House At The End Of The Street presents a horror film that tries to tell a psychological tale for a younger generation. While Jennifer Lawrence stars, her leading man Max Thieriot plays Ryan, the town outcast who carries a deep dark secret. Yet Lawrence’s Elissa thinks she can help Ryan through his issues. But what she finds may be more than she bargained for.
Talking with director Mark Tonderai, you really get a sense that the man knows what he’s doing when it comes to directing. It’s apparent he’s pretty well prepared before he steps onto a set. He also has a good understanding of the projects he’s going to tackle, and seems to gravitate towards horror with this and Hush. Quite honestly, it was refreshing to hear a director be passionate about his craft.
Watching this film, it’s apparent you have an affection for Alfred Hitchcock.
That’s true, that’s very true. He had a quote where he said he always played the audience like a piano, and I think that’s why the film works, because of where the characters start and where they end up. You see House At The End Of The Street and you go ‘Oh, I’ve seen this before,’ and what I was trying to do was play off those expectations which is why I didn’t change the name of the film. And you do, and then suddenly we get ahead of the audience expectation and it starts to go some other way. Audiences are so smart, so how do you get ahead of that. But yeah, Hitchcock is the master and he’s great. I didn’t want to reference Psycho too much because it’s a perfect film, but I didn’t want it to be like Disturbia, I kind of wanted it to find it’s own feet.
You have the luxury of knowing where the script goes. How much tipping of the hat do you want to do?
The idea is that if you see the film once you’ll want to see it again. Subtextually, what I was trying to do was try to bring it though. He actually says to her ‘secrets are all around you, you just have to look for them.’ He’s not talking about the house at all, so a lot of scenes have to work on three levels. It’s difficult, you don’t want to tip your hat, but at the same time you want to the audience to go ‘oh now I get why that happened.’ The clues are there, but it’s difficult because you don’t want to be too centered but you don’t want your audience to go ‘Hang on, this is out of left field,’ and that’s bad filmmaking and you don’t want that as well. I had a lot of debates with my team as well of what is too much.
What’s your definition of the ‘elevated genre’?
I don’t know. The sense that I get is that you’re more argumentative about your work. You want to do things your way, and that’s that. That’s what it seems to be. It’s ridiculous, but that’s what it seems to be.
What are you working on now?
I’m doing a screenplay called Terror of Living which is an adaptation and it should be good. It’s more of a thriller thriller, so it should be good. I’m hoping it’ll be my next film, but who knows. If this film doesn’t do well, then I’ll be a plane back to England (laughs.)
Can you talk about the process of making your production bible?
Truthfully when I get film, it’s not about the ploy, it’s about what it’s trying to say. I just had a kid and we shot this when my wife was pregnant and this film is significant in talking about how being a kid will help you become the person that you are. I thought that was a quite powerful thing to talk about. I always start with the theme, and then if everyone has the same theme, you’re unstoppable. Then you’re all building the same house, and it’s just as much the producers’ film as it is mine, especially with how Hollywood is now. It’s really about collaboration, as opposed to how it was in the past. From the theme, we go to the character work. Filmmaking’s detail for me, so every decision that everyone makes has to serve the story. From there, it’s about distribution. It’s really how you sell the the film.
How did working in radio help you make the film?
Radio is the key. I think I learned how to make films by working in radio. I was taught in studio heads who had been there for years, and they would do the leveling and they would do all this stuff, and they were so good. I was taught how to cut tape, and how you can’t cut ‘sorry.’ What’s great about sound and radio is that you can create this tapestry with sound and radio by yourself. Most people have seen everything, but not everyone has heard everything. You can still create new sounds. The voices are particular, because you can hear it in the voices, and that’s why it was more important than the television or film stuff I did.
House At The End Of The Street is now in theaters everywhere.