House at the End of the Street: Jennifer Lawrence juvenilia

September 23, 2012

House at the End of the Street
Grade: 74
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows and Elisabeth Shue (Sarah).
Director: Mark Tonderai
Rating: PG-13, for violence, sexual situations and language
Running time: 101 minutes

By Stephen Holden of the New York Times

The decrepit structure that gives the risible House at the End of the Street its title is a gloomy, seemingly unoccupied home that has remained vacant since a mommy and a daddy were murdered there by their daughter, who was supposedly brain-damaged in an accident.

Its bad vibes have lowered local real estate prices, allowing the newly divorced Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her baby-faced 17-year-old, Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), to move into the woodsy suburban neighborhood.

One night a light flashes in a window of this chamber of horrors. Sarah learns that Ryan (Max Thieriot), the murderer’s reclusive brother, who was presumed drowned, has recently assumed occupancy.

Before long this polite, sad-eyed boy picks up Elissa in his car during a sudden rainstorm and delivers her home safely. A tentative romance develops between them, even though the watchful Sarah, a former high school wild girl with a history of bad parenting, forbids them to be alone together.

At a certain point this would-be shocker suddenly jerks into high gear and becomes a blatant, incompetent rip-off of Psycho. The film’s director, Mark Tonderai (Hush), and screenwriter, David Loucka (Dream House), working from a story by Jonathan Mostow (Surrogates), have concocted an unwieldy hybrid of that Hitchcock classic and standard teenage horror films.

The baddies include a clique of spoiled boys who torment the outcast Ryan until he lashes back. The main goody is a friendly local policeman who has eyes for Sarah and is a sitting duck once he enters this stand-in for the Bates Motel, toting a defective flashlight.

Once the action kicks in, “House at the End of the Street” turns into a choppily edited, poorly timed mess with little continuity, overloaded with aural shocks in a desperate attempt to compensate for its minimal suspense.

The movie was completed before Winter’s Bone, the film that put Lawrence on the map.


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