A law unto herself – House at the End of the Street review

House at the End of the Street – Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, and Elisabeth Shue. Directed by Mark Tonderai. Rated M. By Richard Haridy.

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Be warned: the titular house in House at the End of the Street is actually a house across the street. This lack of consideration is a reasonably apt summation of the entire film. Single mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) move into a beautiful home in a small forest town. Opposite, in the house they initially believed was unoccupied, lives Ryan (Max Thieriot), a quiet young man who harbours a dark secret. Elissa, of course, begins to fall for the softly spoken Ryan, but when will she discover what he keeps tied up in his basement?

There are the bare bones of a potentially interesting picture here, and despite an obvious final act twist, one gets the distinct impression that at some point this could’ve been a worthy production. Irritatingly, director Mark Tonderai and screenwriter David Loucka show no interest in making anything other than a cynically generic product. When Lawrence puts on the standard horror heroine costume at the one hour mark – a pair of tight jeans and a skimpy white T-shirt – you know things are about to descend into standard ‘psycho killer chases girl around’ mode.

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Run, stab, scream, shoot and shout; all the while embracing every cliché of the genre in a way that comes off as lazy instead of satisfyingly self-aware. It’s made for – and presumably by – people who haven’t ever seen a horror movie. What’s even more frustrating is that its inherent ineptitude doesn’t ever become entertaining in a “this is hilariously horrible” fashion.

Lawrence is undoubtedly a star with her effortless presence, yet she jars here, often appearing to be acting in completely different movie, silently cringing at the embarrassingly idiotic words that are being put into her mouth. It seems a rote career path these days to follow your indie-drama success with a teen horror piece (see Elizabeth Olsen in Silent House). Despite inevitably shoring up a wave of young fans, these things often have little else to offer.  House At The End Of The Street is a dispiritingly pointless exercise in genre machinations.

2/5

House at the End of the Street is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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