Thursday, March 18, 2010

End of the Line: Who Has Trains Like That?!

As someone who has a hard time digesting why people do crazy things in the name of religion, yet thinks it perfectly normal when people do crazy things for the sake of the their cat, I found End of the Line to be especially unsettling. Remember how when Jesus Camp came out people were like "oh dude this is basically like a horror movie" ?? I'm not sure if that really happened or not but I vaguely remember something along those lines....but anyways--End of the Line really takes something as creepy as a religious cult and does turn it in a horror movie. Throw those creepy people on an extra spacious train, add some blood and some jumpstastic scares and you have yourself a pretty decent indie horror movie.

I'm not sure why I find religious cults so fascinating and creepy, but I believe it has mainly to do with the fact that as a young one I was obsessed with googling about the Heaven's Gate Cult (yes I was inspired to do so because I saw it on I Love the 90s). The images of the people with the purple sheets and the Nike's and just how absolutely crazy Marshall Applewhite was. The thing with movies like End of the Line is that it's probably not too far off from how things would really go down if say, a really serious cult came to order. That is where the true terror begins to collect, because these aren't zombies, or vampires---this shit is real!

End of the Line follows a train of people who come under attack by a group of religious cult members. One by one the people on the train are ceremoniously stabbed after the group receives a page from the "Reverend". The group relentlessly stalks those who get away, and claim to only be saving them. Outside the world has run amok and the Reverend takes over all transmissions citing that the end of the world is near and yadda yadda yadda. What ensues is a frightening realization of the horrors of extreme religion and what happens when other peoples beliefs collide with the rest of the world.

The first 20 minutes or so of this movie is filled to the brim with jump scares. In the true fashion of...myself, I got really angry at this- and probably would have turned it off if it continued throughout the rest of the film. I still have a hard time grappling with the concept of jump scares because I always feel like I'm being forced to find something is scary because of them. These jump scares in particular, got me every fucking time! But it's not necessarily a good thing. Typically yes, jump scares are better when they actually work--but it was starting to get a little ridiculous there for a while. If you can physically withstand about 7 mini heart attacks then don't give up hope just yet.

Once you get past those initial few scares there are great scenes of uber creepiness, lots of blood and gore and NO boobs. Also, trying to put the pieces together of the truth and validity of the cult is sort of thrilling in it's own right. The good news is- there IS an ambiguity. Hooray! There are also a select few stand outs moments that made me step back and check my "this is disturbing" radar. One scene in particular really got me, and that is when the two train workers are together and the cult enters. One of the men happens to be a legitimate part of the cult, yet is scared and confused and doesn't seem to be too invested in it's actual cause. They bring in his pregnant lover person and he's all excited- and she tells him that he has to kill her in order to save her. She feels the "evil" growing inside her and her life must be taken before the end comes. The man shakes his head in dismay and the cult surrounds him- he obviously cannot do it and so the other members take matters into their own hands. The man is killed, and then the pregnant woman is continually stabbed, the man, woman AND SPOILER-- the freaking unborn fetus are placed next to each other as they wait to completely bleed out. First off I didn't see anyone performing an emergency C-section on that baby, so to see it suddenly appear on top of them was, eye bulging. Secondly it was just a really creepy scene. Creepy, disturbing, gross, and just really showed you the gravity of the situation at hand.

In case you are resigned to the fact that you can't enjoy a horror movie unless major gore is involved, fear not--there is actually a surprising amount of it. One of the things I did love about it all was the weapons used were all "crime of passion" worthy. No guns! All kills and injuries were made so much brutal because of it- and each wound made was fantastic. There's also an extremely nauseating scene involving a pretty nasty bite- which I almost tossed my cookies over so look out for that!

There is a point however where the movie starts to drag a bit. After awhile, seeing crazy religious people stalk non religious people becomes tiresome and you yearn for something different to happen. Eventually that different something does happen, but it takes a little while and it can cause restlessness. I was also confused about why the train looked more like a bus, and where a particular giant sword came from? There are small things like random bad acting/writing and every now and again and turret's syndrome like music. These are typically minor offenses but things that did distract me at least a little. The last few minutes however are worth that wait.

