House at the End of the Street (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence Enters the Horror Biz in “The House at the End of the Street”

When Louisville’s own Jennifer Lawrence releases a new horror film right at the beginning of the haunt season, we here at Louisville Halloween pretty much have no choice but to give it a peek. The 22 year old Louisville born and raised beauty is one of the most in demand young actresses in Hollywood, already appearing in the big budget blockbusters, “X-Men: First Class” (2011) and “The Hunger Games” (2012). “The House at the End of the Street” is her first foray into Scream Queen territory.

Actually, Lawrence’s character in “The House at the End of the Street” doesn’t do a lot of screaming. She plays high school student, Elissa, as a strong willed, independent thinker who more often than not faces danger head on instead of shrieking and running from it. Jennifer Lawrence isn’t just a striking beauty. The lights are clearly on behind the eyes, and here she gives a performance that’s far above the material she’s given to work with.

You would think that anyone who had ever browsed the Horror Section at a video store and seen titles like “Last House on the Left,” “Last House on Dead End Street,” “Last House in the Woods” and “House by the the Cemetery,” would know better than to move anywhere near an abandoned house where bad things have supposedly happened, especially if said house sits at the end of the block!

Alas, characters in these kinds of films never learn, so Lawrence and her mom, Elisabeth Shue (“The Karate Kid” (1984)), move into a house right next to a National Park to be at peace with nature. There’s nothing else around for miles. Well, except for the HOUSE OF HORRORS next door.

Cough, cough. Excuse me. Where was I? My Alzheimer’s starts acting up when I think about Elisabeth Shue now playing the parents of the young stars of today. Damn, I’m getting old.

Oh yes, they move right next door to a house where four years prior a mentally disturbed young girl apparently murdered her parents which is now occupied by the victims’ surviving son. Although the entire town shuns the creepy young lad, Lawrence befriends him and as the two get closer, dark secrets are uncovered and the specter of death creeps up from behind.

Actually, “The House at the End of the Street” more closely resembles a darker episode of the “ABC After School Specials” from the 1970’s than it does a horror film. So much of the running time deals with dysfunctional families and teenagers with “issues” that by the time anything remotely “scary” happens, most of the audience will have likely fallen asleep only to be awoken by a stinger on the film’s soundtrack signaling, “Wake up! Something is actually happening!”

There are shades of Virginia C. Andrews (“Flowers in the Attic”) in the screenplay, and maybe even a little Edgar Allan Poe‘s “The Fall of the House of Usher” if you’re being generous, but I’m more reminded of an obscure TV movie from 1974 called “Bad Ronald.” None of these comparisons are spoilers, by the way. This film telegraphs its twists so far in advance that you don’t have to worry about having anything spoiled here. The movie does it for you!

Our beloved Jennifer Lawrence has nothing to be ashamed of or to worry about. “The House at the End of the Street” is just a pit-stop on the way to the next “Hunger Games” sequel and beyond. It’s not truly terrible, just utterly forgettable. This one is a RedBox rental all the way. It will be available on RedBox on Feb 5, 2013, click here to check it out!

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