Contrary to what one might believe before watching a movie entitled “House At the End of the Street,” which, ironically, didn’t bother to prominently feature a particular house or a street, there were redeeming factors that made the movie almost watchable. Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives by a pretty wide margin.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as a teenager who has moved into a new area with her single mother. She befriends a young man whose parents were murdered by his disturbed sister—because who doesn’t want to hang out with the unsmiling recluse still living in the house in which his parents were brutally bludgeoned to death? Creepy things begin to happen, predictable horror movie formulas begin to unfold and plenty of startling moments are doled out, although nothing frightening truly sticks with the viewer.
“House At the End of the Street” struggles on many important levels on which horror movies have historically struggled. The writing is painfully bad. The plot progression is clumsy and forced. The acting is mostly wooden, although Lawrence is at least mostly capable of looking scared at the proper times.
But the biggest problem with “House At the End of the Street” is the twist. Not the twist itself but rather that, in a movie this formulaic, it’s obvious that there is going to be a twist, and given the movie’s inability to develop characters in any kind of meaningful way, the twist could only happen with one character. An analytical viewer will pick up on this quickly, and although parts of the twist remain mysterious (indeed, parts remain obtuse well after the movie finishes), the main gist of who is good (basically three people) and who is bad (everybody else in the entire movie) can be deduced after the first half hour.
The most interesting theme “House At the End of the Street” presents is a complete disregard for a viewer’s innate desire to cheer for the underdog. Hollywood has conditioned us to cheer for the underdog and that the underdog is inherently worth the cheers. “House At the End of the Street” manages to challenge this rather basic idea, albeit in a clumsy, heavy-handed way.
But “House” won’t (and shouldn’t) attract much of an audience, mostly due to its inaccessibility. It won’t appeal to horror buffs, who will see the lack of true scares as a weakness. It won’t attract a casual audience because it’s too startling. It won’t attract gore fans because the producers were spectacularly careful to avoid an “R” rating. The only group that might be attracted to this movie would be fans of Lawrence’s performance in “The Hunger Games,” much like Harry Potter fans were attracted to Daniel Radcliffe’s excursion into to the horror/thriller genre in “The Woman in Black.”
Although less worthwhile horror movies have been released in the past few years, “House at the End of the Street” fails to deliver enough worthwhile content to warrant the price of admission.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars