House at the End of the Street (2012)

house

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Mark Tonderai directs House at the End of the Street, a laborious film from 2012. Based on a screenplay by David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow, this horror and/or thriller movie was actually shot in 2010 and features Jennifer Lawrence at the top of the marquee.

Mental illness is a major theme, but the majority of Tonderai’s effort murmurs around a petri dish of teen drama clichés. There’s a cool girl from the city and she moves to a small town. She meets a dude and he’s not a good dude. There’s another dude and he’s mysterious and gloomy but dangerous. She plays guitar, sings a little. The gloomy dude hears her, likes her voice.

Lawrence is the new cool girl from the city. Her name is Elissa and she’s moved to a chic small town with her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue). Four years ago, a girl named Carrie-Ann hammered her parents to death in the house next door. Her brother Ryan (Max Thieriot) lives there now. People think he’s driving down property values on account of his messy history.

Elissa starts a relationship with Ryan after he picks her up one rainy night after a party. Sarah doesn’t like her daughter seeing the town weirdo. Ryan admits a few things to Elissa about his sister and there are complications that suggest all is not well at the house next door – or the house at the end of the street.

Tonderai and cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak can’t seem to decide on a style for House at the End of the Street. Sometimes the camera bobs around like a two-year-old. Sometimes it sweeps up and over the house for no apparent reason. Sometimes it fiddles around with whirling special effects, music video-style.

It’s hard to fault Lawrence for her turn in House at the End of the Street and she does the best she can with the material. She embodies the spirit of a frustrating city girl with certain cheek and gives her an edge, although the singing is a bit much. She plays well with Shue, who does the best she can with a compilation of worried mom tropes.

Thieriot has the sort of shaggy dog look one expects, but there’s nothing compelling about him. Despite Ryan’s reputed pathos and the host of presumed issues lurking beneath his bushy façade, there’s nothing to latch on to. Even with a secret or two behind locked doors, the brooding boy next door is boring beyond belief.

There are other characters, apparently. Elissa gets a friend in the form of Jillian (Allie MacDonald) and they have a few conversations to pad out the runtime. There’s also a cop (Gil Bellows) because House at the End of the Street requires an adult male presence to balance things out.

There’s nothing in Tonderai’s picture that hasn’t been done better before. There’s no humour, no interest, no tension, no demonic presence lurking in the withered entrails of the eerie house down the block. There’s no psychosis, no despair, no lift to Elissa’s song, no reason to endure the dull 101 minutes House at the End of the Street requires.

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