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The House At The End Of The Street Explained- Carrie Anne And Max Thieriot’s Ryan Are A Parent’s Nightmare

The 2012 thriller The House At The End Of The Street is a well-acted mindbender full of deception and unreliable narrators out on Netflix now.

The set up for The House At The End Of The Street is relatively simple. Elissa(Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah(Elizabeth Shue) have moved to a house in an affluent neighborhood just down the street from a double murder years before. Ryan’s parents were killed, and his sister went missing and is presumed dead. Elissa meets quiet Ryan, who still lives in the family home one day shortly after moving to town. He gives every appearance of being a sweet, sensitive soul. As the two become closer, she learns he is hiding a dark secret.

2012 seems like a lifetime ago. Max Thieriot was missing about fifty pounds of muscle, and we weren’t all quarantined and washing our hands religiously. Along with the freedom of that year, there was also this gripping psychological thriller(emphasis on psychological) called The House At The End Of The Street. Directed by Mark Tonderai, known for Syfy’s Nightflyers and Netflix’s Locke & Key, this movie utilizes one of the most common of all narrative devices, the false narrative. Sometimes the narrator is purposely deception and others; they are truthful but just wrong. In this case, Ryan(Max Thieriot) is a little bit of both. Mostly it is false advertising by Tonderai, which uses careful misdirection to fool us early on. Here are all your questions answered.

What Did We See At The Beginning?

The easy answer is we saw the murder of Ryan’s parents. The messier answer is we saw the key to the entire film. The whole town thinks Ryan’s sister Carrie-Anne had severe mental health issues and had become violent towards her parents. That violence escalated one night, resulting in their deaths and Carrie Anne’s disappearance. That isn’t entirely true. Carrie Anne is unhinged; she just isn’t herself. After a tragic childhood accident leaves her dead, Ryan’s parents bury her body and force him to become his sister. They are abusive drug addicts who don’t think twice about neglecting their kids while they imbibe, slapping their son around, or torturing him into “becoming” his dead sister. They concocted a whole story about Ryan being shipped off to his Aunt’s to explain the fact that only one child remained in the house.

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If you look closely, you see that the girl called Carrie Anne by her parents in the initial sequence has a larger frame and feet than a typical girl of her age. The rage and brutality of her attack on her parents, who are presented as sober and average caregivers further sell the lie. The viewer was indoctrinated from the beginning to see what Ryan’s parents wanted the world to see. They wanted everyone to see their daughter and decent parenting. Fairly early one memories of Ryan’s childhood and chained up brain-damaged sisters who weren’t damaged after all tell a different story.

Ryan hints that everything is not as it seems when he shows Elissa the tree with a face on it. He tells her everything hides a secret. He and his family share some whoppers.

Why Did Ryan Keep Taking New Girls?

Early on, the viewer sees Ryan caring for his sister in a hidden space in the basement of his house. He keeps her chained and locked up for everyone’s protection. When she attempts to attack her, he sedates her and tries to reason with her. He questions why she keeps trying to hurt him and escape. It’s only later in the film that we realize this is just one of many Carrie Annes he has kidnapped and locked away over the years. After accidentally breaking one girl’s neck in a botched escape, he nabs another from the local college.

Why does he keep taking girls in The House At The End Of The Street? Ryan says it best himself. He needs Carrie Anne. She was as much part of him as himself. His entire identity was wrapped up with hers, thanks to his parent’s abuse. That’s why when he is shown in the final scene in a psychiatric facility, he has a flashback to one of Carrie Anne’s birthday.

The House At The End Of The Street
Courtesy of Relativity Media

Ryan tries to take girls matching his sister’s description, but necessity sometimes requires a little ingenuity, and thanks to colored contacts, he can make a Carrie Anne out of any blond. That single clue more than any other clues in Elissa to what is really happening in the basement. That wasn’t the only clue early on, though. If you watched closely, you see Ryan researching pharmaceuticals on his laptop. He isn’t a medical student, so he was researching meds for his supposed sister. Additionally, on the refrigerator is a child’s drawing of him and his sister on a swingset foreshadowing the story he later tells.

Did Ryan Believe He Was Carrie-Anne?

He knows he isn’t Carrie Anne but needs her to live so he won’t be tormented by his parent’s figurative ghosts or his literal guilt. Ryan never wanted to become his parent’s surrogate daughter. He had no choice then and even less opportunity now. His parent’s abuse has so damaged him; he no longer realizes he doesn’t have to replace his sister. He is a product of his past. As long as Carrie Anne exists, his childhood did not exist, and he can keep it at bay. Without her, he has to become Carrie Anne again. In the final scene, he may be becoming his sister once again. He thinks he has no other option.

Why Are The Locals Afraid Of Carrie Anne?

The story of her brain damage was perpetrated by her parents. Evidently, social services didn’t think to verify the account. After Ryan’s parent’s murders, the story of a feral Carrie Anne roaming the woods circulated in large part due to many of Ryan’s kidnapped girls getting loose. The urban legend that was Carrie Anne was disgusting parenting and unfortunate victims.

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Taking a page from the terrible family dynamics horror trope as in Halloween and Friday The 13th, Ryan was made a killer. His guilt over an accident and his parent’s “punishment” and blame caused him to become unhinged. This suspenseful thriller does an excellent job keeping the viewer engaged with a mix of misdirection and apparent hints. People seldom see the secrets hiding in plain sight. Ryan says, “People don’t notice all the secrets all around them.” He was talking about the tree, but it applies to so much more. The town spent so much time fearing Ryan and Carrie Anne they never saw the damaged child in need of help. No one ever questioned his parent’s story. They also never thought of helping the man he became. The House At The End Of The Street shows it just takes a shift of perspective.