×

House at the End of the Street

Exploiting star Jennifer Lawrence's newfound fame is the only hope this ill-conceived, poorly executed girl-in-jeopardy venture has of connecting with auds before poisonous word of mouth sets in.

With:
Elissa - Jennifer Lawrence
Ryan - Max Thieriot
Sarah - Elisabeth Shue
Weaver - Gil Bellows
Carrie Anne - Eva Link
Tyler - Nolan Gerard Funk

Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t yet an Oscar nominee or a major franchise headliner when she filmed low-budget thriller “House at the End of the Street” back in summer 2010. Which helps explain the cognitive dissonance in watching the rising star of “Winter’s Bone” and “The Hunger Games” trying to deliver a serious performance at the center of such a schlocky spin on the girl-in-jeopardy genre. Exploiting Lawrence’s newfound fame is the only hope this ill-conceived, poorly executed venture has of connecting with auds before poisonous word of mouth sends potential buyers in search of a more attractive address.

A nasty, hyperactive prologue introduces a homicidal teen massacring her unsuspecting parents one fateful night, before vanishing into the woods to become the stuff of urban legend. Pic then flashes forward four years to begin the story proper: Spunky, big-hearted high school student Elissa (Lawrence) moves with fretful mom Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) to a remote house not too far from the scene of the opening crime. Soon enough, Elissa has befriended the only surviving resident of the spooky old murder house, Ryan (Max Thieriot), the killer’s older brother.

Sarah doesn’t trust the boy she clearly believes is damaged goods, but local lawman Weaver (Gil Bellows) assures her the kid just has a bad rap. As Elissa’s feelings for Ryan quickly blossom from friendship into romance, Sarah’s fears initially seem unfounded. But “House” has numerous twists up its sleeve, which helmer Mark Tonderai (U.K. chiller “Hush”) and scribe David Loucka (last year’s equally ludicrous thriller “Dream House”) dispense to increasingly risible results.

Viewers are soon clued in to Ryan’s secret basement chamber, where it turns out he keeps his infamous sister, Carrie Anne (Eva Link), locked away for her own safety and the safety of others. Except the wily girl keeps finding ways to escape, forcing Ryan to run her down and drag her back before she can attack an unsuspecting Elissa. Meanwhile, Tonderai unleashes a dizzying stream of visual tics (shakycam, Dutch angles, jump cuts) and bellowing sound effects in an attempt to mask the lack of tension in the situations as scripted. For most of the running time, the pic plays closer to a V.C. Andrews melodrama for teen girls curious about sexuality than the sort of Brian De Palma-esque Hitchcock riff that Tonderai seems interested in attempting.

As a result of the pic’s stylistic excesses, even simple conversational scenes between Lawrence and Shue are disorientingly shot and assembled. The two thesps actually look well matched as mother and daughter, and could have forged an intriguing relationship if they weren’t saddled with dialogue like, “Yeah, why do you still live in the house your parents got killed in?” Both actresses do what they can within the confines of the script, though any hope that Lawrence throwing herself into physically demanding action would be viewed as a revelation is as out-of-date as the 2011 copyright. Thieriot has a more difficult time turning his enigmatic loner into anyone Elissa might credibly fall for.

Even when the protracted cat-and-mouse third act appears to have hit rock bottom, a clunky climax and “Psycho”-inspired epilogue prove there’s still room to lower the bar. It’s worth noting that the film’s designated social-media hashtag abbreviates the title to “#HATES,” which, after viewing, reads like either a savvy joke or a cry for help.

Popular on Variety

House at the End of the Street

Production: A Relativity Media release of a FilmNation Entertainment/A Bigger Boat production. Produced by Aaron Ryder, Peter Block, Hal Lieberman. Executive producers, Allison Silver, Sonny Mallhi, Steve Samuels, Anthoni Visconsi II, Dominic Visconsi Jr., Ryan Kavanaugh, Tucker Tooley. Directed by Mark Tonderai. Screenplay, David Loucka; story, Jonathan Mostow.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen), Miroslaw Baszak; editor, Karen Porter; music, Theo Green; music supervisor, Steve Lindsey; production designer, Lisa Soper; art director, Shane Boucher; set decorator, Garren Dunbar; costume designer, Jennifer Stroud; sound (Datasat/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Philip Stall; supervising sound editors, Mark Gingras, John Smith; sound designer, Tom Bjelic; re-recording mixers, Brad Thornton, Jason Perreira; visual effects supervisor, Linus Lindbalk, Tim Carras; visual effects producer, Sean Wheelan; visual effects, Filmgate, Comen VFX; stunt coordinator, Layton Morrison; line producer, Robert Menzies; associate producer, Beatrice Springborn; assistant director, Reid Dunlop; second unit camera, Perry Hoffmann, Michael James Tien; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at AMC Century City 15, Century City, Calif., Sept. 20, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Elissa - Jennifer Lawrence
Ryan - Max Thieriot
Sarah - Elisabeth Shue
Weaver - Gil Bellows
Carrie Anne - Eva Link
Tyler - Nolan Gerard Funk

More Film

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

  • Female Filmmakers in Germany Make Progress

    Female Filmmakers Surge Forward in Germany, But Still Face Obstacles

    Four feature films by German filmmakers screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and three of them were directed by women – Angela Schanelec’s “I Was at Home, But…,” winner of the Berlinale’s best director prize, Ina Weisse’s “The Audition,” and Katrin Gebbe’s “Pelican Blood,” the latter two both starring Nina Hoss. Germany’s Oscar entry this [...]

  • Bull

    Annie Silverstein's 'Bull' Takes Top Awards, Robert Pattinson Starrer 'The Lighthouse' Wins Jury Prize at Deauville

    Annie Silverstein’s feature debut “Bull” swept three awards at the 45th Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize for best first film and the Critics’ Prize. “Bull,” a portrait of a rebellious teenage girl from South Texas, world premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and marks Silverstein’s follow up to her [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content