'A serial killer stalks sexy backpackers in this Ozploitation classic.' If you believe the tagline for the 1976 Tim Burstall thriller End Play, it appears to hold all the trappings of a mostly forgettable- and probably regrettable- B-grade guilty pleasure. In actuality, the film is a well- scripted, suspense-filled murder mystery, boasting outstanding performances by its co-leads (John Waters and locally adopted George Mallaby) and a plot that thickens with each scene, demanding nothing less than full audience attention.
Waters and Mallaby play dysfunctional siblings Mark and Robbie, whose shaky-at-best relationship is exacerbated by Mark's secretive blood lust for petite blond hitchhikers. As paraplegic Robbie begins to suspect his brother, he is torn between bailing out the only family he has left and assisting the police force he despises so intensely (headed by Ken Goodlet as the inquisitive Supt. Cheadle).
End Play liberally incorporates many facets of the conventional whodunit into its plot, including a secluded setting, piercing score and razor-sharp dialogue, but with an added level of intrigue that is difficult to quantify. The film never regresses into a self-designed 'comfort zone' whereby the viewer can safely predict what comes next. The relentless psychological warfare employed between Mark, Robbie and Cheadle facilitates a thrilling second half, punctuated by a dénouement that lends itself far more to classic Hitchcock than Ozploitation. If ever there was a film to define 'pleasant surprise' in its purest form, End Play may just be it.
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