Monday, September 23, 2013

The Boy Next Door

Allow me a hipster moment, if you will:

I liked her first.

Yes, I'm referring to Academy Award winner/box office champ/soundbite extraordinaire Jennifer Lawrence, whose talents I've been praising since a little indie called Winter's Bone got thrown into the discussion of films that should be, but never would be, nominated for an Oscar. Now everyone and their grandmother has something positive to say about the girl who would be Katniss Everdeen, allowing me a certain warranted measure of I Told You So henceforth.

Anyhoo, House At the End of the Street:

That's its roof. At the end of the street.

Quick Plot: After about 10 minutes of animated logos from different studios, we're introduced to a prologue wherein a young girl named Carrie-Anne slaughters her parents. Four years later, a very blond mother/daughter pair move in to a house at the other end of the street on which said murder took place, forever driving the property value down and making a lot of white suburbanites angry.

Elyssa (Lawrence) is a rocker teen with an attraction to project boys. With her long necklaces and raccoon eye shadow, Lawrence is like the strangely displaced niece of her 2012 best actress competition Jessica Chastain in Mama. Where the latter had to deal with two flaxen-haired feral children with an unhealthy attachment to a mysterious mother figure, Lawrence's Elyssa gets saddled with a single dreamy flaxen-haired loner harboring an unhealthy attachment to a mysterious sister figure.

Coincidence, or SOMETHING MORE?

Eh, probably the first one, especially since House At the End of the Street is way more fun to pair up with Sleepaway Camp than Mama. I'm not quite spoiling anything here, but trust me: director Mark Tonderai might have spent a few summers at Camp Arawak before finishing his film.

House At the End of the Street was ravaged by critics and horror fans when it debuted in the dreaded wasteland of January releases. Look, I'm not saying it's good--because seriously, it's not--but for whatever reason, I ended up having way more fun than I expected with it. Maybe it was the way Oscar winner Lawrence coyly delivered the line "I'll be right back" (yup, that happens) or how Elisabeth Shue rotates between cool mom, overprotective mom, and hot mess wino mom all within one awkward dinner party scene. By the time Gil Bellows sauntered into a dangerous situation with a foreshadowingly damaged flashlight, I simply couldn't be angry.

Theatrical horror is a constant source of controversy among the dedicated fanbase. Passionate moviegoers like to hurl guilt-loaded insults at people who pay money for dreck and bypass what they perceive to be quality. In theory, I understand this, but when this situation usually turns into "People paid to see Paranormal Activity 3 but didn't support Hatchet II. THEY'RE NOT REAL FANS!", I take offense.

Personally, I kind of hated Hatchet II, and definitely hated being told that I wasn't a true horror fan for not heading down to my AMC theater to show that I wanted more Unrated horror in the world. As I've said before, (in audio form even!), the horror genre will always exist in its true glory in the realm of home media. From the VHS days of the '80s to VOD of today, the modern cinematic audience does not need bucket seats stained with popcorn oil to appreciate or support a film. Let the teenagers spend their allowance on House At the End of the Street. Their decision does not mean I won't get the pleasure of cozying up with my cats to watch The House Of the Devil from the comfort of my own couch.

That was a minor tangent, but probably more thought-out than the plot of House At the End of the Street. 

High Points
I think the oddly timed reveal of the film's first big 'twist' was part of the attacks lodged at this movie, but I kind of liked how House At the End of the Street showed its hand earlier than expected. It threw me off, whether intended or unintended, and in the world of lazy theatrical PG-13 horror, any surprise is a good one

Low Points
During the big finale, there's a genuine shock in terms of a lead character being fatally injured. Then the movie remembers it's aimed at a mass market and 'fatally injured' turns into 'mild flesh wound'

Lessons Learned
Just cause someone's a wasted slut in high school doesn't mean her daughter will be too

Double murders are somewhat of a drag on the real estate market

There are probably easier ways to keep an older boy from dating your daughter than to invite said older boy over for what's supposed to be a pleasant dinner party then suck down an entire bottle of red wine and slobber into an awkward fight with your teen. Easier, but none as entertaining...

