‘House at the End of the Street’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated September 24th, 2012 at 3:01 pm,

jennifer lawrence house end street House at the End of the Street Review

Jennifer Lawrence has come far as an actress these past two years, thanks to her gutsy breakout performance in Winter’s Bone – which snagged her an Oscar nod – as well as her roles in the blockbusters X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games. She even managed to leave an impression while playing paper-thin love interests in such indie titles as Like Crazy and The Beaver, thanks to her livewire presence and bombshell appearance. Lawrence is currently generating awards buzz for her performance in The Silver Linings Playbook, which arrives later this fall.

However, it’s pretty much an unofficial rule that every big-name actor and actress out there has some lackluster horror title on their resume, which they made either before or around the time their Hollywood star began rising. House at the End of the Street has the makings of just that, judging by its unimpressive marketing campaign and delayed release date. But does the film exceed expectations, lifted up by yet another engaging performance from its starlet?

In a word… no.

House at the End of the Street is an underwhelming film that lifts story elements straight from other, superior, works, but fails to do anything interesting or creative with them. David Louka’s screenplay suffers from many of the same problems that plagued his script for last year’s Dream House – including, a cumbersome three-act structure and predictable plot twists that don’t add much to the proceedings. Lawrence does as well as one can reasonably expect – given what she has to work with – but the remainder of the cast proves to be less capable of breathing life into what are, admittedly, weakly-written characters.

The story revolves around divorced nurse Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her teenage musician daughter Elissa (Lawrence), who are able to afford their… well, dream house in an upscale rural town, since it borders an apparently-abandoned home where a girl named Carrie Anne murdered her parents four years earlier. Sarah, however, is not pleased when she learns the property is occupied by the family’s grown son Ryan (Max Thieriot) – a wounded artistic soul who moved back home after his parents were killed – not to mention that crazy Carrie Anne vanished without a trace (nudge, nudge).

Elissa encounters Ryan (after running afoul of Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk), a high school stud who shows his true colors when he drunkenly hits on Elissa) and the two artists are immediately taken with one another, much to Sarah’s further chagrin. It’s not a spoiler to say Ryan has been keeping a lid on some dark secrets, which threaten to harm Elissa as she grows closer and closer to the mysterious boy-next-door.

lawrence shue house end street House at the End of the Street Review

Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘House at the End of the Street’

If you read that synopsis and were left wondering whether House at the End of the Street is a thriller about the dirty truth behind a prosperous town’s shiny veneer – or perhaps a drama about a mother looking for a fresh start with her daughter – or maybe even a Jane Eyre-style tale about an enigmatic man who’s got something to hide – the truth is, it wants to be all that (and more). HATES (as the trailers have dubbed it) clumsily shifts gears moment-by-moment throughout the first two acts, before culminating with an overly-repetitious third act that pours on the goofy horror/thriller cliches like there’s no tomorrow.

Director Mark Tonderai doesn’t do the messy script any favors, as he often seems more interested in experimenting with filmmaking techniques than just telling the story. For example, there are a handful of sequences – such as a brief dinner scene with Sarah and Elissa - shot with unsteady handheld camerawork and hectic editing for no apparent reason. Similarly, there are several beats where Tonderai employs visual trickery (slow-mo/fast-mo, shifting lens focus, Dutch camera angles) in such a way that it calls unnecessary attention to the style. To be fair, the prologue does entertain as a piece of Hammer Horror, while there is a a clever use of POV and lighting during the climax. However, those two instances don’t really fit with the style employed throughout the majority of the film.

Lawrence, as mentioned before, is likable as Elissa, but the character doesn’t have much of a personality. She is defined foremost through her actions and feelings about others for the first two-thirds of the film, before being reduced to the archetypal blonde-in-jeopardy during the last half hour. Sarah, by comparison, has a bit more depth, and Shue does well playing as someone who doesn’t have a clear handle on how to be a responsible parent. Unfortunately, she and Lawrence do not have much screen chemistry as a convincing mother-daughter pair.

lawrence thieriot house end street House at the End of the Street Review

Jennifer Lawrence and Max Thieriot in ‘House at the End of the Street’

Ryan is often characterized through dialogue - Elissa constantly refers to him as being quiet and sweet – but Thieriot fails to communicate much more than what’s apparent on the surface. It’s a challenging role, for sure, as the audience must be able to understand the turmoil bubbling beneath Ryan’s nonthreatening exterior, but it cannot be so apparent that Elissa seems completely oblivious for failing to notice. Thieriot, sadly, is not up for the task – though, it does not help that his backstory ultimately proves to be a half-cooked riff on… well, let’s just say that of a more famous movie troubled man who may or may not live alone.

