Movie Review: House at the End of the Street
Rating: PG-13 (intense violence and terror sequences, thematic elements, language, some teen partying, brief drug material)
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Directed by: Mark Tonderai
Stars: 3 out of 5
Many classic horror movies go for an R rating because it allows them a lot of leeway to show blood, gore and violence. If they tone it down enough to get a more teen-friendly PG-13 rating, they risk becoming far too tame. "House at the End of the Street" is a rare horror thriller that got a PG-13 rating without compromising the script or visuals. The film doesn't need a lot of fake blood and guts in order to tell a chilling, murderous tale, thanks to director Mark Tonderai's expert use of tension and scenery.
The film begins with Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), a teenager who is sullen after her parents' recent divorce. Although Elissa's mother, Sarah (Elisabeth Shue), clearly loves her, she has not always been the best parent and has a few regrets as a result. Elissa is not a typical bratty post-divorce teenager; she makes a genuine effort to talk things out with her mom. The feelings the two have just below the surface are fraught with tension that will soon be released.
Deciding they that they need a fresh start after the divorce, Sarah moves them to a new town, where she hopes that Elissa will show signs of happiness again. She finds a huge, gorgeous house for rent on Sycamore Street and can't believe her luck when she finds out how cheap the rent is. But as the old saying goes, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
When the two go out to meet their new neighbors, they find them to be pleasant and upbeat. That is, until the titular house at the end of the street is mentioned. It just so happens that the new rental house is right next to the house at the end of the street, where young Ryan (Max Theriot) lives. The neighbors tell the tale of how Ryan was fortunate enough to be out of town when his sister Carrie Anne (Eva Link) became homicidal and killed both their parents. As she tried to run away to avoid capture, she fell into a nearby dam and drowned, leaving Ryan as the only surviving member of the family. As a result of the horrific crime, people avoid Ryan, and the neighbors lament that the infamous massacre has driven down property values in the area.
Elissa meets Ryan a short time later and takes a liking to him despite what the neighbors said. She tries to see him at face value instead of shunning him for something that wasn't his fault. They are both thoughtful teenagers who can perhaps be described as old souls. However, Ryan harbors a dark secret about his house, one that will soon put Elissa's life at risk.
Fans of the horror genre will probably guess who or what is locked up in Ryan's basement, and may also guess one or two of the other plot twists towards the middle of the film. However, they probably won't guess the most shocking twist, which occurs in the final act of the film. This twist takes the film into somewhat uncharted territory, which isn't easy to do in this day and age.
Tonderai uses lush shots of the wooded area near the neighborhood to establish just how idyllic the town is by day. He contrasts those shots with the nighttime ones, which fill the audience with dread. It isn't easy to use scenery to set the mood, but Tonderai pulls it off in style. All locations are beautifully staged and filmed, which serves to put the audience at ease before scaring them with things jumping out at Elissa or a new revelation that thickens the plot.
Lawrence carries "House at the End of the Street" with ease, proving that her turn as the lead in "The Hunger Games" was no flash in the pan. She is a budding superstar who proves with "House at the End of the Street" that she can do horror just as well as drama. Her chemistry with Shue and Theriot is off the charts, which will likely get her even more big roles in Hollywood. In fact, all three leads turn in great performances that elevate the film into a true thriller that is more than worth the cost of admission.