In Winter's Bone, moviegoers were introduced to a young actress named Jennifer Lawrence. Her performance resulted in an Academy Award nomination. She's an incredibly talented actress who soon moved onto projects such as X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games. Audiences all around the world became enchanted with her ability to play completely different characters in a wide array of genres. She's able to capture a role and deliver it in a way that not very many actresses are able to do. Lawrence has a certain charm on the silver screen that feels so genuine. It's a mystery as to why Jennifer Lawrence has anything to do with House at the End of the Street, as this is a poorly written horror/thriller that shouldn't have been made.
Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her teenage daughter, Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), move to a new town. They find out that they will be living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. After not getting along with one of the neighborhood boys, Elissa befriends Ryan (Max Thieriot), who lives in the house where his sister killed his parents. Everybody in the town treats him as an outcast due to the nature of his family's death. Elissa soon discovers that the story is far from over, as she learns that everybody has a secret.
The biggest weakness of House at the End of the Street is the screenplay. The story is unbelievably familiar and no attempts were made to tweak it. The characters suffer a similar fate. Whether or not we're supposed to like a character, audiences will be left feeling nothing for them. These characters are generic and uninteresting. The dialogue that the characters share is awkward as can be, making the relationships feel forced. There's an attempt to create a sub-plot that follows Elissa as she joins a "Battle of the Bands" competition, although it doesn't go anywhere. It's suddenly dropped without ever returning to it.
The further you get into this movie, the more silly it becomes. House at the End of the Street isn't scary at all. Instead of creating suspense, there are a lot of jump scares with jarring sound effects. Some of the exact same sudden movements are used multiple times. How many times are moviegoers supposed to jump when somebody runs out from behind a door? It wasn't scary the first, second, or third time it happened. Once the climax is supposed to be taking place, it feels non-existent. There isn't any tension or suspense built up, therefore leaving us without a peak to the film. The "twist" is one of the most predictable endings I've seen in a while. You'll be left shaking your head and rolling your eyes when the credits begin rolling. This movie never becomes exciting, scary, or intense. Audiences at my screening were bursting into laughter during the scenes that were supposed to be potent. I'm surprised that this script received the green light to start production.
The biggest asset House at the End of the Street has to offer is its cast. Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely fine as Elissa. While I'm not too fond of the character, she still manages to bring her charisma to the role. Elisabeth Shue is decent as Sarah. She's believable as a mother struggling to protect her daughter through her teenage years. Max Thieriot delivers an alright performance as the quiet neighbor, Ryan. These actors have been given horrible material, but they manage to pull through.
Director Mark Tonderai utilizes multiple stylistic choices that simply don't work. He takes every opportunity he gets to place visual horror clichés where he can. The shaky handheld-style of filming, the strobe effects, and quick-cut shots. These methods hinder the experience of the film instead of enhancing it. The cinematography is perhaps one of the few visual aspects of House at the End of the Street that I can appreciate. The setting is creepy enough, although it isn't fully utilized. I would have preferred to have seen an eerie atmosphere with actual scares.
There aren't any issues with the cast. The fault lies with writer David Loucka. He's created an absolute mess of a screenplay. Loucka fails to bring a sense of mystery or suspense to any part of the movie. Instead, you'll find yourself laughing during completely unintentionally funny moments. The numerous flaws of this film are far too serious to forgive. House at the End of the Street is a forgettable flick that will leave you thinking how you could have been so much more productive with your time. Skip it.