House at the End of the Street might not have been the worst of 2012 but it’s certainly forgettable. The screenplay is something that was more appropriate for a made-for-TV production and the performances are nothing special, even though Jennifer Lawrence will turn heads with her, ahem, wardrobe choices.
Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Horror
Fox | Unrated/PG13 – 101/102 min. – $29.98 | January 8, 2013
Directed by: Mark Tonderai
Writer(s): Jonathan Mostow (story), David Loucka (screenplay)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Elizabeth Shue
Theatrical Release Date: September 21, 2012
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 2.25/5
Every year a relatively cheap ‘tween thriller arrives to cinemas and most often they stink. I still recall the When a Stranger Calls remake back in 2006; I hated it then and I hate it today. And the same also goes for the Americanized J-Horror (Pulse, One Missed Call). How does the latest, House at the End of the Street (or ‘HATES’) stack up? Well, it didn’t infuriate me (perhaps it’s because I’m older) and it didn’t completely suck but otherwise it’s not a very good investment in time either.
Teenager Elissa (JENNIFER LAWRENCE) and her mother Sarah (ELISABETH SHUE) are starting a new life at a luxurious rental house in a small town. They’re also starting a new relationship with one another after Sarah had been mostly absent for one reason or another. Early on it’s explained that they were able to afford the house because it sits near another home where a young girl, Carrie Anne, on a dark stormy night of course, had brutally stabbed her parents. She was later thought drowned in a lake but the body was never found.
Their first night at the home goes mostly uneventful except when Sarah wakes up at 3 a.m. to hear a car door slam and looks out to see a light go on in the upstairs of the murder house. The next day at a neighborhood potluck, their landlord explains that the surviving son, who was away during the murder, was now living at the location though he’s rarely seen (for good reason as the townsfolk want him gone and in turn the house).
In the meantime, Elissa makes friends with a devious young man named Tyler who holds parties at his home in the guise of a charity drive that would look good on college transcripts. She attends one such party where Tyler tries to assault her but manages to get escape. Without a ride, she walks home on a deserted road, and with a rain storm coming, is offered a ride from Ryan (MAX THIERIOT) and, as in any movie, there’s an instant attraction especially since Elissa has the habit of getting involved with people she feels needs “fixing” as her mother clearly explains later on.
But Ryan does have a secret. Going home after dropping Elissa off, he goes into the basement and at the end of a long, creepy hall is a locked door with the lock reversed meaning a key is needed to get out of the room rather than in. Arriving inside, a young girl attacks but he quickly subdues and drugs her. Yep, this is apparently his “dead” little sis, Carrie Anne.
Elissa in the meantime gains a few friends in high school joining a band as she’s a talented singer (mind you, Lawrence’s singing voice was dubbed over by another artist) and she’s grown closer to the mysterious Ryan. However, all is not well when Carrie Anne manages to escape from her room and runs right towards Elissa’s house, though Ryan is able to snatch her before it was too late (this sequence leads to a false scare as well, which made little logical sense). And to skip ahead a bit, Carrie Anne escapes yet again (this time getting the key from the other side) just as Ryan and Elissa were about to “get it on” in his house. Crisis averted again, though something happens to Carrie Anne which sends the plot into a new direction and more is revealed about the past.
Alright, to get things straight, despite a trite title like House at the End of the Street – which sounds like a tween novel title by R.L. Stine – and reading some reviews and user comments stating this was the worst movie of 2012, I actually didn’t think this was an awful movie. No doubt, it’s subpar and lazy but hardly the worst thing to come to theaters. It’s more like a Lifetime Movie.
Producers and advertisers heavily marketed Jennifer Lawrence thanks to her overnight success with the worldwide juggernaut The Hunger Games (raking in nearly $700M) and I’d say even with a semi-predictable script, one-dimensional characters and tween melodrama, she comes off pretty well, although it does help she primarily wears revealing tank tops throughout the film. It really is a thankless part considering her character doesn’t have a heck of a lot to do other than run around with confused/perplexed/scared looks on her face.
Max Thieriot is suitable in the villain role (not revealing anything the trailers haven’t shown) though as with Lawrence’s part, there might be a little more meat the role, but it’s not much and it’s all has the “been there, seen that” that has been shown in many suspense-horror movies before. Similar to Lawrence, I think Thieriot is a talented young actor who hopefully will get better and more substantial roles in the future.
The supporting cast includes Gil Bellows as the town sheriff (and apparently only member of law enforcement in the area) and Elisabeth Shue who is making a bit of a comeback (between this and “CSI”) after doing mainly independent features over the past decade. Both of the veteran actors bring some weight but it’s minimal.
House at the End of the Street was helmed by Mark Tonderai marking his theatrical feature debut and while the script might’ve been subpar, he does bring a visual flair that makes the movie at least interesting to watch, although he does unnecessarily use the annoying tilted angles (similar to what Stuart Baird did on U.S. Marshals). Interestingly enough, writer/director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3) received a “story by” credit since was based on a short story he had written some years ago; the story was then adapted by David Loucka, writer of Dream House which had a notoriously troubled production.
In the end, HATES is a middling thriller that is more appropriate for television than the theater. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected yet it’s hard for me to say it’s any good either or even give it a slight recommendation. I suppose if you’re a fan of Jennifer Lawrence, you’ve probably already seen it and if you’re not, this is not going to go on her career highlight reel. At best this is a rental some time down the line.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0/5
Aside from some previews, no features are included in this release.
VIDEO – 3.75/5
House at the End of the Street is presented in its original theatrical 2.35 anamorphic widescreen and it does have the typical artifacting seen on standard definition releases. Colors seem to be balanced and black levels are stark with some artifacting showing through. Even so, not a bad SD transfer.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds good with solid dialogue levels and features some depth during the few action sequences providing nice audio in the front and rear channels.
OVERALL – 2.0/5
Overall, House at the End of the Street might not have been the worst of 2012 but it’s certainly forgettable. The screenplay is something that was more appropriate for a made-for-TV production and the performances are nothing special, even though Jennifer Lawrence will turn heads with her, ahem, wardrobe choices.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman