DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Dead End

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Dec 1, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]

    Dead End


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    Studio: Lions Gate
    Year: 2003
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 82 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Open Matte (1.33:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
    Subtitles: None
    Retail Price: $19.95




    Each and every year a new horror film gets released and early audiences sneak word out that the film in question is bound to become a classic and is one of the greatest the genre has to offer. Most of the time fans are usually let down by the pre-hype and Dead End is a film that got all time hype but for a change, it was well worth it. I won’t reveal too much about the actual story but fans are in for a neat little film.

    Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) is traveling to his mother in law’s house along with his wife (Lin Shaye), son (Mick Cain), daughter (Alexandra Holden) and her boyfriend. Along the way Frank does something, which he hasn’t done in twenty years---he pulls off the interstate to take a back road hoping to save time. On this back road Frank slams on his breaks when he notices a young woman standing on the side of the road holding a baby. Seeing that the woman needs help, Frank puts her in the car and goes looking for help but this leads to a nightmare when the family discovers there’s something in the woods and this road never comes to an end or leads anywhere.

    I’m writing this minutes after the movie has ended and my initial thoughts are a bit confused because on one hand, this is one of the better horror movies released the past ten years or so but on the other hand, the film could have been one of the greatest horror movies ever made but Dead End tries something different, which makes it unique but takes away something that could have been even better. I can honestly say I loved this film but at the same time something didn’t quite work but perhaps the film was too great for its own good.

    Dead End goes back to the 1970’s trademark of trying to tell a simple story and scare the hell out of you along the way. The film was clearly influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes and on this level the film really works. The second section of the film tries to add over the top laughs in the same vein as The Evil Dead and Scream. Mixing these two styles can be drastically bad but the directors are able to mix these two very well making the film seem a bit like a strange episode of The Twilight Zone.

    On the one hand, the horror elements of this thing are very realistic and contain a raw feel that is something hard to come by in today’s market. The comedy bits are quite unusual and certainly politically incorrect but that too is refreshing. Most of the time when horror films try to mix comedy one genre falls flat, which eventually hurts the other genre but that’s not exactly the case with this film. The horror elements are actually scary and the comedy elements are actually funny so what’s the problem? In one way or another I think the film would have been better had it gone all out in the scares department because the screenplay is so well written, the direction is so tight and the performances are better than what you’d expect so the end results should have made for a better film.

    This is a very strange and unique film since the two elements work so well together. You can’t really fault either element but you’re mind can’t help but wonder what the film would have been like had the director’s decided to go all out and scare the viewers. The film seems to be making fun of various horror clichés including stupid characters doing stupid things but the film takes this to the extreme in a few cases making it become rather annoying. There’s one scene where the daughter gets out to walk after they’ve picked up The Lady in White. Who in the hell would let their daughter walk in the middle of the woods? There’s another scene where we get one member of the family playing with a gun. Again, this spoof of stupid characters is funny and it made me laugh out loud but this stupidity hurts the horror elements and the serious tension the film is gathering.

    Another aspect that I did like however is that the film isn’t full of stupid teenagers, which is the current market of horror films. The director’s made an interesting choice having this be a family and the constant bickering and shocking revelations the family reveals helps add to the suspense. As I mentioned earlier, the cast is extremely good and will certainly remind you of a real family dealing with real issues. The ending is somewhat of a letdown considering everything that followed. Some fans have complained that they figured out what was going on early in the film but I never did so the ending didn’t bother me too much. After going back over all the clues, it’s rather obvious about the shock ending but I guess it depends on how fast you catch on.

    In the end, Dead End is certainly one of the best horror films to come out in a very long time but I wish the director’s wouldn’t have tried being so original. I enjoyed every aspect of this film but in the end, as a whole the film just wasn’t as great as it could have been. Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair criticizing the movie for not being what I wanted it to be but I really can’t help it considering how great so much of this material is.

    I think this is the first time in my life where I've called a film great yet bashed it for not being one of the greatest ever made.


