I suppose a psychologist can explain the link between humor and horror, and why so many of us seek a mix of the two in our movies. Why, for example, did we want Abbott and Costello to meet Frankenstein? I can’t answer that, but I do know that my favorite parts of the Evil Dead films come when bug-eyed Bruce Campbell ventures into slapstick, Looney Tunes territory.
So what a treat it is to discover Dead End, a bottom-of-the-Walmart-bin gem from 2003. With all of the cheesy, low-budget horror out there, how does a good one like this escape notice?
If you haven’t seen it, and I’m guessing not many people have, the story is this: The Harringtons, composed of all-American mom, dad, son Richard, and daughter Marion, along with Marion’s boyfriend Brad, are on a Christmas Eve road trip to grandmother’s house — or so they think. In reality, or perhaps unreality, they are on a road trip to hell. Things begin to go sour when dad stops to offer a lift to a “lady in white,” an ethereal blonde with a baby who is inexplicably wandering the woods.
The woman is not what she seems, the baby is not what it seems, the road is not what it seems, and before long each Harrington is not what he or she seems.
The plot does veer into horror-film cliché, but Dead End’s wit and comic performances — especially by Ray Wise and Lin Shaye as the bickering, hapless parents — are priceless. It’s inspired lunacy, what you might get if the Bundys from Married … With Children showed up in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Grade: A-
Directors: Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Fabrice Canepa Cast: Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Mick Cain, Alexandra Holden, Billy Asher, Amber Smith, Karen S. Gregan, Sharon Madden Release: 2003
Watch the Trailer (click here)
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