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Review: 'House at the End of the Street' is more angst than chills

Jennifer Lawrence stars in what is supposed to be a horror film. So why all the teen melodrama?

September 21, 2012|By Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
  • Max Theriot and Jennifer Lawrence star in "House at the End of the Street."
Max Theriot and Jennifer Lawrence star in "House at the End of the Street." (Relativity Media )

Thanks to the runaway success of "The Hunger Games" and her Oscar nomination for "Winter's Bone," Jennifer Lawrence is one of the top stars of her generation and should theoretically have her pick of projects. So what could be so bad about a new Jennifer Lawrence movie that its distributor opts to keep it away from critics and release it with minimal ad support? Please, allow "House at the End of the Street" to answer that question.

Directed by Mark Tonderai from a script by David Loucka based on a story by Jonathan Mostow, the film stars Lawrence as a young woman who has moved with her mother (Elisabeth Shue) to a secluded, wooded small town. Their new home is a bargain because of its proximity to the site of a grisly double murder in which a young girl killed her parents and then disappeared.

Lawrence's Elissa soon befriends the only remaining member of the family, a brooding, bestubbled young man (Max Thieriot) now, bizarrely, living alone in the crime-scene house.

For much of its running time, the film is more teen melodrama than horror-suspense flick, with huge swaths of time given to moping about boys and the difficulty of fitting into a new environment. Its final act features the requisite surprise twists that raise more questions than could possibly be answered, leaving behind any pretense at plausibility.

Lawrence's natural, disarming screen presence is ill-suited to something as mannered and labored as "House at the End of the Street," and at moments it's as if she freezes up, unable to simply throw on a scared-face for no good reason. She deserves better material than this, and audiences do too.

mark.olsen@latimes.com

'House at the End of the Street'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Playing: In general release


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