New Release: House at the End of the Street
If horror films aren't your bag, don't worry, because House at the End of the Street isn't the least bit scary...or suspenseful or thrilling.
Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) rent a house in a quiet, isolated neighborhood, starting a new life after a seemingly messy divorce. Unfortunately, a short ways down the road is a house where unspeakable tragedy occurred just four years earlier when the family's mentally disturbed daughter (Carrie Anne) murdered her parents and supposedly drown in the local river. The older surviving sibling, Ryan (Max Thieriot), has moved back to renovate and sell the house, befriending Elissa in the process. But Elissa soon finds out that the urban legend surrounding Ryan and his family isn't quite complete.
House at the End of the Street is just poorly written, but it tries to be clever, tricking the audience with major twists. The problem is that the initial set-up reveals too much too soon and then left me asking too many questions, because it was so completely illogical, that I assumed there had to be a really big surprise yet to come. By the time it was revealed, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought "At least everything before it makes some sort of sense now." And there's no need to mention, though I will, the endless list of silly horror flick clichés, from investigating strange noises to tripping while running, leading to a collective audible groan in the theater.
And the film severely falters in the set up of Elissa and Sarah's relationship. Apparently Elissa is very upset over her parents' divorce, half-heartedly blaming her mother for leaving her musician father who was never home. But it only comes out in a couple of sentences and really has no bearing on the rest of the story, except to say perhaps mother and daughter don't always get along, which can be the case in any relationship. When Sarah sets limits for Elissa and Ryan to never be alone together, Elissa counters with an insult of not being a junkie slut like Sarah was in high school. That would make sense in the plot if Sarah were lying around the house boozing all day and going out with a different man every night, but she's an ER doctor who's working long hours to provide for her daughter. Essentially, most of their conversations come off as random insults at one another, with no context or meaning. Apparently the male screenwriter has no clue how to portray a real mother/daughter relationship.
Despite their junior high dialogue though, Shue and Lawrence are the only good things the movie has to offer. Sadly Thieriot couldn't pull off everything needed to be Ryan. Instead of being vulnerable, sweet and sinister all wrapped into one, he comes off as just bland. And in the end, all he did was remind me of a slightly less smarmy version of Cam Gigandet, which is not an impression one should ever want to make.
As standard as House at the End of the Street is, its biggest offense is that it feels like a rip-off of a very famous, classic horror film, a realization that will sadly be lost on the target demographic of teens to whom the weak PG-13 rating panders.