Reviewed by Rogueboy
Starring Ilona Elkin, Nicholas Wright, Robin Wilcock, Joan McBride
Directed by Maurice Devereaux
After recently watching Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (DVD review) I was very nostalgic for a good old time cat and mouse kind of slasher movie. The kind of movie where you know this diverse cast of characters are all just waiting lambs for the slaughter. The only questions are when, where and how much blood are they going to show when it happens?
As I sat down in the Harvard Square Theater Friday night to screen the Boston premiere of Maurice Devereauxs’ End of the Line as part of the Boston Underground Film Festival, I had no idea my craving was about to be very pleasantly satisfied and I would be whisked back to the late 80s. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.
End of the Line tells the story of Karen, who after a very long hard night working as a psychiatric nurse, boards the lonely Canadian subway. It’s the last train of the night and there are a few people aboard just making their way home, including various members of the Church of Hope, on their way home from a church gathering with the Reverend Hope, a preacher who is held in high regard is the city if not the world, as we see posters and magazines throughout the hospitals and subways.
After the trains emergency brake is pulled and the train stops between stations, all of the members of the Church begin to receive messages on their phones. Messages from the Reverend. The time has come. Armageddon is here. It is time for the flock to cleanse and save the world. And by “cleanse” he means unsheathing large daggers from their crosses and by “save” he means kill all of the non-believers before the arrival of the demons.
What ensues is all of the members of the flock go from smiling, choir singing, “help a brother out? ” kind of citizens to smiling, choir singing, hell bent killing machines. Our band of “non believers” made up of the psychiatric nurse, a lustful young couple, a J-Pop Asian woman, a Joe Everybody and our Muscle Bound “Leader”. They spend the rest of the film trying to make their way out of the subway tunnels while avoiding the blade-wielding horde of zealots.
To leave the summary at that doesn’t give this film the credit it deserves. But anymore would really spoil the fun of finding out the whats, whys, and hows of it all. There’s more to this film than just the “cat and mouse” chase that I was looking for; A lot more. Aside from the suspense of bloodthirsty psychos after you, there is the question of why they’re after you.
There’s always been something unnerving to me about individuals with unquestioning, unwavering religious belief, someone who would do anything “in the name of their god”. Jim Jones and Jonestown, and David Koresh in Waco instantly come to mind. And in the times of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, the subject matter is very appropriate. What End of the Line brings to the table is an on the surface run and gun type of slasher, but below the surface raises the question of faith; faith in others, faith in yourself and faith in your god. Throughout the film we see the members of the group face each of these challenges. Some succeed and some fail. And when they fail, they fail HARD.
End of the Line has balls. I’ll say it again. End of the Line has balls. Devereaux is not afraid to push the envelope in the spilling the red stuff. When I saw that the only real weapons that we were looking to use were these small daggers, I was a little worried that the blood factor would not be there. I’m very happy to say that I was WAY OFF. I didn’t take into account what you can find in subway tunnels; Axes, crowbars, and various other bladed weapons. Without going into spoiler territory, End of the Line gives us various degrees of stabbing, throat slashings, partial decapitations, axes to the head, and two scenes that very much caught me off guard, one including a child and one including an unborn baby. All of the running and slashing and killing leads to a very well done ending, though one that will definitely divide audiences. Some will love it and some will hate it. I for one absolutely loved it.
The atmosphere and set design helps out the film a great deal. Darkness and labyrinth like tunnels add to the confusion of an already tense scene. After speaking to the director, I was informed that he couldn’t afford to shoot in real subways and all of the set design was done digitally in post; a HUGE feat for an indie director.
For all of the merit that I give this movie, it’s not without its shortcomings. Some of the acting was very indie, meaning that the person could act but not in the capacity of holding a movie together. High spots were the Nurse, Ilona Elkin, who came into her own by the end of the film, as well as the head follower, Joan McBride, a middle aged woman who was chilling as the relentless leader of the disciples.
Low points for acting were Nicholas Wright, the “Joe Everyguy”, as he just was not convincing as the real guy; neither was John Vamvas as the whiny subway worker. With the right actor the scenes that he was in could have completely shaken you to your inner core but unfortunately, he comes across too whiney and almost unintentionally laughable.
Devereaux defiantly wears his influences on his sleeve as there were several shots and scene set ups that instantly brought to mind such films as Creep, Raw Meat, The Eye, The Shining, and Demons. Not a bad list on influences if you ask me.
There are a few pacing problems here and there, but nothing that seriously detracted from the film. Some VERY bad choice of dialogue used, I can only assume, to lighten up a scene, does detract quite a bit, however. No place, in any movie, whose title does not start with the words Harold and Kumar Go to… should the lines “I have to take a dump” be uttered. Seriously, never.
And just to give Devereaux his due, we screened the movie is a theater that didn’t have surround sound and he was very upset as he felt that the sound played a major factor for the feel of the film. It wasn’t something I even noticed or felt was missing was missing, but then I didn’t make it. The images, the themes, the unwavering violence and the whole feeling of unease was enough to make this one of the best movies I have seen in a festival in a long time, at least since Stuart Gordons Edmond.
End of The Line is the first bigger budget movie from Montreal native Devereaux, whose previous directorial works include $lasher$ and Lady of the Lake, both released direct to video under the Fangoria Banner. He stated that as of right now the film doesn’t have any distribution rights, which is a shame, but I’m sure that will change soon enough. End of the Line has the potential to become a classic for horror fans, all we need is a chance to see it. As the program notes stated, it’s a thinking man’s blood feast. And it is one that I can’t wait to dine on again.
4 out of 5
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