Critic’s rating: 1 star out of 5
Rated R by the MPAA
Directed by Mark Tonderai. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Max Theriot, Elizabeth Shue, Gil Bellows and Nolan Gerard Funk. Opens Fri., Sept. 21 at area theaters.
The marketing for The House at the End of the Street hinges almost exclusively on the presence of Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence in a lead roll. This strategy is appropriate considering she’s the only good thing in or about the movie.
In this horror film, Lawrence plays Elissa — the new girl in town who has a penchant for the damaged boy next door. Though it’s a role requiring little range or depth, Lawrence’s performance seems effortless and is just the right amount of annoying given the general “scream queen” territory she’s treading upon. The boy in question is Ryan (Max Theriot), whose parents were murdered by his younger sister, whose subsequent disappearance has fueled urban legends ever since.
Ryan keeps to himself, and the neighbors treat him like a leper for continuing to live in the house his parents died in (it’s very presence driving down the values of their homes). Elissa doesn’t care for the judgmental neighbors or the overprotective misgivings of her mother (Elizabeth Shue), a doctor whose career has made her mostly absent in Elissa’s life, and she pursues Ryan anyway.
It becomes increasingly clear, however, that there is more to the story of the murder of Ryan’s parents and that Ryan knows more about his sister’s “disappearance” the he initially lets on. Elissa, of course, is clueless until the final act, when she discovers a few clues that reveal (to the audience) a twist that is vaguely reminiscent of Psycho (though I must ardently insist that this film is in no way Hitchcockian). Another Psycho-esque twist is hinted at and revealed in the final moments of the film, but combined with the other major revelation, it raises a few questions that (at least to my mind) aren’t clearly answered. Frankly, stealing from the master of suspense just isn’t enough when the rest of the movie is tedious and looks like it was shot using Instagram. [Editor’s Note: Seriously! In selecting photos for this review I was shocked at how bad the movie looks. Did they rub mud on the camera lens?]
Although the final twists of The House at the End of the Street are decent and not completely predictable, this “horror” movie is mostly boring and not scary — which is saying a lot, since it doesn’t take much to frighten me. Ultimately, The House at the End of the Street twists just aren’t enough to justify sitting though a movie that is almost all ineffective and uninteresting build up.