'House at the End of the Street' is the assembly-line horror flick Jennifer Lawrence will never
have to say yes to again
House at the End of the Street Relativity Media
Director: Mark Tonderai
Screenplay: David Loucka
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Theriot, Elisabeth Shue, Gil Bellows, Eva Link and Nolan
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 41 minutes
Opened September 21, 2012
(out of four)
Frankly, I don't know what I'm meant to gather from the final 10 seconds of House at the End of
the Street. All I know is that it's a reveal of one sort or another. I see three possible
interpretations and I'm leaning toward one of them. The most literal interpretation of the scene
makes no sense whatsoever, so I'm inclined to disregard it. In any case, I just don't know -
which may be the kind of ambiguity the movie is going for (doubtful) or it could just be sloppy
But here's the important part: It doesn't really matter what the film's denouement means. It
functions only as a cheap last-second twist. We realize, after thinking it over for approximately
two seconds, that any way you slice the ending, it would have been more interesting (and a lot
more relevant) if said twist had been incorporated into the larger story, rather than thrown in at
the end. This is what so many movies don't get - they're so eager for the last-second gotcha
moment, they fail to realize how that moment could have been put to better use.
I suppose that's all I can really say without getting into too many details. So we'll leave it for
now. Suffice it to say one key character is, in retrospect, far less intriguing than he or she should
But enough about that. House at the End of the Street begins the way 97 percent of horror
movies begin - with a family moving into a new house. (As a side note, as my mind wandered
during the screening, I wondered exactly how many horror films contain the word "house" in the
title - and, by contrast, how many non-horror movies do. But I digress.) Elissa (Jennifer
Lawrence) is a headstrong 17-year-old whose well-meaning mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue, still a
stone-cold fox) is looking for a fresh start after a recent divorce.
Their new home is a perfect one, but they got a great deal on it because of dropping property
values. No, that's not social commentary you detect - in fact, the neighborhood's value bottomed
out after the grisly murder of a married couple at the hands of their young daughter, Carrie-Ann.
Lucky for Elissa and Sarah, the event
occurred right next door. It's believed that Carrie-Ann drowned after running away the night of
the murder, but her body was never found. Others insist she still lurks in the woods that surround
the town. Hmmmm . . .
The sole survivor of that family is Ryan (Max Theriot), who moved back into the family's home
after his parents' death and has been ostracized by the community ever since.
Until, that is, the new neighbors move in. Elissa, having proven herself far too mature for the
rich phonies from the neighborhood, finds herself drawn more to Ryan - in spite of, or perhaps
because of, his solitude and his pain. Elissa, you see, writes music and plays guitar. This makes
her very deep and sensitive, as well as susceptible to complicated boys who are simply
Neither Elissa's mom nor her classmates seem to approve of this burgeoning flirtation with the
kind, creepy, slightly older recluse. Only Elissa and the warm-hearted sheriff (Gil Bellows) seem
willing to cut Ryan much slack. Whether Ryan ultimately deserves to be cut that slack is a
different question altogether, but the movie makes sure to split it cleanly into two factions - the
sensitive vs. the paranoid. Needless to say, the paranoid wind up kind of being right, although
not necessarily in the ways they expect.
Director Mark Tonderai's attempts to create suspense wind up largely falling flat. He's an able
hand behind the camera, but that's about the extent of it. House ends up looking and feeling like
virtually every other mid-budget teen horror flick.
Lawrence, now a household name after taking the plum role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger
Games franchise, is a major talent who's already got one well-deserved Oscar nomination and is
likely to snag another later this year (for Silver Linings Playbook). As many, many before me
have mentioned, every rising female star has her requisite bad horror flick, and now Lawrence's
is out of the way. (One-hundred percent of House at the End of the Street reviews will mention
this, so I figure I might as well keep the streak alive.) We hope, when it's an actress of genuine
talent, that the horror movie in question will be the exception to the rule. Here, once again we are
disappointed, though unsurprised. But at least we know her days of taking scripts like this one
are (or at least should be) behind her.