27th Aug2017

Frightfest 2017: ‘The End?’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Alessandro Roja, Euridice Axen, Claudio Camilli, Benedetta Cimatti, Bianca Friscelli | Written by Cristiano Ciccotti, Daniele Misischia | Directed by Daniele Misischia

the-end-poster

Claudio Verona is a young and cynical businessman. One day he gets locked in his Roman office elevator before an important meeting with a client. Soon this annoying obstacle will turn into a nightmare. For outside that metal cage a deadly virus has begun to infect and transform people into extremely violent and dangerous zombies!

Much like their directorial effort, The Arrival of Wang, the Manetti Bros. latest production, helmed by one of their longtime collaborators Daniele Misischia, manages to find the humanity, the human story, within a much larger plot. Both films focus on smaller parts of a much bigger story, really showing the impact it’s having on one person, not an indiscriminate number of random “heroes’ a la a number of big-budget apocalypse movies – for that’s what this film is about: a zombie apocalypse, set in Rome. You could almost call it the Italian answer to 28 Days Later.

By focusing on one man, Claudio, during a zombie outbreak, The End? manages to generate huge empathy for its lead character in a very short space of time. He goes from smarmy, unlikeable banker – who cheats on, and argues with, wife – to someone we wanty to see survive, to live on and find redemption. Hionestly, the character couldn’t be more apt given todays hatred for fat-cat bankers following the financial collapse almost a decade ago!

There’s also an interesting dichotomy at play here too: trapped inside the broken elevator the protagonist is in danger from the zombie horde outside the door, but at the same time he’s actually safe from the zombie outbreak outside the elevator door because he can’t get out and they can’t get in. The duality of the situation is also played upon very well. The End? is not only a story about a conflict with outside “forces” but an internal conflict for Claudio too. He wants to be free, to get home to his wife, but at the same time he’s in the safest place on the planet. The emotional struggle, the knowledge that he is, ultimately, powerless to help anyone in need – not only his wife at home but the co-workers who pass the elevator – is at the core of the characters journey.

Like the aformentioned The Arrival of Wang, The End? keeps things very much to one locale, meaning that the story is very much self-contained, even though the over-arcing concept of a zombie apocalypse is open a much grander scale.

However the scale that is eventually revealed when the film, and Claudio, finally leave the confines of the elevator. The finale opens up The End? immensely. Both in terms of the visuals, which goes from a small tight frame to a huge vista, tracking our protagonist overhead as he walks the empty streets of Rome; and also in terms of story. We’re given glimpses of the desolate nature of Rome post-zombie breakout and just how much devastation has been wrought on the city and more importantly its people.

Another great example of small-scale storytelling used to tell part of a much bigger tale, The End? alsomanages to tell a truly human story in an inhuman situation; and as such is a fine return to form for the Italian zombie genre.

***** 5/5

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