House at the End of the Street (Relativity Media)
1 hr. 41 mins.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Gil Bellows, Max Thieriot, Eva Link, Nolan Gerard Funk
Directed by: Mark Tonderai
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Horror/Mystery & Suspense
Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Well folks…what is in store for you in the hackneyed horror flick House at the End of the Street? The answer: nothing much that your ordinary generic and flatly delivered frightfest has not demonstrated countless times before. A basic boo-enhanced thriller that has all the scary element of a misshaped mushroom pizza topping, House at the End of the Street is sketchy in thrills and cheap in chills.
Filmmaker Mark Tonderai, who’s responsible for the 2008 British indie Hush, delivers a derivative goose-bump thriller that is occasionally stylish in its atmospheric shadings. Still, it cannot overcome its thinly conventional foundation mainly leaning on the “pretty-gal-in-turmoil” genre. The suspense factor is meager at best. After the previous outing of the dreary and dismissive Dream House, the arrival of the domestic dud House at the End of the Street begs for both haunted home-oriented movies to be condemned from the wrecking ball.
As with a lot of contemporary horror flicks, House at the End of the Street clumsily borrows its recycled ideas from previous fare that range from Hitchcock’s Psycho to any ragtag damsel in distress thriller of your choice. Screenwriter David Loucka (also accountable for the aforementioned ludicrous “Dream House”) flounders around with a tripe script that feeds into the usual follow-the-dots mantra of a scarce twitchy sideshow. Aside from the manufactured twists and turns, Tonderai’s pedestrian direction and Loucka’s inane screenplay does not give House its cohesive furnishings of mystique and mayhem.
Former Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter Bone”, “The Hunger Games”) is stuck in the middle of this schlocky vehicle as she tries to make an impact as another horror heroine being confronted by the oddities of her creepy confines. Lawrence is Elissa, an optimistic high schooler with a big heart and welcoming demeanor. She and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) decide to move from Chicago to a small and quaint town in Pennsylvania into a remote house that borders the woods. Little does Elissa realize that another house not too far from her new place has a hedonistic history attached to it.
In fact, the movie’s opening details the horrific antics of a homicidal teen Carrie Ann (Eva Link) butchering her parents to death. Not long after the slayings Carrie Ann disappears into the woods and the speculation builds up concerning her whereabouts. The missing Carrie Ann no doubt will figure into the maddening mix one way or the other. The question remains just how will she figure into the goings-on concerning Elissa’s fate?
Approximately four years later after the massacre Elissa does touch bases with Carrie Ann in an indirect way as she befriends Ryan (Max Thieriot), the survivor of the murders in that suspicious house in question. Oh yeah…it is important to mention that Ryan is the older brother of hack-attack hussy Carrie Ann. Predictably, oddball Ryan grows on Elissa to the point that they both develop feelings for one another.
Understandably, Sarah is concerned about her daughter’s romantic involvement with such an outcast as Ryan. Elissa, however, is the bright and bubbly girl that is drawn to the damaged and dangerous side of the peculiar Ryan. And so the unlikely love connection of the beauty and the brooding bearded beast is set in motion amongst the woodland surroundings. Still, there is something about the unassuming Ryan that seems nerve-racking to Sarah. What is it about this angst-ridden college-aged kid that remains so contemplative and incomplete to Sarah?
The film eventually answers the inquiry about the weird brother-sister tandem at hand. As it turns out Ryan has been sheltering Carrie Ann in the basement of the murder house where he tends to her traumatic needs. Carrie Ann had been assumed dead for many years now. Uneventfully, the chaotic Carrie Ann routinely escapes the basement chamber only to be dragged back by Ryan as he worries about his sister’s penchant for courting trouble for her and others. More important, he cannot fathom the possibility of Carrie Ann doing any harm to his precious honeybun Elissa. After a while Elissa does discover Ryan’s secret in his harboring the tortured soul of Carrie Ann.
House at the End of the Street is relentlessly simplistic and has a nonsensical rhythm that just does not quite gel within the stillborn proceedings. The acting is sluggish and the tension has all the muster of a plastic human skull in the waiting room of your local doctor’s office. Sadly, nothing happens that is remotely shocking or moody in revelation. Tonderai incorporates all the obligatory techniques in this banal boofest from false anxious jump cuts to punctuated musical bumps to tweak the edge-of-your-seat momentum. Still, the movie feels ridiculously saggy in its lackluster spirit.
Lawrence, an exceptionally young talented and adventurous performer, is reduced to annoying blank stares and broad empty grins as she trudges about in a pseudo slasher-beneath-the-basement horror flick that would not rival a paper cut on the gory scale. Arbitrarily, pointless supporting characters are thrown in for so-called good measure but they only add to the monotony of this hollow hair-raiser.
Mundane and mindless, this tired melodrama aimed at the teen girl crowd in House at the End of the Street needs to be evicted from an oversaturated field of horror-themed hogwash.