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.

Popular on Variety

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.

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

  • Harvey Weinstein female juror

    Novelist Who Wrote About Predatory Men Stays on Harvey Weinstein Jury

    A novelist who has an upcoming book about predatory older men in New York will remain on the Harvey Weinstein jury, despite vociferous objections from the defense. Juror #11 showed up to opening statements on Wednesday, and sat through the full day of trial. Weinstein’s defense had argued last Friday that she should be removed [...]

  • Ride Like A Girl

    Australia Box Office Drops 2% in 2019

    Cinema box office in Australia dipped by 2% in 2019 to an annual total of A$1.23 billion, or $841 million, according to data from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia. That was the country’s third highest figure in local currency terms, but it also shows the theatrical industry to be rangebound since 2015. Australian-made [...]

  • Harvey WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein court hearing, New

    Hairdresser Will Be Star Witness at Weinstein Trial

    She was raised on a dairy farm in Washington state. She left home as a teenager, fleeing a troubled childhood. At 25, she came to Los Angeles to become an actress. She went on auditions, got cast in a few commercials — but nothing much beyond that. In recent years, her primary job was cutting [...]

  • Jack Kehoe dead

    Jack Kehoe, 'Serpico' and 'Midnight Run' Actor, Dies at 85

    Jack Kehoe, best known for his roles in the Al Pacino-led crime drama “Serpico” and “Midnight Run,” died on Jan. 10 at a nursing home in Los Angeles. He was 85. The actor suffered a debilitating stroke in 2015, which left him inactive in recent years. Kehoe also appeared in several Academy Award-winning films during [...]

  • The Last Full Measure

    'The Last Full Measure': Film Review

    The story of William Pitsenbarger, a U.S. Air Force Pararescue medic who risked his life in Vietnam to aid his comrades, as well as the decades-later efforts of fellow vets to see him posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, is undeniably moving — which goes a long way toward explaining how Todd Robinson enlisted an [...]

  • The Grand Grandmaster

    Hong Kong and China Box Office to Take Separate Directions at Chinese New Year

    In the more than six months that protest movements have rocked Hong Kong, a whole range of business sectors have become color-coded, as both Beijing-loyal blue elements and yellow pro-democracy forces have weaponized the economy. Companies on the front line include leading bank HSBC, airline Cathay Pacific and even the subway operator MTRC. Effects range [...]

  • Parasite

    'Parasite' Puts Modern Spin on Film's Long History of Haves vs Have-Nots

    Every filmmaker hopes to make a good movie, but sometimes the impact is bigger than expected. Neon’s “Parasite” is one example of a 2019 film hitting a nerve. Writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s film has been praised for its originality and daring shifts in tone. It also has resonance due to its subject matter: the gap [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content