House at the End of the Street
was originally slated to hit theaters a couple of months before The Hunger Games
, but sensing star Jennifer Lawrence's star would hit the stratosphere after that blockbuster release, Relativity postponed it for nine months so reap the benefit. Unfortunately for moviegoers, it wasn't worth the wait.
Recent divorcée Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her teenage daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) move into a large, plush home in an upscale neighborhood that was a steal because it's situated next to a house where a husband and wife were killed four years earlier. Their snooty neighbors, explain that the victims' young daughter, after suffering from brain damage for years due to a playground accident, snapped one night and murdered her parents. The girl disappeared, and it was assumed she drowned in a nearby lake, although the body was never recovered. The reclusive older brother Ryan (Max Thieriot), who was away at the time of the tragedy, has chosen to stay in the house, much to the chagrin of neighbors who would prefer the house be torn down rather than see their property values dwindle. Elissa is immediately drawn to outcast Ryan, but she doesn't realize that buried deep within his house is a shocking secret that could cost her her life.
The End Result
Jennifer Lawrence and Max Thieriot in 'House at the End of the Street'.© Relativity
It shouldn't come as a surprise that House at the End of the Street
was written by the guy who penned Dream House
. Besides the obvious similarities between the two stories about deep dark secrets tied to dusty old houses where mass murders occurred (detailed in all-too-revealing trailers), both also feature unorthodox plot twists that are intriguing on the surface but don't carry enough weight to counter the films' shortcomings. The best twists are icing on the cake of an already-strong movie (like The Sixth Sense
), but HATES
' big reveal (a couple of them, actually) are like icing on week-old sourdough bread. You can maybe scrape the icing off and enjoy that somewhat tainted, semi-sweet treat for what it is, but the rest is stale and pungent.
House at the End of the Street fancies itself as Hitchcockian (with one of Hitchcock's classics in particular seeming to be an inspiration), but thrills are sorely lacking until the final 20 minutes or so, at which point it's too little, too late. Without revealing too much about the plot, there's just no sense of danger until the intentionally vague and misdirected storyline begins to clear up near the end and you can actually lend a name, a face and a motive to the threat.
Even then, the resolution is generic, the climax piling genre cliché upon cliché, with neither the cast nor the director -- both with disappointing efforts, considering their previous work (Mark Tonderai's cat-and-mouse thriller Hush being an honorable mention for my Best of 2009) -- able to elevate the material beyond a big-screen Lifetime movie of the week.
- Acting: C+ (A good cast performs below its abilities.)
- Direction: C- (Completely devoid of scares -- granted, the script doesn't help.)
- Script: D+ (I can see how the twisty third act can make for a good pitch, but stretched out into a full movie, it lacks much impetus to keep watching until the third act.)
- Gore/Effects: C (Mild, PG-13 blood.)
- Overall: C- (.)
House at the End of the Street is directed by Mark Tonderai and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material. Release date: September 21, 2012.