Pickin’ the Carcass: THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012)

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012)
By Michael Arruda

House-At-The-End-Of-The-Street-Poster-Jennifer-Lawrence

Because word-of-mouth on THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012) was so bad, I kept away from this one upon its initial release.  But like all true horror movie fans, I want to see everything, good or bad, and so I caught up with THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET on streaming video the other night.

While I didn’t love it, there were a few things about it that I found pleasantly surprising. 

Teenager Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her single mom Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move into a new home to start a fresh chapter in their lives.  No, no!  This is a horror movie!  Don’t move in!  Go somewhere else!  Actually, their house isn’t the titled house at the end of the street, nor is this really a horror movie, but still, they’re in for some trouble in their new home, as if we couldn’t figure this out. 

They learn that the entire neighborhood shuns the house at the end of their street because years before a young girl had murdered her parents there.  After the murder, the girl disappeared, and legend has it she still lives in the woods.  Ooohh!!   Creepy!  Strangely, the brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), now in college, remains in the house. 

Elissa is a rather rebellious teenager, and she and her mom don’t really get along.  Against her mom’s wishes, Elissa strikes up a friendship with Ryan, which isn’t hard for her to do, since Ryan comes off as a really nice guy, a bit quiet and introspective, but nice all the same, and the rest of the people her own age she meets are pretty much complete jerks.

Sarah relays her fears about Ryan to the town sheriff, Weaver (Gil Bellows), the one sensible person living in the community.  Weaver tells Sarah that Ryan is all right, that the folks in town have given him a hard time, and that he hasn’t given the police any trouble since he’s lived in the house.

But this is a thriller after all, and so it turns out that Ryan isn’t what he seems. Just what has weird-boy Ryan been up to, you ask?  It seems he’s keeping his sister Carrie Anne prisoner in the basement of his house, or at the very least he’s giving her food and shelter and keeping her hidden from the authorities.  Nah, that sounds too good.  It’s actually much more sinister than that.  You see, his sister suffered a brain injury as a child, and so she’s mentally challenged, which means in order for Ryan to keep her there, he really does have to treat her like a prisoner.  She’s locked in a basement. She’s not exactly hiding out in a plush bedroom with all the amenities.

And yes, everyone once in a while, Carrie Anne escapes, and Ryan has to pursue her into the woods to bring her back.

Now, this revelation comes early in the movie, and so this isn’t exactly a plot spoiler, especially when there are more twists to come.  As Elissa grows closer to Ryan, against her mother’s wishes, things get complicated because THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET isn’t finished with its twists and plot revelations yet.   Elissa, you might want rethink those dating plans with Ryan.  He’s got some issues.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is a well-acted thriller that tells a solid story until the very end when it loses its way with some revelations that aren’t as shocking as they’re intended to be.  But for the most part, I enjoyed this movie, especially since I expected little from it.

Jennifer Lawrence is very good as Elissa.  While her portrayal a of moody teen isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, I like Lawrence a lot, and at this point pretty much enjoy anything she’s in. 

Elisabeth Shue is just as good as Sarah, and she delivers a very sincere performance as a single mom trying to make things work with her rebellious teenage daughter.  Her frustrations over the challenging process of connecting with her teen daughter come off as genuine.

One problem I did have however with Shue and Lawrence was I had trouble seeing these two as mother and daughter. They don’t resemble each other at all, nor did they share similar personalities.  I didn’t really buy them as mother and daughter.

Max Thieriot turns in a decent performance as Ryan.  He’s sufficiently odd and quirky, yet he also comes off as sincere and likable.  I believed that Elissa would be attracted to him.  Likewise, Gil Bellows is agreeable as Weaver, the sheriff, who represents the voice of reason inside a community where reasonable people don’t seem to live. 

As a drama, THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET works, and for 2/3 of this movie, I was really into it.  Where it stumbles is as a thriller.  Director Mark Tonderai forgot to give this one an edge.  The expected thrills and chills don’t come until late in the game, and they’re not very effective as they’re rather shallow and superficial.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is not much of a scary movie.  It’s certainly not a horror movie.

The screenplay by David Loucka is mediocre.  It does a nice job creating affable characters, it presents a somewhat intriguing story, but it all becomes rather routine towards the end.  Had the story been darker and more sinister throughout, then perhaps the twists at the end would have worked better.  As it stands, they don’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie.

Loucka also wrote the screenplay to another “haunted house” thriller DREAM HOUSE (2011) starring Daniel Craig, which was pretty bad.  Like THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, DREAM HOUSE also had a dark revelation midway through the movie, and then added more twists later.  THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is a step up in terms of drama, but the horror elements in both movies are very weak.

As a result, THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, actors Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue deliver compelling likeable performances, leading a decent cast that does the same, and they’re taking part in a story that isn’t half bad.  But on the other hand, the expected thrills don’t really come until the end of the movie, and for the most part, they run hollow and superficial, because really, I never really felt that the Jennifer Lawrence character was in true danger.  Why not?  Because the threat in this one is never clearly defined.  Just what exactly should these characters be afraid of?  You don’t really find out until the very end.  That’s way too late in my book.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET plays like a dark drama, and as such, is somewhat likeable.  But it’s not a horror movie, and even to call it a thriller is a reach. 

I give it two and a half knives.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

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