June 22, 2018 End Trip (Movie Review)
With the popularity of aps to get quick cheaper rides, there is bound to be a handful of passengers that should not be picked up. Unfortunately for the drivers, there is no real way to confirm that they are safe and who they say they are. Sure, there are pictures attached to the ap and ratings, but how well do those really stand up? A lot of people look similar. From Prolific Pictures, End Trip addresses what happens when the rider is not who they seem. Shown at Dances With Films Festival on June 9th, there is currently no broad release date for End Trip, but what is it all about?
Co-written and directed by Aaron Jay Rome (The Vampire Diaries series, Get On Up 2014), he also stars in the film as Brandon, a URyder driver. His shifts are primarily late at night until the early morning. He does his best to be friendly and personable in order to get a good rating from his passengers and hopefully a hefty tip. One night, he accepts a passenger named Judd (Eric LeBlanc: No Salvation 2016, My B.F.F. 2017).
Judd does not have a plan or a destination, he just wants Brandon to drive. Judd tells Brandon that he is having issues with his girlfriend, Megan (Michelle West: Don’t Kill It 2016, It’s Time 2018), and just needs to clear his head. The pair drive around the city and quickly become fast friends. Brandon talks about himself and his fiancee, Stef (Ashley Lenz: Law & Order True Crime 2017, Go Crazy Go Mad 2018). Brandon even willing gives Judd his details so that he can look him up on Facebook.
An alternate timeline pops up on screen. Brandon has arrived home. It is still very late at night so Stef is asleep. He crawls into bed with her. As soon as she touches his lips she realizes something is wrong. She begins to scream and insists that he is not Brandon. Stef is terrified because she does not know what is going on. Brandon is angry but swears that she is mistaken, and he really is Brandon. He chains her to the table to keep her from escaping. All the while he is trying to love and dote on her. Their wedding planner, Simon (Jaren Mitchell: 21 Jump Street 2012, Free State of Jones 2016), shows up for their first meeting. Stef is able to tell him that something is wrong and call the police, but Brandon kills Simon before he is able to do so.
Back to the first timeline, Brandon and Judd are still driving around town aimlessly. Somehow Brandon convinces Judd to try and see Megan and try and make amends. They excitedly go around trying to come up with a plan. Brandon confides in Judd the things he would do for Stef and some of the things she likes. The whole time Judd does not disclose a lot about himself or Megan. Nothing works out the way that Judd had anticipated. His night with Brandon seems to be just beginning.
What is going on with Judd? Why is he fishing for information about Brandon and Stef? Why does Brandon allow himself to drop his guard and become so close to a virtual stranger? What is going on with Stef? Why is she suddenly afraid of Brandon? What is he going to do to her? Did Brandon unwittingly pick up the wrong passenger?
There is a lot of timeline jumps in End Trip. It continues to jump from the night before when Brandon picks up Judd to the next day with Brandon and Stef. Sometimes the dual timelines help build suspense and keeps the viewer interested in the action on screen. This technique really is not needed in the progression of this film. Employed here, the viewer is left feeling confused and with a nagging feeling that something is not quite right.
Those feelings are not very strong, though, because it is easy to figure out what is actually going on. A linear timeline would have been far more dramatic and suspense building. Using the dual timeline effect giving the viewer the information End Trip does, only succeeds in losing the viewer’s interest as it becomes incredibly easy to figure out exactly what is going on. It becomes exhausting to view, and though the topic is intriguing, it made the film seem far longer than it should.
End Trip also lacks any real characterization. Had the story itself been linear, it would have been strong enough to overlook this fact. Because of the time jumping, the viewer is forced to try and grab hold of the characters and try to feel something for them. Though the acting is good, the characters are stiff and uninteresting. Brandon, himself, comes across as a greasy used car salesman simply schmoozing up his riders for more money.
There is nothing wrong with that, but the viewer does not get to know who he is or why it should matter if his life is in danger. Stef’s character is even worse. She is simply Brandon’s girlfriend who likes the color blue. Judd and his secrets are far more interesting. Rooting for him and curiosity of what he will do next and why quickly becomes the reason to continue watching. Even then it is a stretch. Judd is only interesting because he seems to hold all the power.
People lie. With the popularity of average people making money driving around strangers, there can only be so many safeguards in place to prevent bad things from happening. The ride sharing companies cannot possibly know the intentions of their own drivers much less the passengers. Riding in a vehicle can be a very intimate occasion.
Essentially people are trapped in a moving metal box at the mercy of whoever is behind the wheel. Silence can be overpowering. Music can be distracting. Talking is a safe way to pass the time. Even if two people click instantly, there is always the unknown hovering. End Trip successfully shows how quickly this progression of stranger to friend, to evil can quickly get out of hand.
End Trip has the bones to be a refreshing take on the Horror genre. Unfortunately, style choices have muddled the experience and made what could have been a stellar film into a mediocre one. Giving away a film’s secrets early does nothing but take the viewer out of the experience and make them wish it was over sooner than it should be. The viewer needs someone to root for and sadly the film just does not present one. It is for these reasons, CrypticRock gives End Trip 2.5 out of 5 stars.