Movie Review: The House at the End of the Street

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You might think this movie is a remake, and you could be forgiven for having that impression. Because while it is original in theory, in practice, not so much. Even the name – The House at the End of the Street – has a ring of familiarity to it. I suppose it’s all very deliberate – part of the misdirection. Unfortunately, familiarity breeds contempt.

The House at the End of the Street trots out some well-worn horror tropes, occasionally to comic effect. And that’s fine, except the movie just can’t seem to commit. The small handful of silly (sometimes laugh out loud)  moments toward the beginning could be designed to throw you off the scent and disguise the barely hidden plot twist, or they could be designed to ease the tension so the movie has somewhere to go in the second half.  The problem is that there’s so few of those moments, it’s hard to tell if it’s intentionally funny, à la Cabin in the Woods, or just an unintentional misfire.

By the time you get through the first 30 minutes and the tension increases, it becomes clear that this movie actually is taking itself seriously, but by then it just makes things kind of awkward.

Elisabeth Shue and  Jennifer Lawrence play a mother & teenage daughter who move away from the big city to get a fresh start and rebuild their strained relationship. They find a bargain on a rental on the outskirts of town, only to discover that the house next door was the site of a double murder – big surprise. And just to jack up the creepy-quotient, it turns out the parents were killed by their young daughter – and the older son still lives in the house!

Lawrence embraces the part of rebellious teen Elissa who does pretty much the opposite of everything her mother says, especially the part where she warns her to stay away from Ryan, the strange boy next door, played by Max Thieriot.  Elissa and Ryan make an unlikely couple, but she manages to see the good in him where few others do – other than the slightly inept town sheriff, played by Gil Bellows.

From there, the cliches just keep piling on. Elissa is in a band. She gives Ryan a mix CD. She has a goofy best friend. And she walks alone into a dark, creepy house and pokes around in places where no real-life, sane high school girl would ever go. There’s even a scene where Ryan makes a rare trip into town to see his new girlfriend in a local battle-of-the-bands, only to get jumped by a pack of obnoxious teenage boys. Even if Elisabeth Shue hadn’t been in this movie, I doubt I could have restrained myself from yelling at the screen – “sweep the leg Johnny!”

That’s not to say that The House at the End of the Street doesn’t have it’s moments. There are some jump scares that’ll practically make you pee your pants (especially if you opt for the 44 ounce drink, like I did), and the plot twist is unique, even if you do see it coming from a mile away. But for a movie that’s supposed to be a horror/thriller, it’s somewhat lacking in both departments.

Overall, this movie might be good for getting your fall horror-movie juices flowing, but I’m not sure it’s worth a full price ticket. (Instead, you may want to do yourself a favor and seek out one of the nationwide theatrical screenings of the granddaddy of  ’em all – the original Halloween (1978).  Click here for info: http://www.screenvision.com/cinema-events/halloween/)

Rating: 2.5/5 ★★½☆☆ 

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About Dave_P

Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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