There are horrors, and then there are horror-thrillers; either way, the common element is that they are meant to be scary. However, the compound part of ‘thriller’ generally means it’s a diluted horror – and that is certainly the case with House at the End of Street.
The plot doesn’t help, treading an already well-worn narrative that not even Hollywood starlet Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) can save. Elisabeth Shue also stars and the actresses are the only decent things born out of a story by Jonathon Mostow and directed by Mark Tonderai, a former radio DJ for the BBC. The saddest thing is that it’s not even half as terrifying as the adverts and marketing campaigns would lead you to believe.
The film drops you into a visual opening that you’ve seen countless times before; a dark and stormy night, set sometime in the past, with thunder and lightning washing over an isolated house. A walk-through is given of what had happened to the former resident family and suffice it to say, it’s not pretty. Cue present day when a newly-divorced mother, Sarah (Shue) and her moody teenage daughter, Elissa (Lawrence), move in next door to the aforementioned house.
Sarah and Elissa find out through local gossip of the grim incident that occurred to their neighbours – the brutal deaths of a mother and father at the hands of their daughter. She had run off into the woods after the murders, never to be seen again and presumed dead. But is she? The only family member alive is her brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), who was staying with his auntie at the time and is now living at the house. He just so happens to be the town outcast but Elissa soon finds out that he’s just ‘misunderstood’. But is he?
With plenty of twists and turns, you would think this would generate more excitement. But stupid little things and clichés hinder any flow or momentum it tries to build. For example, the situation where Ryan and Elissa first meet is ludicrous, and the dialogue exacerbates this further (her mum isn’t answering her phone so she decides to undertake the 10 mile walk home after a party in the middle of the night).
Then there’s a twist a third of the way into the film which is probably obvious to most, but it plays out like a bad how-does-she-survive by the numbers book. It’s all quite dull once you’ve finished guessing, but you can’t fault the actors for trying. Lawrence gives her usual solid performance as the innocent-cum-savvy protagonist and plays well off the underrated Shue, even if their relationship is noticeably inconsistent. Thieriot is also convincing as the smouldering Max, but you can’t shake the feeling that you’re watching a teenage drama series whenever Lawrence and he are on-screen together.
Apart from possibly having the most attractive mother-daughter combination, House at the End of the Street is truly forgettable and exceedingly average, with a contrived storyline and wayward characterisations. For a bog-standard horror, the only thing that bleeds in this is mediocrity. And it does so by the bucket load.