You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

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

  • 'No Safe Spaces' Review: A Doc

    Film Review: 'No Safe Spaces'

    If, like me, you’re an absolutist about the right to free speech, not just the legal letter of it but the stubborn spirit of it (as in: bring on the people I hate the most and let them speak, speak, speak until they’re blue in the face), then when you watch “No Safe Spaces,” a [...]

  • Frozen 2

    ‘Frozen 2’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Animation claims the top spot in spending with “Frozen 2.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $6.29 million through Sunday for 1,157 national ad airings on [...]

  • The Farewell Movie

    'The Farewell's' China Release Delayed

    The long-anticipated release of Awkwafina’s drama “The Farewell” in mainland China has been delayed. The hold-up came just two days before the film’s scheduled outing this Friday. The film, about a Chinese American family who are hiding their aging matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her, was scheduled to be released in China some four months after [...]

  • Adam Driver poses for photographers upon

    Film News Roundup: Adam Driver Honored With SFFILM Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Adam Driver is honored, Robocop will be reborn and Hola Mexico Film Festival and The Montalbán Theatre are teaming for a screening series for potential Oscar nominees. HONORS SFFILM has selected Adam Driver as the recipient of the SFFILM award for acting, formerly the Peter J. Owens Award. Driver, who [...]

  • Paul Downs Colaizzo

    'Perfect Nanny' Movie Adaptation Taps 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Director (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leila Slimani’s critically acclaimed, international bestseller “The Perfect Nanny” — aka “Chanson Douce” — is coming to the big screen. Legendary has closed a deal for Paul Downs Colaizzo to adapt and direct the English-language adaptation. Legendary will produce the pic alongside Pascal Caucheteux of Why Not Productions and Philippe Godeau of Pan-Européenne. The story [...]

  • Sterling K. BrownVariety and Women in

    Sterling K. Brown to Narrate Disney Plus Documentary 'One Day at Disney' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sterling K. Brown is set to lend his voice to the upcoming Disney Plus feature documentary “One Day at Disney,” Variety has learned exclusively. “One Day at Disney” will highlight the people who work on some of Disney’s most beloved stories. The film will highlight 10 specific people and their role at Disney through the lens [...]

  • Mehrdad Oskouei on IDFA Opener ‘Sunless

    Mehrdad Oskouei on IDFA Opener ‘Sunless Shadows’: 'Giving a Voice to Voiceless People'

    Documentary film festival IDFA opened Wednesday with Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei’s “Sunless Shadows,” the latest in a series of films about incarcerated teens in his homeland. Developed with help from the IDFA Bertha Fund, the film takes viewers inside an Iranian juvenile detention center, where a group of underage girls are serving time for very [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content