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The Ending Of House At The End Of The Street Explained

Despite being filmed in 2010, the thriller House at the End of the Street wasn't released until 2012. When it went into production, its star, Jennifer Lawrence, was an up-and-coming young actress. By the time it finally came out, she was an Oscar nominee and headlining The Hunger Games.

The movie centers on Elissa (Lawrence) and her mother, Sarah (Elisabeth Shue), who move down the street from a house that was the site of a horrific double homicide. When Elissa becomes close with reclusive Ryan (Max Thieriot), who lives in the titular house at the end of the street, she discovers more than she wants to know about what really happened there.

Despite being a box office success, no doubt helped by Lawrence's meteoric rise between the film's production and release, the movie was panned by critics, but it has since had a resurgence in popularity. At the time of writing, it was in the top ten most popular movies on Netflix. This is likely due to the film's shocking and twist-filled ending, which we're going to break down in detail.

Elissa learns more about the tragedy at the House at the End of the Street

After Elissa and Sarah arrive at their new house, they get debriefed by the locals on a rather juicy piece of lore. Their neighbor, Ryan, had a sister named Carrie Anne, who had serious mental health issues. She murdered both of their parents, and then fled into the woods, where she presumably still lives.

When Elissa gets closer to Ryan, he delves deeper into the story. Carrie Anne's psychosis was the result of a traumatic brain injury she suffered after falling off a swing set while playing with him. He blames himself both for his sister's condition and his parent's death. Elissa takes pity on him, and their relationship deepens.

A scene toward the middle of the film, however, hints that there is something more sinister going on at Ryan's house. Ryan takes Elissa to sit in front of a tree on their property, and tells her, "I remember my mom sitting here, and telling me that everything has a secret." He then instructs her to look closely at the tree, and she realizes there is a face in the pattern in the bark. This was a fitting lesson, as, by the end of the movie, Elissa learns that Ryan, himself, has more than a few secrets of his own.

Ryan's secret is revealed in House at the End of the Street

Early on in the movie, we learn part of Ryan's secret. Despite the town believing that Carrie Anne went feral and is living in the woods, it's revealed that Ryan is keeping his sister in the basement of their home, where she's locked in and sedated to control her violent tendencies. 

At one point, Carrie Anne escapes and attempts to run to Elissa's house. She's nabbed by Ryan, who brings her back to the basement. Later on in the movie, however, she escapes again. This time, she grabs a kitchen knife on her way out of the house. She runs toward a car parked somewhere down the road, where two teens are making out. The girl sees a flash of Carrie Anne and gets nervous, but when her boyfriend checks, she's nowhere to be found.

That's because Ryan has already reached her and restrained her. Unfortunately, Carrie Anne struggles so hard to get away that Ryan breaks her neck, killing her. Ryan solemnly puts his sister's body in the trunk of his car. This would seem to be the end of the sibling psychodrama, but the film still has a few twists in store for the viewers.

Elissa discovers the actual truth about Carrie Anne

At the end of the film, Elissa finds herself at Ryan's house. She stumbles upon the secret room where Ryan kept Carrie Anne. Inside, she finds Ryan restraining a young woman. He tells her that this is Carrie Anne, and asks her to wait upstairs. While she does, Elissa finds a package of blue colored contact lenses, which Elissa realizes Ryan is using to make the woman in the cellar look like his sister, who had blue eyes.

When Ryan comes upstairs, he realizes that Elissa has figured out that the women in his basement isn't Carrie Anne, and knocks her out. When she comes to, Ryan reveals to her that Carrie Anne didn't kill their parents. In fact, she died during the accident on the swing set. It was Ryan who killed their parents, after suffering years of abuse because they blamed him for his sister's death. They even began dressing him up as Carrie Anne to try and replace the daughter they lost. This leads to the final revelation, that the Carrie Annes he's been keeping in the basement were kidnapped women who he made up to look like his sister. 

After an intense struggle, Elissa escapes from Ryan, who is sent away to a mental institution. Later, we see her staring at the same tree with the face in it that he showed her earlier. Elissa clearly now understands the importance of the lesson Ryan's mother taught him as a child: Sometimes, you have to really look at something for a few moments before its true nature reveals itself to you.