DVD: End of the Line (2006)

December 2, 2010 | By

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Film: Good / DVD Transfer: Very Good / DVD Extras: Excellent

Label: Anchor Bay/Critical Mass/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: October 14, 2008

Genre: Horror

Synopsis: A young nurse and several fellow travellers are threatened by members of a doomsday cult after their subway ride suddenly grinds to a halt.

Special Features: Audio commentary with writer/producer/director Maurice Devereaux and visual effects/composer Martin Gauthier / Making-of featurette: “A Splatter of Faith” (36:42) / 2007 Montreal Fantasia Festival Q&A (10:13) / “The Most Asked Question” (1:28) / Deleted Scene plus text intro: “Astrology” (2:01) / Reverend Hope’s TV ad: “A Message of Hope” (:31) / Photo Gallery (3:49) / Complete Music Score Gallery (20 tracks) / O-sleeve

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Review:

Maurice Devereaux’ underground thriller is a bit of a head-scratcher because it’s very much a puzzle piece; nothing is quite what it seems to be, and the finale isn’t a stark unmasking of all the subterfuge that may be at the root of a young woman’s flight for safety after a routine subway ride home goes very, very bad.

In fairness, the film’s poster art – an arresting design of eyeless, leathery humanoids clamouring over a stalled subway car – is a bit of a cheat. The creatures are part of the story, but horror fans expecting a straightforward tale of primitives knocking off and gnawing away at humans will be disappointed.

End of the Line, without giving away too much, is film about mass hysteria, and how everyday folks affected by feelings of paranoia, doom and gloom, and personal foibles gravitate to a delusional cult bent on saving the world from evil. Unlike your usual doomsday loons, this mainstream hybrid has chosen to be more proactive, and have sent their most devout into densely populated areas where they await a signal to kill infidels and save their souls prior to offing themselves.

From a low-budget angle, it’s actually quite clever to focus on a microcosm of the doomsday movement, since being underground means there’s no need to stage grand, ground-level conflagrations. Several of the cult members, though, are played completely over the top; most of the minions are more down-to-earth in their zealousness for saving the human race, but their leaders – notably Patrick (Robin Wilcock) and Betty (Joan McBride) – tend to devour the scenery, and over-emote their glee in revelling in hands-on carnage.

Maybe it’s a case where the characters’ insanity is pitched too high, or perhaps mainstream viewers just haven’t been exposed to a similar tone of spiritual ecstasy on film, but when the histrionics of a televangelist and his flock are inserted into a dramatic narrative; their relief and need to release pent-up nervousness or withheld sadism is understandable, but it can also come off as maybe too crazy, if not too colourfully animated.

Writer/director/producer/editor Maurice Devereaux nicely exploits the large dead spaces of subway platforms and cars used by night shift workers, as well as creepy characters that sometimes grace an otherwise banal ride home. There’s also a fluid integration of the Montreal and Toronto subway system elements which create a weird, semi-antiquated transportation system prone to regular breakdowns. Once the characters are forced to leave the subway cars, the film nestles into a familiar collection of bickering archetypes who band together and strive to make their way to ground level, although the film’s finale will undoubtedly have viewers backtracking a bit, and recap scenes to solve the director’s riddle.

Probably the most intriguing narrative choice is Devereaux putting the film on pause just as heroes Karen (Ilona Elkin) and Mike (Nicolas Wrigh) are about to flee the train. Devereaux does a Rashomon by cutting back to the moment the train left the last station, and re-aligns his focus on another character’s encounter with a murderous zealot – namely the hot Asian chick, a stud named Neil (Neil Draper), and a pair of young lovers, Sarah and John (Instant Star’s Tim Rozon).

He also exploits the urban reality that most underground city tunnel systems are a virtual maze of used and unused lines, stops, and passageways that sometimes lead to absolutely nowhere. Scenes are sometimes sweetened with cleverly inserted (and very subtle) digital effects, as well as some practical effects that yield some genuine shocks. The film’s violence is well-paced, and the bouts of occasional gore include a hideous decapitation, and a hasty C-section.

Anchor Bay’s DVD gathers an excellent array of extras that add additional information outside of the steady and informative director’s commentary track.

The Making-of featurette has the usual on-set footage, mostly shot at Montreal’s old Wellington Tunnel; Devereaux quiet passionately directing his actors, and a short glimpse into select digital effects smoothly designed by the film’s digital effects man/composer, Martin Gauthier (whose complete score is also archived in a separately indexed music gallery).

A short Q&A session with the director at the Fantasia Festival captures the excitement of the film’s Montreal premiere, with the director clearly on a high from the audience’s high-pitched energy. (Although he doesn’t divulge any further info on the film’s finale, he does reinforce the film’s ongoing theme of the horror of religious brainwashing.)

A separate montage called “The Most Asked Question” has Devereaux deflecting repeated queries from interviewers as to how much the film cost, and his reasonable explanation that the divulgence of any figure could affect any distribution offers being tendered. The DVD is filled out with a wisely deleted scene between Karen and Mike, and a stills gallery of mostly makeup and gore effects.

End of the Line has its share of flaws, but Devereaux sets up some effective shocks, and the script is layered with some intelligent statements on religious zealotry, elevating the film far above standard killer-in-the tunnels shockers.

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© 2008 Mark R. Hasan

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Related external links (MAIN SITE):

Interview:  Filmmkaker Maurice Devereaux

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External References:

IMDB Official WebsiteSoundtrack Album

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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