“House at the End of the Street,” written by David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow (story), directed by Mark Tonderai, 101 minutes, rated PG-13.
Jennifer Lawrence has been nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in “Winter’s Bone.” She’s been an indie sensation in Drake Doremus’s “Like Crazy,” a comic book icon in “X-Men: First Class,” and portrayed one of young adult literature’s most beloved characters as Katniss in “The Hunger Games.” But is she a scream queen?
Lawrence takes a stab at horror with “House at the End of the Street,” an attempt to blend “Twilight” with a pinch of YA-infused “Psycho.” The film opens with a double homicide, as a disturbed teenage girl named Carrie Anne (Eva Link) stabs her parents to death on a dark and stormy night. Elissa (Lawrence) and her mother (Elizabeth Shue) move in next door shortly thereafter.
The town is still restless from the murders, with rumors flying around that Carrie Anne, who reportedly drowned after the killings, is actually living within the woods of the community, and even more rumors surrounding Ryan Jacobs (Max Thieriot), the surviving son who has taken residence in the house after his parents’ deaths.
Elissa, of course, is drawn to the broody Ryan. Apparently, no teenage girl can resist broodiness. But Ryan has a secret. Carrie Anne is, in fact, alive, and Ryan has been keeping her locked up in the basement to protect his murderous sister and to protect the community, which is still on edge and still at risk. But Carrie Anne frequently escapes from her prison, and her primary target just happens to be her new neighbors.
The horror here doesn’t come from otherworldly creatures, demons or shadowy haunts hiding in a darkened house, but from people. There’s something to be said about a horror movie that makes a conscious effort to avoid the pitfalls of trends in the genre, such as “torture porn” like the “Saw” series, or the faux documentary style a la “Paranormal Activity” or even “The Blair Witch Project.”
However, “The House at the End of the Street” isn’t smart enough or cerebral enough to really to get inside your mind and stay there. It tries to meet its audience somewhere in the middle, compromising with a few cheap jumps, a teenage love story worthy of the CW network, and some rather weak twists.
As for Lawrence, this certainly isn’t her best work. In fact, it’s probably her weakest to date. But, because of the high expectations she’s set with her incredible body of work thus far, every move she makes is going to be scrutinized and criticized by movie-goers and Hollywood insiders. To that, I say, “eh.” She’s insanely talented, and “House at the End of the Street” is just a tiny bump in the road of what will be a long and celebrated career.