Genre: Horror, Thriller
Directed by: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elizabeth Shue
I have a complicated relationship with fear. I don’t like it.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “What a ridiculous opening line…no one likes fear!” But bear with me, I have a point I promise.
I’m a simple, quiet creature, that’s why I write. “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it,” says my hero, Young Adult author John Green. And I embody that. I’m not someone who seeks thrills. My immediate reaction when placed in any sort of frightening or stressful situation is to cry, which should mean one thing, that I hate scary films.
For a long time I did. I mostly avoided the horror genre in the same way that I avoided roller coasters and heights. Horror films were created to mess up my sleep pattern and scramble my psyche until I was reduced to a whimpering idiot at 3AM, desperately groping around in the dark for my light switch. When I attempted to watch a film of the horror genre I felt unsafe in my own home, feared my death in the wee hours of the night. I was convinced that Samara from The Ring wanted me dead, murderers were about to break into my home at any moment and my bedroom door was about to be thrown open by my very own live-in demon.
The turning point came last year. Watching television idly, I found myself enthralled in a promotional ‘making of’ trailer for the newest Scream film. And there it was; the realization that scary films are exactly that… just films.
Watching the Scream special really put filmmaking into perspective. Every horror film is a combined effort made by actual humans. Though the story may contain elements of the supernatural or heartless psychopaths, the cast and crew are just people. They’re no different to me; they are creators of stories and more importantly, imaginary worlds. Imaginary and therefore not real.
So finally, I could enjoy scary films. I watched Scream 4, then watched the other three; caught up with the Paranormal Activity trilogy and actually looked forward to The Woman in Black. This, my friends, is how I ended up going to see House at the End of the Street on opening night.
To briefly summarise without giving any spoilers: a mother and her daughter move to a small, rural town from Chicago, in the hope of a new start. The mother, played by Elisabeth Shue, explains why they could afford the house of their dreams. With both of them looking into the woods in the back garden, we get the first glimpse of the neighbouring house, where a double murder was committed. The parents living in the house were killed by their daughter when she was only thirteen. But the house is not empty. The son, Ryan (Max Thieriot), now lives there; he’s alone and is ostracized by the neighbours. When walking home from a party one night, Elissa befriends Ryan, despite general opinion of him. And so the horrifying story begins.
It’s not brilliant film, but it certainly has its good points. The cinematography is striking and you can see that the director, Mark Tonderai, had a clear vision for the film.
The cast all do a fair job; nothing particularly memorable, but nothing bad enough that it stands out. Jennifer Lawrence, of The Hunger Games and Winter’s Bone fame, does a great job as Elissa, but that’s because she’s Jennifer Lawrence. She could give many more experienced actresses a run for their money with her raw talent and charisma. She reacts competently where it matters and her character refuses to go down without a fight, a refreshing turn of events.
The first twist was unexpected, though this may be due to my lack of familiarity of the horror genre. There are however some flaws. What I’m aware of from my limited knowledge of horror is that no matter how ‘okay’ things seem at the end, the music will always swell up again to reveal yet another twist. This twist will show that things are definitely not over. It provides an opportunity to tie up any loose ends. However, the very final twist in this particular horror let the rest of the film down. It felt rushed, as if the writers hadn’t known how to end it and simply went for an easy option.
To conclude, do I recommend this film? Yes. It’s not fantastic by any means and the fact that I can sleep without trouble only two days after seeing it means that die-hard horror fans might find it too tame. If I’m being honest, I myself found it too tame. But for me, that’s okay. I’ve learnt that’s exactly how I like my horror films.
Failing that, there’s always Jennifer Lawrence, who is enough to make any film worth a watch. That’s all.