House At The End Of The Street (2012) Directed by Mark Tonderai. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue and Max Thieriot. IMDB says: ”A mother and daughter move to a new town and find themselves living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. When the daughter befriends the surviving son, she learns the story is far from over.”
House At The End Of The Street is like an undeclared college freshman. The guy might be fun and make some interesting points in conversation, but he’s still young, confused and unsure of himself. He doesn’t know what major to take or what he wants to be and so he spends most of his first semester attending parties and meeting new people. House at the End Whatever (sorry, this film’s title is terrible) is just like undeclared dude because it’s not a failure but it also never succeeds. It is somewhat inventive in it’s storytelling and plot points but suffers gravely from both typical horror tropes and overall lack of direction.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t sit down to this movie with high hopes. Every version of the trailer I watched for this film became more confusing and generic. I got a big sense of ‘Hey Teens! You need something to do this weekend so come see this piece of garbage!” In reality, the film’s plot is a little bit clearer than the promotional material made it out to be. Jenifer Lawrence is Elissa, an independent teenager moving with her often-absent mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) from Chicago to a much more rural Pennsylvania. She’s easy to like because she’s normal, self-confident and has a good head on her shoulders. The movie basically follows Elissa and her friendship with an outcast neighbor named Ryan (Max Thieriot) – a slightly older boy that still lives in the empty house where his parents were murdered by his sister. Totally normal. The film surprisingly starts off pretty strong tonally. There is a certain gloss and over-produced style to the story’s exposition that sits well and intrigues. But as House progresses and we are treated to more characters and plot points, the thread of curiosity starts to unravel. While the drive to solve things never left me, the tension did. The movie attempts to break new ground from scene to scene and in doing so it becomes difficult for viewers to understand what they are supposed to feel. The tonal shifts make the movie feel very disjointed, as if an amateur was behind the camera lens. Fortunately for the film, there is still enough speculation from the viewers to keep them invested. I don’t think House At The End Of The Street is well made, but I was entertained enough for it’s running time.
Besides issues with tone & construction, the movie falls victim to classic horror cliches. Anything fresh or interesting the film has going for it is completely offset by silly choices made by the characters. It’s especially noticeable when those decisions completely contradict their previous characterizations. For example, our likable lead is painted to be a curious yet clever individual, but she fails to notice obvious inconsistencies and big ole’ clues when it’s time to GTFO. Too many problems wind up in the movie to make it a solid watch. If this ever pops up on Netflix Instant queue though, well, maybe it’s worth a peek.
House At The End Of The Street opens in theaters September 21st.