman in white go back into the woods and pursues her with the shotgun. He starts shouting and firing the rifle, only to be shot down in the dark. Marion gets up and starts the vehicle.
However, when she gets behind the wheel, the car runs out of petrol. As she continues to walk, she notices body bags in the middle of the road carrying her deceased family. The vehicle approaches her as she sobs, but the woman in white comes behind her. Before stepping into the vehicle and driving away, she tells Marion that the vehicle, which is more like a hearse, is not there for her and abandons Marion alone with her dead family.
Marion is heavily bandaged when she wakes up in the hospital. Marion is informed about her coma by the doctor, who assures her that she and the baby will be alright. On his way out of the hospital, the doctor chats with a man who claims to be the one who found the family after the car accident.
After that, the car is shown being towed from the crash, and the doctor speaks about the incident. The guy confirms that everyone in the family had perished, barring Marion and that a young woman and her baby in the other car were also killed in the collision. He inquires about the doctor’s name, which she discloses to be Dr. Marcott, the same name as the sign on that never-ending road.
While in a coma, Marion seemed to have had a dream about how her family had perished and the vehicle not picking her up was assuring her that she would live. When the doctor’s car doesn’t start, the man who found the family gives her a ride in the identical vehicle shown in Marion’s dream.
Two workmen are seen picking up wreckage from the collision as the credits roll. They discover a message Frank had penned down in the car with Marion before their final stop, insinuating that the family’s experiences were genuine.
Dead End and some of its Trivia
Being a low-budget and minimalistic film, this movie was a sensational hit on home media earning up to the U.S. $ 77 million by just DVD sales.
There is a significant scene where the father (Ray Wise) discusses shock musician Marilyn Manson. The song “Wrapped in Plastic” by Marilyn Manson was inspired by a lyric from the television program Twin Peaks, which starred Ray Wise as Leeland Palmer, the father of Laura Palmer, whose death was discovered wrapped in plastic in the show’s opening scene.
There is a message at the end of the credits: “To everyone still with us at the end of these credits, thank you! God bless you. You sure do like Movies!” This clearly shows how the filmmakers have shown their gratefulness and smartness, both simultaneously.
Let us Come to the Bottomline
Even more than the horror components, Dead End’s greatest assets, in my opinion, are Lin Shaye and Ray Wise’s performances. Lin Shaye is a veteran actor in this genre, having starred in movies like the Insidious franchise, Ouija, The Call, The Grudge, and The Final Wish, while Ray Wise is famous for his roles in Jeepers Creepers, Twin Peaks, and The Swamp Thing. Shaye and Wise basically hold the movie up, keep it interesting, and make sure it does not fall apart. Not saying the other performers are not good or that the film is draggy, but Shay and Wise are unquestionably crucial to its success.
Dead End has some outstanding horror elements, albeit they do demand some suspension of disbelief. It is the type of film where you will be alright if you embrace the WTF moments. Even if it does not knock your socks off, you might want to wear them nonetheless.
Although I enjoyed the film, I believe it should have ended differently. I will not give anything away, but it seemed to have taken a wrong turn. In my opinion, Richard Harrington was also a little unrealistic at times and did not seem to fit in with the family. It might be a black sheep dynamic, but he appears to be a figure who is designed to be hated. At times, he seems to be a nuisance.
Richard is dripping with nasty remarks, contempt, and reprehensible behavior. We can all surely be like Richard sometimes, but we should never be like him! Finally, Marion’s character does not really shine out, even though she is the main character, in the end.
From the start of the movie, it’s a stressful experience. It draws you in and demands your undivided attention, which is simple to offer.
Having said that, it isn’t without its flaws. Sometimes, people make stupid judgments, ones that don’t make any sense. Richard, for example, going off into the woods during a wank pause is exceedingly weird and appears to be there simply for cheap nudity and a jump scare.
However, because everything else is so wonderfully done, these instances are easy to miss. This is a very remarkable achievement that everyone should be aware of.
Why Should You Watch Dead End
Dead End is a great horror film. One with just the most minor Christmas hints to add a slightly festive feel to it. It doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t enhance or detract from the overall experience. There is a lot to like here, from the fantastic performances to the harsh setting. Even the finale (which, if you are a frequent horror movie viewer, will be pretty predictable) is rewarding and well-executed.
With so much of the movie taking place in a car, the casting of these characters was crucial. The characters are not very unique, but each performer does a terrific job portraying them. Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, and Alexandra Holden deserve special mention. The representation of shock in this film is outstanding.
Spooky, disharmonious, and a conflict hell ride, Dead End is definitely one for the horror fanatics out there.