There are other people who get substantial screen time in House at the End of the Street – like Allie MacDonald as Elissa’s new friend Jillian, or Sarah’s would-be love interest Weaver (Gil Bellow) – but their characters either prove to ultimately be superfluous to the story or serve little purpose beyond moving the plot forward. That’s especially true for the aforementioned Tyler, who mostly ends up being a plot device disguised as a one-note jerk (a thankless role, for sure).

House at the End of the Street marks another overly-ambitious effort from Louka to tackle multiple genres within the same script. The end result is a film that borrows so liberally (and strangely) from other movies that it could have been kind of fascinating to watch, but due to confused direction and a mishmash of acting, it’s ultimately kind of bland and forgettable. Unless you really believe getting to see Jennifer Lawrence in a tanktop for the majority of a film is worth the price of admission, this one’s a rental at best.

If you’ve seen the film and want to discuss it – head over to our House at the End of the Street Spoilers Discussion, please.

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House at the End of the Street is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5
(Okay)

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29 Comments

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  1. I find her to be a very average actress at the best of times.

    • I agree she was the weakest in first class and a times during the hunger games her facial expressions were off.

      • What facial expressions? She has none.

  2. Jennifer Lawrence has a real world hotness about her
    possessing the innocence of the girl next door who
    then later grew up only to invade your dreams.

    • she looks odd to me, especially her eyes.

  3. Jennifer Lawrence looks like a real ghost in that first photo.. lmao

  4. I had low expectations to begin with but to read that HATES (seriously, how corny is that?) is written by the same guy who wrote the total mess of a film Dream House lowers them to bottom of the rung levels.
    I may even skip it on cable now.

  5. Jennifer Lawrence is severely overrated

  6. What a shame. I had some kind of hope on this movie but I guess it doesn’t sound all that good. They just don’t make horror movies like they used to anymore

  7. Does she at least get NEKED in this movie?..if not then I’ll pass on this one… lol

    • Sorry to disappoint you but… no she doesn’t. :/

  8. btw make sure you all tune into my PPV fight tomorrow night in Toronto at UFC 152..I promise I won’t disappoint!!

  9. I won’t even rent this movie..although I will see it at some point at one of my buddies I’m sure. Crud horror movies are easy to find.

  10. What the F was up with the face in the tree, because I didnt see any face. Her mother didnt see a face either and she cried. Does that mean your crazy if you saw the face in the tree?

    • I agree, I didn’t see any face and stared at it for like a whole minute and didn’t see S***. I think it means that there was never a face, he just thought there was one cuz he was mental. She probably agreed with him cuz she wanted to make out with him. When the mom said she didn’t see anything, it means that she sees reality, and she cries because she can see the truth, or because she misses the mental Ryan. Its all really confusing

      • But before he even tells her that there is a face, she says herself that there is a face so how would she be able to just go along with it?

  11. Can someone just tell me the ending please. I’m about to go watch it and I’m very afraid! I can’t watch scary movies without knowing the ending!
    Thanks guys!

  12. I was very disappointed with this film and this reviews pretty much sums up why for me. I agree here. Not worth £8.60.

  13. What a load Of absolute s***!!!!!!!!!

  14. Pathetic !!!!!!!!!!!! Joke !!!!!

  15. I absolutely loved the film. I expected this to be a horror film, not a murder/thriller type and it was pleasantly surprising.

  16. maybe the movie is bad and all… but your review is worst!!! sorry but couldn’t finish reading it!!!

  17. Can someone tell me why they mom is calling brian, Carrie Anne at the bday party? He obviously doesn’t want to be called that. I missed something.

    • Its ryan not brian, and he was monarch programmed into acting like Carrie Anne. Monarch programming is trying to psychologically control your victim so they do what you want. The bday party was after Carrie Anne died, and they forced him to dress up as C.A. so she could continue to “live”. They abused him for so long and forced him to be C.A. that he eventually lost it and killed them.

      • So he’s Carrie Anne after all that??? I’m like omgimscared. I can’t watch horror movies ALONE without knowing what I’m in for lol

    • Really? You didn’t get the whole movie then … they called him Carrie Anne bc they were making him be HER after she died …

  18. this was a pretty good movie. if you really want to be scared though, dont watch the preview, it gives away some of the jumpy moments, i hate when they do that. it has a nice twist, and some unexpected turns. you have to really pay attention throughout the movie to sum it all up at the end though, so pay close attention.

  19. I seriously didn’t see a face in the tree either, but if you look at the scene where they are about to leave … I thought that I saw an eye when I paused it? I dunno …

    • You have to turn your head at a 45 degree angle to the left. The face looks like a smile emoticon made out of dots. Or I’m just crazy :-)

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