I tossed End of the Line onto my list after running across it a few places online. Some folks called it an underrated gem. Village Voice listed it as one of 10 movies that deserved more attention in 2007. It got some relatively favorable (if uneven) reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, and apparently won some awards at some film festivals. And this guy seemed to like it well enough anyway.
It’s also the writing/directing/editing work of one man (Maurice Devereaux) who had a couple straight-to-video releases before it under a Fangoria label. I’m always anxious to discover an under-the-radar film that I’m going to love and encourage more people to see.
Unfortunately, this is not that film. It has legs to stand on, but those legs are so wobbly that the whole enterprise ends up shaky and off-kilter.
The story in a nutshell: Sleeper cells of a worldwide religious cult are notified via pager that the apocalypse has begun, so they begin their work of saving people by stabbing them to death. Also, there may or may not be some demonic presence somehow involved.
What’s to hate? Nothing, really. The story concept is interesting, but it slips right through the fingers of its indie actors, who can’t hold it together with performances ranging the entire spectrum between great and cringe-worthy. Setting aside the uneven performances, the fact that the main action revolves around the world’s emptiest subway system – which, nevertheless, is crawling with cult members chasing a small handful of people through wide-open spaces – makes its low budget distractingly, painfully obvious.
For the viewer, low production quality tends to disappear if a film is compelling enough. Here, it’s frustratingly impossible to ignore. It’s not that the lighting is bad (it’s not) or that the cinematography is bad (it’s not), but the sum of the parts equals an unconvincing made-for-video atmosphere.
Everything is too well-lit for a film that’s trying to be dark and gritty. We’re in subway tunnels, for heaven’s sake, which should have some shadows and places for the evil to hide – certainly not multi-colored lights peeking out from around corners and through cracks. It may look pretty and accomplished, but traversing through an environment that felt as wide open, empty and bright as an episode of Scooby Doo, it was hard to believe they couldn’t outrun or outmaneuver these small groups of murderous religious nuts.
Though this would be one of the gorier Scooby Doo episodes, mind you. Blood splashes freely, and some of the makeup and special effects are extremely impressive. But the high-dollar effects are too frequently interspersed with decidedly UNimpressive guy-with-a-squirt-gun-of-fake-blood-off-camera shenanigans that pulled me back out of the fantasy time and time again.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about this movie is that it wouldn’t seems as ridiculous if it weren’t so uneven, which ultimately stems from the quality of the script itself. Much of the dialogue is silly and contrived. The movie can’t decide if it wants to be a supernatural thriller, a monster movie, or a slasher film. The ending answers none of your burning questions, and not because it’s delightfully ambiguous but rather because it’s a jumbled mess. When the screen goes black at the end, you’ll be surprised when the credits start to roll.
Now that you’ve seen the film…
*********** SPOILER ALERT ************
- If I may be so bold, here’s what I would do in my remake of this film:
- I would commit to the supernatural elements. The moments on the subway before the cult members bring out their knives are genuinely scary and compelling. Then it becomes a simple pursuit movie. I think it’s more compelling as a supernatural thriller.
- I’d create a more claustrophobic atmosphere. Eliminate the wide-open tunnels in favor of small, tight spaces. Confine the action to a couple train cars, or trap our players in one of the control rooms. Make us believe that there are hundreds of other passengers trapped in these tunnels, and we’re just following a handful of them. It wants so badly at one point to become Night of the Living Dead, so I would let it.
- It makes no sense that all these cult members who happen to be riding on the subway at the same time know each other, go to the same church branch, which apparently also happens to be the main branch because they are high up the totem pole with the main preacher who is behind this supposedly WORLDWIDE movement. If the whole world is coming under attack by this group, then to have the main players in an empty subway system chasing eight people is ludicrous.
- If you’re going to make sex and attempted rape important plot elements, you have to commit to a realistic portrayal or it’s distracting. Sex through the clothes is for soap operas.
- Maybe we realize that those folks were right after all about the apocalypse? My ending would be less ambiguous and more C.H.U.D.
- I’d put Emily Shelton (Julie) front and center for the whole film. She displays some serious acting chops when not confined to mugging in the background for half the film. And she’s gorgeous. Emily, are you listening?
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