Making a horror movie is a double-edged sword. The most hardcore fans of the genre will see anything and everything, so you’re guaranteed to make a buck – but at the same time, many moviegoers have seen just about everything and anything, so it takes quite a bit of ingenuity, creativity and thoughtfulness to wow, let alone scare us, and that’s the challenge director Mark Tonderai strove to tackle with House at the End of the Street.
Jennifer Lawrence leads as Elissa, a girl who moves into a new house with her mother, Sarah (Elisabeth Shue). Unfortunately, it turns out their dream house has a rather dark past. Just down the street, a young girl viciously murdered her parents and disappeared making her brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), the only surviving family member. Then again, this isn’t such an unfortunate thing for Elissa because Ryan still calls the former crime scene home and he’s pretty cute, too.
Sounds like your typical innocent-girl-gets-too-close-to-the-creepy-boy movie, right? That’s actually the point. In fact, that’s part of the reason Tonderai was attracted to the project. In honor of House at the End of the Street’s recent DVD and Blu-ray release, Tonderai took the time to explain the meticulous process of turning the expected into the unexpected, delivering a horror thriller with a significant amount of subtext, his experience working with Lawrence, Thieriot and Shue, his reaction to the film’s critical reception and more.
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“Look at that tree. Do you see the face?” “No.” “Look for another three minutes of screen time. Now can you see the face?” “Yes! I see the face.” Two scenes about the face later and I still didn’t see the thing. Thanks “House at the End of the Street” for making me stare at a tree for five minutes for no reason.
One night, young Carrie Ann (Eva Link) brutally murders her parents making her brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), the sole surviving family member. Four years later, the town still feels the effects of the vicious crime, including the fact that a local murder house drives down property values. Homeowners in the area aren’t happy, but that turns out to be a plus for Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) because they get a gorgeous house on a budget. Sarah’s got no problem living next door to the location of a double homicide until Elissa befriends Ryan. Forever shunned by everyone in town, Elissa feels sorry for Ryan who, to her, seems as though he’s just sad and misunderstood.
Oh, please. The kid’s sister butchers his parents and Ryan’s just sad and misunderstood? Thieriot actually sells it pretty well, but thanks to writer David Loucka’s incessant foreshadowing, you see every twist and turn coming minutes away.
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Bereavement may be a prequel to the 2004 film Malevolence and share some concepts and characters, but otherwise, it’s an entirely different film. Not only is it an incredible improvement in terms of camerawork, score and performances, but Bereavement paints a horrifyingly vivid picture of the mind of a psychopathic killer whereas in Malevolence, that element is missing entirely. It’s one thing to watch victims lose their lives one-by-one, but it’s a completely different experience when you’re well aware of what makes the villain commit such heinous crimes. Bereavement puts the frames of minds of its killers in the forefront and boy are they powerful.
Bereavement basically kicks off where Stevan Mena’s first film, Malevolence, began, but rather than jumping ahead 20 years after poor Martin Bristoll’s kidnapping in 1989, we linger a bit and get a much deeper look at exactly what happened to the six-year-old boy when Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) snatched him up. Martin (Spencer List) wasn’t just one of Graham’s many victims, rather an apprentice. Martin has a condition called congenital insensitivity; he can’t feel pain, an attribute that’s key to Graham’s psychopathic and somewhat transcendental methods.
Now here comes the time-lapse, but this time around, we fast-forward just five years. After a family tragedy, 17-year-old Allison Miller (Alexandra Daddario) is sent to Minersville, Pennsylvania to live with her uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn), right down the road from Graham Sutter himself. An avid runner, Allison’s only athletic outlet in the tiny town with a high school sans track team is a five-mile run around the neighborhood. Little does she know, her route takes her right by the rundown Sutter family meat packing plant, the building in which Graham continues to teach Martin his horrific ways. It takes just one glimpse of Martin through the broken window to stir her curiosity, drawing her in to the point at which running away is no longer an option.
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