If the 2012 suspense thriller House at the End of the Street has nothing else going for it, it’s the fact that it contains a truly unique script by David Loucka (based on a story by Jonathan Mostow) with a plot twist at the end which nobody could have possibly seen coming. That said, chances are more than likely that this flick won’t exactly be making cinematic history anytime soon. It’s never an unpleasant nor painful viewing experience, but neither does it possess an “oooh-wow-I’ve-got-to-see-this-again!” moment in any of its over one hundred minutes of screen time.
Sarah and Elissa are a newly-divorced mom and teen daughter who move to a new home in the suburbs, only to discover that the house next door was once the scene of a brutal double murder; daughter Carrie Anne murdered her parents in their beds and left her brother Ryan as the sole survivor and occupant. While Elissa begins making friends at her new school and quickly also emerges as popular for her musical talents, she somehow finds herself drawn to Ryan for his sensitivity and isolation. It’s only a matter of time before we as an audience learn exactly how much more is lurking beneath Ryan’s surface. Director Mark Tonderai has made the most of these elements, giving the film an occasional moment of Hitchcock-like purpose, but a more overall sense of juvenile pervades the on-screen atmosphere; for all intents and purposes, this is calorie-free Psycho.
Fortunately, in terms of performances there’s not a bad one in the bunch; all are completely rock-solid. Jennifer Lawrence proves her worth as Elissa and fully shows why Rolling Stone has called her “the most talented young actress in America.” Elisabeth Shue is equally masterful as Sarah, and makes a definitive transition here into more mature roles; there’s not a patch on her ingenue turns in such flicks as The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting, and she’s as fresh-faced and beautiful as ever.
Gil Bellows remains as marvelous an on-screen presence as always in the role of Sarah’s love interest Danny Peters, and exceptional supporting performances are here in abundance, most notably Allie MacDonald as Jillian and Nolan Gerard Funk as Tyler. But it is undeniably Max Thieriot who emerges as the bonafide star of the proceedings as Ryan; this pouty-lipped pool-eyed young hunk of manhood couldn’t have been more perfectly cast, and will most certainly have a major career if he plays his cards right.
Other problems abound. The uninteresting soundtrack only serves as a mediocre showcase for Theo Green’s score, and while Miroslav Baszak’s cinematography is extremely strong at the outset, it quickly dwindles down to amateurish attempts at auteurism at best. Producers Aaron Ryder, Peter Block and Ryan Kavanaugh wholeheartedly receive points for effort, but the whole is never greater than the sum of its parts here. Still, the film will most likely find a small but loyal audience of younger viewers.
In short, House at the End of the Street never stands on its own as a glistening mansion, but rather a diminutive and not-always-satisfactory piece of ordinary cinematic real estate.
House at the End of the Street is in cinemas now.
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