House at the End of the Street

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The movie opens with a young psychotic girl who murders her parents with a hammer in the middle of a stormy night.

Four years later, a newly divorced woman, medical doctor Sarah Cassidy (Elisabeth Shue), and her 17-year-old daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) move to a small upscale town. Their house is near the house where the massacred family lived. Carrie Anne Jacobson had killed her parents, then fled into the forest and was never seen again. Carrie Anne’s brother, Ryan Jacobson (Max Thieriot), is the sole survivor. Ryan now lives alone and is hated by his neighbors; Bill Weaver (Gil Bellows), a local police officer, is Ryan’s only supporter.

The mother-daughter relationship becomes rocky and Elissa starts a relationship with Ryan against her mother’s wishes, finding Ryan to be lonely but a sweet boy. Ryan confides in her that he accidentally injured Carrie Anne when they were little; he was supposed to be watching her while their parents were getting high on drugs. The resulting brain damage from the accident made her extremely aggressive, leading to their parents’ murder. It is revealed that Ryan has secretly been taking care of a seemingly now-grown Carrie Anne (Eva Link) in a hidden room. When Carrie Anne escapes, Ryan accidentally kills her while trying to hide her. In grief, he goes to the diner, where he meets a kind waitress named Peggy (Jordan Hayes).

After the unruly high school boys pick a fight with Ryan and he flees, Elissa drives to his house and subdues the fire the boys started. She finds tampons in the kitchen garbage and suspiciously explores the house until she finds the secret room and is attacked by Carrie Anne, who is actually revealed to be Peggy. Ryan restrains “Carrie Anne” while frantically screaming at Elissa to leave. Elissa finds blue contacts and Peggy’s wallet in the kitchen. It is clear that Ryan has kidnapped the waitress and attempted to make her look like Carrie Anne. When Elissa tries to leave, Ryan knocks her out.

Elissa wakes to find herself tied up. Ryan reveals that Carrie Anne actually died during the swing accident. He says his parents punished him for it and implies that he was the one that killed them. He explains that he wants Elissa, but needs Carrie Anne and cannot have both. Officer Weaver goes to Ryan’s house to look for Elissa but Ryan stabs him to death. Elissa frees herself and tries to escape but Ryan subdues her and traps her in his car trunk with Peggy’s dead body. Sarah arrives and is also stabbed by Ryan. Elissa struggles out and ultimately shoots Ryan with Weaver’s gun.

Elissa and Sarah move out; Ryan is placed in a psychiatric ward. A flashback shows young Ryan about to blow out birthday candles. His mother calls him “Carrie Anne” and when Ryan protests that his name is Ryan, not Carrie Anne, she slaps him violently; it is revealed that his parents forced him to dress and act like Carrie Anne after she died and most likely abused Ryan when he refused to go along with their fantasy, thus setting Ryan on his troubled path.

REVIEW:

Ever wonder what Jennifer Lawrence did between Winter’s Bone and when she became a big star? Well, unless I’m mistakes one of those films that studios were sitting on was House at the End of the Street. True, it may be one of those films that was made but never released, but could it be that is actually worth watching, or should you skip it?

What is this about?

Newly divorced Sarah and her daughter Elissa 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.

What did I like?

Oh, Mother. 99.999% of the time when a mother and daughter are cast they don’t have any similarities. Sometimes they seem to defy genetics and other times it appears as if the daughter is older or about the same age as the mother. In the case of Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence, while they don’t resemble each other, they are passable as mother and daughter, which is something that can’t be said for many other mother daughter pairs. Kudos to the casting director for putting these two together. If only they would have thrown Chelsea Handler in there and an aunt or something HA!

Fight club. In a pivotal scene, Max Thieriot’s character is getting beat up by all the kids at school. Why? He’s a social outcast and the whole town, with the exception of one cop, and of course Shue and Lawrence who have just moved there, hate him. Thieriot finally has enough, grabs this one kid’s ankle, snaps it in half, the crowd goes silent, and he runs off into the woods. It is a great scene because these hate mongering backwoods –insert colorful adjective– shouldn’t have attacked his car for no reason, let alone jumped him. Karma is a bitch, now isn’t it?

Yep, he’s a Bates. Speaking of Thieriot, some of you may recognize him from the current show, Bates Motel. As I was watching him in this film, especially in the later half, where he shows how unstable he is, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a sort of audition for that show, because it shows how much he actually can fit into the Bates clan, even if he doesn’t really seem to (based on the episodes I’ve seen, where he’s just the stepbrother). The creepy character he portrays in this film, though, is quite reminiscent of what Freddie Highmore has been able to do with Norman, with a hint of Dexter (dark passenger version), and with that contrast to the kind of stable college kid he had been portraying up to then, it is quite the interesting dual personality moment, for lack of a better term.

What didn’t I like?

No privacy. This seems like a nice, safe neighborhood. The kind of town we all dream of moving to at some point. However, I think Jennifer Lawrence’s character may have been taking advantage of the situation. Not only does she sneak/break into Thieiriot’s house while he’s running in the woods, she also goes through his trash. Sure, you can make the case that by doing so she found out some valuable information, but seriously, what right does she have to go through someone else’s garbage?

Pacing. As with every single other film in this genre, the film starts off ungodly slow and boring, as we are gradually introduced to the major players, get some small talk, and the plot is set up. It isn’t until the aforementioned confrontation at the high school that things pick up and that isn’t until the film’s last 10-15 minutes! Surely the filmmakers could have given the audience something to tide us over until we get to that point, but nope. that was not the case. We just have to sit there and be bored, trying not to fall asleep.

Violent teens. I don’t want to come off sounding like the cranky old man when I say this but, what is with teenagers today? These kids not only randomly attack and destroy a car, they also beat Thieriot down, probably to death had he not retaliated, and then they go and attempt to set his house on fire, only to be thwarted by Jennifer Lawrence’s break in and dousing he curtains. Back in my day, all we would have done is some prank or a fight in the hallway at school, but to do all this is a bit much. I guess it is just the generational gap, but damn! That is rather scary if teens really think like this.

Where was the street in House at the End of the Street? It seemed like this was just a country road out in the middle of nowhere, or maybe that was just me. At any rate, I can see why this wasn’t released immediately after it was made. Things don’t play out in the way a solid horror or thriller should, but rather as a “scary” episode of one of these teen dramas on TV tend to do these days. That is the big problem with the film, in bends genres, which is fine, except it doesn’t seem to have a genre of its own. Jennifer Lawrence is above this film, even if it was made before she became a star. Elisabeth Shue does nothing but act as a paranoid mother. It is like she grew up from being the babysitter in Adventures in Babysitting, who was also on the paranoid side if you recall, to this mother who doesn’t want her daughter to do anything, apparently. Do I recommend this? No, there aren’t enough redeeming qualities to waste your time on this, unless you just want to see Jennifer Lawrence running (or should I say bouncing) around in a wife beater, but if you want to do that, just watch her in American Hustle or Silver Linings Playbook, where you get plenty of eye candy from her. I really don’t know what the audience was for this film, but it wasn’t me.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

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