Director: Mark Tonderai
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence & Drug References)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 1 November 2012
Synopsis: Seeking a fresh start, newly divorced Sarah (Oscar®-nominee Elisabeth Shue; "Leaving Las Vegas," "Piranha 3D") and her daughter Elissa (Oscar®-nominee Jennifer Lawrence; "X-Men: First Class," "Winter’s Bone") find the house of their dreams in a small, upscale, rural town. But when startling and unexplainable events begin to happen, Sarah and Elissa learn the town is in the shadows of a chilling secret. Years earlier, in the house next door, a daughter killed her parents in their beds, and disappeared - leaving only a brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot, "My Soul to Take"), as the sole survivor. Against Sarah's wishes, Elissa begins a relationship with the reclusive Ryan - and the closer they get, the deeper they're all pulled into a mystery more dangerous than they ever imagined.
There’s a certain fascination about House at the End of the Street, not because the generic title is wont to keep you guessing whether the movie is in the same genre-bending league as The Cabin in the Woods, but because the lead is played by Jennifer Lawrence. The actress became an overnight media darling after she gained critical acclaim for her role in the high-grossing The Hunger Games earlier this year, so it would seem unlikely that she would risk her reputation to star in such a low-profile movie. As it turns out, House was filmed before The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, House is one of those embarrassing movies that every big-name star makes before the rise to fame or just when the fame is rising.
Playing Elissa, Jennifer Lawrence is surrounded by a largely unknown cast that includes Elizabeth Shue as her newly divorced mother Sarah and Max Theiriot as her love interest Ryan. Determined to start life afresh, Elissa and Sarah have relocated to the House at the End of the Street (where else?), which also happens to be in a wooded area. Their new neighbours have barely given them time to settle down before grumbling about how a daughter’s murder of her parents four years ago in the house next door is still driving property prices down. Curious, Elissa befriends Ryan from the house next door, the murderer’s brother and the sole survivor of the family – only to discover that there’s something sinister about him.
Apart from Jennifer Lawrence’s pleasant demeanour and riveting performance that keep the slower portions interesting, there’s nothing about House that feels particularly appealing. The generic title might suggest that the filmmakers were trying to wrap the movie in as much mystery as possible, but as far as horror thrillers go, House is more cumbersome than mysterious. It isn’t quite the horror movie that the very misleading trailer purports it to be, though House pretends to be headed in that direction before skidding into a terribly unrewarding second half with poorly scripted twists. So while there are scares, none of them are huge and while there are mysteries, none of them are easy to follow.
Part of the reason why it’s so hard to keep up with what House is revealing and what it isn’t is because the movie is far too interested in exploring Ryan than anything else. At the beginning of the show, Elissa’s new neighbours tell us that the murderer (Ryan’s younger sister) might have drowned herself while courteously picking on rumours that she might still be lurking in the woods to look for new victims. It’s a premise that you’re expected to invest in and you’d expect House to keep tabs on, but the movie veers in a totally different direction, focusing instead on Ryan’s psychotic tendencies. There’re bits of information about the murderer, yet there’s never anything staggering that proposes the movie’s interest in answering any of the questions posed at the start.
All these problems make House a very tough movie to watch. You’re constantly hoping that you’ll get answers to the mysteries, and it certainly looks like you’ll get answers, but the movie sinks into mindless slasher flick territory as it heads into the last half hour. There’s an earth-shattering twist during last few seconds that will answer all questions and House will finally make sense. It’s a little too late by then.
(Pretending to be a mystery-laden horror movie before eventually sinking into mindless slasher flick territory, House at the End of the Street is a letdown that even Jennifer Lawrence can’t save)
Review by Loh Yong Jian