Being a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence, I am part of the she-can-do-no-wrong club. Coming off of a fantastic award season, resulting in an Oscar for best actress, I thought she was untouchable. Then, I watched House at the End of the Street. Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence is an amazing actress and it’s not subpar acting from her that sunk this ship, it’s pretty much everything else. The film is terribly written, poorly shot and unbelievably not scary at all. This is a shame, seeing as it’s a horror film.
Released in 2012, House at the End of the Street stars Lawrence as Elissa, a teenager with a chip on her shoulder, and Elisabeth Shue as Sarah, her mother. The pair moves into a home in a new town, right next door to the house where a horrific tragedy took place years before. Turns out the only survivor of this family tragedy, the son Ryan, still lives in the house and is basically a recluse due to the fact that everyone in town thinks he’s a freak. The first thing I noticed (and hated) about this movie was how it was written to include virtually no plot or character development. Sure, I know this isn’t an Oscar nominee, but some development would be nice for the audience. Plot and character development tends to aid viewers in connecting with the story and its characters. House at the End of the Street introduces its few key players and instantly gives them stories and characteristics, like a list on the back of a Clue character’s card. Professor Plum: wears glasses, a bit dorky, pining after Mrs. Scarlett. There isn’t any time given to develop these characters or to tell their backstories, they are simply assigned and the movie instantly skips to the middle. Viewers should immediatley identify with these characters and be totally engaged in the film, but it just doesn’t work that way. I found it to be rushed and the cinematography also seemed to skip around abruptly to keep up with the crappy writing. I couldn’t care less about the drama between daughter and mother or feel the sympathy for Ryan that I should have felt. As the movie skipped around from topic to topic, I could feel my mind wandering and disengaging from the screen, which isn’t exactly a recipe for film greatness.
By and large, the most disappointing aspect of this film was that it just wasn’t scary. I’ve seen a lot of horror films, and while not all of them were terrifying in ways that kept me up at night for weeks, most of them still try to be scary. In a world of desensitization, it is difficult to scare everyone, but House at the End of the Street didn’t even try. The overarching storyline wasn’t scary, the villain wasn’t scary, none of the interactions between the villain and anyone else were scary. The only scary thing about the film is why the director felt the need to put Jennifer Lawrence in nearly all white t-shirts and tank tops. I’m used to seeing at least one white tank top on attractive women in horror films, but c’mon, I counted several. Doesn’t young Elissa own anything else to wear? Also, why is it that she’s always glistening with sweat? From what I can tell, it’s not summer where she lives, nor does she live in the desert. It’s amazing how just the simple act of walking into a house and taking a stroll through it can make her skin glisten and glow so nicely. If women everywhere began sweating this easily, now that, would be scary.
Riddled with terrible writing and awkward hopping from scene to scene, House at the End of the Street was a sinking ship even before Lawrence boarded it. Serial killers, like Lawrence, often feel invincible on horror island due to their large numbers. Unfortunately for them, this film is going to knock them down a few notches.
If you liked House at the End of the Street, you might also like Cold Creek Manor, Silent House and Halloween.