Look! It's...
Ally MacBeal's lost love/Goblin's earnest dad Gil Bellows in the role of the Dumbest Policeman Since Those Germans In The Human Centipede

Pet Peeve of the Week
As a test, I spent about 5 minutes this morning removing a knife from its holder to see if it was humanly (or Emily) possible to achieve that oh-so-iconic "SLICE!" sound. Guess what? KNIVES DON'T MAKE NOISE WHEN REMOVED FROM HOLDERS. If you could tell that to EVERY FILMMAKER EVER, I'd be very grateful

Well, I streamed House At the End of the Street on my way to and from work one day, and dangit, I couldn't help but be amused. This is NOT good. Really. It's PG-13 horror with a few sprinkles of 'What the F-Word Used Non-Sexually Since We're PG-13?" It reveals its twist before it even built doubt as to where it was going. And yet, I found myself far less angry than I was watching the more ambitious (in theory) Silent House and to an extent, the constantly shooting-itself-in-its-CGI-foot Mama. Don't watch it expecting anything of quality. But for a mindless 'really?' kind of viewing, one could do worse.


  1. I liked it too! I mean I'm pre-programmed to like anything Elisabeth Shue is in because she spells her name correctly (like mine, with an S instead of a Z) but I also thought it was far better than a lot of the normal studio "horror" and I was surprised by the twist when it happened and wasn't mad about it... I now can not for the life of me remember how it ends... like at all which doesn't speak well for it but I do remember having fun while watching it which is much more than I can say for some "classics" like High Tension or The Descent (I know, I apparently am not a fan of things that I should like... or maybe I don't like a plot device that basically renders everything I've just watched meaningless *ahem SILENT HOUSE *ahem). I watched The Apparition this weekend and boy was it not good. The House at the End of the Street was at least suspenseful and well acted and fun. It reminded me of an 80's thriller but with a little more polish.

  2. Yay for me not being the only one! I mean, it's not GOOD, but it's put together and has some odd sense of fun about it. And then it tags on a very strange flashback in its last 30 seconds that doesn't really mean anything, but just seems like a really strange choice. Don't feel bad for not remembering. It REALLY doesn't do anything but just exist as if someone decided at the last minute to throw in a twist that wasn't a twist at all. ANYWAY-

    I'm not the biggest High Tension fan. And man oh MAN don't get me started on, as you say, the meaningless waste of Silent House. But I do love my Descent. Oh yes, I do...

  3. There are really people who think Hatchet II is more worthwhile than Paranormal 3? I used to live by the whole "see every theatrical horror" thing, but in practice it usually means you're supporting mediocrity-to-awfulness. I wanted to beat myself up for paying to see Texas Chainsaw 3D. If they make another one, it's my fault, partially! Plus it's easier for me to like something that's flawed if I can see it at home, where I don't also have seat kickers and people tweeting on iPads in the middle of movies.

    +1 on Winter's Bone!

  4. CWL, you wouldn't believe how intense some people get when it comes to the Hatchet series. I don't get it, but hey, whatever makes you happy. Just don't yell at me when I don't agree!

    And SERIOUSLY Winter's Bone! SO GOOD! I just watched that director's first film (Down To the Bone--she likes bones) this morning. It was really depressing. But good! But depressing.

    That is all.

  5. Don't get me wrong, I liked The Descent until like the last five minutes... I don't want to spoil it, but you know what I mean and for some reason it really bothered me. My problems with High Tension are exactly the same as the problems with Silent House... like, in the beginning of High Tension our main character is hiding in a closet from a psychopath covering her mouth to keep from screaming etc. and even in the initial reality of the movie HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW SHE'S THERE... it's not like he's looking for her... so the tension it is not so high... and THEN when we learn the twist none of the movie makes sense anymore.

