House at the End of the Street
Jennifer Lawrence-starring teen horror/thriller blows it in final reel
Most film fans have heard of the horrors of 'development hell'. How great movie scripts can kick about for years, often getting chopped and changed beyond recognition, if and when they finally make it to production. Release schedules can be just as mysterious, and are often entirely unrelated to when a film is made. Jennifer Lawrence actually filmed House at the End of the Street before mega hit The Hunger Games, and her newly acquired teen-star power has turned HATES (as it has been dubbed on Twitter) into a far bigger release than the film deserves.
Opening with a shocking murder, we jump-cut to ‘Four Years Later’ as Elissa (Lawrence) and her mum (Elisabeth Shue) move in next door. Much of the running time is taken up with high school drama as Elissa gets to know the kooky, cute neighbour (Ryan, played by Max Thieriot). But Ryan has a dark secret, that gets bigger and darker as the film progresses.
It starts promisingly. The first hour is nicely paced with just the right level of intrigue. It’s a bit cheesy, but Lawrence has proved how reliable she is as a young actor, bringing far more class to her role than House merits, even in spite of a naff subplot about her joining a school band. Unfortunately Mark Tonderi never really exploits the tension of any given situation, and in the last 30 minutes we suddenly switch to clichéd slasher territory. You’ve seen every twist and turn before and it’s all played completely straight. A Scream-esque knowing wink would make it all far more palatable. The final reveal is clumsy, with the villain stopping to explain exactly what’s going on, before they spell it out once again in the closing minutes. Even worse, this explanation doesn’t really work, creating far more plot holes and unanswered questions in an attempt to tie everything up.