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House at the End of the Street

by on September 21, 2012
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A plodding, dreary and dull film that shouldn’t even qualify as actual horror, “House at the End of the Street” is a lazy, listless thriller — emphasis on the “er.”

“House” stars rising star Jennifer Lawrence, nominated for an Academy Award in 2011 and star of “The Hunger Games.” Here she plays Elissa, a teen who moves to a quiet town full of secrets … well, kind of, except that all of the secrets are common knowledge and everyone gossips about them constantly.

The big news is that young Carrie Ann (Eva Link) murdered her parents and disappeared, presumably drowned when she jumped off a dam. The only family member left, Ryan (Max Theriot), still lives in the house, which is now in a state of disarray.

Elissa tries fitting in with the cool kids but unfortunately finds them to be rapey, horrible human beings, so she starts cozying up to Ryan, a quiet kid who, it turns out, has a secret of his own, one that has potentially horrifying consequences for Elissa.

Elisabeth Shue plays Elissa’s workaholic mother, a borderline-alcoholic doctor, and Gil Bellows plays the awkwardly placed police officer who takes a liking to her. They each look old and tired in the film and really just get in the way of the film’s main action by participating heavily in the film’s climax.

In fact, most of the main characters look bad in this film. Even Lawrence, by all accounts a beautiful woman, is saddled with gobs of mascara that makes her eyes look sunken and the rest of her sweaty and puffy.

The major failure of “House” is that it markets itself as a straight horror film, but an early twist (then another, larger one later in the film) turns it into a completely different kind of movie altogether, effectively neutering it from a scary horror film to a somewhat less-scary thriller. Fans expecting a ghost-filled spookfest will be quite disappointed (and even the title “character,” the house, isn’t all that scary or even emphasized save for that some of the film takes place inside of it. By all accounts, it’s a perfectly normal place that, if anything, has almost no character).

The scares are mirthless and flailing with often little to no payoff, employing lousy red herrings, jarring “jump-scare” music and drawn-out scares, including one ripping off referencing “The Silence of the Lambs” with a dodgy flashlight that’s agonizingly slow to the point where I almost shouted at the screen, “We all know you’re going to pop out…just do it already!” (By the way, I would recommend against doing this in the theater). There’s not a single moment of true terror to be had in the film.

“House at the End of the Street” is a film where nothing works. The central theme of the absentee parent is, I think, meant to extend to Ryan’s character, but it never fully fleshes itself out, and the thread certainly never works between Lawrence and Shue. Characters come and go, and the film’s overriding message is muddled and confusing.

I disliked “House,” but it’s such a thorough bore I can’t even muster up stronger feelings than that.