Every once in a while, I come across a film that stands so far above the competition, it belongs in a class of its own. The script is so eloquently woven it commands accolades and awards. The story takes the genre into new territory, creating an entire generation of copycat films due to its success. The acting is of a caliber scarcely spoken of outside of awards season, elevating the actors into a class observed by few in the world. The direction is stupendous, earning the auteur “a film by…” credit on each subsequent film. Scores of film lovers around the world clamor for a deluxe collector’s edition Blu-ray or DVD to adorn their massive shelving unit in their darkened home theater.
Today’s masterpiece….is none of those.
31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 10: The House at the End of the Street
Director: Mark Tonderai
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue, Gil Bellows
Country: United States
Specs: 101 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: PG-13
Rating: ★★ / D
A young girl and her estranged mother decide to move to a new home in the country to begin a path of healing for their broken relationship. Learning that a horrible murder happened in the house across the way only complicates things, especially when all is not what it seems.
Within moments of the opening scene, I checked the menu of my television set to confirm that I hadn’t accidentally switched the input to MTV, or another music video channel. Once I realized that I indeed was watching Netflix, thanks in part to my realization that a music video hasn’t been played on MTV since I was a tyke, I knew I was in for an experience.
The opening scene begins with a crazed teen wandering the halls of her suburban home, hammer in hand, in order to slay her suspecting parents. Not UNSUSPECTING, but fully aware their daughter is a little this side of sane. Yet they both [SPOILER ALERT] allow themselves to defenselessly get pummeled to death by the half their size nutjob.
Lest I lead you to believe the script was the only problem, their death is confirmed when we see a low angle shot from below the bed they rest in of the feathers from their pillows and/or comforter shower the floor, followed by a steady amount of blood. John Woo this is not.
We also are priveledged to see such mesmerizing camera work, such as dolly, crane, shaky cam, dolly, shaky cam, crane, canted angle, birds eye POV, [good lord please stop, I’m getting sea sick], dolly, crane, dolly, crane…ugh. I felt like I’d mistakenly inserted into my video player one of my students horrible productions. How was it, I wondered, that the director was allowed to constantly use every movable camera trick in the book. I was nauseous.
For instance, in a early scene that takes place at a “parents aren’t home” party, a girl passes out [alcohol induced, no doubt]. The odd choice of direction aside [that being everything moving in slow motion then speedily ramped up into fast motion (called ramping) and tricky artistic edits and spinning bottles and (again I asked if this was a music video) flashing lights] Lawrence’s characters reaction and dialogue is comical.
In another scene, we are succumbed to such prose as:
“What happened to the body.” “They never found it.” “They think she’s still alive and living in the woods.” “WHAT!?!?!?!” as a reaction of utter horror and fear is on the characters face. Based on the complete lack of knowledge of anything at that point in the film for the character, its simply played for the audience and their prior knowledge. What tripe.
I honestly feel like I’ve already wasted enough time with watching the film and spending time to write this blog. I will wrap it up (something I wish the film had done 90 minutes sooner than it did) by stating how sad I was to see the caliber of talent on screen fail miserably in this film. It only must be a testament to the direction they were receiving. I don’t know how else to explain the cardboard performances and pain inducing dialogue.
Just to clarify, I nominate this film as definitely a must pass, even for fans of Lawrence and Shue.