House at the End of the Street (2012): Naughty Neighbours

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Looking this up on IMDb after I’d watched it, I was amazed to see quite a few folks just flat-out did not like this film. Apparently they were expecting some type of horror slasher flick and not what they got which was a physiological thriller.

I’ll admit that as a “horror” film, this falls flat. As a thriller though, it hits all the right marks and had me on the edge of my seat through at least half of the film. Hats off to the director Mark Tonderai for coming up with an effort that kept the suspense tight and the mayhem to a minimum.

The Plot:

At the film’s start a daughter kills her mother and father with a hammer and then runs off into the surrounding woods. Years later a divorced mother and her daughter move into the house next door. After being told that the house is empty after the tragedy the new neighbours find out that the couple had a son who survived the young girls murderous onslaught and he now lives in the house.

The Device:

You have to look very closely to see what is right in front of you and you can’t choose your neighbours.

The Cast: 

Jennifer Lawrence
Max Thieriot
Elisabeth Shue
Sarah
Gil Bellows
Weaver
Eva Link

*Cast courtesy of IMDb.*

Elissa and Ryan in a bonding moment.
Elissa and Ryan in a bonding moment.

The Story:

Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) moves into a lovely house in a rural setting that is to die for with her daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence). Sarah explains to Elissa that the only reason that they can afford to rent this house is because of the brutal double murder that occurred in the house directly behind them. This event has driven the property prices down and therefore the rent price as well.

Soon after moving in, the two women find out that Ryan (Max Thieriot) lives in the house where his sister murdered their parents. Slightly spooked, Sarah becomes a bit too over protective of Elissa who has bonded with the strange young man.  While our sympathy lies with Ryan, it soon turns out that there is more going on here than meets the eye.

The Twist:

You can’t always choose your family members either.

The Verdict:

This film received a lot of bad reviews from some folks because they misunderstood the genre of the film. That is probably down to the marketing of the film more than an actual poor performances from the film’s main cast. If you watch the “official” trailer it promises a more roller coaster ride of a film, where as in actual fact the film builds at a steady pace versus a breakneck one.

I found it to be a taut suspenseful build up of tension. The main characters, Lawrence and Shue especially interacted well as the two victims of a marriage gone bad and their awkward attempts at bonding in their “new life.” Thieriot made me think of a young Casey Affleck gone bad. He exuded an air of wounded vulnerability that bordered on the dangerous. Unfortunately the “secondary” members of the cast could have been replaced easily. (With the exception of the local cop Weaver (Gil Bellows) who felt like every conscientious small town cop who likes the new pretty woman in town.

All in all, I’d give this film a 4 out of 5 stars because it was a superb thriller and not a horror film. It loses a star because of the wooden and one-dimensional secondary characters.

Neat Fact:

This is at least the second time that the lovely Elisabeth Shue has been threatened by a scary youngster, the first being her deadly encounter with a young Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek.

The ever lovely Elisabeth Shue.
The ever lovely Elisabeth Shue.