End Trip, the psychological thriller from writer-director Aaron Jay Rome and prolific pictures will make you think twice about tapping the screen to order your next Uber ride. This moody, character driven film slowly taunts the viewer with the unsettling ideas of stolen identity as it reveals the intentions of its mentally disturbed killer. Find out more in this End Trip Movie Review.
As someone who has never dared give a ride to a stranger, no matter what lucrative opportunities a ride app service might offer, End Trip feels like justification for my apprehension. Though part-time cabbies nationwide have saved countless lives by keeping drunk drivers off the road, these filmmakers ask us to consider what would happen if your next fare had a more deadly destination in mind.
End Trip has a pivotal twist I won’t ruin with a plot summary, except to say that the set-up for the film involves a the late night passengers of a good natured driver named Brandon and the relationships he builds along the way. Some are short lived, while others get more personal than most would deem appropriate. Our driver’s life and wife, will never be the same again.
Within the first minutes of End Trip, the film sets itself apart from most indie films with its intentional sense of style. If you’ve ever been out driving at 3 in the morning, you know that eery feeling of empty streets and the tricks tired eyes play on a fatigued mind. Rome manages to evoke that dream like quality perfectly as Brandon interacts with each new entrant to his vehicle from the driver’s seat.
Rome also plays Brandon in the film, managing to instill the character with an instantly likable quality that endears us this everyman just trying to make a buck. He patiently listens to people spill their guts from the back seat, like a mobile bartender, passing back friendly smiles through the rearview mirror. Their is a reality to the situation that is extremely relatable. After all, how often does your work require you to smile through awkward conversation with strangers?
When Brandon picks up a troubled photographer named Judd, played by Dean J. West, who asks that he simply drive around town so he can escape an impending conversation with his girlfriend, the film becomes more than just a series of late night vignettes. Soon Brandon is playing love guru and the two begin a fast friendship. A little too fast you might say.
What Rome handles expertly in the middle portion of the film is to get the viewer wrapped up in the personal lives of these two strangers in a way that doesn’t feel like forced exposition. The dialogue is incredibly natural as written and delivered. Yet, there is an impending sense of dread as Brandon and Judd share the details of their relationships, it’s clear that one of them is not on the level, we just can’t tell who.
You see prior to this meet-up, the audience is given a startling glimpse into Brandon’s home life. It’s morning and his wife doesn’t seem to recognize him, more than that, she’s frightened of him. His concerned attempts to calm her down and tend to a recent head injury add more layers of mystery to the plot unfolding before us.
The exciting part of this out of sequence narrative is that it begins to plant doubt in our minds as to Brandon’s sincerity. Questions begin flashing through our minds, grasping frantically at some sliver of truth. Why does he prefer take late night fares? Is he a wife beater? A pretty boy serial killer? We’ve grown to like him so much, why is his wife so upset at the sight of him?
What’s disturbing about End Trip is not who lives or dies in the story, but rather the circumstances under which the deaths occur. The killer is taking on identities that do not belong to him, yet pulling victims into his charismatic whirlpool as they struggle to make sense of what is happening to their reality.
This is not an undead zombie out for a snack or a masked maniac on the prowl, it’s something that could happen to any of us. It’s the ease with which a person’s world can be turned upside down that causes our pulse to start racing. What if you were suddenly sharing your bed with a stranger who claimed to have been in your life all along? End Trip offers a sinister answer.
The psychological terror inflicted on Brandon’s wife, Stef as played by Ashley Lenz, is ultimately where this thriller sets its sights and the tension built into the ending, as we get a full picture of her situation, is nail-biting. It’s a shift in focus that seems perfectly in line with the story being told up to this point and at the same time makes our brain say, “Does not compute”.
End Trip takes influence from films like Memento, The Talented Mr Ripley and Psycho while forging it’s own twisted path. Thanks to strong performances from the cast, engaging cinematography and a well-plotted script, this film is sure to get people talking. By the end, you won’t feel safe in your own home, let alone making new friends out in the world.
End Trip is premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this month and is certain to create some buzz. If you’re ready to question everything you know, you should definitely take End Trip for a spin when it hits theaters and home video in the future.