End of the Line (2007)
Reviewer: Scott Shoyer
The second half of the previous decade brought with it an important resurgence of the slasher sub-genre. Such flicks like Hatchet (2006), Laid to Rest (2009), and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) took the tired and clichéd slasher sub-genre and gave it a much needed shot in the ass. Hatchet director Adam Green took us back to the basics and gave us an old school-1980’s slasher flick full of gore and overall fun (Green even casted Kane Hodder as the killer, Victor Crowley. Hodder played Jason in two Friday the 13th movies). In Laid to Rest writer-director Robert Hall gave us a brutal and gory flick with an absolutely frightening killer who didn’t spout out stupid one-liners and puns after each kill. Hall removed the humor that’s often found in the slasher movie in order to keep the atmosphere dark and suspenseful. The killer, Chrome Skull, was vicious, determined, and driven (he also had a small camera mounted on his shoulder so he could tape his killings). And Behind the Mask essentially deconstructed the entire slasher sub-genre as we got to see behind the scenes of what makes a serial killer tick. All three of these movies were welcome and necessary additions to the faded slasher sub-genre.
But what is often overlooked among this list (admittedly not a complete list; these are the movies I thought of off the top of my head) is 2007’s End of the Line. Not only is this little movie a fantastic throwback to the slasher genre, but it throws in some new elements that make it stand out and above other genre flicks. In short, End of the Line is one helluva fantastic movie that if you missed it, you need to run out and see it immediately. It’s that good!!
End of the Line is a low-budget fun, scary, gory ride. When I first read about it I admit that I was expecting just another typical boring stalk n’ slash genre flick. It even has a lame-ass quote on the poster from Entertainment Today that says, “Does for subways what Jaws did for beaches.” Blech!! What a lame fucking quote. I was even gonna remove it from my Netflix queue because the thought of sitting through another by-the-numbers slasher movie made me wanna dig my eyes out with a rusty can lid. Add to this that I wasn’t crazy about writer-director Maurice Devereaux’s 2001 flick $la$her$ (an attempt to skewer the “reality TV” craze), and I felt good about avoiding another train wreck of a movie. Luckily Fate stepped in and I forgot to remove it from my queue. Upon receiving it I reluctantly put it in the DVD player and was immediately happy with my decision to give it a try.
The first thing I noticed was the production values. It looked like a slick, big-budget flick with great sound quality (unlike Devereaux’s previous $la$her$). And though it took place in the subway system the scenes weren’t too dark or washed out (yeah I’m looking at you Catacombs). After watching it I read in an interview with Devereaux where he said he couldn’t afford to shoot in a real subway and that all the subway set designs were done digitally in post-production. What an impressive accomplishment for an indie director who I’m sure had a very modest budget.
OK, enough of me giving this movie a hand job: Let’s get to the film itself. The plot starts with psychiatric nurse Karen, played by the cute in a “I-could-get-her” kinda way Ilona Elkin. Karen had a rough night in the ward and her nerves are pretty much shot. She also got some bad news that one of her recently released regular patients had committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway car. Upon leaving work she hops on the last subway train of the night to get home and get some much needed sleep. She runs into a creepy guy on the train platform but is helped out by Mike (Nicholas Wright) who gets her out of a potentially bad situation. Joining her on the train are a handful of people: A horny young couple, a so-trendy-ya-wanna-kill-her Asian girl, Mike (the “Everyday” guy), and Neil (the “Strong Leader” type). There’s also a group who are members of the Church of Hope on their way home after a gathering with their leader, Reverend Hope. These members are devout followers of the Reverend and we see from TV commercials and posters scattered in the hospital and subway that the good Reverend Hope is a pretty respected guy in the city and possibly the world. The Reverend’s followers even sell muffins. As the poster says, “The Voice of Eternal Hope pledges every dollar of the sales of its delicious and nutritious muffins to help sick children around the world.” And apparently those muffins sell like hot cakes (we even see Karen and other characters munching on a few). It seems like a great organization … AT FIRST.
During the ride the train’s emergency brakes are pulled and the train is stopped between stations. Then suddenly all the member’s of the Church of Hope start getting text messages telling them that “the time has come” and that the Apocalypse is finally here. That’s right folks The Church of Hope is a doomsday cult and the Reverend has told his flock that its time to cleanse and save the world. And of course by “cleanse” he means “brutally kill.” Suddenly the doe-eyed, harmless Church members pull long daggers out of their crosses with the intention of cleansing everyone on the train and sending them into the arm’s of god (we also learn that the zealots are “cleansing” all over the city).
So our ragtag, tired band of “non-believers” band together and try to make it to the surface to stay alive … er, I mean “un-cleansed.” And here is why this movie works so friggin’ well: Devereaux doesn’t waste his energy or time trying to cover-up who the killer(s) are. We know immediately that it’s the cult full of psychotic religious maniacs doing the killing. This allows Devereaux to focus his attention on creating some really tense and suspenseful scenes (which he does beautifully) and to focus on the characters. Overall the acting is strong across the board. Ilona Elkin does a great job as the heroine who is at first unsure of herself but who gradually becomes an ass-kicker. Neil Napier, the “strong-hero” guy, also puts in a strong performance (one of Napier’s other credits is as “Spartan with Stick” in 2006’s 300). Probably the weakest performance was from Nicolas Wright, the “everyday guy.” At times he just wasn’t very convincing and seemed to have the least amount of acting experience among the cast.
One of the standout performances was by Joan McBride (Betty), the middle-aged head follower among the group in the train. Her portrayal of a relentless, stone-cold killer killing in the name of “The Lord” and not caring about the age or sex of the “uncleansed” will send chills up and down your spine.
But don’t be fooled; besides having some strong performances this movie is also gory as hell. We get a lot of throats being cut, near-decapitations, an axe to the head, and various stabbings. And there are two particular scenes that really caught me with my pants down: A scene with a child and a scene where a fetus is ripped out of a pregnant woman. Very unexpected, very gruesome, and very effective (not to mention well done).
Devereaux utilizes the subway setting perfectly creating a dark, gloomy, claustrophobic atmosphere practically devoid of hope. But just as you think the movie is settling in to become a stalk n’ slash flick Devereaux throws us another curveball. Our group of survivors, who are trying to make it to the surface and find the police, run into some subway workers who take them to their maintenance room. Inside the room they have a few TVs and radios which, when turned on, are nothing but static. Little by little our heroes get just enough information to suggest that maybe it really is Judgment Day, and the viewer is right there with them; we never know for sure.
You’ll be right there rooting for our survivors as they try and make it to the surface while kicking some zealot ass. And just wait for the ending. How many really enjoyable flicks tank it in the last reel? Way too many!! This one ends as strong as it begins. The ending is a bit of a shocker. SPOILER ALERT: Everyone’s perception of Judgment Day may be the result of those free muffins the cult sells. Are they laced with some kind of hallucinogen? We don’t know; it’s totally up to interpretation. But regardless you will be shocked with the ending.
End of the Line is, simply put, a well made, kickass flick that will have you glued to the screen. You’ll root for the “good guys”, cheer at the deaths of the “bad guys”, and cringe at the special f/x. This also shows that there’s still life left in the slasher flick and when in the hands of the right director, can still be a really fun, scary, and gory sub-genre!! You definitely wanna check this one out.
Director: Maurice Devereaux (and writer)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skull