Of course, a very bad script can be salvaged by good acting, but I can only surmise that none of the actors felt inspired enough by the script or the story to put too much effort into it. Elisabeth Shue's performance matched the script perfectly, coming across as an over-the-top caricature of the formerly-distant-mom-trying-to-be-a-better-parent. Lawrence, on the other hand, seemed to know how bad the script was and thus decided it wasn't worth trying. The paycheck is coming either way.
I mentioned previously that there is nothing really worth talking about in this film, and what makes this all the more painful is that there could have been. There is a scene in which Ryan shows Elissa a seemingly normal tree, but when looked at from a certain angle, a face appears in the bark. “There are secrets all around us,” he says. “Sometimes they're right in front of us.”
As one who enjoys looking for undercurrents in films, this felt like something of a hint, and I began to see an interesting theme revealing itself: an exploration of the ways that people are affected by dysfunctional parenting – or complete lack thereof. Elissa's father left her and her mother, who was never really present and is now trying hard to do the “mom thing,” as she says, and ends up being overbearing and overprotective. Ryan, on the other hand, had his whole family die. In practice, this thematic inquiry wasn't actually very impressive, but it felt like an effort was being made – at first. Then we hit the climax, and everything potentially deep is forgotten in favor of a very routine and boring trapped-in-the-house-with-a-killer scenario. And there-in is the script's ultimate failure: a complete disregard for any and all character development leading up to this point, as well as contradictions and unbelievable explanations.
House at the End of the Street is a lazy film, pure and simple. It is completely uninspired and unimaginative from any perspective. Best forgotten, it isn't even worth the time it takes to discuss it. However, for those who wish to see for themselves, it will be playing at various theaters around the city for several weeks at least. Check local listings for showtimes.
Image: Rotten Tomatoes