    1. Well, by 'last five minutes,' are you referring to the 'happy' ending only available on the American cut? The original 'unrated' (or just 'British') ending is much more effective and sensical. I'd hate for that to be the reason for your despair!

      And I hear ya on High Tension. I've only seen it once and it made me rather angry for the very same reason. What the hell did I actually see? Did any of it matter?

      Now I'm just angry.

  6. I liked this movie okay as well. It's got a pretty cool mystery at the center of it (even if the reveals are not handled all that well as you mentioned), and it's got a lot of good actors that elevate the material quite a bit. Of course Lawrence and Shue, but I think Max Theriot is underrated. His work on "Bates Motel" has probably given him a little more cred than say "My Soul to Take" (but oh, no matter how much you tell me I should hate that movie, I just keep loving it more).

    And as much as I love horror movies, a lot of horror movie fans irk me to no end. Are there fans of any other genre out there that act this way toward supporting the theatrical genre releases. Were their a bunch of Romantic Comedy buffs that were irritated when "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" didn't do that well? For the love of all humanity, I hope not.

    I can remember going to see every horror movie that was released theatrically as a teenager, but unfortunately this was in the 90s. So maybe after suffering through movies like Witchboard II (with Amy freaking Dolenz), Ghost in the Machine, and Man's Best Friend when I could have been, you know, doing absolutely anything else has made me a little bitter toward these complaints. Give me a break, if I choose to spend some time with my daughter instead of driving an hour so I can catch a screening of (fill in indie horror film here) to help the filmmakers be able to up-size their combo at Wendy's.

    As for the "Hatchet" films, the first one is mediocre, the 2nd one is awful. I hate saying that about any movie with Danielle Harris in it, but they do exist. Actually, anything not named "Halloween IV" or "Last Boy Scout" kind of fall into that same category.

    Great review as always, Emily. Sorry for the rambling.

  7. I still haven't seen My Soul To Take. I know that the day I request the DVD from Netflix, it will show up on Instant Watch. So I'm biding my time. but I tell ya, the awful things I've heard about it make me suspect I'll probably end up enjoying it.

    EXCELLENT point about other genre buffs never getting as angry. I don't know what about horror fans makes so many of them so darn negative and combative. Well, maybe watching excessive violence or something. But that just doesn't seem right...

    I get to the movies about twice a year now. It's strange considering how, like you, I spent SO much of my teen and college years in a cinema, bu tnow, it just seems like a waste of time. You have to factor in previews, getting there early for a good seat, and getting home, so you're adding an extra hour plus to see a movie that will hit Netflix in a few months. Maybe I'm old, but the appeal is slipping.

    Danielle Harris is high on my list of actors I adore but who just can't make that many good movies. She tends to at least be the best thing in a bad movie though! But if you haven't checked out Stake Land, please do. It's wonderful, and she gets to be good in an actual good movie.

    Oh, and reruns of Roseanne. She's good in those.

    OH. And Don't Tell Mom, The Babysitter's Dead. EVERYBODY IS GOOD IN THAT.

  8. While I took an incredible amount of enjoyment out of making fun of #HATES in my review, I didn't really hate it either. It's the type of movie I can watch on a "I don't give a shit what's on" Sunday afternoon, a time that is usually relegated to Lifetime movies. It's a pretty perfect fit actually.

    As for Hatchet II: I thought it was pretty awful. It's funny how "horror fans" complain about remakes and a lack of originality from Hollywood when the Hatchet series has not one original bone in its body.

    Lastly, I liked her first, too!

  9. In a way, it's sort of like a slightly edgier Lifetime movie. With better tank tops.

    Ughhhhhh Hatchet. I don't know why I feel like that movie said shit about my mother, but whenever I start thinking about it, I get REALLY defensive. It was just SUCH a little 'issue movie' amongst the horror community, and I felt VERY strongly about it.

    We need to make a pre-Katniss J-Law club.