Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move into a new home with cheap rent, thanks to the small matter of a little girl murdering her parents in the house next to them. They soon find out that the son of the family Ryan (Max Thieriot) is still living there, having been living with his aunt at the time of the murders. Elisa and Ryan soon strike up a friendship which threatens to turn into something more, much to the annoyance of her mother Sarah, who worries that Ryan may share his sister’s inclinations.
House at the End of the Street has been hanging around for ages, trailers having popped up online a fair while ago now, and the reason for this is simple: Jennifer Lawrence. Having made this film around the time that Winter’s Bone was starting to get serious buzz, the distributor wisely held onto the film and after Lawrence’s 2012 exploded with The Hunger Games, the marketing department for the film has had a real win, able to trade on that film’s success for what is in all honesty something which would barely warrant a theatrical release otherwise.
This year has not been a vintage one for horror to say the least, but The House at the End of the Street ranks as one of the worst, made more so by the fact that it threatens to be an awful lot more interesting than it ends up being. The film’s opening two acts very much play on the idea of small town suspicion and the tainting of innocent people who find themselves linked to horrific events, and the actions of those around our central duo are much more morally questionable than you expect, especially Elisabeth Shue’s character who can’t help but find Ryan troubling and for no good reason, lending a solid friction to her relationship with Lawrence’s character, with two good actresses giving a real feel to their mother/daughter relationship.
It’s a shame then that the film chucks all of this away with a third act that drops the ball in such a huge way and even, despite hints of a plot which could push our expectations, be somewhat more than the sum of its parts, it instead goes for a twist which makes very little sense given both what has gone before and also with flashbacks which lend confused motivations to the eventual antagonist. This is all wrapped up in a climax which would have been too long at half the runtime, Lawrence’s character walking around dark areas and getting spooked while others get incapcitated in boring ways.
While stylishly shot with one seemingly single-take sequence around and through a house giving a fair bit of visual spark unseen in director Mark Tonderai’s low-budget, and far superior, British thriller Hush., the film is a jumble of poor editing and boring scares which only gets more so, although he gets good work from his cast, who all feel a bit too good for this kind of material.
A DTV level film given a wide release thanks to good timing as much as anything, HATES as the marketing would have us call it, is a hard film to like in any meaningful way, a feeling which only increases when thinking about how much better it could have been with a less trashy angle.