Friday, September 28, 2012
30 Days of Nightmares #2: END OF THE LINE (2007)
The Story: Strangers on a train encounter a group of end-of-the-world nuts determined to violently "save" the pagans from the impending apocalypse.
Expectations: I'm a sucker for horror movies set in subways. Unfortunately there aren't many. DEATH LINE (1973) comes to mind, and the opening of JACOB'S LADDER (1992). And of course C.H.U.D. (1987). In fact, when I read about this movie on Netflix, I thought it sounded like C.H.U.D. meets THE RAPTURE (1991). And with that simple thought, I was sold. I also sort of liked the idea that this film was written, produced, edited and directed by the same person (a Canadian named Maruice Deveraux). Usually when one person exerts such strong creative control over a film, it means that he's got a real passion for his subject. Either that or an extremely low budget...
Reaction: The film got my attention right away. In the first five minutes, it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, but the picture had nice retro/filmic look (not unlike Ti West's THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) and it seemed clear that the editor at least knew how to pull off a jump scare. It was all down hill after that. (Maybe I should credit the sound designer for the effectiveness of the jump scares, rather than the editor.) For me, the best moments in the film were at the very beginning and the very end, when the filmmaker assaults us with some genuinely surreal, monstrous imagery -- though some of it seems to be taken right out of JACOB'S LADDER. The rest of the movie revolves around ho-hum characters with no behavioral logic and cliched religious freaks doing what cliched religious freaks do in movies like this.
The one moment that nearly reeled me in was a scene in which a solitary 12-year-old cult member confronts the survivors, knife in hand. He is clearly terrified, and yet he believes that it is his duty to attack them, to do "God's will." When one of the survivors violently repels the kid with a tire iron, the film briefly veers into morally ambiguous territory. Our main hero yells, "He's only a kid!" I found myself thinking "But kids can be suicide bombers too," and then started wondering how I would have responded in this same situation, under the same pressure. Unfortunately there are very few moments in the film that prompt this kind of thoughtfulness. I wanted to like this movie, I really did, but Netflix is 0 for 2 on my 30 days experiment.
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: A scene in which the religious freaks carve a baby out of the dead mother's womb. Sounds horrifying, right? But the characters are so poorly drawn and their motivations so thin (if the cultists are trying to "save" people by killing them, wouldn't killing the mother be sufficient to kill the baby?) that it just made me disgusted with the filmmaker. One of the most terrifyingly effective horror films I've ever seen, the French film INSIDE (2007), was about a pregnant mother being stalked by someone who wanted to physically take her unborn baby. Watching that film, I empathized more with the victim, which made for a genuinely terrifying experience. In END OF THE LINE, the filmmaker manages to turn the same atrocity into a cheap, lazy shock tactic. I can handle bad taste, but what really gets my ire up is bad storytelling.
Labels: 30 Days of Nightmares