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In this unsettling and creepy thriller, Karen (Ilona Elkin), a young nurse who works in a psychiatric ward, boards the last subway train of the night only to have it stop suddenly in the middle of the tunnel. As those around her are brutally murdered, Karen and a handful of survivors must face supernatural forces, homicidal religious cult members, as well as their own fears and suspicions of Armageddon, in order to survive. Written by
Toronto international film festival
Prior to "End of the Line," the only thing I'd seen by writer-director Maurice Devereaux was a satirical short on PMS, done in the style of a '50s educational film (look it up on YouTube). Needless to say, this guy is a versatile talent worth keeping an eye on. Like many low-budget, independent horror films, "Line" begins fairly awkward, with wobbly performances, questionable makeup effects, and bizarre camera choreography. But after a deliberate buildup followed by an incredibly chilling segue into cold-blooded violence, "End of the Line" goes off and running to its own rhythm and tune, with near-total disregard for political correctness and moral scrutiny. The plot wouldn't seem so intensely button-pushing if we hadn't been inundated (especially in the wake of 9/11) with a rash of films that failingly attempt to rationalize and justify contemptible actions (on both sides) in the midst of warfare and natural disaster; Devereaux's 'monsters' are members of an expansive (and apparently global) religious sect, led by a Jim Jones type foretelling the impending apocalypse. Armed with crucifix daggers, strong belief, and Sunday Smiles, these zealots are the stuff of nightmares (proving once again what George Romero established in "Night of the Living Dead"--what a zombie does to a person is nothing compared to what the human survivors do to themselves). Beginning on a stopped subway car (where the PA crackles with cryptic, incoherent messages) and progressing through the subterranean tunnels below, a disparate group of survivors attempt to find their way to safety while being stalked by the murderous sect. The location is one of "Line"'s key strengths: the dimly-lit, desolate tunnels provide a thick, claustrophobic sense of desperation and isolation that only ratchets up the terror of the situation. Similarly, the performances by a cast of Stateside unknowns improves considerably as the film progresses, to the point where the viewer aligns his own survival instinct with that of the characters, and the desire to see them make it out alive. But like Romero, Devereaux isn't content with Happy Endings, and leaves us on an admirably ambiguous note that would do Dante Aligheri proud. "End of the Line" is a triumph for the genre.
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