Regardless, the movie is a solid entry into the world of horror. In general I was surprised at how the religious people nailed creepiness so well and how off putting seeing the horrors of religious cults materialized into movie form can really be. The ending was powerful although doesn't give you too much to work with. In fact it may be a little too ambiguous- but if you can figure out the secret beforehand this shouldn't be a huge problem. I have my theories and you may have yours- but if you think about the history of religious cult leaders and what those cults actually gained by doing what they did, then the outcome probably shouldn't be too surprising to you. In any case, this religious cult wears messengers bags and look all too similar to every one's favorite door to door religion salesman, which is doubly frightening. If you're craving some really decent independent horror, then give this a shot. Keep a look out for clues, and brush up on history involving cults and mass hysteria and don't forget to keep someone nearby in case you have a heart attack or 10.


deadlydolls said...

I absolutely loved this film, although like you, I think it took a tad long to find its feet at the beginning. Also like you, I've done my share of cult googling and watching lots of Jim Jones and Heavens Gate documentaries. Such fascinating stuff and it pains me that there aren't MORE films out there that capture the true horror of that kind of thing. I reviewed one a while back called The Believers by the Blair Witch creator (one of them anyway) and was terribly disappointed.

End of the Line was just such a refreshing modern indie horror with some great moments. Not the best thing I've ever seen, but it was exciting and I look forward to Maurice Devereaux's next work.

Oh! And not to hint at spoilers,but were you of the mind that a certain snack played a big part in the ending?

Andre said...

YES. Exactly. It makes so much sense- and although its kind of ambiguous---our theory is pretty much the only thing that makes sense. I like how it combined elements of past cults AND even the Salem Witch Trials, I really loved that.

deadlydolls said...

I actually loved the ambiguity of the ending and possible cause. Much like Antichrist, I'm totally confident in my--our!--interpretation of End of the Line, but I think that leaving that door opened for other theories really helps to make that film stick.

Oooh yeah Salem Witch Trials! I really appreciated the sort of timelessness in the visuals. Even the cult uniforms seemed to suggest Hitler Youth, while most of the costumes (I guess that includes the '80s punkette) didn't ground the film in 2009.

Andre said...

I still need to see Antichrist! I'm so backed up with my movies. I watched Triangle the other day and those theories will take at least 3 more months and a million diagrams to work out! Gawd!

Hah the 80s punker girl that was kind of random now that I think about it. but you are really right about the Hitler youth thing, I didn't even think of that. I only paid attention to the creepy Jehovah witness-like messenger bags!

.....oh man 2 years ago at my college there was a huge Jehovah's Witness convention at our big arena. And it was scary- because all these little kids were in such fancy attire. And then I was at Panera that same day and this little kid maybe about 11 years old, walked by me wearing a suit, a nice hat AND a beeper! AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I remember thinking "who the hell has a beeper! And also he's 11 what the fuck"

But yikes. yikes yikes.

deadlydolls said...

And now you know why he had a beeper!

I refuse to see Triangle until I am of sound mind with nothing else in life to think about. Everything I've heard makes it seem like a total mind exercise and at the moment, I'm just not that smart.

Yes, you do need to see Antichrist, mostly to join in on the eternal debate about whether its misogynist, anti-man (forgot the actual word for that), neither, both, amazing, riveting, or awful. I loved it. Many did not. Join my team!

A Jehovah's Witness convention sounds like the scariest place ever. When I lived in Korea, they used to actually send JW scouts around to big apartment buildings and target the foreigners. Without doubt, THE most persistent people known to man.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Just to reiterate something from Emily's first comment, if you're creeped out by religious cult stuff, you should either immediately seek out or stay far away from the made-for-TV Jim Jones reenactment from 1980, GUYANA TRAGEDY: THE STORY OF JIM JONES. ( I saw it on TV as an impressionable kid, and it was truly horrifying. Haven't revisited it since!

deadlydolls said...

Thanks for the tip! I'm adding it to my list. I watched a 30 year anniversary special--wait, that doesn't sound right--sometime last year and was completely riveted and horrified.

Dod said...

I saw this movie last year, and like many movies I like, it made me think about it long after it was over. And I mean, think about it in a good way. I may have to revisit it sometime.

Another great review, and that Marshall Appledude's face always gives me a fright...

Thomas Duke said...

Thanks Andre, I have never heard of this but will try to check it out. I enjoy stuff on those creepy cults, like the Jim Jones movies, or that Passion of the Christ bullshit. Also, you can even buy the Heaven's Gate video on the fancy internewebs:

I don't know about you, but when somebody asks me to castrate myself and then eat poison pudding, in order to catch a ride to heaven on a comet, I start asking questions at that point. Is there a more effecient, less bat shit crazy mode of transportation? Can I maybe get it in writing that I need to be castrated in order to get into the after life? What if heaven is a lame waste of time?