If The End? (In un giorno la fine) both opens and closes with wide establishing shots showing Rome, marking how this Eternal City has changed over the course of the film’s events, our perspective on the unfolding of those events is far tighter. For it is confined not only to a drab building headquarters of a firm called ‘Panopticon’ (which is ironic given the film’s extremely constrained outlook), but to a lift inside in which accidental not-quite-hero Claudio Verona (Alessandro Roja) becomes trapped when it gets stuck between the sixth and seventh floors. Able to force the elevator doors only partially open (not enough to get out, but enough to see the office corridor beyond), Claudio has the narrowest of windows on the apocalypse, and though he feels cornered, he may just be in one of the city’s safest places, waiting out either the end of the world or the passing of a disaster. With mortality suddenly brought very much to the fore, Claudio – an arrogant executive and serial philanderer – is confronted with the fragility and vanity of everything in his life.
One of the ways that an independent filmmaker working on a low budget can make a familiar genre scenario seem fresh, not to mention affordable, is to limit the narrative to a single set and a small number of characters, which has the potential to bring what might be well worn clichés into sharp and newly intimate focus. This is what writer/director Daniele Misischia has attempted in his feature debut. If the elevator setting itself is hardly new (see The Elevator, 1974; Abwärts, 1984; Blackout, 2008; Devil, 2010; and Elevator, 2011) – its combination with a zombie epidemic allies The End? to other films which confine their undead business to claustrophobic spaces, like the intercity locomotive in Train To Busan (2016) or, even more pertinently, the office building toilets in Christina James’ Stalled (2013).
The End?, however, constantly struggles to revitalise its tropes or use its location in any interesting way, leaving us feeling as stuck as Claudio in his worst ever day at the office. Too much of the film’s first half is devoted to his confused, increasingly panicked cellphone calls to his wife Lorena, his secretary Sara, and the building’s maintenance staff, all of which show him trying to get to grips with what is going on – but the problem is that he alone seems not to have encountered the viral outbreak of zombie stories that have filled our screens big and small over the last 15 or so years, ensuring that viewers will be way ahead of him and wondering why the film has less grasp of economy than its investor protagonist. It does not help that the patent absurdity of Claudio’s situation is never actually milked for humour, making this a dour affair – or that Claudio himself, an unlikable and rather boring everyman, never really engages. When Claudio declares (four times in a row!), “I can’t take it anymore,” viewers too may wish that the script was as tight as the setting, and that the end semi-promised by the title would come a lot sooner.