THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The House at the End of the Street (2012)
Directed by Mark Tonderai
“House at the End of the Street is a slow burn, but it once it gets moving it spins in a lot of directions, taking a few twists that I didn’t quite expect.”
Jennifer Lawrence seems to be on a bit of a hot streak. She’s has two big time franchises going: one where she plays a hot, blue mutant, and one where she plays some sort of survivor woman (I guess I need to see those Games). Oh, and now she’s got an Oscar, too. Good for you.
Before she won the gold, she made a horror flick like nearly all hot, young actresses must do. Of course, it’s sorta unfortunate that it’s a PG-13 movie, but beggars can’t choose, right? At least she sports a tank top throughout most of the movie. Anyway, here she stars as Elissa, who with her single mom Elizabeth Shue (who is wasted in the role), moved from the big city of Chicago to a small town, which looks perfectly ideal. Well…minus that they moved next door to a psycho teen girl who murdered her parents and is now hidden away in the basement by her older and seemingly sweetly shy brother, Ryan.
I doubt anyone will confuse House at the End of the Street with a classic anytime soon. In fact, few might doubt that the thing is even worth watching. Then again, many of us outside the ages of 13 and 19 have to remember we aren’t the key demo. We’re old bastards who have seen too many films already. However, if you can watch this and remember whom the thing is for, then there’s some worth to it. It does its best play on the standard, expected horror clichés even as it plays into many of the expected ones. On the plus side (spoilers ahead) the movie uses the ol’ bait and switch as it sets up the killer teen, named Carrie Anne, to be the, well, killer when it’s pretty obvious about 50 minutes into it that she isn’t (end of spoilers). Let’s face, a murderous teenage girl is perhaps the most frightening of all characters. Because she’s a teenager. And a girl. Maybe I’ve always been trained that whenever I see a disheveled chick with her hair in front of their face that she’s a nut. There’s nearly a subgenre with villains who look like that. Anyway, she’s also a bit on the simple side as she isn’t capable of anything except cold-blooded murder. Anytime she gets loose, she wants to kill!
The House at the End of the Street reminds me of a few movies. In way, it’s spin on Halloween…if Mike Myers had been saved by his own family and hidden away to brood within a darken basement bedroom (I wonder what kind of posters he would have sported on his walls). It also reminds me of teen-lite version of Psycho. In fact, now that I think about it, it’s a hellva a lot like Psycho. Maybe the writer of Rear Window should join forces with the Psycho writer to refile that plagiarism lawsuit against Disturbia. (Spoiler again) In fact, by the time it’s revealed that Ryan is the killer and that his parents were abusive jerks who tried to remake him into Carrie Anne (who somehow died when she was young…that part never was clear). I think the movie actually missed some great opportunities because they tried to keep the secret too long. They could have explored quite a lot, though that would have limited Jennifer time (end spoiler).
On the lackluster side, I hate it when movies show small town life. Not only is everyone filthy rich, but they’re all fantastic looking folks. Really, not a dumpy looking chick or dude in the bunch? No one has a chew stuck in their bottom lip? Remember from above when I mention the film plays into all those tired clichés. It has all your favorite hits. The new misunderstood girl. Her oddball boyfriend. The jocks who act like, well, jocks. The dimwitted, but really nice local cop. And that’s just the characters.
House at the End of the Street is a slow burn, but it once it gets moving (about an hour in) it spins in a lot of directions, taking a few twists that I didn’t quite expect. And anytime a horror movie can do that it’s not a bad thing. I think Lawrence’s star power shows here. She's not given anything to really work with, but she still creates a character that at least strives for some depth. The part of her being a musician is pretty dumb, but she does her best. With her in it I think this flick will only gain traction over time. Sure, it might not end up in the class of a Halloween or a Scream, but for the younger generation it might become their I Know What You Did Last Summer, though with a slightly shorter title.