Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue. Written by David Loucka. Directed by Mark Tonderai. 14A. 101 min. Opens Sept. 21.
The hopeless horror-movie script that you commit to and film before your career really takes off is like a rite of passage for ascendant actors and actresses. Our latest pledge is Jennifer Lawrence, who will probably laugh off the reviews of The House at the End of the Street by calculating how many walk-in Humidors she can purchase with her payday for the Hunger Games sequel.
Not that Lawrence gives anything less than her best effort in the film. Playing Elissa, a music-savvy Chicago girl relocated to a verdant suburb in the wake of her parents’ divorce, the actress has an effortless credibility, and even gets off a couple of good annoyed-teen quips at her absent-yet-controlling mother (Elisabeth Shue). Lawrence’s hard work pays off in that we don’t want anything too awful to happen to Elissa.
Director Mark Tonderai labours mightily to make it seem like something interesting is going on in this upstate Gothic, but gets no return on his investment and owes stylistic debts all over town. All the shaky camerawork, fuzzy lenses, and stinging musical chords in the world can’t disguise the stupidity and predictability of this story, which actually involves: 1) a dilapidated old house that was the site of a horrible murder; 2) Elissa forming a friendship with the massacre’s squirrelly sole survivor (Max Theriot), who is sensitive and sweet and clearly isn’t hiding anything under the floorboards; 3) a scene where a bad guy who isn’t quite dead springs momentarily to life for one final scare. Its talented star aside, The House at the End of the Street is a movie from the bottom of the barrel; in 10 years, she probably won’t remember making it, and we definitely won’t remember seeing it.