They've never made a movie before. They've got no money. And they're French. What were the odds of first-time filmmakers Jean-Baptise Andrea and Fabrice Canepa getting a horror flick off the ground in Freedom-Fries-munching Hollywood? Now multiply that by the likelihood of it actually being any good and you have a nasty little surprise - Dead End, a cunning, deceptive chiller that plays to its strengths for every one of its 83 minutes.
The premise may have been filched from an old Twilight Zone episode - a bickering family stuck on a straight road that never ends while they're stalked by a ghostly hitchhiker - but the execution is top-notch, as very bad things happen to very average people with very gross results. Keeping us in the dark until the final scenes, Dead End wrings the maximum twist potential out of a scenario that would give David Lynch sleepless nights, while delivering just enough of the red stuff to keep gorehounds satisfied. Don't believe us? Well, lips are chewed off, ears are sliced, heads are bashed open and a woman frigs her brains out. Literally.
Grabbing the audience by the knackers, Dead End first tenderises with a few squeezes then grips hard, twisting and turning and piling on the "Will They Ever Get Off This Road?" tension as, one by one, the family gets slashed by the "Woman In White". Admittedly, this straight-ahead scaremongering does have a downside: setting its sights low, Dead End never finds a way out of first gear, the one-set/six-character set-up not allowing for much in the way of variety.
Fortunately, though, the script crackles with the kind of snippy, bitchy dialogue that's born out of 101 rewrites, ensuring some laugh-out-loud moments as this dysfunctional family tongue-lash each other to shreds before the slasher has a chance. If the scribbling hadn't been so good, Dead End might have driven itself straight into a cul-de-sac, but as it stands Andrea and Canepa have turned in an impressive little debut. This is one highway that's worth getting lost on.
Silly, scary and not a little sick, Dead End wrings real tension from its simple premise while delivering some gory moments. Buckle up.