Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: House at the End of the Street

House at the End of the Street mixes and matches scraps of several suspense-movie formulas, but its story of a divorced mother and her teen daughter discovering that the country can be as mean as big-city streets never coalesces into anything genuinely new. Unlikely to draw genre fans after the first weekend.

Sept 21, 2012

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1363618-House_End_Street_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Sarah Cassidy (Elisabeth Shue) is an aging wild child who, in the wake of a traumatic divorce, finally decided to grow up and be a responsible parent to 17-year-old Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence). Committed to a fresh start, she relocates from Chicago to small-town Woodshire, Pennsylvania, where she rents a spacious new house and takes a job in the local ER, a great gig even if she gets stuck with all the late shifts because she's low nurse on the totem pole. Musically gifted Elissa is less than thrilled about the move, but things start looking up when she befriends vivacious local girl Jillian (Allie MacDonald), whose brother invites Elissa to join his band.

And then there's the boy next door, Ryan Jacobson (former child actor Max Thierot), who's cute, sensitive and just a little older than Elissa…the hitch is that he's the local pariah, albeit through no fault of his own. Four years earlier, while Ryan was living with an elderly aunt, his younger sister, Carrie Anne, murdered their parents and is presumed to have drowned in a nearby river, though spooky rumors that she's living in the dark woods persist, as spooky rumors will. With nowhere else to go after his aunt's death, Ryan returned home and to attend college. But being taunted and shunned drives Ryan to isolate himself in the tragedy-haunted house, which just validates the near-consensus that he's a real weirdo.

Unsurprisingly, the more everyone tries to warn Elissa away from Ryan, the more she's drawn to him—what artsy-angsty teen girl ever did anything but dig in her heels when told the wounded boy she likes is trouble? Not to mention that she has a history of befriending damaged souls, as her worried mother confides to friendly cop Bill Weaver (Gil Bellows), who assures her that Ryan is just the victim of provincial small-mindedness. The thing is, Ryan actually does have a deep dark secret (and before you cry "spoiler," it's revealed early on): He's keeping his little sister (Eva Link) in the basement, locked up and tranquilized, but still filled with murderous rage.

U.K. actor-turned-filmmaker Mark Tonderai (who made his writing-directing debut with the 2008 thriller Hush) and writers David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow present a united front: House at the End of the Street is clearly designed as a downbeat, character-driven psychological thriller, not a slick, glossy shock machine. But admirable though their ambition is, House never really pays off, in part because it relies too often on the very clichés it aspires to avoid. Elissa is insanely incautious, even for a teenager: Surely somewhere in her urban upbringing she was exposed to the notion that you don't get all up in other people's business and you especially don't go poking around their homes when they aren't there. The suspense scenes go on too long, the wine-swilling housewives (Susan included) are child-fixated harpies, and the final scene is a direct lift from Psycho…not an hommage, a flat-out steal. Kudos on that last for stealing from the best, but it's still not kosher.



Film Review: House at the End of the Street

House at the End of the Street mixes and matches scraps of several suspense-movie formulas, but its story of a divorced mother and her teen daughter discovering that the country can be as mean as big-city streets never coalesces into anything genuinely new. Unlikely to draw genre fans after the first weekend.

Sept 21, 2012

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1363618-House_End_Street_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Sarah Cassidy (Elisabeth Shue) is an aging wild child who, in the wake of a traumatic divorce, finally decided to grow up and be a responsible parent to 17-year-old Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence). Committed to a fresh start, she relocates from Chicago to small-town Woodshire, Pennsylvania, where she rents a spacious new house and takes a job in the local ER, a great gig even if she gets stuck with all the late shifts because she's low nurse on the totem pole. Musically gifted Elissa is less than thrilled about the move, but things start looking up when she befriends vivacious local girl Jillian (Allie MacDonald), whose brother invites Elissa to join his band.

And then there's the boy next door, Ryan Jacobson (former child actor Max Thierot), who's cute, sensitive and just a little older than Elissa…the hitch is that he's the local pariah, albeit through no fault of his own. Four years earlier, while Ryan was living with an elderly aunt, his younger sister, Carrie Anne, murdered their parents and is presumed to have drowned in a nearby river, though spooky rumors that she's living in the dark woods persist, as spooky rumors will. With nowhere else to go after his aunt's death, Ryan returned home and to attend college. But being taunted and shunned drives Ryan to isolate himself in the tragedy-haunted house, which just validates the near-consensus that he's a real weirdo.

Unsurprisingly, the more everyone tries to warn Elissa away from Ryan, the more she's drawn to him—what artsy-angsty teen girl ever did anything but dig in her heels when told the wounded boy she likes is trouble? Not to mention that she has a history of befriending damaged souls, as her worried mother confides to friendly cop Bill Weaver (Gil Bellows), who assures her that Ryan is just the victim of provincial small-mindedness. The thing is, Ryan actually does have a deep dark secret (and before you cry "spoiler," it's revealed early on): He's keeping his little sister (Eva Link) in the basement, locked up and tranquilized, but still filled with murderous rage.

U.K. actor-turned-filmmaker Mark Tonderai (who made his writing-directing debut with the 2008 thriller Hush) and writers David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow present a united front: House at the End of the Street is clearly designed as a downbeat, character-driven psychological thriller, not a slick, glossy shock machine. But admirable though their ambition is, House never really pays off, in part because it relies too often on the very clichés it aspires to avoid. Elissa is insanely incautious, even for a teenager: Surely somewhere in her urban upbringing she was exposed to the notion that you don't get all up in other people's business and you especially don't go poking around their homes when they aren't there. The suspense scenes go on too long, the wine-swilling housewives (Susan included) are child-fixated harpies, and the final scene is a direct lift from Psycho…not an hommage, a flat-out steal. Kudos on that last for stealing from the best, but it's still not kosher.
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