This Is Why We Need The Twilight Zone

Well, there are many, many reasons why we should be thankful for Mr. Sirling’s magnum opus, but the thing on my mind now is the fact that if we were still making new episodes of the Zone, maybe we wouldn’t have so many mediocre horror movies that play out like Twilight Zone episodes filled out to triple- or quadruple-length with filler. The breath-taking boring, preachy, stupid and generally terrible Sublime remains my go-to example for how awful these things can get, but a lot of the ones I’ve seen are more in the mediocre category, including the one I watched last night. Gentle readers, I give you Dead End.

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We present for your consideration the Harrington family, a seemingly ordinary family of utterly unlikeable middle-class white people on their way to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve. Little do they know that their shortcut through the woods is about to take them neck deep into…

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This picture seems to have been pretty well reviewed by both mainstream critics and more hardcore horror fans, and I am not quite sure why. It would have been a fine 25-minute TV episode although I still might have gotten sick of the characters and almost certainly would have guessed the twist, (especially seeing as how The Twilight Zone used pretty much the same twist more than once already), but I spent more than triple that time sitting through this movie.

To its credit, that time wasn’t completely wasted. This was no Sublime. There were some genuinely creepy moments the film can take credit for, some others that exploit our natural fear of being lost in the woods at night, and a couple more moments that would have been creepy had they actually been able to put together a full mutilated corpse instead of blatantly cheating with camera angles. Shots of people staring at the camera talking about how gruesome what they’re looking at is can only go so far. Further adding to the movie’s sins, everybody’s overacting in a manner that might charitable be described as operatic, and they’re bringing this scenery-chewing to bear in service of depicting a bunch of assholes. Then there’s the fact that the twist/explanation for all the spooky shenanigans is an outright cliché, a chestnut on par with “it was all just a dream (or was it?), ” so I spent most of the movie waiting for them to acknowledge what I already knew and hoping in vain that a new spin might be put on it. No such luck. Instead we get inexplicable stupid decision (when they stop at the spooky cabin to see if there’s a phone they could use to call for help for the spooky woman in white they met hitchhiking, teenage son decides it’s an ideal time to go off into the spooky woods alone so he can pin a centerfold to a tree and rub one out) after inexplicable stupid decision (teenage later, after the first member of the party has been kidnapped and grotesquely murdered and another has gone catatonic, goes off into the woods to smoke a joint). I say “grotesquely murdered” there, but I’m having to take the characters’ word for it since I saw the body. I’m all for subtle, low-key horror, but if you can only afford to make a severed ear instead of a whole mutilated dead person, maybe fix your script so that ear’s all they find. The final cherry on top of this crap sundae is one of the stupidest epilogues I’ve seen in recent memory. Spoiler alert, but turns out Death has an awful, awful haircut.

To sum up, you can skip this one, but it does join eating paint chips, listening to dial-up modem noises and punching yourself in the breadbasket in the pantheon of things that are better than watching Sublime.

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