Saturday, 15 February 2014

Indie Spotlight: End of the Line - Review

I first encountered End of the Line at the Dead by Dawn horror film festival in Edinburgh back in 2007 where it rightly won the audience award for best feature and pretty much blew my mind.  Director Maurice Devereaux had created the sort of movie that demanded I would be paying close attention to his development as a film-maker.  Years passed and End of the Line seemed to be a full stop at the end of his career.  I was and remain dismayed by this.  Here was a visceral gem of low budget, apocalyptic horror that managed to find the perfect balance between crowd pleasing scenes of carnage and an escalating sense of dread as the true scale of what is happening gradually becomes apparent.  I honestly thought I’d found a director who could potentially fill the boots vacated by John Carpenter when he lost his mojo.  End of the Line is that good.

The movie is set against a backdrop of murderous civil disruption and focuses on a disparate group of unfortunates who, after their train breaks down, find themselves lost in a labyrinth of subway tunnels and at the mercy of a group of homicidal religious lunatics who believe that the end of days has arrived and that in order for the souls of unbelievers to be saved they must be killed in cold blood.  The resultant game of cat and mouse develops into a brutal fight for survival with casualties mounting up on both sides.

As a fan of apocalyptic fiction with a religious leaning this is a movie that pushes a lot of the right buttons for me.  It’s a fictional sub-genre I’m constantly drawn to.  Perhaps it’s because I was raised Catholic.  I still remember being handed a bible at school and told to turn to some psalm or other.  Instead I used to skip forward to the Book of Revelations because, with it's terrifying prophesies, it gave sustenance to the seed inside me that would ultimately bloom into a lifelong love of the horror genre.  One of the great thing about End of the Line is that as the characters debate what is actually happening the viewer's perception of events is pulled in multiple directions.  Are we really witnessing the end of days? Is it just a bunch of religious loons on the rampage at the command of their deranged leader?  More importantly are those delicious muffins spiked with hallucinogens?

Another ace in this movie's hole is the abundance of gore.  To say that this movie gets splashy with the claret would be an understatement.  If you like your horror movies with an extra helping of red sauce you’ll lap this up.  If you took a shot of something strong every time someone gets stabbed in End of the Line you’d be in an ambulance heading for the hospital with alcohol poisoning long before the end credits roll.  Writer/director Devereaux is also unafraid of pushing the envelope of nasty.  One scene in particular dropped the jaws of a cinema full of veteran horror fans with an act of violence so ostentatious and thrillingly wrong that it doesn’t so much step over the line of what is often seen as taboo as set fire to the Church of good taste and piss on its ashes. 

In terms of performances barely anyone hits a bum note.  Particularly impressive is Robin Wilcock who chews the scenery with vitriol as one of the most irredeemably vile, breathtakingly repugnant movie baddies you’re ever likely to come across.  Something about this expertly crafted personification of evil reminded me of a young Andrew Robinson as Scorpio in the first Dirty Harry movie but with the volume turned up to 11.  Every time he’s on the screen End of the Line’s ability to entertain (and often repulse) goes up a notch.  Everyone else acquits themselves well and coupled with a script that finds the b-movie sweet spot and hits it with laser guided precision for ninety-five minutes the movie succeeds in being shocking, thrilling and a whole lot of fun often all at the same time.

All in all End of the Line gets my highest recommendation.  Its ambition on what must have been a very low budget is remarkable.  Cruel misfortune ensured that it didn’t find much of an audience outside of the festival circuit.  It didn’t even see a UK release on DVD or Blu-ray and as far as I’m aware it’s never been screened on TV here.  This movie is an absolute must see for any genre fan.  It’s an expertly paced piece of pure entertainment from start to finish that comes fully loaded with perfectly staged scares, atmosphere, great heroes, awesome villains, a breath-taking quantity of beautifully staged slaughter and in the end it’s just great fun.  I urge anyone who reads this review to seek out and buy the Canadian DVD release immediately.  You will not regret it.  This is a scary, tense masterclass in terror and I personally hope that this isn't the last horror movie we see from Maurice Devereaux.  That would be tragic.

Steve's score:

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