It’s hard to have high expectations these days when it comes to PG-13 thrillers. The reason I used the word ”thriller” is because that is exactly what House at The End of the Street is, a thriller. I found few things I really enjoyed about the film but overall HATES is a snoozer that holds little to the imagination and brings a twist at the end that if you aren’t expecting it then you weren’t paying attention.
Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence play mother and daughter Sara and Elissa. The two have moved into a new house that is next door to a tragic family murder that happened four years prior. The people of the town are happy to welcome them but turn a blind eye whenever they mention the house next door. Until a backyard BBQ ensues do we find out their reasons for hating the house at the end of the street. Soon after Sara and Elissa get settled in their work/school roles and Elissa is being courted by town stud Tyler (Nolan Funk). Tyler gets a little too grabby at a house party and leaves Elissa to walk home by herself. She meets and is picked up by Ryan (Max Theriot) who is the son of the family that was murdered as is currently living in the house.
They soon start a friendship. Sara is worried about her daughter and is over possessive of Elissa, and it stems from her line of work as a doctor and the time that has been missed between them. The back and forth banter between Shue and Lawrence is the best part of the film in my opinion. They pull off the struggling with a divorce mother and pissed off daughter a little too well. In regards to the characters they were all cast well and no one was short on the acting. The story hurt the dialogue in most scenes because too many things were introduced that could
have provided a great backdrop but were soon lost. My main example of this is the interaction between Ryan and Elissa. Too many times did this film lean towards an ABC family made for TV movie as they tried and failed attempt after attempt to make you sympathize with Ryan’s character. Think of the scene in Dirty Work where Norm Macdonald is with the homeless guys looking into the camera talking about life and what he used to do. Just like he was cut off I wanted to cut Ryan off each time he spoke. I didn’t feel sorry for him; I felt sorry that I had to listen to him. You can tell he was full of it the entire time. There was so much they could have done without the scenes between the two of them.
I kept asking myself after an hour into the film where is the horror? Is there any climax to this film? It was so stagnant throughout that I even heard other film-goers snapping their fingers in anticipation of HATES ending. Every time their was a chance for a breakthrough in the film
they fell short. They only thing that kept me glued to the screen was the awesome cinematography. The filming location for HATES was gorgeous and the director, Mark Tonderai (Hush,) did a great job of capturing it. You come to find out that there is more to Ryan and soon Elissa starts to see the signs. Of course it’s too late since she has fallen for Ryan. What she doesn’t know is Ryan is holding a secret. How this has been kept a secret in this small community so long is strange but since everyone stays clear of Ryan he is able to accomplish this. With fear of truly spoiling the film, it’s best to stop there with Ryan’s character because he is truly the focal point of the film.
House at the End of The Street hurt itself by taking too long to get to the point. If they would have focused more on Ryan and his back story then Elissa and her mothers back story (she was a drunk slut in high school) it would have worked. Great cinematography and decent acting are the true highlights of the film but unfortunately the story and scare factor disappoints on all levels. Fans of the genre will see glimpses of what I call the Ed Gein theory which has elements found in films from Psycho to Sleepaway Camp. The latter even more than anything. It’s time to stop with these teeny-bopper horror films because they just don’t work. Like I stated in the beginning, it’s hard to expect anything good from horror/thriller films with a PG-13 rating, and HATES further proves that point way too much. If at all possible skip this one at the box office. It won’t be there long.