End of the Line (DVD)
Reviewed by Serena Whitney
Starring Ilona Elkin, Nicholas Wright, Neil Napier, Emily Shelton
Directed by Maurice Devereaux
Distributed by Anchor Bay Canada
Canadian writer/director Maurice Devereaux takes viewers on a subway ride into hell with his recent religious (or should I say anti-religious) horror film, End of the Line. The film starts off with a bang as a young nurse named Karen (Elkin) boards the last subway of the evening. After having a creepy encounter with a disturbing man (Robin Wilcock) on the platform, Karen gets on the train thinking the danger she nearly escaped is behind her. Little does she know, Karen has boarded a train full of religious extremists (referred to as The “Hope” members) who believe Armageddon is near and have been ordered to “purify” the souls of all the passengers on the train by killing them with razor-sharp daggers. Karen and her fellow passengers must band together to fight and to stay clear of the homicidal fanatics before they are all ... “saved.”
Clearly influenced by horror greats like Dario Argento and George Romero, Devereaux delivers a film for fans of the genre that is both creepy and thought-provoking; he's able to put as much effort into the social commentary as he does the scares.
Like Creep, End of the Line captures the somber mood and claustrophobic atmosphere that is needed to make a successful subway horror film. One of the most striking aspects of this film that made it different than other low budget horror indies was its powerful use of music. Composer Martin Gauthier’s score sounded like something Marco Beltrami or Danny Elfman would have came up with on a mainstream horror film, and it definitely benefited from the jarring and thunderous music. End of the Line has probably one of the most effective jumper scares I have ever seen in a movie. Seriously, I spilled my drink all over me when I saw it. This scare, as well as others riddled throughout the film, wouldn’t have been nearly as effective with an inferior composer.
In addition to a great score, End of the Line has plentiful gore and awe-inspiring special effects that you usually can’t find in horror films with such a low budget. Viewers get plenty of grisly stabbings, gaping head wounds, a very realistic and disturbing decapitation, a forced abortion (note: What’s with this new trend of fetuses getting ripped out of pregnant women's stomachs?), and a subway suicide that will certainly make viewers want to stand against the far wall while waiting for the train from now on.
It’s also evident that Devereaux has learned from past mistakes in terms of casting; the cast of End of the Line is far superior to that of his previous efforts like $la$her$, a guilty pleasure of mine that was full of atrocious performances. All of the leads here prove to be very capable, especially protagonist Ilona Elkin. Joan McBride also gives a chilling performance as one of the murderous leaders of the Hope Members. If the crazy lady in The Mist drove you nuts, be prepared to put on a straitjacket after watching this woman’s performance. The underrated and easy on the eyes Neil Napier is always a welcome presence onscreen in my books.
On the downside, End of the Line has its far share of problems, the biggest being some unbelievably stupid actions made and dialogue said by the characters throughout. Call me crazy, but I don’t think anyone would run out of a stalled subway in the tunnels to dance around and have fun or tell frantic survivors on the brink of Armageddon that they need to take a dump, but maybe that’s just me.
And although I found the film’s depiction of religious extremism very disturbing, at times the social commentary behind it was fairly heavy-handed and could be quite offensive to anyone who is religious; and I’m agnostic! Having said that, it was still a refreshing change to see Christian extremism being exploited instead of the always- targeted Muslim groups.
Lastly, I must warn consumers to disregard the DVD cover for the film, for not only does it give away a pivotal twist, it’s very misleading as well. This is not a monster movie by any means, and if you can go into the film knowing as little as possible, it will prove to be fairly beneficial for your viewing experience.
The extras on the (sadly Canadian-only) DVD also prove to be interesting companion pieces for the film. The making-of featurette is full of insightful information on the background of End of the Line, and the cast members all discuss at great lengths the religious themes conveyed. It was also interesting to see what the cast and crew put themselves through to make the movie come to life. Viewers are witness to seeing a method actress’ non-stop crying, the dedicated director hiding a family member’s passing so he could finish the film, and the cast and crew’s uncomfortable filming conditions while shooting in the cold tunnels. The level of devotion to this project from the cast and crew is plain to see when watching this attention-grabbing feature.
The commentary track with writer/director Maurice Devereaux and special effects artist/music composer Martin Gauthier is also excellent. It's nice to hear a filmmaker be humble enough to admit his film’s flaws, and Devereaux does plenty of that; if anything, he is far too critical of his work at times. The only thing that I found annoying about the track was how the director kept referring to the open-ended twist at the end of the film and yet never revealed what really happened. Believe me, if you haven’t figured out the twist (like myself), then listening to this may prove to be a more frustrating experience than a drunken male virgin trying to find a woman’s g-spot. Come on, Maurice; spill the beans already!
The other extras include a Fantasia Film Festival Q&A, a deleted scene, and set photos that are also definitely worth a look.
End of the Line may have its flaws, but they don’t hurt the overall viewing experience of the film. Devereaux is proving that he is growing as a filmmaker as he is able to successfully merge innovative avant-garde techniques with conventional horror. If inventive kills and genuine scares are what you look for in a horror film, then I suggest you check out this film as soon as you can.
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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