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Movie Review: "House At The End Of The Street"

Lindsay Dale |
September 22, 2012 | 11:26 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

You know a horror movie is really bad when you want it to stop trying to be a psychological thriller and instead revert to standard-issue, slasher-flick form.

In theory, “House at the End of the Street” sounds promising, if only because it stars Jennifer Lawrence, the Oscar-nominated and (usually) incredibly

Jennifer Lawrence tries to escape the humiliating mess that is "House at the End of the Street." Courtesy of Left Hand Horror.
Jennifer Lawrence tries to escape the humiliating mess that is "House at the End of the Street." Courtesy of Left Hand Horror.

appealing star of “Winter’s Bone” and “The Hunger Games.”  In practice, the film is just a mess.  The acting – including Lawrence’s – is terrible, the one-dimensional characters make unfathomable decisions, and the clichés are as hackneyed as the bodies of the parents whom their daughter Carrie Anne Jacobson brutally murdered.

The story begins when Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move from Chicago to a woodsy, secluded town to start a new life.  It follows that said woodsy, secluded town was naturally home to a tragedy in which brain-damaged Carrie Anne murdered her parents and then disappeared.  In a shocking twist of events, however, Elissa and Sarah didn’t actually move into the creepy house itself; they moved next door.  Therefore this film is very different from all the other haunted-house movies where people get possessed and/or killed.

Sarcasm aside, Elissa quickly befriends Ryan (Max Theriot), the last surviving member of the Jacobson family and Carrie Anne’s brother.  Ryan is a sweet, sensitive loner who keeps to himself and who has a beard, and it comes as no surprise that Elissa is attracted to him.  Unfortunately, though, Ryan has a huge flaw that most women would consider a deal breaker: he is keeping his supposedly dead, murderous sister locked in their basement, and she really likes to escape and wreak havoc on blonde, Oscar-nominated neighbors who try to hook up with her brother.

The movie tries its hardest to be a psychological thriller by focusing on Elissa’s relationship with Ryan and on how Ryan’s family tragedy has affected him.  But between the remarkably stunted dialogue (“Your sister killed your parents,” Elissa informs Ryan when they meet for the first time, just in case he forgot), the lack of chemistry between the two leads (Theriot is neither a Gale nor a Peeta), and the bland characters themselves, both the romance and the film’s attempt at character depth fall flat.

Another major moviemaking misstep lies in the characters’ horrendous decision-making, which reflects huge screenwriting gaps.  Why would Ryan keep Carrie Anne in his house and endanger the neighborhood instead of checking her into a mental asylum?  And, once Elissa finally gains knowledge of the fact that her boyfriend is harboring a fugitive killer, why would she actively go try to find Carrie Anne?  Most importantly, why did Jennifer Lawrence agree to do this movie?

These are questions that will never be answered.  In the meantime, it would have been nice to see some actual horror-movie action, possibly in the form of Carrie Anne pursuing Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk), the douchebag who started a “Famine Relief Group” as an excuse to party, or Jillian (Allie MacDonald), the trashy girl who threw up at said Famine Relief Group.  Alas, we don’t get to see enough of these mildly interesting characters, and we see way too much of Elissa and Ryan brooding together.

This probably goes without saying at this point, but “House at the End of the Street” is not at all frightening.  Aside from a few jump-out-at-you scares, the movie is more likely to put viewers to sleep than to keep them on the edge of their streets.  The “surprise” twist at the end will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever seen a horror movie before, but its resolution will leave many viewers unsatisfied.

If you’re searching for some true scares, try “Psycho” or one of the many Hitchcock movies “House at the End of the Street” is trying so desperately to emulate.  Viewers with more modern tastes should check out “The Ring,” “The Grudge,” or the remake of “When A Stranger Calls” – but everyone should stay away from “The House at the End of the Street.”  And that includes you, Jennifer Lawrence.

"House at the End of the Street," was released nationwide on Sept. 21.

Reach reporter Lindsay Dale here.


 

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