House at the End of the Street is a starter horror movie for any tween girl having a slumber party that wants to find a scary movie to watch sometime during the night. The reason I say this is because it’s absolutely not scary at all to anyone who has ever watched even a handful of movies from the genre, and it’s so cliché and by the numbers that there’s really no reason to recommend it to anyone other than those of a younger age (again, I’m talking 12-14 here, as it’s not a completely harmless film), because they’re the only ones who are going to find it even remotely interesting.
The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, which is pretty much the only reason anyone likely looked twice at this movie in the first place. She plays Elissa, a teenager who moves from a bad neighbourhood into a really nice house that they can only afford because the parents of the family that used to live in the house next door were brutally murdered. Elissa lives with her mother, Sarah (Elizabeth Shue), and they bicker and fight because Sarah never around when Elissa was growing up. (I believe she was always at work, though they also hint at heavy alcoholism, so I’m not completely sure which was the reason – not that it matters, as it’s just a plot device to make Elissa rebellious.)
There are some odd subplots that pretty much don’t go anywhere, like the fact that Elissa is a singer who apparently has a website, and some sort of reputation that causes a guy at school to ask her if she’ll join his band to prepare for Battle of the Bands during what seems to be her first few days of school. It gives reason to introduce Jillian (Allie MacDonald), a girl who quickly befriends Elissa and pops up randomly from time to time, and even that’s not reason enough to have the whole band back story, as Jillian really isn’t an important character at all.
One night after a party that goes south, Elissa decides to walk home (all 10 miles) and we’re introduced to Ryan (Max Thieriot), the son whose parents were murdered that now lives in the house alone. He pulls up beside her on a dark, empty street, introduces himself and asks if she wants a ride home. She declines, because she’s obviously heard the whole “Stranger Danger” spiel, and he begins to drive off. It almost instantly begins to downpour, and we learn that it’s worth risking abduction to stay dry, as Elissa rushes to catch up to him and gets in the car.
The two form a relationship, which Sarah doesn’t approve of, and we get some really awkward exchanges between her and Elissa as they fight over whether or not Ryan is a good guy, or a nut. Elissa believes he’s just a damaged soul, as he told her the story of how his sister had an accident and due to the brain damage she suffered, she went on to kill his parents. Sarah forbids them from being alone together, and of course, that totally works out.
As I said before, the movie may give some chills to those being introduced to scary movies, but it just won’t work otherwise. There’s a Hitchcockian vibe that writer David Loucka (Dreamhouse) and director Mark Tonderai are going for, but again, these didn’t work for me as the film was just too formulaic for anything to be shocking or not completely obvious. They may work for a younger audience, and they may not; that’s something they’ll just have to find out when they watch it.
The dialogue is really bad. We’re talking facepalm worthy, eye-rolling, bang your head against the nearest hard object bad. There’s a scene where Elissa is sitting at school with Jillian, and Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk) – a guy who was supposed to be nice, but then tried to get into Elissa’s pants at a party while completely hammered – comes by and says something stupid, and after he leaves Jillian goes, “He’s a dick,” to which Jillian responds, “Even worse, he’s a dickhole.” Oh no she didn’t! I mean, if that doesn’t tell you that the target audience is those around the ages of 12-13, I’m not sure what will.
The acting is okay, as Lawrence is obviously the best thing this movie has going for it. Thieriot comes off really awkward for the first two acts of the film, and while this may have been done purposefully, it just makes his character look a little too simple-minded and poorly conveyed. Shue does what she can with what she has to work with, and there aren’t really any other characters notable enough to be touched upon.
House at the End of the Street is an introductory scary movie for tweens and that’s about it. The story is filled with clichés and odds are most people who are fans of the genre will be bored midway through this slow-paced misfire. Even Lawrence isn’t enough to save this one, and fans of hers should likely just watch any of her other films a second time over delving into this one.
The audio and video quality of the film works well, and gives off the horror vibe that the story itself really fails to ever hit. The darks are rich and the audio mix is solid, and clear.
Journey into Terror: Inside House at the End of the Street – This featurette is just under 10 minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about how great it was filming the movie, and the high hopes they had for it. Hindsight…
An Alliance Films release Filmnation Entertainment Presents House at the End of the Street. Directed by: Mark Tonderai. Written by: David Loucka. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Elizabeth Shue. Running time: 102 minutes. Rating: R. Released: January 8, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.