House at the End of the Street (2012)

Plot Overview

Elissa and her mother move to a small country town following the divorce of Elissa’s mother and father. The house they move into is affordable because the girl that lived in the house next door murdered her parents, with only her brother, Ryan, surviving. Elissa takes a liking to Ryan and despite her mother’s warnings, begins to get close to him. She doesn’t know, however, that Ryan has been hiding his psychotic sister in the basement.

Review

The first thing I noticed was how cheap and amateurish the film looks. Reading the IMDb trivia, I discovered it was shot in a particular way to invoke the grainy feel and look of older films, but it doesn’t pull this off at all. It’s quite distracting, but it’s not the worst thing about the film.

Jennifer Lawrence gives her absolute worst performance – which isn’t saying much considering she’s terrible in every film, but her awfulness really shines here. She is unconvincing and seems bored out of her mind. She says her lines as if she’s just learnt them and shows a blank expression for the entire film. The rest of the cast doesn’t fair much better, with only Max Thieriot seeming to make any effort but his attempts are thwarted by horribly stilted dialogue and poor character development. For the most part, everyone radiates awkwardness and nobody seems to want to be there.

The story rushes along, yet drags, forgetting character development and realism. After just moving in, Elissa and her mother attend some kind of lunch with the neighbours, where the conversation immediately turns to the Jacobson family and the murders. Elissa is invited to a party after school where a guy makes a move on her and she hastily leaves. The next day, she tells another girl he’s a “dickhole”, showing how quirky she is, though the character displays absolutely no kind of energy or personality at any time aside from a few random lines. Elissa falls in love with Ryan a few minutes after meeting him, but they have no chemistry whatsoever and it feels fake. Occasionally we cut to his crazed sister in the basement, who escapes every now and then.

Elissa discovers Ryan’s secret one night and what follows is an unsatisfactory reveal and twist which makes no sense (but is predictable, as the story builds nowhere and it’s the only possible conclusion). The entire plot feels so contrived and unbelievable that it’s difficult to watch without rolling your eyes every five seconds. There are glimmers of potential, but it’s hidden under layers and layers of fluff. There’s no reason for anything that happens, the characters aren’t developed at all and don’t mesh together and it all just speeds along to get to the climax and twist as if that will be enough.

Summary

Although it remains watchable, this film doesn’t do anything right. It’s painfully formulaic and everything the characters do feels forced and unrealistic. The poor acting and dialogue bring it down even further, as well as an unwarranted and predictable twist. You know exactly what you’re in for within the first few minutes, but none of it is particularly enjoyable.

Rating: 5/10

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