The House at the End of the Street follows Sarah and her daughter Elissa as they move to a house in the woods when life demands that a change is needed. Strange things start to occur and they begin to uncover the secrets behind the house next door where a family was murdered four years ago; a survivor of the incident still resides there. As Elissa’s relationship with the survivor grows deeper, she finds that the danger is far from over.
The House at the End of the Street is a film that seems to have trouble deciding what it wants to be. The premise isn’t anything new, but good execution can go a long way. Unfortunately, this film has its share of flaws. The shaky camerawork, music video editing, and score are pretty oppressive. Loud noises are used to elicit scares in scenes where subtlety would’ve been far more effective. While I feel like a firing-on-all-cylinders approach to filmmaking can work if everyone’s in on the joke, The House at the End of the Street seems to want to take itself way too seriously.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, the audience didn’t seem to be on the same page as they were either. There were several moments when Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother (Elizabeth Shue) have what are supposed to be emotional interactions. While I can’t speak for everyone in the theater, these scenes were mostly met with laughter and cynical jokes. As the film went on, the characters’ interactions did seem to improve, but for much of the first act, the cast seemed uncomfortable in their roles, which is never a good thing. Even Elizabeth Shue, who is usually awesome, seems lost at times. The exception is Max Thieriot as the sole survivor of the murdered family. He plays the creepy, lost soul type pretty well.
I like to point out the good aspects of films I review, because I know how much work goes into these things. That said, while The House at the End of the Street is far from perfect, it’s also not a turkey. There is some really cool imagery throughout and the setting is a gorgeous, wooded area that we do get to actually see. There are also some great suspense pieces. The setup for one character’s escape, which involves knocking a key from on top the door jamb, is well-crafted and has a nice payoff. Again, Thieriot’s Ryan Jacobson is very convincing. And while things start rough, Lawrence and Shue do have some moments where depth of character is conveyed.
All in all, this wasn’t my favorite movie I’ve seen this year, but I wouldn’t totally discount it. If you can get past some of the weak moments, there are far worse ways to spend an hour and a half.
House at the End of the Street opens today in Philly-area theaters.