Director: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue
It seems unlikely that there will be a film this year with a title less inspiring than House at the End of the Street—British director Mark Tonderai’s lacklustre contribution to the PG-13 horror genre. Unfortunately, the generic names set the tone perfectly for things to come, and despite boasting the excellent Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, HATES—as it has been abbreviated—never aspires to be anything other than a rudimentary ‘thriller.’
The premise is appropriately straightforward—Jennifer Lawrence plays strong-minded teenager Elissa, who, along with her irritating mother (Elisabeth Shue), moves from the city to a country town inhabited by a cast of horror movie stereotypes. There’s the stuck-up rich kid, the compassionate local cop and the quiet recluse with a mysterious past, who live in—you guessed it—the house at the end of the street.
Naturally, Elissa befriends Ryan (Max Thieriot), the recluse, and for the most part things play out as expected from there. There are a couple of minor plot deviations, but otherwise HATES is formulaic to a fault, falling back time and time again on clichéd scenarios pilfered from other, better horror movies. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and had the overall execution been up to scratch it might have worked, but some excruciating dialogue, stilted performances and a peculiar mix of editing styles combine to give the film a tedious, amateurish quality.
On top of all this, HATES suffers from another fundamental problem in that it just isn’t all that frightening. Tonderai consistently relies on cheap, predictable shock-scares and the approach rapidly wears thin, provoking boredom and frustration instead of fear and suspense.
If there is any satisfaction to be had, it’s that, at just over ninety minutes, the film zips along at a fair pace, and doesn’t linger. Be thankful for small mercies.
There really isn’t much more to say about House at the End of the Street. If it was spectacularly bad it might have found an audience as an inadvertent comedy, but it doesn’t inspire ridicule so much as it does apathy.
If it is remembered at all, it will be as a sub-par film with an A-list star, but the likelihood is that within a few weeks HATES will have faded away into welcome obscurity.