“On a calm night in an average city, a hardworking URYDE driver, Brandon, picks up just another fare, Judd. Using interactions that blur the lines between the technological world and the physical one, Judd explains a messy breakup. Brandon offers an empathetic ear and a sympathetic heart to his new friend to help him pick up the pieces. Aggregated profiles, algorithms, links, likes and comments bring people closer. But how close is too close?”
Alright. I’m intrigued.
Warning: Some light spoilers ahead! Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
“End Trip” is helmed by director Aaron Jay Rome, whom you may know from “The Vampire Diaries.” As it turns out, the handsome actor has quite a set of directing chops. “End Trip” is, to put it simply, a damn good horror/thriller and I will go slightly off-script and begin this review with a recommendation. I highly recommend “End Trip” and wish the film well.
Perhaps the highest praise I can render “End Trip” is that it is a slow burn. It does not quite do what you expect it to do and it does not play its hand a moment too soon. The film plays with timelines in a way that makes you question where exactly you are, in the grand scheme of things. What is going on? Wait… is that the same guy? How did we get here? As a connoisseur of horror, it’s rare that a horror flick can truly surprise me, but “End Trip” has now joined that very exclusive circle of, “Wow. Didn’t see that coming.”
The film begins along a rideshare route. A routine evening of picking up folks and introducing us to the small world where half of this film takes place. A small aside/nitpick of “End Trip” is the use of what I call “social media filmmaking”: instances where visual storytelling is shown through text pop-ups on the screen, brief views of the phone, etc. I recognize that this is a total nitpick and that, given the space that social media and smartphones take up in our lives, this type of filmmaking is probably the way of the future but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I find it choppy and distracting. But I digress.
Admittedly, I was not very far along into “End Trip” when I started up my very bad habit of guessing what was going to happen (and I’m cocky about it). Everything in the opening moments sets us up for some kind of Uber kidnapping nightmare. It was textbook predictable… until suddenly it wasn’t. This film took a turn fast. I won’t speak on spoilers, because I really want people to go see this movie, but shit got real. Very quickly, “End Trip” became something unexpected and… damn good.
“I have become a huge admirer of your life.”
One quote. A line from “End Trip” that sums it up. Several times, throughout my viewing, I thought of “End Trip” as a more crudely composed counterpart to NEON’s “Ingrid Goes West.” There’s a dark commentary here on social media and on the desire to step into someone else’s life and try on what they put out there.
The film was not without its flaws. The climax of the film is a tad hectic and not lacking in odd choices that just did not work. Really, it’s the ending that keeps “End Trip” from being absolutely stellar. Nonetheless, it does leave on a high note that prevents me from being too salty about it.
Once again, I highly recommend “End Trip” and wish the film and its crew the best of luck at the Cannes Film Market!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.