Movie Review: House at the End of the Street

Guys, it’s been long. Too long. And ironically, so is this review, probably my longest yet.

I apologize for not writing much recently. I’m the soccer beat writer for the college paper and the broadcaster for both men’s and women’s soccer and with them playing two to three games a week plus classes and trying to hang out with friends, there’s been little time for reviews, sports, or life posts as of late.

I have watched some movies, just haven’t written reviews on them. Among some of the stuff I’ve watched in the last month: Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (I feel like this goes without saying), Dredd (Dreddful, haha, no really it was awful), State of Emergency (Not nearly as terrible as I thought), American Psycho (Oh my gosh, Christian Bale, why I never expected such witty dark humor from you), The Judge (An Oscar-worthy film), The Kid (Similar to The Judge in scope but Disney-ified. A good family film) and V for Vendetta (Voluminous in vivacity and viewing valued).

I don’t know how much writing I will get to for the remainder of the week because I’m on break right now with my 21st birthday arriving shortly. Expect something on Monday for sure. The floodgates of WordsofWisTIM will be opened soon 🙂

For today’s post, I have House at the End of the Street starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bates Motel‘s Max Thieriot. There will be more plot synopsis with this review than I usually do, but as always, spoilers will be contained in the spoiler’s edition.

We see two parents get their heads bashed in by their clearly deranged daughter. Daughter runs into the woods. Flash forward four years later because time transitions are necessary in every horror movie ever.

Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her newly divorced mother move into an enormous house in an upscale, small neighborhood.

What is the fascination with large houses on barely inhabited streets? One, if you’re going to get a huge house, get one where you have neighbors that aren’t half a mile away so if something goes wrong, like I don’t know, some crazy people trying to kill you or something, you’ll have somewhere to go, rather than running around the house screaming “help me, help me” with no one to hear you. Two, if you have two people in your family, why do you need a house that could shelter a dozen? If you’re rich, I get it, you’ve earned the right to, you want to live the American dream, yada yada yada. These two are not rich. They just got it for a cheap price because there was a double homicide at the house next door. “Hhmm,” I would’ve said to myself. “If this is such a great deal then why hasn’t anyone taken advantage of it? There’s probably a reason for that and with me just starting a new job and it being just my daughter and I, there’s really no reason for us to have such a big place anyway. I think I’ll keep looking.”

You would also think if you haven’t spent any time with your daughter that you would want to buy a small place so that your daughter can’t hide around this expanse of a building and avoid any interaction with you, but our mom, Ms. Cassidy (Elisabeth Shue) isn’t very bright.

This setup has a lot of problems but it’s a horror movie, so I guess it’s a just-go-with-it element.

After a “feed the hungry” club meeting ends up to be a reason to get wasted and she finds out how much of a prick this one kid is, she begins to walk home when she gets picked up by Ryan Jacobson (Max Thieriot), the son of the murdered parents who was with a relative at the time of the killing. Yeah, there’s some misplaced pauses during their short drive home in the rain but Elissa handles it rather well and Ryan takes note of that. Elissa begins to have a relationship with Ryan despite her mother’s insistence not to do so.

As House at the End of the Street progresses, we learn more about Elissa. Director Mark Tonderai does a fair job of showing personality rather than telling us. She’s curious, a given for characters who find themselves in this genre. She’s a little pushy, forcing herself into Ryan’s house and just giving herself a personal tour and starting conversations on topics she really has no right to discuss, but perhaps the most revealing characteristic that Elissa emboldens is her want to fix people.

As stated in her mother’s monologue to this friend, “And that’s what she does: she picks the most damaged kid around and then she makes him into a project. So I guess I’m just worried that Ryan’s part of that pattern.”

I liked this tidbit because of its separation from the character norms we see in these films. Yes, there are other films where the girl tries to save the monster from eternal damnation, but it was the way it was presented and built on that clicked with me.

Beyond that, the character writing is pretty bad. The dialogue is okay but the colors of the characters are left pretty basic. I get that Elissa is a purple and that Ryan’s a blue, but what kind of purple and blue? A violet or a lavender? A turquoise or a baby blue? I’d like more specifics and with the horror reveal coming in the 26th minute but the actual horror not arriving till the 38th minute, I wanted more. At 101 minutes, 38 is slightly more than a third of your film and still not much has happened. The only substantial progress we have is our character learning, which is minor.

Ryan had his parents murdered and his sister was never found, yet he seems so reserved and nonchalant about it all. Where’s the pain? People treat Ryan like a freak, never disconnecting him from the malicious acts that happened at that house. Where’s the rage? Elissa’s prodding gets us somewhere but nowhere where we’d like it to be.

At the halfway point, there’s a twist that ends the supposed conflict, making you wonder what they’re going to go over for the next 46 minutes, but screenwriters David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow keep the former and latter halves of the tape together with a nice diversion from our original conflict that tidies up nicely but still leaves us with a few untied threads that bother us at the film’s conclusion.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Gone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of Extinction)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(When the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the Apes)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The RavenDead SnowRubberHansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersAnchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (ZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage Point)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for House at the End of the Street: 66.

