A house can be many things--a warm and sheltering family home, a symbol of success and aspiration, merely the setting for stories to unfold, or...a place you just want to get away from as fast as you can. When it comes to the latter, the movies try to amp the mood up to 11, with chilling scenes set in dark hallways, slamming doors, a shadow in the window, things going bump in the night.
In this week's House at the End of the Street, Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Shue are a daughter and mother who move to their dream house in a small town, only to learn their neighbor Ryan (Max Theriot) is the only survivor of the brutal murder of his parents in their home. The entire community shuns him and the house, which by all accounts is your basic dated fixer-upper--but when she learns more and more about Ryan, his humble abode becomes something much, much more sinister.
Thanks to Hollywood's storied past, you can practically throw a rock and hit such "sinister homes" where awful deeds have occurred--from the hillside residence where the Manson family struck to the Spanish-style where Bugsy Siegal was ambushed. For the morbidly curious, the unsubtly monikered Museum of Death (6031 Hollywood Blvd.) has collected all sorts of memorabilia around famous deaths: here you'll see crime scene photos of the famed unsolved Black Dahlia case, a taxidermied chihuahua killed in the car crash that took its owner Jayne Mansfield's life, JFK and Marilyn Monroe autopsy photos and a gruesome Manson display. "Manson's been put on a pedestal over the years, and people should be reminded what he did," the manager says.
If that isn't enough for you, and you're tired of the same old haunted hayride around Halloween, the Dearly Departed bus tour may be up your alley. As a native Angeleno, I had no idea that most of the locales the tour stops at are your basic houses next door. Our driver (who, appropriately, played the House at the End of the Street trailer during a recent outing) stopped at the recognizable house where Lana Turner's boyfriend Johnny Stompanato was killed by her daughter (a beautiful, charming white building that looks like it could be a movie setting and is also near Billy Bob Thornton's swanky BevHills digs); to the unassuming West Hollywood bungalow where aspiring actress Dominique Dunne's (the older sister in Poltergeist) boyfriend strangled her; to the quaint charmer just off Sunset where a screenwriter named Robert Lees lost his life to a drugged-out maniac.
Unfortunately Jennifer Lawrence finds out what's happened at the end of her street, but you might not want to find out what happened at the end of YOURS.