House at the End of the Street Directed by: Mark Tonderai Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Shue, Max Theriot Running Time: 1 hr 41 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: September 21, 2012
PLOT: A young girl (Lawrence) moves into a new house with her mother (Shue) in a neighborhood haunted by the events of a grisly domestic murder.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is for people who go to PG-13 horror movies and think they know what they're getting into. They're ready to scoff at the screen, and laugh at the silly tension. House at the End of the Street rewards this crowd with something different.
Worse things have happened to houses at the end of those dark and scary streets. And when I say that, I mean that such a film of a bland title, with seemingly such a bland poster, could have been a lot worse. Sure there are a lot of cliches, and yes the building fake-outs are really irritating, but, it's impossible for me to reject the surprised feelings I had with this movie when I left the theater. I sat down for this movie, I got mad at it, I hated it, and then ultimately I was a little impressed by it. Any movie that can turn an audience's preconceptions back on themselves is worth a look in my book. Of course, I can't tell you exactly what won me over, but let's just say that you seriously can't judge a dumb horror movie by its title. Or, by the stupid cliches willfully throughout the entire film.
Like the recently released Cabin in the Woods, this is a horror movie that hides a certain level cleverness behind such a generic title. However, this specific title about a vague domestic location in a specific place isn't enriched by the same tactful reinventing like Drew Goddard's film. Yes, it's still a house, and yes, it's probably at the end of some street. This title here is simply to lure in people who see Jennifer Lawrence on the poster, and think, "A creepy house and that girl from The Hunger Games? I'd like to laugh at that!"
Like Cabin, House at the End of the Street is aware of the cliches that general viewers can expect when going into it. And I believe that this movie is smarter to know better than to use them, but, the script has no problem in indulging itself. Lawrence goes down into the creepy basement, the parental figures are conveniently absent during moments of teen on teen terror, and the jump scares (AKA loud moments that surprise the audience for being loud) are this movie's number one keeper or loser of the audience's attention.
In a manner that's like shooting itself in the quality foot and allowing the audience to watch and allowing to ridicule it publicly, House at the End of the Street certainly gets a little too risky with its usage of cliches, and too much of a simple set-up. The turnaround this movie achieves - I applaud it - but it's very daring. At times, with this story involving fearing someone who apparently suffered brain damage, you just want to watch it play out just to see how much you can hate it by the end. Indeed, House knows why people go to horror movies, or many movies in general. They want to love them. Or they want to really hate them. And with this movie, there were moments in which I had flashbacks to that godawful movie with Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester called The Roommate. Again, there has certainly been worse.
In this regard, however, House at the End of the Street plays well to its audiences, more so than any other horror movie (not named Cabin in the Woods) I've seen in a crowd in a long time. A packed preview screening audience turned on its goofiness on cue, made comments at the dumb cliche cards pulled by the script. But when the time came, this little thriller still maintained its grasp of tension. A credit to this movie's plotting, House at the End of the Street is a rare experience that is able to get both sides of nervous laughter. While I maintained a pretty blank face during this experience, I would be lying if I didn't try to steal a couple of longer glances at my notebook in a couple of moments, hesitant of whatever disturbing thing would happen (and yes, I knew this thing was PG-13. Maybe I'm just more afraid of loud sounds than I think). But, as if it were hard to miss, I listened to the audience. The concept of laughing at this movie, and then laughing for nervous relief from the tension of this movie become one in the same in the end. And when audiences finally get there, they will certainly be surprised to think they themselves could have been so duped like this.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10