A Passion For Horror
House at the end of the Street (2012)
Directed by Mark Tonderai
Recent divorcee, Sarah (Elisabeth Shue), and her high school daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), move into a new home that is located disturbingly close to a property where a murder took place four years earlier. A young girl, Carrie-Ann Jacobson, took a hammer to her parents and then disappeared. What became of her is not known. Many local residents believe that Carrie-Ann drowned in the dam, but, in true urban legend style, there are those who believe that she still roams the woods.
House at the End of the Street begins with a short segment that shows the Jacobsons being murdered, but there are no close ups of hammer on head action; so timid viewers need not worry that they will be forced to say goodbye to their lunch. Although I suppose it is possible they might choke on their popcorn if they are surprised by the speed the hammer-wielding girl moves when she bursts through the bedroom door. She’s fast.
Susan and Elissa are introduced in the next scene. Carrie-Ann’s brother, Ryan, is introduced a little further on in the movie, after Susan and Elissa have met some of the local townsfolk, none of whom are any too happy that Ryan is still living in the area. The only person in the entire town, who has a good word for Ryan, is the Sherriff, who does his best to reassure Sarah that Ryan is a good kid.
Ryan was away from home when his parents were murdered because he was looking after his sick aunt. He now lives alone in the house and keeps himself busy by fixing the place up. Shunned by the local community, he seems to spend a lot of time alone, which may not a good thing because he is carrying a lot of emotional baggage to start with and his solitary existence probably gives him too much time to brood over things. When he and Carrie-Ann were very young they were playing together on some swings in the garden. Ryan was supposed to be keeping an eye on her, but she fell from the swing. Things were never the same after that and he blames himself for what happened.
He and Elissa meet for the first time when he stops and offers her a lift. She had been to a party in town, but left early after her date got a little too free and easy with his hands. It’s a long a hike home, but when Ryan offers her a lift she is hesitant about accepting, especially when she realizes who he is. A sudden downpour causes her to change her mind.
Elissa is a talented musician and Ryan also has a creative nature—he likes to write—so the pair hit it off pretty well and it is not long before love is in the air. Elissa’s mother does not approve of the relationship though, and she does her best to keep the two apart. She also has a drink problem which appears to give her a somewhat nasty attitude at times so, one way or another, the sparks begin to fly between mother and daughter and when Sarah, who is a doctor, is busy at work Elissa sets the home phone to divert to her mobile and continues to see Ryan behind Susan’s back.
Elissa is not the only one with a secret though. Ryan has one too. He has someone, who looks suspiciously like Carrie-Ann, locked in the cellar, and although he keeps her drugged most of the time she still manages to escape a couple of times. The first time she gets out she runs straight for Elissa’s house, but Ryan manages to intercept her. The second time she escapes she picks up a knife before she dashes out of the house.
I had read quite a lot of negative reviews of House at the End of the Street, but I’d also seen a trailer. It looked pretty good to me and I wanted to see more, so I took a chance on it and am very glad that I did because I really enjoyed watching this one. I even jumped—three times—while watching it. I can’t remember the last time that happened, but maybe I am just getting old.
Elisabeth Shue does a good job of playing the slightly flawed mom, but Jennifer Lawrence is the real star of the movie and she shines just a little bit brighter than anyone she shares a scene with, with the possible exception of Max Thieriot, who plays Ryan. There is a good chemistry between the two and Thieriot makes a convincing underdog until the local jock, trashes Ryan’s car, and then tries to do the same to him. Ryan has no choice but to fight back and he seems to break his attacker’s leg so easily that, at that point, I began to wonder if there might be another side to him.
House at the End of the Street is a good movie, with a good cast, and a twist at the end that, I am sure, will surprise many viewers. I have only one little niggle about it. Near the end of the movie Susan takes a knife in the gut. It seems unlikely that anyone would survive a wound like the one she receives, yet not only does she survive; she also seems to be up and about in no time at all and walking around as if nothing has happened. Totally unbelievable! Apart from that I can’t really find anything to moan about. House at the End of the Street is the best movie I have seen in quite some time. All of the loose ends are tidied up, and everything is resolved so that it all makes sense in the end. I’d give this one an easy 8 out of 10.