Disclaimer: This review contains major spoilers! Watch Out! Also, credit goes to Shadow of Reflection for the screencaps.
You might have heard about this movie back in 2012, as it was promoted quite a bit for a horror flick. What gained the movie most of its attention was the fact that the main character was played by Jennifer Lawrence, most well-known that year for her role in The Hunger Games (you know, that rip-off of Battle Royale that everyone was raving on about?) and the creators of the movie obviously thought they could score some points for getting the young actress on board.
I remember the movie first caught my attention a bit when I saw it advertised on a lot of phone boxes in Manchester. I remember that the advertisements read in big letters: 'deeply scary and cool with an awesome twist'. Well thank you to Look Magazine for spoiling the entire movie for everybody. Also, if your only praise is from Look Magazine, you've got some explaining to do.
The story opens with a scene from the point-of-view of a young female killer, killing first her mother and then her father in the middle of the night.
Then you are rushed four years into the future, where you see the main character Elissa Cassidy (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and her mum (played by Elisabeth Shue) moving into a new house in the middle of nowhere, which was only cheap because a house nearby (the house at the end of the street) was where a murder took place. The murderer Carrie-Ann Jacobson killed her parents and fled into the woods, but they believe she drowned (you find this out from their bitchy neighbours). Carrie-Ann's brother, Ryan Jacobson (played by Max Thieriot, who does a fantastic job in his role), is the sole survivor who at the time was looking after his aunt far away. Ryan now lives alone in the house; the neighbourhood hates Ryan and the house as it drives down their property values. A lot of the movie documents how Elissa falls for Ryan (much to her mother's disapproval) and the events that follow.
Now at this point the movie is slightly ambiguous (it is the start after all), but it isn't long until things start to become predictable. That is the thing I will lay on you straight away, House At The End Of The Street is very predictable. More predictable than most horror movies, and most horror movies are predictable in some way or another. It makes itself predictable by using crappy scripting and plot devices to move the story forward, or to 'jerk the story along'. Prepare yourself, I'm about to talk a lot about Plot Devices.
Let's start with the scripting. At the beginning you hear about this guy Ryan and you've got questions about him. They are answered in the first dialogue between Elissa and him.
She gets a ride off the guy at one point because it's raining and he offers her a ride. This is the first time she has ever met him and the first thing she has to say to break the silence is to 'accidentally' exclaim 'your parents got killed!' This has to be the most feeble attempt at introducing a plot device in the form of a story he tells to her. There are less artificial ways to introduce something like that. I know he's a deep guy but it's not like the first time you meet someone they're just going to tell you their life story, they could have at least let the two get to know each other a bit first. There are so many of these occasions throughout the film, and not just spoken but visual too, but I'll get back to that later.
Another super lame bit is before the car scene, where a boy asks Elissa to come with him to a party of some sort (this is how she ends up walking home in the rain) but she has to decline as 'she promised her Mum that she would watch a movie with her'. Next thing her phone rings and her Mum tells her that she can't be at home that evening because she has been given the night shift at her job. How convenient. The 'night shift' plot device happens twice in the movie by the way. I wish events in my life happened with that much convenience.
You soon find that Ryan is keeping his sister in his basement, and you see him making his way down their to feed her. This spoils the whole surprise a bit, but it actually leads up to the big plot twist, so introducing this early is actually a good thing. You see there are a few plot devices that are introduced in advance, and then used later, which is good, but this is something that comes so easy for the average decent movie, while this movie seems to lack them.
The first sign that Elissa finds of Carrie-Ann's presence in the house is by finding used tampon boxes in the cardboard recycling, You have to cringe at that one. It is probably the most unnecessary plot device I have ever seen in a movie and could have been done in a much better way. Like seriously, there are so many other things that would make Elissa think 'there is a girl in the house'. What about long strands of hair? Girl's clothes? Tampon boxes? Are you kidding me?
Okay, let's move away from my plot devices rant and talk about something else. The twist mentioned on the advertisements is actually really great, and is definitely the highlight of the movie. If the movie had any redeeming factors when it comes to plot development, this is one of them. A lot of the movie focuses on Elissa and Ryan's romance. Most of the movie in fact seems like a romance... if anything I guess its a good way of putting you in a comfort zone before the twist occurs. You think that Ryan accidentally kills Carrie-Ann when she breaks free and then suddenly she's back and you get a bit confused. Ryan slowly and slowly becomes a bit more suspicious until suddenly you find out that Carrie-Ann actually died, and she didn't in fact go mad. You then find out at the end that Ryan's parents abused Ryan as he wasn't as good as their daughter, and his parents would call him 'Carrie-Ann' which led to him killing them. All along the girls in his basement were just girls that he had kidnapped and drugged before telling himself that they were Carrie-Ann.
Max Thieriot plays a really great part as Ryan, especially when it comes to the 'tragic boyfriend' role. But really he's not exactly suitable to be a killer and you kind of feel sorry for him at the end when he's found out. I'm only siding with him that way because that's the way his character has been developed earlier in the movie. Max's acting is definitely a highlight of the film, as well as the nice visuals and crazy filters used sometimes. I wasn't really fond of Jennifer Lawrence's character, despite fairly decent acting on her part. She was overly confident and rude, barging into places without asking.
The huge twist and the real identity of Ryan is actually really great, it's just the rest of the movie that spoils it. I really found it hard to give the movie much praise apart from the few little things I've mentioned. Overall it suffers from a badly developed plot, generally being very unoriginal and did I mention the few occasions where I noticed shaky camera? The many things I have mentioned otherwise ruined what could have otherwise been a refreshing horror film. Bah.