House at the End of the Street
There is an anecdotal observation that cinephiles have made for quite some time. After a big award win or highly successful film and actor will wind up in a less than stellar film. A popular A List actor appears in, for lack of a better term, a bomb. There is no debate that Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most sought after actresses of her generation. After landing one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood, Katness, in the ‘Hunger Game’ franchise propelled her almost immediately into the public eye. It was not her first job as an actress; she had a couple of minor roles in movies and a supporting role in the short lived television series, ‘The Bill Engvall Show’, as the teenage daughter. Now, after that highly publicized part Ms Lawrence has appeared on practically every major talk show and has had featured photographic layouts in influence magazines. There is more to it than just happenstance, her agent obtaining his client a part that nearly every actress in her age range were anxious to get, She is undoubtedly talented with a range that has barely been tapped. She is also an extremely beautiful young woman. In the film reviewed here ‘House at the End of the Street’, she does her best but the flick falls widely short of working on most levels, it has an excellent cast with a director and writer with some experience but the elements of the movie didn’t properly gel, they failed to hold the story together, it is a horror movie and therefore not especially required to have a strong plot or cohesive flow but undoubtedly it helps. These factors are taken far to an extreme of disconcerted proportions. I am certain that Jennifer Lawrence’s rapidly rising career will sustain its momentum despite the minor setback here. As an actress Lawrence needs to work and grow in her craft. This movie is wedged between the ‘Hunger Games’ and its upcoming first sequel, ‘Catching Fire’, which is sure to reignite her professional progress. In any case in might be seen as suitable as a Saturday afternoon popcorn flick.
In horror films there is frequently an initial scene commonly referred to as the grabber. It is a prelude to what is to follow intended to quickly establish a dark and forbidding atmosphere. The director, Mark Tonderai, chose to utilize this methodology in conjunction with another popular plot device, the killer’s point of view. The opening brings the audience behind the eyes of the monstrous killer that will drive the story. We are afforded a first person vantage point of a night gown clad figure using an ax to chop to death its mother and father on a proverbial dark and stormy night. The vision is distorted, a typical film device used to indicate an altered state of perception of level of consciousness. The time frame pushes ahead four years, another common horror flick plot device. This introduces a woman, Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her teenage daughter, Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence). They have just moved into the town after Sarah’s recent divorce in hopes of starting a new chapter in their lives. The town is upper middle class; a nice location to make a fresh start but the town harbors a sinister past. A few years ago a teenage girl, Carrie-Ann (Eva Link) murdered her parents as their slept in their bed. This occurred in the house next door to Sarah and Elissa’s dream home. The sole survivor of that night of carnage was Carrie-Ann’s brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot). After the murders Carrie-Ann ran off to the nearby woods escaping apprehension. Although local folk lore has he dead by drowning no body was ever recovered. Ryan still resides in the house despised by the neighborhood for the deleterious effect a house shrouded by death has on resale values. Only Officer Weaver (Gil Bellows), of the town’s police defends Ryan’s right to not sell his family house. It comes as no surprise that in short order a mutual attraction develops between Ryan and Elissa, much to the chagrin of her mother. The story follows the young pair as the truth behind Carrie-Ann and her killing spree is disclosed.
This project was started after principle shooting for Lawrence’s Academy Award nominated role in ‘Winter Bone’, so technically this was before her establishment as a media delight and an actress in great demand. With that noted the performances elicited by Tonderai are overall better than the sum total of the film. This extends to her co-star fellow Oscar nominee, Elizabeth Shue and relative new comer, Max Thieriot. The downside in this instance is the talents of the cast are not sufficient to buoy the film. Both the screen writer and director at apparently still sharpening their skill set and establishing a stylistic foundation. This movie falls short as a result of over reaching their current comfort zone. After watching a few times I think I was able to discern some of what they were aiming for from a stylistic perspective. The infusion of a grainy quality of the video harkens back to some of the classic psychological horror films that were prevalent prior to this current, lamentable trend of torture as the basis of the terror. No matter what the outcome I applaud the filmmaker and author for going back to when the genre was still exciting; unfortunately in order to accomplish this type of movie successfully the pacing has to be extremely taut, heightening the sense of impending horror with every frame. The flow of the story is lackadaisical, not projecting the proper mood to keep the audience engaged.
I couldn’t help but feel this was an honest attempt necessary to an artist on track to find their narrative voice and directorial style. It takes time and considerable effort to perfect the artistic expression of cinema and I have a feeling the director and author here are on the right track. This movie lacked the tension and excitement required by the tenants of the genre but the fundamental story idea and themes was solid. Not the have to sharpen their execution.
Includes Both Theatrical Version and Never Before Seen Unrated Cut Of The