After finishing the film late last night, I wrote the following:

“House at the End of the Street is slightly more than the average horror flick with a few unexpected twists, but the character writing and therefore acting are pretty shoddy and overall isn’t worth a viewing let alone multiple visits.”

In retrospect, the schematics for the film were pretty good. I was overly satisfied with the plot, but I have to agree with my prior self that the character writing dragged down the talent that Lawrence and Thieriot have shown in other works. Its creativity is what puts it in the 60’s, not the entertainment I got out of it because I didn’t feel filled at the end.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

SPOILER’S EDITION

This is probably the most thorough spoiler’s edition I’ve put together. Enjoy!

In a conversation with Elissa, Ryan divulges that he accidentally injured Carrie Ann on a swing set and the resulting brain damage from the incident made her extremely aggressive, leading to their parents’ murder.

The first reveal is that Ryan’s sister, Carrie Ann, is still alive. Why Ryan is still keeping her alive, I have no idea. When someone you love does an act like that, they’re not your brother or sister anymore. They stopped being that when they decided to start killing people for fun. I love my brother with all my heart, but if he went loony and killed my parents, I’d make sure he never saw the light of day again, not just for my own sanity and safety, but for those of others, and I’d ask him to do the same thing if our roles were switched.

Ryan goes to a secret basement section underneath the floorboards and brings food to feed her but she is delirious and attacks him and he has to sedate her. The next time he goes down, he brings food again and sedates her before leaving but FORGETS TO LOCK THE DOOR!!! If you’ve been taking care of her all these years, how do you forget to do that?!!! It should be like clockwork! You shouldn’t even have to think about it!

So Carrie Ann runs to Elissa’s house to kill her for who knows why but Ryan grabs her right before she gets there. Tragedy averted.

During Elissa’s next visit, which involves a make out session, Carrie Ann manages to get out again. “How’d she do it this time, Tim?” Well, Ryan puts the key to the locked door on top of the door frame, probably the second worst place to put a key that unlocks a door to a psychopath ever, with the exception being if he put the key in THE DAMN ROOM!!! Why? Because all you have to do is slam on the wall a few times for the key to fall over, you idiot! HOW HAS SHE NOT ESCAPED YOU IF SHE’S COME THIS CLOSE THIS MANY TIMES IN A WEEK??!!

Carrie Ann takes the top of a board game box, flattens it out and slides it under the door and bangs the key off the frame so it falls onto the lid and she drags the lid into the room. Pretty easy. She gets out and Dylan sees her run out the door seconds before Elissa comes out from the bathroom. He tells Elissa she has to leave right away and then runs out the door to chase Carrie Ann. This time, Carrie Ann almost gets to the side of the highway before Dylan catches her and while trying to keep her quiet when a couple making out in a pulled-over car hears them, accidentally breaks her neck.

“Thank God,” I said to myself. “Should have done that a long time ago.”

Fast forward a few scenes and Elissa drives to Ryan’s house looking for him. She finds a tampon box in the trash, making her come to the same conclusion we came to a while ago: Is Carrie Ann still alive? She investigates, finds the underground compartment and Carrie Ann jumps her right as Ryan comes in to save the day. Wait a second. Ryan broke Carrie Ann’s neck. That can’t be her. The hair color isn’t right. As we get a closeup of her face, we see the eyes aren’t right either. Carrie Ann had two bright blue eyes. One of these is hazel.

In the tussle, one of the bright blue contacts ends up on Elissa’s shirt, which makes her look through the trash again and discover an empty package of blue contact lenses and the wallet of the kidnapped girl.

After abducting Elissa as well, Ryan confesses that Carrie Ann died that day on the swing set, which leads to Elissa’s follow-up question: “Then who killed your parents?” which he ignores, saying he can’t have her and Carrie Ann, but that Elissa could be Carrie Ann, so he drags the kidnapped girl somewhere.

Other stuff happens but I need to wrap this up. Ryan tells Elissa that Carrie Ann’s death was his fault, which is why he was punished, but that “he stopped them,” leading us to believe he killed them but there are still a lot of loose ends. Other stuff happens, people die, blah blah blah and the final scene answers the rest of our loose ends…somewhat.

On an old videotape, we’re shown the mother bringing a birthday cake, asking Carrie Ann to make a wish. Ryan, dressed up as Carrie Ann, says, “My name’s not Carrie Ann. It’s Ryan.” leading to an abrupt slapping and a counter of “Yes it is. Your name’s Carrie Ann.”

Yet I still have questions. If Ryan told the police he was at a relative’s house, wouldn’t they look into that? Weren’t they curious how he got from “up-state” to wherever they are now? He says his relative had a stroke when he was 18, which conveniently would have been about the same time that the murders occurred, leaving really no one to attest to his whereabouts. However, the girl we see at the beginning was no older than 13, leaving a five-year gap. A few too many holes here.

All summed up, an easy message can be gathered here. One, don’t do drugs if you’re parents. The whole reason Ryan was watching Carrie Ann in the first place was because the parents were too busy doing cocaine. Two, if you’re parents and you do drugs, don’t force your living child to pretend to be your dead one. Favoritism is the first step to creating a psychopath.

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