The House at the End of the Street is a film as lame and derivative as its title suggests, marketed to cinematically challenged teenagers and just about no one else. It's a horror/suspense that's too predictable to be scary and too serious and bland to laugh at.
- Glamour shot
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Elissa. You might remember Lawrence from The Hunger Games earlier this year, or her Academy Award-nominated performance in Winter's Bone in 2010. At first glance, she has a round, unintimidating face, so that for a moment, a teenage girl might think, "Hey, she's just like me." But take her in all at once and it's clear that she's a goddess, carved out of supernatural stone. Girls, you will likely fall short of this level of beauty, and boys, you will never sleep with her. But this is why we watch movies, to pretend.
At the beginning, Elissa and her recently divorced mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) have moved to a sleepy town with a lot of woods between the houses in order to get a "fresh start." Sarah is super MILF-y and she seems to have a good enough relationship with her daughter. If only she were a better mom than a friend and/or didn't always work so late!
Rumors in town abound about the house at the end of the street. Years ago, a girl named Carrie Anne murdered her parents and then absconded into the woods, where it's assumed she later drowned in the river, except they never found the body. Her brother Ryan (Max Thieriot) was conveniently not around at the time of the murders. Now Ryan is college-age and living alone in the house he inherited from his parents. This makes the neighbors really mad, because spooky houses inhabited by orphaned teens drive down their property value, apparently.
There's a handsome rich kid next door named Tucker who has an eye for Elissa and doesn't like guys who still live in the house of their dead parents. After Tucker attempts a PG-13-style sexual assault on Elissa at a house party in broad daylight, she attempts to walk the 10 miles home in the rain and is rescued by Ryan. He tells her he heard her singing in the woods earlier (in some of the worst and most obvious lip synching of recent memory). It's the fantasy of every teenage girl realized. Of course she chooses the brooding, lonely kid who her mother doesn't trust, has just enough facial hair and owns his own home.
That Ryan is harboring a secret in the basement shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. I'll spare you any spoilers, except to say that what happens in the end is tedious, predictable, idiotic and boring. Cars are inexplicably smashed, bones are broken and the villain is revealed. Now our identification shifts to that of a strong, feminine survivor, and we watch Elissa use wit and cunning to get out of a series of life-threatening situations. ("Oh my god, are those tampons in the garbage? But I thought only Ryan lived here"... "What's that pounding in the basement...?")
As far as horror movies go, this one shamelessly borrows from some good ones (The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining and Psycho, to name a few). The filmmakers are banking on the fact that their target audience hasn't seen the classics and isn't expecting much.
For a film like this, it's best to whittle your hopes down to nothing. If you've only come to see Lawrence tied to a chair, chest heaving and sweaty, then your needs will be met. Holy Lord, can that girl wear a tank top.
The House at the End of the Street continues at the Carmike 12.