    VIDEO---Following the debate of Martin, let’s try another one. The film is presented in what appears to be open matte (1.33:1) but I’m really not sure what the OAR is. The film played theatrically in the U.S. as well as overseas so at some point this thing had to have been matted. I’m sure some of the smaller festivals were able to show this open matte if that was indeed the OAR. The strange thing is that the end credits are letterboxed at around 1.78:1, which seems to be a likely aspect ratio for this thing. I didn’t see this in theaters so I can only guess to how this was shown. When it comes to the image on the disc I can only judge with what I see with my own eyes.

    To me, the film appears to look correctly but due to the credits I’m curious if any of the image has been zoomed up on. Before seeing the end credits I was quite certain this was an open matte transfer and I was going to say there shouldn’t be any mattes due to have various scenes were shot. Many scenes features absolutely no headroom at the top so any matte would have taken away the top part of heads, which obviously wouldn’t have been the right image. There’s also no room on the bottom for a matte so I don’t know what to tell you reguarding the aspect ratio.

    As for the image quality, it’s about as good as you can expect considering the budget. The only digital problems I noticed was some minor artifacts, which usually came up on the fathers jacket. The rest of the film appears to look very natural with a small amount of grain, which is to be expected. Colors appears strong throughout except for a few shots, which are a bit soft but I think this is how the film was supposed to look instead of a fault with the disc.

    AUDIO---We get a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track, which sounds very good. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout without any hiss, scratches are other issues. The Surrounds are also very nicely used especially during the music score and various sound effects, which add a haunting feel to the film. This certainly isn’t a track to show your system off to but the film doesn’t call for that and in my opinion the 2.0 Surround is just as good as a 5.1 would have been.

    EXTRAS---Not a single extra is included.

    OVERALL---The film is certainly getting the highest recommendation possible from me. Even with all the things I didn’t care for, there’s no denying this is a gem, which I’m going to go out on the limb and say will become a huge cult favorite. The Lions Gate DVD offers nice video and audio but I’m not certain about the OAR. Sadly no extras are included, which is a real shame but the low retail price makes this worth buying.

    Update: Minutes after posting this I did a little looking around and noticed a R2 disc, which features an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, 5.1 English audio, 2 deleted scenes and a featurette. It looks like Lions Gate dropped the ball again.

    Release Date: Out Now
     
  2. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

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    I watched the R4 version a couple of months ago and it was definitely a widescreen transfer, can't remember which ratio though.
     
  3. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Thanks Nick. I just updated the end of the review while you were posting that. Xploited has a R2 disc, which is widescreen and features more extras. I'm going to guess this edition might be zoomed in on because there are several moments where it doesn't appear a matte could be used. I'm going to order this R2 disc right now and I'll compare the two releases.
     
  4. Steve K.H.

    Steve K.H. Supporting Actor

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    Yet you only extended 3 stars... ?
     
  5. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    Presumably the stars relate to the overall package of the DVD. Given that the disc has a transfer with a questionable AR and absolutely no extras, that isn't a particularly bad rating.

    DJ
     
  6. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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  7. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Its a quality exampe of minimalist filmmaking: 8 characters, two cars, a single setting (deserted 2-lane road in the woods ... OK, so theres also a shack), and decent performances. Extra props for the vintage car that has a great "old hearse" look, without actualy using an old hearse [​IMG]

    Biggest NitPick: While Mick Cain gives a good performance (for an indy-slasher film) as Richard.... he's too old for the role. An actor that looks every bit of 26 really shouldn't be portraying a 15 year old character (as good an age as the film would have me beleive). Otherwise the filmmakers did a better than average job of picking a good cast for its "average" family.
     
  8. Shawn_Sek

    Shawn_Sek Stunt Coordinator

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    I rented this the other day and i thought it was great, though in a made-for-video way. its a fun little film with some really cool moments, the hearse was very creepy.

    Ray Wise was excellent in his role, an absolute joy to watch. Mick Cain on the other hand was pretty annoying. the twist was evident from the first 10 minutes, its been done on the twilight zone, other movies and countless old radio shows, but the presentation was pretty top notch.

    the DVD itself was good, despite apparantly not being OAR and having no extras. from what ive read, some of the other region DVDs are edited, such as the ear and the cellphone. hopefully i can pick this up used sometime cheap.
     

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