Short Ends and Leader

'The House at the End of the Street' is Horrible, Not Horrifying

You can tell Lawrence knows she's in a lost cause. Her performance is often rendered in one disinterested facial expression.


House at the End of the Street

Director: Mark Tonderai
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Jennifer Lawrence, Max Theriot, Gil Bellows
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Relativity Media
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-09-21 (General release)
UK date: 2012-09-21 (General release)
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Trailer

Jennifer Lawrence didn't need this. Not now. After all, this is an actress who has scored so much commendable career cache in the last few years that a bland and boring offering like The House at the End of the Street can only lessen her apparent value. From her Oscar nod for Winter's Bone to her turn as Katniss Everdeen in the cultural phenom known as The Hunger Games (with a stop off as Mystique in the new X-Men franchise), her current creative import extends way beyond the stupid genre junk pile you see here. This is the kind of recycled scary movie mediocrity that still believes in the telegraphed shock, the slow burn subterfuge and a killer who may, or may not, be dead. Toss in a pointless twist, slapdash high school hijinx and a ridiculous core premise and you've got something that can't help but stink to high heaven.

Having been uprooted from her life as a wannabe rocker in Chicago, 17-year-old Elissa Cassidy (Lawrence) joins her newly divorced mom (Elisabeth Shue) in a wooded area in the outlying suburbs. There, they find a ridiculously cheap rental located - wouldn't you know it - near the scene of a horrific double murder. Apparently, a young girl named Carrie Ann took a hammer to her mother and father, killing them both. She then ran off into the forest and is considered dead...or is she? Now, the last remaining member of the family, a quiet and sensitive boy named Ryan (Max Thieriot), has moved back in and is trying to restore the home to sell it. Elissa becomes infatuated with the sullen outsider while the rest of suburbia thinks him a scandal. Of course, he is keeping a secret, one which could threaten not only the safety of our heroine, but the truth behind that terrible night.

The House at the End of the Street is like a young adult novel which fell into the fright zone by accident. If offers up the typical alienated teen tropes, an adolescent angry at her 'groupie-whore' mother, absentee if still bad-ass musician dad, and a world made up of privileged classmate pukes who want to do little more than party and pet. As this overlong excuse for scares meanders about, Elissa gets to insult her parent, play miserable shoe-gazing songs, and cast her permanently jaundiced eyes on everyone and everything she sees. It's like an episode of Dawson's Creek with occasional bows to someone like Jack Ketchum. There is nothing remotely scary about Ryan, even if he is frequently traveling to the cellar under the basement to deal with 'something' in a locked room. Even that very fact, introduced within the first 20 minutes or so of the film, does little except confuse.

In fact, the biggest problem with The House on the End of the Street is that British director Mark Tonderai (the cat and mouse car chase effort Hush) doesn't understand the basics of fear. You have to establish threat before any level of suspense can be achieved. Seeing a night-gowned ghoul girl running through the trees in the moonlight is not as compelling as learning what she's capable of, and then witnessing her witching hour journey. Since Ryan is apparently capable of inhuman control, we never once worry that our lead and this babbling banshee will meet. More terrifying are the John Hughes rejects, a group of rich ditch teens who think nothing of flaunting their faked community service and sexual battery tendencies for muddled mutual admiration.

Then there is Ryan's relatively illogical situation. He's been living in the house that his parents were killed in. There's a secret passage under the basement which leads to a room that would make any cop sit up and take note, and yet no one has been around to question him since his return? Or look downstairs? Eventually, the concept of missing persons comes into play, and yet he's not the prime suspect? Ever? Naturally, there's a brief attempt at an explanation (the local sheriff, played by Ally McBeal's Will Bellows, comments about "covering" for him) but it doesn't wash. One suburban policeman couldn't keep an infamous case like this quiet, nor does his complicity make much sense. Since the movie doesn't establish such things as previous connections or concerns, it's just a throwaway in a film filled with same.

You can tell Lawrence knows she's in a lost cause. Her performance is often rendered in one disinterested facial expression. Even as she's battling for her life (though we never once fear for it), the disdain is ever present. It's as if she is sending a secret message to her managerial staff, suggesting that the next time a script like this comes across their desk, they pass..with extreme prejudice. After all, there's nothing here that will make her more bankable. There's three more Hunger Games films to fill her wallet and an Academy nom to negate such purely commercial credence. It's as if, right before making it HUGE, the actress agreed to help out some friends. The resulting ridiculousness, dumb as a bag of hammers, becomes that unwarranted question at every junket from now on.

Perhaps the underage crowd, already willing to give Katniss and her cult the benefit of the doubt, will sit through this slop and find it frightening. After all, we are living in an age where the aggressive nature of horror has been rendered inert by pathetic, PG-13 pretenders. As kids, we are all warned about staying away from the creepy old house at the end of the street. In this case, audiences would be wise to heed such advice. The only thing you will find there is boredom...and a baffling career choice.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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