I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in every horror movie review I’ve written how much I love horror films and about the crap threshold that lies within them. Truly good horror films come around once every now when the planets all align and somebody sacrifices a virgin om a field of corn or something. Bad horror films are much more common. See, for instance, The Apparition, an abomination I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (I still feel bad for subjecting my best friend to it). So when a good horror movie comes out, you cling to it like a plant of driftwood in the icy waters surrounding the sinking Titanic.
Middle-of-the-road horror films, those that don’t blaze any new ground but don’t make you want to go clubbing (baby seals, that is) are less common than terrible films, but they are infinitely more appreciated. House at the End of the Street, or HATES if ya nasty, is one such film. It’s not Insidious-tier awesome, but it’s far more competent of a horror film than a lot of what has come out this year. The fact that it stars Hotniss Everdeen certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
House at the End of the Street
Director: Mark Tonderai
Release Date: September 21, 2012
House at the End of the Street follows Elisa (Jennifer Lawrence), a girl who has moved to a new town with her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue). The gorgeous house they rent is only affordable because the house at the end of the street (dohoho) was home to the double murder of a man and his wife by their daughter. At a super-douchey potluck, Elisa and Sarah discover that the couple’s son Ryan (Max Thieriot) still lives there alone…OR DOES HE!? Against her mother’s well-intentioned wishes, Elisa falls for the boy and opens herself up to some rather unpleasant business at the house at the end of the street (GET IT!?).
As established previously, Jennifer Lawrence is a hottie, and Elisabeth Shue serves as an adequately MILF-y mother. Their relationship is a strained one, and both women convey it well, if a little bit overboard sometimes. There is one scene in particular that how that Sarah is really honestly trying her best to look out for Elisa but doesn’t have that maternal instinct, so it comes off as awkward and upsetting for all parties involved, and served as one of my favorite scenes due to the inherent uncomfortableness and sense of “yep, been there.” Thieriot plays creepy like he was born looking at weird porn, and obviously a mother like Sarah, and the audience, will suspect that he might be a serial killer or axe murderer or Scientologist or something. There’s another cast member I can’t really talk about for spoiler reasons but they were pretty awesome too, especially for a first-time role. There’s a few other characters like the well-intentioned sheriff, the rapey rich kid, and Elisa’s new friends, but they all really just serve as plot devices. It’s a four-person show, and those four actors pull it off with zeal.
From the trailers, and my immense horror film experience, I was worried that I had the movie figured out from the get-go. Whether or not I was right isn’t important, because the movie threw me for at least three loops before coming together at the end for that big AHA! moment. I was pleased that it continually supplanted expectations and really did keep me guessing until the credits rolled. Seeing J-Law in distress wasn’t so bad either. She makes an excellent addition to the scream queen collection and I would be more than happy to watch her in another horror film.
I don’t often mention soundtracks, at least in detail, but I really enjoyed the score in this film. It surprisingly had a very Borderlands-esque sound to it and I felt right at home on account of having been eating, sleeping, and breathing Borderlands 2 since I picked it up at the midnight launch earlier this week.
With a great dysfunctional mother-daughter dynamic coursing through its veins, HATES is more than your ‘bad things happen to the girl next door’ horror film. A genre-defyingly small body count and truly well-developed twists and turns also help the film rise above its brethren. While not a truly great horror film, it is absolutely a truly good one that is worth your time, and I think it will serve as a nice prologue to the October horror slate.