[Review] – House at the End of the Street

5 Oct

Title: House at the End of the Street
Year: 2012
Director: Mark Tonderai
Writers: David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Elisabeth Shue
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material
Runtime: 101 min
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 12%
Metacritic: 31

I had heard some pretty awful things about House at the End of the Street, the latest generic horror movie offering out in theaters right now, and while it’s certainly far from being anything close to good, I kind of think it’s a slightly more competent feature than most people are making it out to be. Again, this is not to say it’s a good film, it really isn’t, but the sheer fact that the mandatory hot girl running around in a tank top screaming her ass off in this one is Jennifer Lawrence already makes it a better film than most of its horrid contemporaries.

It seems like all hot up-and-coming actresses appear in movies like this one for some reason all of them playing a variation of the same exact role. Rooney Mara was in A Nightmare on Elm Street before David Fincher took notice of her, Renée Zellweger was in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation before she hit it big, just this year we had Elizabeth Olsen in Silent House, Jessica Biel was also in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. So it’s kind of like a rite of passage for P.Y.T.’s and it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s turn now, with a film that was shot months before she got her Oscar nod for Winter’s Bone, before she had a box office juggernaut franchise with The Hunger Games and before she was hinted as the front-runner at next year’s Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook. When this was shot she was a nobody but now her name brings an audience.

And an audience it has indeed brought, with Relativity Media having already made over $22 million on a budget of less than $7 million out of it, so that’s good. The film, like I said, isn’t any good, though. Ms. Lawrence tries her best, she really does, but the fact is that House at the End of the Street is as generic as its title would suggest, it’s just a stale idea that’s not done all that well either as the film really struggles to even deliver the most basic of scares.

Ms. Lawrence is Elissa and she’s going with her just-divorced mother, played by Elisabeth Shue, to find a new start for their life which starts with them finding the house of their dreams in a way, this nice place in this little and warm rural town. But then, as you might imagine, weird things start happening and Elissa and her mom quickly find out that the town has this secret which is linked their neighboring house where some years ago a girl killed her parents while they were sleeping and then disappeared, living her brother as the sole survivor of the family. That brother, Ryan, still lives in the house and refuses to sell it even though the rest of the neighborhood hates him and really wants him to as the house drives down their property value.

If this film deserved it I would probably stop right there with the plot details, but this one is totally generic and really offers up anything new so I’ll say it. Elissa begins a relationship with Ryan, played by Max Thieriot, against her mother’s wishes and she starts getting deeper into the mysteries surrounding this town. There’s a room beneath Ryan’s house where he harbors a dark secrets and you realize that he’s the bad guy and there’ll come a point in which Elissa is threatened in a near-death experienced only to be saved right in the nick of time and then she’ll move out with her mom and yadda-yadda, you know how these things go.

The whole thing just doesn’t work though, it may work for some really young people (this is rated PG-13 after all) that haven’t seen all that many horror films and may be a bit surprised and scared by this but, for most people, this won’t work one bit. It’s just totally bland and, most importantly, it offers no real scares, none of those jump-in-your-seat moments even some crappy horror films have been able to elicit. A lot of that has to do with the fact that this film thinks its super smart and offers up some psychologically complex stuff that just doesn’t work within the film even though some of the stuff it offers about paranoia and about mother-daughter relationships could have made for compelling material had it been framed slightly differently.

I will once again go into spoiler territory here and tell you guys that this is a mediocre spin on Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho. Ryan is the Norman Bates character, the awkward-but-sweet guy that lives in this haunted house, and I know saying this if you haven’t seen the film will make you weary because you’ll know what kinds of twists to look out for but you probably shouldn’t watch this movie in the first place. The twists don’t work, there are obviously some changes to the Psycho formula to keep it from being a full-on remake of that film but still, watch the two and you’ll see the obvious similarities, with one film doing it all right and being a classic and another one doing it in the most mediocre of ways and being forgotten a few weeks after one watches it.

House at the End of the Street is a shoddy mash-up of a seminal horror movie mixed in with the stereotypical tropes of teen horror flicks and it doesn’t work one bit. It’s a film with minimal suspense, with really crappy editing and just super messy as far continuity goes for the most part. It’s also a film with Jennifer Lawrence. I have to say again that this was shot before Winter’s Bone established her as one of the greatest young actresses around, so don’t hold this against her and say she picks crappy movies, and don’t hold it against her because her performance, limited as it is because of the material, is the sole reason I’m not giving this film a failing grade.

Grade: C

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One Response to “[Review] – House at the End of the Street”

  1. BigBear85 October 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I have to agree an absolutely mediocre attempt at combining Psycho and sleep away camp which does both movies a disservice. Though the Ryan character was acted well if not a young imitation of Mr.Bates

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