Escaping the crime-ridden streets of their Chicago neighborhood, where shootings are a daily occurrence, Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) head to an idyllic small town somewhere cool and forested. There, they move into a house entirely too large for a single-parent income, but they’ve gotten a nice deal on the rent due to a horrific event that occurred at the house at the end of the street.
Years before, a young girl named Carrie Anne went crazy and brutally murdered her parents. Hence, the rent for all the other houses in the neighborhood is really cheap. The only resident in murder house is Ryan (Max Thieriot), who happens to be a dreamy, damaged, brooding college boy that only the love of a high school girl can cure, or so Elissa hopes.
As if it wasn’t weird enough to move from the big city to an upscale suburb, move away from all your friends, and live next door to the murder house, there’s also the fact that creepy things keep happening. And it all seems to stem back to that murder so many years ago. The local rumour mill says that Carrie Anne is still alive and living in the woods. As Elissa learns more about the horrors of the past, she gets closer and closer to uncovering the horrors of the present.
Jennifer Lawrence has a great look, but not one that leaves her feeling out of place. She looks like a girl you’d see out on the street, not like some Hollywood actress type. That’s the crux of her appeal, I think (and also why she has so many body-shaming detractors). She’s appealing in this, and expressive enough to carry the movie when she has to. Max Thieriot is good, given his role. Elizabeth Shue doesn’t get a lot to do, though. This is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie all the way through. She’s not quite as adept at the task as Elisabeth Olsen was in Silent House, but she’s given more of a relationship drama to muck through rather than straight-out psychological horror.
That’s one of the flaws of the script from David Loucka. It seems to be running in slow motion for the bulk of the movie’s opening scenes, and it doesn’t really pick up any speed or get weird enough until the last third of the film. Once the movie unveils its first big twist, it gets more interesting, but it seems to take forever to get truly creepy, and I had difficulty keeping my mind on the film. House At The End Of The Street is very drama-heavy, but it’s not quite elegant drama.
Still, director Mark Tonderai does his best to bring some liveliness to the shenanigans, and he shoots his action sequences in interesting ways, even if he does do that terrible jittery camera style that is so popular these days. Fortunately, he tones it down quite a bit when things other than running are happening, so not a lot is lost in the transitions. The movie could definitely stand to lose a good 10 minutes of run time, and there’s plenty of fat to cut, but for the most part it looks fine and makes sense despite its glacial pace.
Despite being something of a mess tonally – it’s not sure if it wants to be a horror flick, a drama, or a teen romance, and it tries for all of the above – House At The End Of The Street is still moderately entertaining. Lawrence is nothing if not watchable, the sort of realistic-looking teenage girl that you don’t seen in a lot of movies aimed at teenagers. She’s certainly more of a role model for girls than other stars of her generation: Lawrence is never not spunky, smart, and energetic on screen.
It’s just a shame she doesn’t have a better showcase for her talents.
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