Carl Foster takes off on a well-deserved weekend break with his family knowing only too well that focus on work has impacted his relationship with his wife, young son, and teenage step-daughter. But after a short but restful break in the journey Carl awakens to find himself tied and bound in an old roadside diner, his family trussed and gagged next to him, and a disparate group of dirty, dishevelled, vagrant-like undesirables keeping them captive. Only time will reveal who they are and what they want, but things are not everything they might seem
A truly terrible movie can sometimes make for a memorable cinematic experience.¬† I still fondly recall a 1989 pile of rubbish entitled “High Desert Kill,” featuring Marc Singer and Chuck Connors as hunters who square off against an alien menace.¬† It was hysterically awful, a film the family and I still have a good¬†chuckle over and often quote¬†some of the more ludicrous lines of dialogue from.¬† To this day, describing something as being able to “rip you open like a sack of manure” will send my old man into¬†fits of laughter.¬† Long before “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” I had my fellow Getzes.
Oh, how I wish one of them had been present to mire through “Dead End” alongside yours truly.¬† Nearly each and every forgettable molecule of¬†celluloid¬†practically begs for ridicule,¬†but cracking¬†asides to a slumbering¬†chihuahua just doesn’t soothe the pain inflicted by a dud.¬† Also released under the even less¬†appealing name¬†of “Hard Shoulder,” this¬†sad sack of a thriller proved to be so humorlessly bad, I had to begin¬†this review by describing a completely unrelated¬†movie.¬† That’s how bad it is.
To refer to the Fosters as dysfunctional is akin to calling Ted Bundy “not quite right.”¬† Though qualifying for the title of Unhappiest Family in Movie History, that nonexistent honor doesn’t necessarily amount to entertainment.¬† Patriarch Carl (Wil Johnson) and wife Maddie (Angela Dixon) seem to have married one another for no better reason¬†other¬†than they both must hate love.¬† Their relentless squabbling that serves as the focal point of the entire first third is an endurance test of the viewer’s patience and temper.¬† Word to the wise: Should you watch “Dead End” (which is not advisable), keep objects at the ready for throwing across the room in frustration.¬† You’re going to need them.
Rounding out the Foster clan are Callum Anderson as Lucas and Frances Speedie as Chloe, the latter belonging¬†to Maddie from a previous marriage.¬† Being unable to spend any¬†longer than thirty seconds in each other’s company, they make the sensible decision to pack themselves into the car and set out on a weekend¬†getaway.¬† Not before, however, we’re subjected to Carl lustfully eyeballing Chloe in her bedroom as she dresses.¬† The undeniable urge to photograph the gorgeous Speedie in her skivvies is¬†perfectly acceptable¬†in a trashy horror flick, but what certainly isn’t beyond reproach is the fact that writer/director Nicholas David Lean feels it needs to be justified and presented within the structure of such a distasteful moment.¬† Whatever happened to¬†the¬†traditional¬†gratuitous shower scene?¬† Allow your audience the opportunity to leer without the nagging burden of feeling dirty about it, please.
Becoming hopelessly lost on a backwoods highway and hearing no end of it from Maddie, Carl decides to pull off the road for a quick nap before resuming the search for civilization.¬† He awakens to find that he and his family have been gagged and bound from the ceiling of a presumably defunct diner.¬† Enter Dog and his grubby cohorts, who make it crystal clear that the¬†Fosters are not the establishment’s guests of the day.¬† As portrayed by veteran character actor Jamie Foreman (“Layer Cake” and “Inkheart”), Dog quickly takes the reins of the film by instantly becoming the most amiable character by default.¬† Suddenly, my attention was once again piqued by the prospect of a reward, in the form of watching this brood tortured for the duration.¬†¬†Since that is precisely what they had been doing to me until that point, fair is fair.¬† I’ll take what I can get from these stinkers.
Unfortunately, with the exception of a few well-placed punches delivered to Carl, Dog and the gang (who bear the¬†tired resemblance¬†of background “Mad Max” extras), do nothing more than talk, talk, talk about all of the vile things they have in store.¬† Though hissed tones and kinky face-licking fall¬†under the category of moderately unsettling,¬†they are neither frightening nor exciting.¬† Also failing on both accounts is an overwrought and disgusting scene in which Dog rapes Maddie in a back room of the restaurant, eventually culminating in her becoming aroused and reaching orgasm.¬† Swell.
Though the rest of the cast might as well have been cardboard cutouts with voice overs, Foreman does¬†attempt to squeeze¬†what he can out of the entire joyless enterprise as Dog.¬† Credit must also be granted to his sense of professionalism, as he never seems to be phoning in what¬†could only be a cry¬†for help on his part if not a paycheck performance.¬† Most established thespians would have slept-walk through the role, squinting at cue cards the entire time.¬† I wouldn’t have blamed them.
A quick jaunt into surrealism toward the end is the one stroke of originality Lean displays, but it comes¬†far too late in the day to salvage the picture.¬† It also segue ways into a final twist so utterly unoriginal and stupefying, I feel I owe the film “The Evil Inside” from two reviews ago a heartfelt apology¬†for dedicating so much of that link¬†discussing¬†how utterly unoriginal and stupefying its final twist was.¬† That was an M. Night Shyamalan wet dream compared to what “Dead End” hurls in our direction.
Perhaps¬†I’d have gleaned more enjoyment from “Dead End” if viewed in the company of¬†beloved wisenheimers.¬† I honestly don’t believe I could have¬†liked it less¬†had I been severely beaten with rubber hoses simultaneously whilst watching it, so any change in surroundings would have been an improvement.¬† Given my uncharacteristically high spirits as I tap away at my keyboard, I will refrain from tagging this travesty¬†with the grade¬†it rightfully deserves out of respect to Jamie Foreman and independent film makers everywhere who aren’t wretched failures in their artistic fields.¬† But I want to give¬†”Dead End”¬†that F-bomb, friends.¬† I really, really do.
Dead End (2012)