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Film / Dead End

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A 2003 French horror movie directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa.

On his way to visit his in-laws with his family on Christmas Eve, Frank Harrington decides to try a shortcut, for the first time in 20 years. It turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life.

Not to be confused with the 1937 crime film by William Wyler, or the Broadway play from which it was adapted. It is also distinct from the Dead End web cartoon.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: The road is empty, except for a single shack full of what seems to be hunting/equestrian paraphernalia. And there's only one other car.
  • Alien Geometries: The road continues infinitely, and attempting to walk off it just leads right back to it.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All of them.
  • Dead All Along: The end of the movie has Marion waking up in the hospital after the rest of her family died in a car crash after her father fell asleep at the wheel. And then there's The Stinger (though it doesn't necessarily contradict The Reveal).
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Part of the fun of the film is how obviously screwed these people are. If you're a fan of horror movies, the obvious configuration of a Perfectly Happy Family on Holiday Vacation who all fit exaggerated stereotypes right off the bat is basically a glowing, neon sign that says "These people are going to die". The movie is really more about who these people really are.
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  • Don't Go in the Woods: The forest the road cuts through. It's actually just a desolate Small, Secluded World that loops on itself in every direction, and leaving the road for the woods is a great way to die.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: At various points, but the Black Car always drives past the survivors with the victim visibly trapped in the back, the audience usually sees it headlights-first behind somebody.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Richard thinks that all the watches stopping at 7:30 and the endless road means there is some alien activity going on which is not even remotely close to the truth.
  • Going in Circles: The titular dead end. There is no end to the road.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Most of the deaths, except Laura's.
  • A House Divided: The family fractures the longer the trip goes on. And in the end, Marion wakes up the only survivor of the wreck.
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted with Amy, the dead baby carried by the lady in white, assuming she was ever really alive to begin with.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Laura's is probably one of most hilarious and most revolting ever put to film. After getting the back of her skull chopped off, she reaches to investigate the wound and touches her exposed brain matter.. which she begins masturbating. Which would just be the regular kind of disturbing, except she's been subtly implying that she's been deeply frustrated sexually for years the whole movie, and she shouts her husband's name and says "Oh, finally!" as she climaxes to death.
  • Jump Scare: Of course.
  • Karmic Death: Frank is self-righteous, stubborn, and apparently an alcoholic, and Laura had an affair that she claims resulted in Richard's (or Michael's) birth.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The black car and the lady in white.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The films leaves us wondering if Marion was dreaming the whole thing, or if she truly witnessed the downfall of her family.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: And how. All the characters are psychologically fucked with, especially Frank. .
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Mostly lurks on the horror side, but bounces into comedy at unexpected moments.
  • Someone to Remember Him By Though she knew she was pregnant beforehand
  • Sorting Algorithm of Mortality: The film's concept seems to be this. In the end, Marion survived the ordeal due to the fact she was a pregnant woman.
  • Space Whale Aesop About falling asleep at the wheel
  • Stay on the Path: Richard did not follow this. And later on when Frank and Marion try this, they end up back at the dead end.
  • The Stinger: While it's assured at first that Marion simply had a traumatic nightmare following the death of her family at the titular dead end, the ending shows Dr. Marcott and the black car (with it's driver nonetheless) having some discussion and the drivers allows her to get into the car with him to take her home. It makes the ending a lot more Mind Screw-like.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Masturbating and smoking pot while your family is lost in the woods is a good way to end up on the wrong end of the morality scale
  • Wham Line: "He's not here for you."
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: Averted with Marion, subverted with Richard.


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