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Dead End


Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Dead End

For the past 20 years, Frank Harrington has grudgingly driven his family to celebrate Christmas with his mother-in-law. This year, he takes a shortcut and the nightmare begins. A mysterious woman in white lurches out of the shadows and sends the Harringtons spinning into a dark vortex from which there seems to be no escape. Signposts point to a town that never materialises, frustration turns to panic, and every time they stop, a hearse appears and whisks one of them away. To make matters worse, the already strained relationships between husband and wife, brother and sister, and boyfriend and girlfriend are stretched to breaking point. The survivors succumb to panic, to madness; deeply buried secrets burst to the surface. We’ve known it all along, and this film only helps to prove, that Christmas with the family can turn into a living hell.

For a horror film, the acting is surprisingly excellent. Ray Wise has a beleaguered, slightly creepy family man act down to near perfect. It seems as if Holden, very good in this, is building her way up to Hollywood stardom; although at the moment she’s best known as Bruce Willis’ daughter who dated Ross in Friends. Clocking in at a brisk 83 minutes, Dead End has no superfluous scenes. It's a taut suspense thriller from beginning to end, employing all manner of gimmicks and tricks to scare the audience. Half scary movie and half comedy, the movie will make you laugh and jump at the same time. Although the film isn’t operating on a big budget, the visuals are nevertheless impressive. Taking place entirely in one lonely night on a single stretch of asphalt highway flanked by a sea of trees, the film thrives from a tight script that knows where it wants to go and how to get there. Where it really differs and overshadows other horror films is its canny exploration of family dynamics. Perhaps Andrea is trying to comment that the complex nature of family is far scarier than any monster ever could be.

Dead End may not be outstandingly original, or much different to other films in its genre. Nevertheless, it holds the same shock factor, dry wit and twists that fans of scary movies live for. Dead ends may be a nuisance for the Harrington family, but for the audience, watching them get there is the fun part.

Phil Lurie

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Summer Term (35mm)