A horror, a thriller, or neither?
Review by Maria A. Cortes
Do you expect to be scared off your seat when you buy a ticket to see a horror movie? Do you think that a mix of a horror and a thriller sounds exciting and makes it a better catch? Well, director Mark Tonderai and screenwriter David Loucka are ready to blow away all of your expectations with their new movie The House at the End of the Street, which opened last Friday at The Somerville Theatre.
Thirteen people – what a symbolic number! – gathered in the theater on Friday evening to watch this Psycho inspired horror-thriller starring a new Hollywood sensation, young but undoubtedly talented Oscar nominee, Jennifer Lawrence. To say that there might be a better way to spend your money than buying a ticket to see The House, even though it was a six-dollar deal from The Somerville Theatre, is to say nothing. Even a group of teenagers left the theater with puzzled and disappointed faces.
So, what went wrong in The House at the End of the Street? The story might seem familiar. It would appear that filmmakers don’t have much in the way of original ideas when it comes to horror movies. However, it is creepy enough to intrigue the audience. A newly divorced Sarah Cassidy (Elisabeth Shue) moves to the suburbs with her rebellious daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) to learn that the house next door has a dark history. Four years earlier, a daughter murdered her parents in that house and escaped into the woods. Her brother Ryan (Max Thieriot, with his signature facial expression of a sad rabbit), the only survivor, continues living alone in his family home and has a reputation as a “freak” in the neighborhood. That does not scare Elissa, who falls for the guy after discovering how shy, sensitive, and sweet he is. Besides all that, he has a little secret that will disturb the quiet life of a small town in the woods.
The House at the End of the Street looks as if it had lots of potential to be a great horror movie, if the people with a better sense of presenting this kind of genre were to make it. The story develops so quickly that on the race from one scene to another, all the expected – and desired – suspense vanishes right before you were to jump in your seat, leaving you with that unsatisfying “hey-what-has-just-happened” feeling. Dialogues lack any expression and depth, often dying out to long periods of silence. Polished looks of the actors with perfect make-up – at some point, it feels like the plot turns for a sole reason of showing off Lawrence with different make-up and outfits – only intensify the sense of a fake, labored action, which even effortlessly natural Jennifer Lawrence cannot drag along on her beautiful shoulders. Moreover, the so-called horror-thriller fails to deliver “horrific” as well as “thrilling” part. Lacking scary moments, it gets tangled in a web of unnecessary pseudo-dramatic conflicts.
Plot lapses, weird shooting angles, annoying editing manner and an uninvited fly – who let the fly out? – calmly creeping on Thieriot in one the scenes, make The House at the End of the Street a shameful attempt to present a movie that was claimed to be one thing, but turned out to be something else.
The House at the End of the Street: Directed by Mark Tonderai. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, and Nolan Gerard Funk. Rated PG-13. Shows at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Sq., Somerville, MA 02144.