“House at the End of the Street,” which released on September 21st, 2012, is yet another pre-Halloween thriller featuring a vulnerable teenage girl and a questionable older boy. But does this film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as Elissa and Elisabeth Sue as her mother, Sarah, worth the cost of the ticket price to see in theaters? I had an opportunity to see an early bird showing on the morning of the nationwide release of this horror film, which promised that “Fear reaches out… for the girl next door.” What I found in the film was an unexpected mixture of a watered-down “Psycho” and “Silence of the Lambs,” plus tiny elements of possibly every other house-in-the-woods scenario I’ve recently seen. In the wake of “Cabin in the Woods,” which I considered to be a colossal disappointment, my hopes for “House at the End of the Street” were minimal at best.
Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and I have to admit that at least one of the plot twists in this film caught me unawares. Do I think “House at the End of the Street” is worth the cost of the ticket? Absolutely, but only if you like a mild psychological thriller more than a gore fest or slasher flick, with plenty of teenage drama and family dysfunction thrown in for good measure.
The movie begins with some bold cinematography, specifically some close-up shots of bare feet and the psychedelic first-person perspective normally reserved for deranged serial killers. Some plot details unfold from four year earlier – and I don’t intend to give away much of the plot here, so bare with me – and we meet Elissa (Lawrence) and her mother. The single mom and daughter angle isn’t original, but it’s one that lends a decidedly vulnerable edge to the set-up: Elissa and her mom are renting a house on the edge of the national forest, and there isn’t a burly, manly-man anywhere to be seen. And what could possibly go wrong, alone in the woods, just a couple of gals? As the newcomers meet their neighbors from nearby but equally rural homes, bits and pieces of the legends surrounding Ryan Jacobson (Max Thieriot) and his deceased family are divulged.
Whether Ryan is your classic disturbed young man, or merely a misunderstood outcast, immediately comes into to question; Elissa sees something appealing in this misfit, whereas Sarah is convinced Elissa just likes to fix “broken” individuals. A few secondary characters are introduced here and there, specifically Elissa’s useless and irrelevant friends from school, and her mother’s potential love interest: a local cop. Adding in a member of the police force is a bit cliché for me at this point, and the suave office is unfortunately pretty forgettable in the long run; his gun, on the other hand, proves to actually have some merit.
After leaving the theater, I spent some time thinking back on the key plot points and twists in the storyline, and it seemed increasingly obvious to me that “House at the End of the Street” took some of the best elements from other horror flicks to make a worthwhile show. The questionable young man who at least seems harmless is only the first echo from “Psycho,” and a point of conflict at the climax of the film leaves Elissa and her adversary cloaked in darkness when the lights are turned-out – very “Silence of the Lambs,” with Jodie Foster wandering through the pitch-black basement of Buffalo Bill. As a lover of both of these classic horror films, I’ll readily admit that I enjoyed these qualities of “House at the End of the Street.” But there’s a difference between paying homage to the best of cinema horror, and diffusing your movie with recycled themes for lack of anything more ground-breaking.
While some may argue that these reoccurring themes make modern films less original and thus far from worthwhile, the film industry has always been full of remakes, recreation, and reproduction. “House at the End of the Street” may not be the best horror movie of 2012, but there are certainly worse ways to spend just over an hour and a half of your life. You won’t find anything terribly original here, so if you’re looking for a truly innovative horror flick to write home about you might want to stick with some of the upcoming thrillers for fall 2012. If you want to be entertained with some quality eye candy, a couple plot twists, and a few “boo” moments, considering giving this new release a try — it might be just the thing to get you into the Halloween spirit.
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IMDB, “House at the End of the Street (2012)”