House at the End of the Street (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Mark Tonderai
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 101 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Review Date: January 2, 2013
Moving into a house in a neighborhood with a troubling history, a busy mother (Elisabeth Shue) and her teenaged daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) are clued in to the backstory: the house next door to them was the scene of a double homicide four years earlier with their mentally unstable daughter Carrie Anne (Eva Link) the killer of her parents and never found afterwards, allegedly still roaming the extensive woods surrounding the property. Elissa notices a light go on in the house late one night and learns that the family’s sole surviving member Ryan (Max Thieriot) has come back home to attend college. While Ryan and Elissa strike up an amiable relationship that begins blossoming into something deeper, Elissa is unaware that Ryan is harboring Carrie Anne in a secret basement shelter, and while he goes to elaborate lengths to keep her locked away, the girl is clever and finds means to continually escape thus putting the entire neighborhood in danger.
It goes without saying that David Loucka’s screenplay based on a story by Jonathan Mostow features situations that are not at all what they seem and as layer after layer of fabrication gets stripped away revealing an ugly and disturbing truth, the movie becomes more and more ludicrous. Many famous horror films of years past have presented similar scenarios of pure evil shrouded in seeming gentility (Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen), but the eventual revelations were never so absurdly plotted and ridiculously executed as they are here (one character in the climax is shot three times and bashed in the head with a hammer and lives to the end of the film; another is stabbed deeply in the stomach without even much blood loss). Mark Tonderai keeps the camera moving perhaps hoping that by not staying in any one set-up for very long the viewer won’t notice the gaping plot holes and silly dialogue scenes (a dinner between the mother who’s a doctor and daughter Elissa hosting the orphan Ryan who’s undergone traumatic losses as far as they know contains the most tactless conversation between intelligent people ever seen in a film; do most people generally say exactly what they’re thinking nowadays regardless of how hurtful or callous it might be?). Director Tonderai does pull out the old Wait Until Dark trick of a lights out-climax in a basement, and it plays as falsely as much of the second half of the film does. Finally, the film’s two brief closing sequences add insult to injury as we’re given additional information that’s likely meant to make us rethink the plot but instead makes us rethink any reason for watching the movie in the first place.
Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue make a perfectly believable mother and daughter combination, and some of the early scenes between them ring true. As the film runs, of course, reality and common sense go out the door due to the limp and limited script they’re playing. Max Thieriot’s damaged, tic-ridden Ryan is effectively appealing in the early going before more information forces the viewer’s reevaluation of him. The actor does what he can with a badly conceived character. Gil Bellows as the kindly policeman who’s been sheltering Ryan for years from the brickbats of others in the town does a credible job even if he, too, like his fellow actors falls victim to the script’s terrible breakdown in reality as it plays. Nolan Gerard Funk plays his one-note character, high school BMOC Tyler, as the jerk he is.
The film’s Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is not always as crisp as it could be though most of the film’s imagery is more than acceptably snappy. But contrast has been poorly applied leading oftentimes to overly bright and uncomfortably hot images and resultant overly pink flesh tones that are oversaturated and unappealing. Black levels are very good. The film in both its PG-13 and unrated versions has been divided into 23 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a very effective one. With this kind of thriller, one expects lots of “boo” sound effects and music breaks, and the audio track delivers them on a consistent basis. There are plenty of creaks and bumps in discrete channels that add to the effect of encroaching danger, and Theo Green’s music score gets an immersive placement throughout the entire soundfield. The dialogue has been excellently recorded and is mostly in the center channel though there are some effective uses of directionalized dialogue and breathy sounds around the soundstage.
All of the bonus material is presented in 1080p.
The viewer is offered the option of watching the theatrical cut or the unrated edition from the start. The unrated version runs about a minute longer and was the version used for the purposes of this review.
“Journey into Terror: Inside the House at the End of the Street” is a 10-minute puff piece with the film’s producer Aaron Ryder, director Mark Tonderai, and actors Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Eva Link, and Gil Bellows praising each other’s work and proclaiming how proud they are of the finished film.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc includes promo trailers for Twixt, the remake of Red Dawn, and American Horror Story.
The second disc in the set is the combination DVD/digital copy of the movie.
2/5 (not an average)
Though it begins promisingly, House at the End of the Street is a very poor attempt to recapture some of the surprises and thrills with a Psycho-like story that goes far off the rails the longer it plays. Fans of the stars may check it out for curiosity sake, but they’re bound to be disappointed with this.