Directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, starring Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Alexandra Holden, Mick Cain and Amber Smith.
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then feebly trying to copy the technique of your hero and making a complete dog's dinner of it must be the greatest form of insult. And if David Lynch had to sit through all 85 minutes of this film (short as films go, bloody long if you're squirming about in acute discomfort), it's unlikely his overriding feeling would be one of humility.
Made with an apparent budget of about $5, 'Dead End' has neither the style nor weirdness of Lynch, the creepy atmosphere of 'The Blair Witch Project' or the B-movie campness of 'Friday the 13th'.
It's Christmas Eve and the Harrington family are on their way to their granny's house but deviate from their normal route and end up on a road to nowhere. It's like one of those Tuesday night made-for-TV movies, only worse. In fact, the only thing that likens it to the work of Lynch is the cut-and-paste shot of an endless highway and a pointless blonde who hauls around a dead baby.
There are no words to convey how awful the script by French duo Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa is. Perhaps it started out in life as a smart, funny, writing tour-de-force but all got lost in the translation. It certainly won't do anything to improve strained France-America relations. These characters are so paper-thin, it's a wonder they don't just blow away. Most hateful is Richard (Cain), the youngest sibling who likes Marilyn Manson, microwaving hamsters, wanking in forests and conducting McCarthy-style interrogations against suspected homosexuals. Thankfully, he dies early in the film.
Unfortunately, the rest of them take much longer to pop their clogs. The parents, Frank and Laura (Wise and Shaye) have a truly bizarre relationship that makes Al and Peg Bundy look like Posh and Becks. The pie-making, subservient Laura speaks in a little whimper and says things like: "Are you ok dear?" as her husband eyes her with contempt and sarcasm.
It's all in woefully bad taste too, with a disturbing sequence near the end where Frank beats up his daughter for no apparent reason. And its treatment of grieving parents, mental illness and the gay community is shockingly offhand.
This could all work on a cartoon level if 'Dead End' was consistent but it has plot holes that could house an entire family of mice and scenarios that stretch even the dumbest imagination. The family shove daughter Marion (Holden) out of the car into the dark to make room for the Lady In White (who has a big axe wound on her head!) and later decide to abandon the car and wander through the forest instead. Much safer.
There will be those who claim that 'Dead End' is a post-modern masterpiece, that the hammy acting, bad script and joke-shop special effects are, in fact, deliberate, in a bid for 'so bad, it's good' status. But fashionable as it is, irony - intended or otherwise - is no excuse for sloppy, careless filmmaking.