Wednesday, October 31, 2012

House at the End of the Street

You Know How This Will End

It almost always starts with a piece of real estate tagged to an incredibly hard to believe price, meaning dirt cheap for the kind of view it commands or the neighbourhood it is part of. Then of course there's a catch, since the place will probably be part of a crime scene, or the perfect confluence for the supernatural to come together to celebrate Halloween every night. The buyers themselves are either folks who are writers looking for inspiration, or turn out to be those looking to put behind their emotional baggage for a new life ahead. You will probably run out of fingers to count the number of movies made from the same mold in recent years.

Then you'll soon realize that the cliches in the film are tremendous, from throwaway cops, torchlights that don't work, to creepy neighbours who are more than meets the eye. You may decide to be gung ho about it, or to spare it some precious time for that glimmer of hope that it'll turn out to be fairly entertaining for what it's worth, but you'll find that trust betrayed with each long drawn out dramatic scene that tries to add some depth to the characters, but ended up turning the narrative into a long winded one with throwaway caricatures you don't really care much for. And the lapses into jump cuts that try so hard to provide some cheap scares, just make things a lot worse.

The other word of caution is that Jonathan Mostow was slated to write-direct this some 10 years ago, but now have handed over this project to director Mark Tonderai and writer David Loucka to come and salvage something from it. Perhaps the only saving grace comes from a somewhat "star" lister in Jennifer Lawrence, having made her name in X-Men: First Class, and spearheading The Hunger Games most recently, but even then the filmmakers failed to make it count where it mattered, preferring to rely on her many cleavage baring, tight tank tops to try and make a point, not.

Elizabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence star as mother-daughter Sarah and Elissa, who find themselves a nice abode in the middle of the woods of a small town, where the townfolks aren't all that keen that their new neighbours had moved in next to a house that bore witness to two killings, which the prologue introduces us to. Soon, Elissa finds herself drawn to the sole survivor of that massacre in Ryan (Max Thieriot) despite her mother's objections, and we're left wondering if the aloof Ryan is really a real Boo Radley type who is much maligned by everyone else, or is actually hiding something a lot more sinister especially when it had to do with his supposedly missing sister Carrie Anne (Eva Link), accused of murdering their parents in cold blood.

Movie goers will probably be able to stay multiple steps ahead of this insipid storyline, if only they can stay awake for the first hour where the movie decided to go all over the place in showing how Sarah and Elissa try to fit in to their new environment, in school and at the hospital, making friends with the police and teenage peers for a rock concert that doesn't materialize because a modestly budgeted film will not allow for one. Things start to turn a wee bit interesting when Ryan enters the picture, with red herrings and suggestions thrown about at will, but only if given time to properly gestate into a proper back story, or sub plot. Instead, these potential ideas got quickly glossed over, coupled with a ridiculous ending that sees a desperate epilogue thrown in to salvage some points. That didn't work, because instead of being smart, it turned out to be way too silly and ridiculous.

Still, this is something Jennifer Lawrence's fans will flock to in order to see their heroine in kicking butt. Watch out though for Max Thieriot's performance, which given a proper script, could really get under your skin as genuinely creepy.

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