‘House at the End of the Street’ Review

The premise is simple; divorced mother and angst-filled teen move from large city to small, secret-filled town in order to get a fresh lease on life; sound familiar? The plot follows a relatively straight-forward horror movie format that has just enough twists and turns to keep audiences fully invested as the unpredictable events unfold on-screen. To go into specific detail would spoil the film entirely since the surprises are the backbone of the film. The acting is a bit laughable at times but the film never ceases to be fun and engaging. House at the End of the Street doesn’t reinvent the horror genre, or truly attempt to, but it succeeds because it accomplishes its goal of entertaining audiences in good-old-fashioned, “don’t go over there!” fashion.

Aaron Ryder

Aaron Ryder

House at the End of the Street producer Aaron Ryder, in an entertaining question and answer period that followed a special advanced screening in Boston, detailed the history of the film. Ryder, a graduate of Boston-based Emerson College, returned to his college hometown to share his film, and experiences with it, to his college community. As an experienced producer who has produced many recognizable films like Memento, Donnie Darko and Sanctum, Ryder has a lot of film-making insight which he candidly shared during the q & a.

A key member of FILMNATION, a self-described “new kind of film company,” Ryder provided the interesting history of how this particular film was conceived, created and ultimately distributed.  The rich back story of this film was as interesting as the film itself and Ryder was an open and honest narrator as he described how  all the pieces had to come together in order to make this film a reality which, as evidenced by the 3,000 theaters it opens in today, it most certainly is.

Film History

Set in pre Penn State University scandal Eastern, Pennsylvania, House at the End of the Street,was shot in Ottawa over a 25 day period back in 2010. The filmmakers chose Ottawa due to the beautiful locale and the substantial financial film incentives available there. Shot with a 35mm lens, the independently produced film was made for less than $10 million before it was ultimately purchased and released by Relativity Media.

The psychological thriller is based on the original screenplay of the 1970s made-for-tv horror movie Scream, Pretty Peggy, which itself was a knock-off of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. As Ryder put it, Psycho is to House at the End of the Street as Rear Window is to the relatively recent Disturbia. The original script, which lay dormant at Universal for nearly 40 years, was significantly updated with many plot changes and plenty of new suspenseful twists. The final product, based on the reactions of the screening audience, was overwhelmingly positive and Ryder himself said, “I think the twist works.”

Delayed Release Date

One of today’s A-listers, Jennifer Lawrence, is the key reason that House at the End of the Street is being released in 2012 even though filming wrapped up in August of 2010. Lawrence was initially cast after she finished filming her breakthrough role in the critically acclaimed film Winter’s Bone. Her star continued to rise as she was cast as Mystique in X-Men: Last Stand, but it was her casting as Katniss Evergreen in the phenomenally successful The Hunger Games that ultimately pushed the release back. The marketing strategy of waiting to release this film after Lawrence’s star has risen won’t be known until box office reports come in, but the strategy is a good one; especially with Halloween in the not-too-distant future.

Whether Lawrence can carry this film will likely prove irrelevant for her career but it has the potential to give her continued flexibility with so-called passion films and opportunities, specifically independent films, moving forward. The risk lies in the budget and production/promotion costs versus internationally funded funds for Ryder and company.

Worth your time?

Absolutely! Any fans of horror movie will love this film. Though it has its necessary “cheesy” moments, the thrill is consistent. Director Mark Tonderai is adept at slowly building suspense in incremental and believable fashion through the use of interesting camera work, crescendoing music and constant surprise. The movie formula is generic but the twists and turns of House at the End of the Street are not. Detailed descriptions would only serve to spoil a worthy 1 hour and 41 minutes of your time.

Watch the trailer if you need a push one way or the other OR better yet, go into the movie “cold” i.e. don’t watch the trailer so you don’t any have preconceived notions going in thus allowing yourself to simply enjoy a fun movie-going experience!

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