House at the End of the Street movie review

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Chalk it up to marketing gone wrong, but I was fully prepared to #HATES House at the End of the Street. The trailer didn't help, showing off all the typical call signs of a lazy horror movie cash grab: a popular actress in distress, a family freshly moved in to a new home, and a creepy girl killing people in her nightgown. But what was billed as a horror movie is actually a thriller with some twists, and despite so many attempts to remain unlikable, I actually found myself pleasantly surprised.

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Not to say House at the End of the Street isn't flawed. The first half is more or less an almost unwatchable teen romance in the style of something like Twilight. The lead females, daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) are the kind of family that exists in real life, but they're honestly too obnoxious to each other to want to watch for any amount of time. The forbidden fruit is Ryan (Max Thieriot), the pale, sleepy, soft-spoken boy that lives in the creepy house next door.

There's a formula at work that will be quite effective for the girls that can relate to the barbed exchanges with their flawed mothers, but I think the awkward dialogue and delivery will be too much of a distraction for most. What's surprising is when the distraction ends up working in the film's favor. By the time stuff starts happening, I had been lulled into a false sense of "This is going to be really dumb."

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Ryan lives alone in what is presumably the house at the end of the street. The house was made notorious within the town when his mother and father were killed by his sister and she disappeared into the woods. All the town can think about are their property values, but Elissa sees a person who could probably use a friend. It helps that he's the attractive, older guy.

Her mother, wary of her daughter mixing it up with the lonely boy, acts like a total crazy bitch in response. Of course, that only draws Elissa closer, but it turns out Ryan does have sketchy secrets to share. The resulting second half has more in common with a creepy thriller than any horror/slasher film, and despite some bouts with logic, it actually wraps up its twisty plot quite neatly.

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To say anything else about the specifics of the plot would be a dangerous game. I hesitate to call this movie a brilliant play on your expectations, but it really does seem to be set up that way. The name and trailer suggest the typical horror movie grinder and even the insipid opening acts lulled me into a false sense of security. I was taken on a ride of questionable quality, but by the end I wasn't just surprised by what I saw, but oddly satisfied.

3.5/5

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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