House At The End Of The Street
Director: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue, Gil Bellows, Eva Link
Modern horror films suffer from two of the same problems; either they go too far, or they’re too derivative and generally play on the same tried and true formula. Some gems have slipped through (The Cabin in the Woods comes to mind,) but for the most part the genre hasn’t had the wow factor it had in the eighties. House At The End Of The Street falls into the latter category, but doesn’t even try to at least be fun. Instead it would rather play it straight, and the result is a disaster that makes cheap haunted houses have more scares and tension.
Screenwriter David Loucka adapts from a story by Jonathan Mostow, and both are equally at fault for why this movie doesn’t work. They’re trying really hard to ape older, better films and repackage them for a younger generation when said generation would be better off watching those horror classics (and above all, get educated.) Loucka wants this to be a horror classic, but he fails to understand both why those worked and how to put new parts in classic vehicle.
With the script and story being so atrocious, blame really can’t be put on Mark Tonderai. His passion for directing shines through, and he’s really giving and earnest effort. If Tonderai had something better to adapt, he’d be a director to keep an eye on. Instead, he’s playing the captain of the Titanic, going down with his ship, even if he’s doing everything in his power to try to rise the material above what it is. He doesn’t totally hit the mark, but his direction isn’t sinking this film.
He’s able to get fine performances out of his actors, and they’re saving the film from being complete armageddon. Jennifer Lawrence is good enough as Elissa, avoiding being a bland outcast and more of a girl you root for. She plays off of Elisabeth Shue well, and the two create a believable mother-daughter relationship. Lawrence also has solid chemistry with Max Thieriot’s Ryan, and their blossoming relationship is serviceable. Thieriot for the most part avoids being a stereotypical outcast, even if he flirts in that territory every so often. Even when he’s asked to do some of the more ridiculous aspects of the story, Thieriot carries and attempts to make it salvageable.
But these elements aren’t enough to lift the film above the horrendous story they’re trying to tell. All the decent work the cast puts in, coupled with a director who cares about his material, just can’t overcome the lunacy of the script. These types of horror pictures can ride or die on their twist, and while sometimes a movie can be solid up until that point (i.e. - Haute Tension,) House At The End Of The Street is so pedestrian that by the time the idiotic reveal comes, it turns itself from mediocre to absolutely atrocious.
Horror fans deserve better than what House At The End Of The Street offers. In a year that started off pretty decently for the genre, it’s sort of sad to see it turn this out. As awful as this movie is, I hope someone will give Mark Tornderai another chance as he truly deserves a better script to explore his talents. Let’s just hope his next venture remembers to bring a story with it.