Dead End Road (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It's another one of those "theme slasher" movies which have been so popular since the campy Doctor Phibes films. In this particular avatar, the theme slasher skulks around in a top hat because he bases his murders around the life and works of Edgar Allen Poe. Poe! Why didn't I think of that? This just shows you why my slasher scripts always fail. My last serial slasher based his slayings on the life and works of John Irving. Most of the early murders were quite slow because the killer would simply give his victims really bad news, or maybe remind them of repressed childhood memories, and then wait for them to die from severe depression. Things finally sped up when the murderer bought a trained circus bear on eBay and taught him that he could amuse audiences with murder just as easily as with zany hijinks.

Man, I never could master those themed murders. I couldn't handle the numbered list theme either. There have been serial murderers who have based their crimes on the seven deadly sins and the ten commandments and the twelve signs of the zodiac, and other well known numbered lists, so I thought I could create a genre mystery by inventing a killer who killed each victim based upon one of the three Pep Boys, but the script was too short. I guess I could wait for them to name additional Pep Individuals, but many of my friends told me that the script was just too technical, and would only appeal to those who truly appreciate fine auto parts. Maybe I'll change it and have each murder based on one of the Seven Little Foys.

The premise of Dead End Road is as follows:

A detective has been on the trail of the "Poe killer" for many years, but the kidnapping of a high profile supermodel causes the FBI to take over the case. The detective might normally be a bit upset over this blatant turf grab by the feds, but he can't really say much since the FBI agent assigned to the case is his own daughter. The detective walks away and retires to lecture at a nearby college. The FBI woman soon figures out how to use the internet to contact the killer and sets up a meeting. She and her partner show up without back-up, which soon results in his death and her abduction. Of course, the brings the old detective out of retirement to save his daughter from his old nemesis.

I could tell you that this film is not really DVD quality, but that would be misleading, because this film is not even BVD quality. That's right, if you put your shorts up on the wall, they would be more interesting than this film.

And they would have a more satisfying ending.

No, that isn't really true. I'm just being mean. This film is really, really bad in certain ways, but it is also quite competent in others.

Let's start with the film's liabilities.

  • Number one, it was shot on digital video which, in this case, seems to mean "a home camcorder borrowed from somebody's dad." The technical quality is not significantly better than your Uncle Dwight's home movies, and the special effects ... well, there are better special effects in "Clerks."
  • Number two, although there are some competent C-list actors in the film, the minor roles appear to have been filled out by the director's friends and family, and some of them have not discovered the first clue in the eternal mystery of how to deliver lines. Do you remember those little kids who used to appear each week on Mr. Wizard? They would deliver all of their lines with breathless, exaggerated enthusiasm. "Gee, Mr. Wizard! You mean the same air that you and I breathe? Wow!" Well, those little kids had the subdued, subtle acting chops of Meryl Streep compared to the minor characters in this film.

So much for the really bad news. Those two points both boil down to the same thing: no money. Film is expensive. Lighting is expensive. Sets are expensive. Costumes are expensive. Actors are expensive. Realistic gore is expensive.

There is good news.

  • First and foremost, the director threw some work to Principal Belding (right), who played the father of the captured supermodel. Mr. Belding has gained a few pounds since Saved by the Bell.
  • I suppose I have to admit, albeit reluctantly, that the presence of Mr. Belding is less important than the fact that this director knows how to compose his images and how to edit. Some of the visuals in the nighttime forest are eerily effective. Even the indoor shots are artistically and dramatically composed, and several images create a powerful visceral impact.

You get the impression that this director could make a good movie if he had the money.

This, however, ain't it.

The film's sour notes are so sour that the typical viewer won't stay interested. Some actors deliver their lines so poorly that they destroy the fourth wall. It is never possible to just relax, get drawn in, and forget that one is watching a movie. Without being drawn into the story, one cannot care about the fates of the characters. Once that happens, it is no longer possible for the film to create any emotional involvement, no matter how clever and dramatic the visuals might be.


  • The DVD does have a widescreen transfer, but it is letterboxed.
  • There is a "behind the scenes" featurette
  • As I write this, you can rent this DVD from Blockbuster, bit I can't find any place to buy it


Ambre Lake shows her breasts in the role of the kidnapped model.

Another woman with a great upper body shows it off in a scene in which she has no lower body!

The Critics Vote ...

  • No reviews online

Miscellaneous ...

The People Vote ...

  • I don't believe there was any theatrical release. The film's budget was approximately $100,000.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it would be a D, a film which provides evidence that the director could make good films, but is not actually good itself. In this case, however, I have raised it to D+ based on the presence of Principal Belding who, as we all know, IS da man.

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