Editor’s warning: Mild spoilers below. In case you care about that sort of thing.
After blowing up this past spring starring in the smash hit The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence makes her return to the big screen in House at the End of the Street. In this horror film, Elissa (Lawrence) moves to a new town with her mom, Sarah (Elisabeth Shue). The movie revolves around her relationship with her neighbor Ryan (Max Thieriot), whose parents were murdered by his sister, Carrie Anne, when they were younger. While providing the occasional moment of fright and tension, House at the End of the Street ultimately falls short in delivered the psychotic, heart pounding thriller that the trailer leads it to be.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is it’s build up, which takes far too long. The first hour of the film builds the struggling relationship between Elissa and Sarah, while also slowly introducing the mysterious Ryan. We find out fairly early on that despite the neighborhood thinking that the sister has died, she is actually locked in the basement of the house where she murdered her parents. By keeping her existence a secret shared only by Ryan and the audience, it limits the possibility of terror that could be felt by more characters. As a result, the film stays focused on the main three characters, only bringing in ancillary neighborhood characters from time to time.
In addition, the few exciting moments in the first hour of the film revolve around Ryan trying to prevent Carrie Anne from escaping, rather then having her loose, hiding in the woods, prodiving the cheap yet necessary thrills that the crowd needs for a movie like this. The last half hour of the film picks up, with a few twists that I won’t spoil here. House at the End of the Street falls into the classic trap of setting up the horror too much, leaving us wanting more, but not in a good way. Had they pushed the envelope earlier in the film, the stakes would have been much higher, and the viewers would have been more on edge.
In the end, the film’s biggest problem was that it spent too much time on the human side of it, and less time on the psychotic presence that we were expecting coming in. With the exception of the opening scene, the film hardly showed any actual horror or heart pounding scenes until more then halfway through. Once the action actually got going, the movie was rather enjoyable, but there were still a few scenes that were intended to draw gasps of shock, but rather drew rounds of laughter from the silliness of it.
We give House at the End of the Street 2.5 out of 5 stars, because the second half of the film saved it from being a complete disaster.