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November 4, 2010

Movie Review: Dead Enders

Dead Enders is, in a word, unique. The sophomore effort from Writer/Director Paul Hemmes (after his first feature The Domain), Dead Enders is a twisted little romp through the labyrinth-like mind of one whacked out woman. Dead Enders is an ambitious effort, and there is a lot to like about it, but it almost feels as if the filmmakers didn't take the notion quite far enough (see below). It is well worth the time spent, if you're willing to have your horror in art house form (which I am).


The story plays out like stream of consciousness poetry, which is on purpose, I believe. You see, Robert (the underrated Seth Gandrud) is taken hostage by Sydney (the fabulously malevolent Christie Collins). He is tortured. He is abused. He sees Sydney's murderous past in all it's gory glory. It would be pretty straightforward stuff if it weren't for the nagging mystery of who or what is sharing the dungeon basement with them, exactly. Sydney renames Robert, calling him Larry, because she is yearning for a long, lost love... and she's insane. We are given the story in bits and pieces, like Sydney is telling us what she is seeing in her mind, and that is backed up with some... interesting camera work. The intent of the camera and lighting work, which is definitely not standard but quite stylized, is to usher us into Sydney's world jarringly, with effect, much like our protagonist Robert/Larry has been drugged and drug in. It is hit or miss, though. When the stylized lighting effects are working, they are working well. When they aren't, it feels as if you're watching a theatrical production.

All in all, though, this is exactly the choices that no budget genre filmmakers should be making. We've seen the slick, homogenized horror that is routinely pumped out of Hollywood and, without those budgets, the independent genre artist can't compete. That's why I liked Dead Enders... it was different. Hemmes and company could have ripped off Hostel or any number of garbage torture-porn films. They did not, though. There was thought put to the process and the resulting film succeeds on many levels. The dungeon set, if a bit more pedestrian than the technical artistry of the film, was well done and Sydney's costumes, including the multitude of wigs she wears (which, if I'm not mistaken, is another well done visual metaphor) are nice touches that enhance the experience.

I used to call Clive Barker's writing "Stephen King for thinking adults." I still stand by that. Dead Enders, and films like Dead Enders, are like "Troma for smart people." The budgets are similar, the genre is similar, but the thought behind the work is what makes it stand out. Aristotle said, referencing dramatic productions in his Poetics, the downfall of society can be seen when the spectacle of a production outweighs the story. That is happening right now, just head to the local multi-screen theater to get the proof. Explosions and gore, taking the place of thought and plot, are the new status quo. Dead Enders, and it's ilk, are proof that there is a small pocket of resistance trying to keep our society from falling apart at the seams.

Dead Enders is available from R-Squared Films, or use that handy dandy link above.

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