Movie Review: The End (Part One)
In my recent review of Jay Hollinsworth‘s Broken, I noted that computer special effects technology had become so cheap and readily available that it could help redefine what types of films the underground or DIY filmmaker could make. I didn’t mean that in any grandiose way, that underground films should mimic the spectacle of Hollywood movies, but that filmmakers could, as an example, compose cheap establishing shots that they can’t get in camera. Instead of Vince Peranio building a cardboard front of Queen Carlotta’s castle for John Waters‘s Desperate Living, now you can get a graphic illustrator to create the same thing in Photoshop without spending money for building supplies. Granted, a computer recreation wouldn’t be as much fun as Peranio’s creation, but it’s something for the poor filmmaker to think about.
And now, along comes the stellar special effects for Sean DelGatto’s slacker sci-fi drama The End, of which Part One is currently completed. In the film, a star traveling through space is headed for a head-on collision with our sun, which may or may not obliterate the solar system. In between the drama happening on Earth, Sean inserts some really professional special effects shots of celestial bodies moving through space. Sure, he could have gotten away with some cheap-o effects, like planets dangling on strings against a black felt background with holes in it, and maybe a flashlight for the sun. Audiences would expect something of that sort in such a low-budget production, but the snazzy FX Sean uses really gives his tale an element of realism that enhances the film.
Sean also sets his space scenes to classical music, so that the film feels like an unholy union of Stanley Kubrick and Richard Linklater. It’s a tough film not to like. The premise sounds a little goofy. Really, do stars fly randomly through space? Maybe they do. I’m no astronomer, but it doesn’t sound right to me. However, the dialogue of the Oregon residents faced with sudden annihilation is so amiable and laid-back, it’s hard not to be totally charmed by these characters. How can you not love a scientist who says, in anticipation of the star hitting the sun, “It’s either going to be awesome or it’s going to suck”?
All the standard characters are here: The jock and his girlfriend who will accept their fate whatever it is. The girlfriend’s neurotic mother who’s so consumed with her own inadequacies, she seems oblivious that none of her stupid shit really matters. The scientist who can’t come to terms with his own horrifying discovery. The professional, sophisticated newswoman who wants to get busy with her uncouth cameraman because, well, why not? But my favorite has to be the jock’s parents. When the news first hits, they get good and drunk and pass out in the living room on top of each other. Then, on the last day of Earth, they spend most of the day getting busy in bed, giggling beneath the sheets. The dad is certainly the funnest character in the entire film, more concerned with how much beer is in the fridge than wanting to spend some last minute quality time with his son.
Of course, this is only Part One of the The End, so there’s no harm in saying that the end doesn’t really happen. The film ends on a cliffhanger, the kind you see at the end of the middle parts of trilogies, e.g. Back to the Future, Part II or The Empire Strikes Back. But you don’t feel cheated. The stellar catastrophe is pretty much a macguffin, a device to engineer a reason to hang back and pop some beers with these characters (they pop beers throughout the film). It’s a good film, so I’m eager to see Part Two and see if it lives up to the set up, but if I never see it, I at least still feel satisfied.
More on this film: Amazon