Thursday, October 04, 2012

"House at the End of the Street": formulaic neighborhood horror plot, but some interesting "meaning"

House at the End of the Street” sounds like an unimaginative title for a genre neighborhood horror film, and this is indeed a DGC B-movie, directed by Mark Tonderai, supposedly set in Pennsylvania but filmed in the woods around Ottawa, Ontario.  The alternate title is “Body Hunt”, and the film is distributed by “I am Rogue” and Relativity Media.

A mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue), who works as a surgical nurse, and her high school senior-age daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) move into an oversized palatial home in the woods, but only across a wooded thicket from another rustic home where a family was murdered four years before. Real estate values are down because of all this bad history. The story (pretty much verified in the opening sequence) is that a mentally disabled teen girl killed her parents and then disappeared in the aftermath.  The surviving son Ryan (Max Thieriot) lives in the house, and his introduction as a tantalizing  character is delayed a little as the movie starts.
Elissa has been courted by Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk), who has raised money for an overseas food charity (as a required school “service project”) and who ought to be a good kid.  Pretty soon, though, we find out he is overzealous with women and can become a bit of a bully.

Of course, you can predict the plot. Elissa, despite her mom’s rules, will gradually be drawn to Ryan (very much a pariah by rumor).  You think Ryan is a nice, pre-med kid but pretty soon you are shown, as an omniscient observer, a deep dark secret (literally) in a second cellar.  We’ve seen this before. 
There are a couple of other male boyfriends who are more stable, including one Jake (Olivier Surprenant) who looks like Mark Zuckerberg (maybe deliberately, but we don’t learn of any computer programming skills). 

Ryan, as a character, works on you.  His physical looks are a bit overpowering, and so is his physical resourcefulness.  Unfortunately, the plot takes on the responsibility of showing how a bright kid can become unhinged.  It’s almost a clue that points to what could have caused Holmes’s outbreak in Colorado. 
I was thinking, after the movie, that in “Judas Kiss” (June 4, 2011), there were three gay male characters of comparable looks and swagger – you like all of them, and they all turn out reasonably well despite the suspense elements in that film – maybe because they don’t have to fight over women, or, more precisely, be responsible for women or younger minors. 

We learn, for example, that a prelude to the family tragedy has occurred about a dozen years before when Ryan had been expected to watch his younger sister Carrie Anne, when probably the parents should have been supervising directly.  You could say that the film makes a statement about the tendency of parents to teach older siblings to help them raise and protect younger siblings who, of course, the parents chose to bring into the world, not the older kids.  That issue has appeared on the Dr, Phil show at least once, but it needs to be aired more often.

The only official site given my imdb is the Japanese one, link.

I suspect the DVD will have some deleted scenes; I could imagine other opportunities here.   

Even so, this film seemed a bit like a stereotyped Canadian Lifetime channel film, with good heroines.  If so, it's a bit better than the average on that channel.  Maybe it will show up there.

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