Mainstream horror has been dead and gone for years now, yet small studios still pick up these cheaply-made horror films every year to try and turn a profit. Most of the time it works from a financial standpoint, but very rarely does something like House at the End of the Street work as a well-made piece of horror. This latest PG-13 abomination attempts to ride off of Jennifer Lawrence‘s now-popular name with not a single scene proving to be anything more than a blatant pull from other films. HATES is stretched out too long, full of predictable jump scares and most of all just a poorly cut film that kills the mood unintentionally and very periodically.
Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elizabeth Shue) have moved away from their past life in Chicago to relocate to a much smaller town. They got a hell of a deal on a house, because just down the street rests a home with a horrible past. This house was the home of a young girl who killed both her parents and went missing in the nearby woods. Her older brother has since then returned to the house to live a life of isolation, away from the townspeople.
Like most curious teenagers Elissa decides to make friends with the one kid that she shouldn’t; Ryan (Max Theriot). Ryan appears to be just a lonely and misunderstood boy trying to cope with the deaths of his family members, but underneath his gentle looks and innocent intentions lies something much more secretive. Something doesn’t fully add up and Elissa slowly starts to unravel a mystery that could put her life and the life of her mother in extreme danger.
House at the End of the Street doesn’t even make it to the fifteen minute mark without showing lack of initiative. It opens up like a poorly cut music video by a fifteen year old that was trying to impress his girlfriend. Director Mark Tonderai confuses style with fast editing and warped images. Killer psychopaths must see life through a really messed up fish-eye lens, because HATES is full of these buggy and often redundant filming techniques.
It drives me mad just thinking about it, because there are one or two well-planned out scenes that respect space and movement while building up tension and laughs with a balanced hand, not to mention some actual craft. I’m not sure if Tonderai’s second unit director stepped in for these takes or if he’s got a severe case of OCD. Half of HATES flows freely and moves at just the right pace, while the other half tries speeding up the pace, but actually ends up creating a sand-trap of boredom. You’re left fighting to keep your eyes open in fear of falling asleep mid-movie only to be woken up by a loud thump to realize that there’s still twenty minutes to go.
Jennifer Lawrence makes it bearable at the beginning. Her character is reasonable and unlike most high school teenagers, but like all leading ladies in a horror film, she eventually drops her guard and in a big way. Her once smart and cautious character becomes a complete rebel and a dumb one at that. All of her common sense gets knocked out of her as she makes some of the biggest bone-headed decisions made on film. Why would anyone go down into a locked basement, only to open up a hidden door, followed by a narrow hallway with yet another locked door at the end? Even after peeking through the peephole and discovering a dungeon-like room.
Tonderai at this point lets the developed characters become non-important horror victims as they run around a house without the slightest clue of what to do. Elizabeth Shue‘s mother role almost instantly transforms from worried and protective to idiotic and confused as the final act ramps up the “scares” and “twists”.
House at the End of the Street is full of coincidence and convenience. Things just sort of happen, despite the chances and odds being slim-to-none, but that’s okay right, because this is a horror film and we need to learn to just accept anyything is a possibility. Wrong.
Good horror doesn’t need to be violent or spine-tingling, but it does need to have some sense. HATES almost has something going for it, but the jump scares and finale twists reveal the truth behind the film. That true is that the film just plain out sucks and could have been handled a lot better. There’s just no excuse in the book that could write this one off as anything more than a cheap pickup by a studio looking to bank on a popular actress.
I’m sure hefty paychecks were cut to all involved and the film was written off as another quick PG-13 horror film that will turn a profit or at least break even. The thought of the director caring any more than that is wishful thinking at this point. House at the End of the Street should have found a shelf to collect dust on for eternity, because it really is that meaningless and shallow.
House at the End of the Street – 5.5/10