January 7, 2013

Filthy Review - 'House at the End of the Street'

House at the End of the Street (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

Yes, yes, I know the title of this film evokes thoughts of grimy and gritty 70s’ exploitation; the works of Deodato or early Wes Craven, but I can assure you that House at the End of the Street is not a movie in this vein. To be fair, suspect title aside, it’s actually a fair attempt at a psycho-thriller, one that starts with a bang, or crunch, and ends in a similar manner. It’s what goes on between these moments that need addressing.

The film follows Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother (Elizabeth Shue), who move out into a new rental in the middle of the woods. The only house anywhere near them is the very same house in which a young girl murdered her parents. It’s now inhabited by Ryan, the young girl’s brother, who just so happened to be living with his Aunt at the time of the grisly events.

To say too much more about the plot would essentially spoil the film, even if you do guess where it’s going. Although the premise is decent enough there is too much meandering, which in turn makes the first hour or so move along at a fairly sedate pace. There’s plenty of side plots which could have been developed further, which made the film a little frustrating, but the final 30-45 minutes just about make up for what has gone before.

House at the End of the Street is actually a solidly made film, and the performances by Lawrence and especially Max Theriot, as Ryan, are the core of the film and they both do admirable jobs in their respective roles. Theriot puts in a far more convincing performance than he did in Craven’s misfire of a movie, My Soul to Take, and reveals a hidden depth to his acting.

The film itself, I am guessing, is aimed at the teen audience, hence its original PG-13 rating. Now, I didn’t watch that version, instead opting for the unrated cut, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what differed from the theatrical version. Suffice to say that there are some surprisingly brutal scenes of violence in the unrated cut that, whilst not especially gory, do make their point.

The plot, which is fairly straightforward and contains many staples of the genre, such as high school bullying, seems content to move along at it sedate pace, and yet there were moments that completely baffled me. Apparently Elissa sees fit to just wander around other folk’s houses at will, as if she owns them. There’s no invitation, she just does as she pleases. Mind you, her character isn’t the only one that is guilty of this.

This is one of those films that could have been so much better, if a little more time and thought had gone into the screenplay. There are too many ‘what the fuck’ moments, rather than moments that illicit a ‘holy shit!’ from the viewer. As I mentioned though, technically it’s a solid affair and most of the acting performances hit their mark, and due to this made it a watchable movie. I certainly wouldn’t say that I totally enjoyed it, but there were just enough cool moments to make it worthwhile to me.

The Blu-ray version I watched did look good and the sound was solid if not spectacular. With the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack you get both the unrated and the theatrical cut on the Blu-ray, whilst the DVD and Digital copy contain only the theatrical version. Aside from this there is only an extra entitled ‘Journey into Terror: Inside House at the End of the Street’. I would have liked to have seen an audio commentary from director Mark Tonderai, in which he could have explained some of the questionable actions in the plot, but alas that is not to be.

Overall, House at the End of the Street is a flawed movie that had its moments. Far from spectacular, the film will work far better for the non-horror crowd, rather than the hardcore aficionados of the genre. A few too many misses, and not enough hits for my liking, although there was just enough to make it a worthwhile viewing.

House at the End of the Street is released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 8th from 20th Century Fox.

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