Saturday, June 4, 2011

End Of The Line (2007) Maybe They Should Put Up Billboards

Look at me, being all timely.  Well, sort of.  I mean, that piece of work, the bubbly Harold Camping did recently give another one of his spot-on predictions for the end of the world (two weeks ago as of this writing), and he's got another apocalyptic prediction scheduled for October.  Among the first things I thought of, other than the usual disdain that I feel towards money-grubbing, victim-creating crackpots, was the low-budget horror film End Of The Line, an interesting little apocalyptic flick that I saw a couple years ago.  The hamster wheel began turning in my head, and I thought it would be fun to look at it again in the light of all the Family Radio hullabaloo.

Hullabaloo.  Man, how old am I?

Anyway, End Of The Line was a small 2007 film written and directed by Maurice Devereaux, and it was a darling at several film festivals, including the Toronto Film Festival.  Touching on the subject of religious zeal, mob mentality, and fear of the dark and closed-in spaces, the film has its fans (and detractors) in the horror community.  Regardless, it offers a unique take on survival horror.

Karen (Ilona Elkin) heads home from her job at a psychiatric hospital, taking the local subway.  After meeting Mike (Nicholas Wright), who saves her from a seriously creepy guy named Patrick (Robin Wilcock), she boards a train for the ride home.  The train suddenly stops and several passengers, seemingly religious types from the Voice of Hope Church who wear similar clothes and acting generally nice, all get messages on their beepers.  They produce various sharp objects and begin stabbing other passengers, saying things like "God loves you" and "This is for your own good."  The train turns into an abattoir, with only a few - Karen and Mike included - making it off the train in mostly one piece.  But help isn't coming.  The land and cell phone lines are down, and the TV is showing nothing but bizarre images coming from the enigmatic preacher who heads this bizarre cult.  Apparently, they all believe that the Earth is being besieged by demons, and it is the End Times.  They show their "love" by killing others so that they're "spared" the coming apocalypse.  Karen and the survivors head into the tunnels, but getting away isn't so easy.

Man, the Backstreet Boys got DARK.

 The tunnels are crawling with Voice of Hope members, including kids, creepy guy Patrick, and even a member of the survivor's party, although she wants to rebel and go with the dude who took her virginity on the train.  One of the guys who helps them get out of a break room deep in the tunnels is even a member, despite being new and "not really a believer."  The growing paranoia adds to the tension, and Karen's occasional hallucinations don't help.  When they hole up in a control room, where they tie up Patrick, they get their first glimpse of the reverend on a TV, and the murderous chaos is widespread.  He's calling for Armageddon and a "holy rapture", sound familiar?  Hopefully, Harold Camping hasn't seen this movie.

The survivors, with the exception of the conflicted member and the boy she now loves, move on after hearing the subway workers come under attack.  The scene in which the Hope members descend upon the workers is harrowing and disturbing.  The lengths these people will go to "save" people is horrifying.  Patrick gets loose, and as the pursuing Hope members arrive, the boy and girl are killed.  In the meantime, the survivors have a bloody battle with some more Voice of Hope nutjobs and get away mostly OK, but Mike is hurt badly.  With multiple stab wounds right from the start, this movie just hates poor Mike.

 I LOVE this door!

The survivors split up, but not all of them make it.  Another page beeps for the Voice of Hope members, and they immediately cease their onslaught and take suicide pills.  Still, resident perv Patrick pursues Karen, completely off his rocker.  Karen dispatches Patrick in a most brutal way, and then the movie takes a turn for the weird...or does it?  The ambiguous ending isn't really that ambiguous if you've been paying attention. 

Look and listen during the first few minutes of the movie to pick up on the fact that the movie is not being told in a linear fashion.  While much of the ending is left open for interpretation, there are some helpful hints along the way.  The hallucinations are not coincidental or a throwaway device; they're pretty central to what's happening.  Think muffins.  Yeah, muffins possibly laced with some kind of hallucinogen run throughout the movie, and since we're seeing a lot through Karen's eyes - and she casually eats one early on - we can't always trust what she's seeing.  Are the demons real?  Did Reverend Hope have it right?  Or was he an insane but gifted strategist who plotted the horrible acts of terror?

The performances are quite good, especially from Ilona Elkin as Karen, showing strength and fragility, and Robin Wilcock as Patrick, smarmy and evil, wanting to rape his way to the end of the world.  There is a great deal of gore and scares, mixed with good amounts of tension.  Obviously the budget wasn't very large, but that doesn't matter.  Devereaux works well with what he has, and it's a nice little take on the "end of the world cult lays the nutbar smackdown on the world" subgenre.

It also bears watching since the whole Harold "You Gotta Believe Me This Time" Camping debacle.  A charismatic religious leader creating a following of human lemmings so desperate for spiritual absolution that they're willing to kill because someone tells them to commit murder is comparable to what happens out there in the real world.  How many people base their religion or politics on what someone on TV tells them?  Yeah, a frightening amount.  People who don't think for themselves and blindly follow someone with obvious agendas might be easy targets for jokes, but there's the potential for very dangerous behavior.  End Of The Line shows an extreme, fictional account.  Read the headlines if you want the real chills - or worse yet, the comments sections of any political article.  The looney-tunes in the movie might seem tame compared to what crosses some peoples' minds.

In the meantime, my dear zombie survivors, remember to steer clear of the subways if you see a lot of smiling people all dressed the same.

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