End, The (2008)
Reviewed by Paul McCannibal
Starring Jeremy Thomas, Jaden Holle, Jayson Therrien, Barb Mitchell
Directed by Jeremy Thomas
This movie is a prime example of how ingenuity prevails in the face of obvious budgetary restraints. What a pleasant surprise it was to watch this, and what an inspiration it stands as to the low budget/do-it-yourself filmmaking community.
It’s shot on video, and for all intents and purposes, the movie starts out in a place that you might understandably think wouldn’t invite rave reviews. Yes, it looks cheap, and you won’t see any big or recognizable names appearing in the cast. What The End does have in its slightly-overlong opening reel is enough (and I stress enough) charm to keep you watching. If you get a chance to see it, trust me. Keep watching!
What happens later is that writer/director/star Jeremy Thomas turns the screws on the viewers in a highly unexpected way. To say what his turning-of-the-screw entails conceptually would be a disservice to the movie. You absolutely must not know what the twist is or it probably won’t have the intriguing and humorous effect that it does without knowing what it is… to even reference a comparable film with a similar twist would ruin it. So let’s just say that you really must give the movie a chance, and be patient. Because no matter what your tastes are, and no matter what your tolerance for non-glossy cheapo filmmaking is, I doubt you won’t ultimately be hooked by The End when things really start to get rolling a more cerebral way a little later on.
The basic plot is about a teacher named Joseph Rickman (played by director Jeremy Thomas) who has a special gift for picking up on paranormal remnants in crime scenes. He had an experience when he was young where his unique talents led to the resolution of a heinous crime. Now, years later, he’s finding himself compelled to walk into the woods at night, meeting a mysterious masked/hooded figure in the process and witnessing what seems like people being kidnapped and buried alive in the midst of the gaze of some voyeuristic and tortured looking garden gnomes.
Rickman has an accomplice and a romantic interest in police detective Clara Wilkie (played infectiously by the drop-dead-gorgeous Ella May). Wilkie is increasingly concerned about Rickman’s growing obsession with the mysterious goings-on in his town, and alternates between trying to jump his bones and save his sanity, and in the process tries to continue her detective work on the case in proper procedural fashion. This is not an easy act to juggle – the increasing tensions between Rickman and Wilkie are driving factors in all the unusual narrative layers that begin to appear in the plot.
Being a peculiar but charismatic savant/psychic in a teaching role, Joseph Rickman also has an adoring student named Katie (played, I believe, by another notably talented performer named Katie Webber) who seems to mirror some of Rickman’s psychic gifts.
All of the acting is well done in The End – with really low budget efforts, often you’ll find that an acceptable level of ensemble performance is one of the first aspects where the cracks start to show. Here, I thought everyone did a decent to fantastic job in their roles and that the acting was consistent throughout.
Anyway, what happens after this thriller/detective/paranormal story is established, is that things transform dramatically and suddenly by a really imaginative twist. And no, I can’t tell you what that twist is. Because it would dampen its effect if you knew it was coming.
Overall this is a highly original film from a very capable director with a great imagination and a knack for clever writing. Given the money and the film stock, it would be a great idea to simply take Jeremy Thomas’s film as it exists here and have him remake it shot-for-shot in a form that would be more palatable to larger audiences who tend to avoid low budget creations.
If that doesn’t come to pass, then let’s hope that someone can bankroll another bigger scale Jeremy Thomas effort that is as unique, original, and engaging as this one. And, more importantly, that Thomas can have full creative control over his script, without test audiences and studios cramping his conceptual style. I’m giving The End 4 daggers because I have a soft spot for efforts done so resourcefully and cleverly with little or no money behind them.
4 out of 5