5/12/11

Deadly Doll's Choice: The End of the Line (2007)

When Emily suggested the 2007 Canadian horror film The End of the Line for our monthly swap, I accepted the challenge  but when I checked the flick out and found this staring back from the Netflix screen.....
it did not inspire overwhelming confidence on my part. The Entertainment Today blurb, "Does for Subways what Jaws did for Oceans" went a long way to further my impression of The End of the Line as some kind of subway dwelling creatures (similar to Jarad, but Canadian so I assume there would be copious amount of Maple Ham involved) flick. In the end, there was a kind of monster in subway, in fact, in the whole world, but not the kind that I expected at all. Speaking of expectation, I have to wonder what Emily will think of the film I picked for her, the 1985 Chris Lambert film Subway. Hopefully, she loved spending some time with Luc Besson's action crime film set in the Parisian Metro. So make sure you all stop in over at the Deadly Doll's House to find out what she thought of my pick. Now back to the matter at hand. While only marginally better than the DVD box art that Netflix shows for The End of the Line, the theatrical poster actually gives a little clue to what the film actually is.

Karen (Ilona Elkin) is a nurse working at a psychiatric hospital who begins to have strange visions of eyeless stalkers coming for her, and boarding the nearly deserted subway does little to ease her nerves. She gets harassed by a bleached blonde weirdo, but thankfully runs into fellow traveler, Mike (Nicolas Wright), a nice guy who keeps her company when the train makes an emergency stop. However, the stop is no real emergency. It is the beginning of a massacre. A religious group, expecting doomsday to roll around any time now, has taken to slaughtering unbelievers in an attempt to save their wayward souls. Karen and Mike soon find themselves banded together with a small group of survivors as they attempt to escape the subway system. The closer they get to freedom, the more apparent it is that the doomsday cult has spread much further than the underground tunnels, and the end times might well be neigh.

For the first thirty minutes of The End of the Line, I was still fairly convinced that the big bad were going to turn out to be a monster. Even after the first few of the zealots with their terribly inconvenient looking cross knives show up, I still suspected they were rounding up meat for some kind of monsters. I suppose the subway setting just planted Midnight Meat Train in my mind and wouldn’t let go. I have to admit though the first act, which also suffers from some confusingly placed time jumps, was barely registering with me. Then it took the hard turn into a religious based horror where the evil became the knife toting members of the Church of Hope who were intent on cleansing the world. With the uniforms that brought to mind both Nazi Brown shirts and bike riding Mormons at the same time and a collection of blank stares plastered across their faces, they become a faceless killing machine intent on carrying out their divinely inspired mission.

I would be kind of remiss if I talked about this film and didn’t mention the current doomsday cult prediction going around. According to some schools of Christian thought (note I said some), the clock is up on the world in only nine days. That’s right folks. You’ve only got until May 21 until the whole tribulation kicks off, and then by December the whole shebang will wrap up for good. There are a whole lot of reasons I’m not worried about the end of the world. For one, I’m not someone who’s looking forward to the world ending. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m having a good time. Secondly, there’s been someone saying the world is going to end since the world began. If it hasn’t happened so far, then it’s not got a great chance to happening now, but in a day and age when people on both sides of religion and politics are getting more radicalized, I have to wonder how preposterous the events detailed in The End of the Line really are. After all, there was no sign in the film of an actual Rapture; it was men killing men because of what some other man said about a book that was written long, long ago.

Director Maurice Devereaux has only made four films in his fifteen years as a filmmaker, but despite The End of the Line’s floundering first act, once the film gets going, it really gets there. Working from his own script, The End of the Line explicitly points out the dangers of zealotry without making grand or pejorative statements, and it was clearly a subject that Devereaux felt strongly about. Working with many of the same crew that had made his previous three films, the film feels assured even during the moments were timing seems a bit shaky. There are also a good many moments of graphic violence, and while they are used for jump scares in the beginning of the film, the blood really flows in the third act. Watching the film left me a bit paranoid around the edges, but my gore-hound cravings were more than satisfied.

The only real downside to the film is the cast. While I thought many of the actors were solid, no one really ever stepped up to become an individual. While watching I kept trying to catch people’s names, but more often than not my notes are littered with annotations such as “hero guy”, “medic girl”, “anime chick”, and “consistently stabbed guy” (seriously how does someone get so repeatively stabbed so often). There wasn’t a one of them that I disliked, but I couldn’t honestly say I was rooting for anyone. Well that is except for “anime chick” who I really wanted to bash “creepy blonde guy” to death with a hammer. I never caught “creepy blonde guy‘s” name either (I think it was Patrick as played by Robin Wilcock.), but he was the standout performance among the entire cast. I do have to also mention the wonderfully played, emotionality complex scene where the group of survivors is confronted by two young followers of The Church of Hope.

Having both the antagonists and protagonists feel anonymous gave the whole picture a feel as if the players were symbolic of the general, happy, normal masses and the faceless, anti-other. I don’t want to diminish any actor’s performance because on average they were all good. The question is this. Was the decision to relieve the characters of all but the most present back-story and base character traits a conscious decision or did the actors just fail to define themselves? No matter if the answer is that I enjoy The End of the Line because of its delicate crafting or in spite of its terrible flaws, there is always the chance I liked the film far more than I should because I agree with the film makers political and religious stances. I’d rather think I enjoyed an original take on a horror premise that went in a completely different direction from what I expected. In any event, this month I definitely have to thank Emily, that Deadliest of Deadly Dolls, for her pick, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for me next month. (If you know, we’re all not busy being tribulated upon.)

Bugg Rating

3 comments:

  1. Yay! The poster art is pretty atrocious, but I was so damn pleasantly surprised by this one when I watched it last year. Funny too because I had the same exact thought on the cast. They're fine, but simply not memorable. The story just works so well for me though. I adore subway horror and doomsday cults (they're kind of adorable in their ridiculous earnestness) and I absolutely love the unspoken trick of the cult, which I won't spoil here but I *think* you probably tasted what I'm referring to.

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  2. Curse you blogger for eating two of my comments! Anyhoo, so glad you dug End of the Line. And I do agree on the acting: it's perfectly fine, but there's something lacking overall. Based on the two films I've seen by Devereaux so far, I do think that might be his weakness as a director.

    And agreed on the poster art! I didn't think about how awful it was because the first time I watched this, it was based entirely on a recommendation from someone I trust but looking now, YEESH!

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  3. I liked this movie--and didn't feel the first act floundered at all. (and in fact has one of the better jump scares I've seen in years)

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