Thursday, April 4, 2013
Film review: House at the End of the Street
I was sure that HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET was a remake. I could have sworn there was already a movie with this title, but I guess I must have been thinking of one of the other dozens of "house" movies out there.
I really want to be fair to HOUSE, since there are already many polarizing reviews out there. I won't lie that I had a few snarky comments spring to mind while watching it. ...And I'm probably going to include a couple of them here. I had some genuine issues with the way the plot and characters were written, even if I did like the direction they went by the end of the film. I try to avoid spoilers, but I'm probably going to have to get into a couple of them to do this justice.
In HOUSE, Elissa (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) have moved to a new town in order to have a sort of do-over in terms of their relationship. From the conversations they have, I gather that Sarah was not always that great of a mom, and Elissa resents both the lack of parenting as a child, and the sudden interest Sarah has in being a parent now. This conflict fuels a few clunky, dramatic scenes during the story that could have stood to be re-written.
The mother and daughter have moved in next to a house where a double murder has occurred. A mother and father were brutally killed by their daughter, Carrie-Ann, who subsequently drowned without the body being recovered. Their son Ryan, who was not in the house at the time, now lives there by himself. The whole town either despises, or fears him. Elissa, on the other hand, seems to really dig on the wounded, lonely vibe, and takes an almost instant liking to him after dealing with the rich, entitled, rapey guys at her new school.
Ryan has a really nice Norman Bates sort of thing going for him, which I liked, even if it isn't original. There is a big, detailed back story that explains how he ended up the way he is, why he does certain things, but it isn't revealed until much later in the film as a "twist." There were a lot of questions I had as the film went on that could have been easily answered by this back story. Saving it until the end made me more confused and frustrated than giving me the sensation I get from most pleasantly shocking, twisty surprises. I think with careful editing, the filmmakers could have kept this story more or less the same, but made it much more effective by revealing certain things earlier.
The "less" part of this is that the plot is kind of predictable, at least in the first half of the film. Because of this, there's a lack of suspense that doesn't properly set you up for what's really going to happen once a few loose marbles spill out. As we start to learn Ryan's secrets, the beginning looks less predictable and more confusing, because there are still some unanswered questions and logistics that I haven't quite figured out. Again, I think these could be minor adjustments that leave the main story in tact, possibly achieved with more complex (but effective) editing.
I think the actors did a decent job with what they had, and I like Jennifer Lawrence a lot. I just don't think her role had enough going on for her, and I was not into the super-cocky, superiority complex, I'm-such-a-hot-musician attitude she had. Also, being a musician myself, the character's lyrics kind of... sucked. I was not impressed. Sorry to whoever actually wrote them, but I'm super focused on singing and lyrics and I can't help my honest reaction. It really did make me like her character less.
I have to admit that this wasn't that scary to me, aside from a couple scenes where it looked like Carrie-Ann might break into Elissa's house. That home invasion shit is my easy-panic-button. I think in the end I felt more sad than anything else, Ryan went through some horrible things, and it's unfortunate the way everything went down. So, parenting lesson: Don't be crazy, drug-addled, abusive shits to your kids. For the rest of us: Man, you just can't trust anybody. Also, rich people are assholes.
House at the End of the Street via IMDB.com
House at the End of the Street via Rotten Tomatoes