Which is scarier ? demons from Hell or messianic, fundamentalist Christians? For this reviewer, it?s pretty much a toss-up, and Canadian writer/director Maurice Devereaux would seem to agree, since his new horror film End of the Line (currently screening at the Philadelphia Film Festival) features both sorts of nuisances terrorizing a small group of survivors who are stranded in an underground train system. Some good scares and a hefty dose of gore allow the film to overcome some of its more talky stretches and low-budget origins, and although it?s hardly something that fright film fans haven?t seen many times before, it?s an enjoyable diversion and not a bad way to spend ninety minutes at the theater.
On her way home from work, nurse Karen boards the last subway home and is in for the shock of her life when the train suddenly stops and a group of ordinary-looking fellow passengers pull out cross-shaped daggers and begin murdering everyone else on the train. She and some other passengers escape into the tunnels and must fend off not only the murderous zealots ? all followers of a cult leader who proclaims that demons have appeared to herald the end of the world, and has sent his flock out to ?save? those who don?t believe ? but also misshapen creatures emerging from the shadows, which may in fact be the demons the evangelists believe them to be. Surrounded by varying degrees of evil, Karen and her band try to make their way to the surface, all the while attempting to figure out exactly what?s going on and whether, in fact, the world above them has already come to an end.
Devereaux, director of 1998?s Lady of the Lake and the wonderfully inventive 2001 reality TV-meets-serial killers amalgam $LA$HER$, has produced a horror film that feels firmly rooted in post-9/11 hysteria and suspicion, although its portrait of American fundamentalist religious nuts is a bit broad. Although much of it will feel very familiar to anyone who?s seen other subway-set chillers like Death Line (aka Raw Meat), or other end-of-the-world survival sagas, the combination of the two subgenres is unique enough ? and the film?s running time is brief enough ? to make for worthwhile viewing. Once the quick first act setup is complete and some not-unwelcome character development can take place, the pace slackens a bit and the movie meanders somewhat, but Devereaux throws enough curve balls at the audience that things pick up soon thereafter, all the way through its Apocalyptic conclusion. Much better than the lackluster and misogynistic Creep, which came out a few years ago and was also about a woman lost in the subway with a killer after her, End of the Line contains a good amount of scares (although the one that opens the film is definitely the best) and a prodigious amount of gore, and is sufficiently distinguished from other low-budget horrors of its type to prove entertaining for all but the hardest-hearted horror fans. Still seeking a U.S. distributor, but most likely to go straight to DVD, it?s worth keeping in the back of one?s mind for its eventual wide release.
End of the Line is playing as part of the '07 Philadelphia Film Festival.