Director: Mark Tonderai
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Elisabeth Shue
TV’s “Mythbusters” proved with one fecal-themed experiment that you actually can polish a turd. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman achieved this using a Japanese technique called “dorodango.” The end result of this process, which requires careful attention and patience, is a perfectly round ball of excrement with a glossy finish. It is even at this point that one must handle the spherical scat with care, as it is still quite fragile. What must never be lost in all of this is that, no matter how nice it may look in its completed form, you’re still dealing with an orb of poop.
Elissa Cassidy (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move to a small town, into the house right next door to the site of a grisly murder that took place four years earlier, in which a disturbed young woman killed both her mother and father. That house is now occupied by Ryan Jacobson (Max Thieriot), the son. After killing their parents, Ryan’s sister Carrie Anne is said to have fled into the woods and disappeared. So the legend goes. Whatever the case, the townspeople wish that the house had been demolished because its continued existence combined with its history devalues their property as well. Elissa, whom her mother accuses of always trying to fix broken people, develops a close relationship to Ryan, even as he exhibits classic warning signs that would tell anyone thinking rationally that there’s something more than just odd about this guy.
In an era where the horror genre has become like a skipping record player caught in an endless loop of the same line or phrase of a song, movies that aren’t remakes cashing in on the titles of classics are hard to find. To its credit, “House at the End of the Street” is one that merely recalls the stories from a more creative period. If you haven’t seen “Psycho,” “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane,” “Sleepaway Camp,” or any one of a hundred horror movies which are centered around a character harboring a deep and dark secret, there remains a chance that you might find some of the plot twists in “House at the End of the Street” catching you off your guard. Those coming in already well-versed won’t even find the simplicity of the plot all that shocking, nor the requisite stupidity/clumsiness of its characters. Does the “final girl” always have to trip and fall down when running from the villain? Well, yes, because that’s part of the formula.
That “House at the End of the Street” had to wait for two years after filming was completed for it to be released to the general public is hardly new territory for this genre. Casting a multi-time Oscar nominee in the lead role is also not completely unheard of, although this usually happens either before or after the pinnacle of the actor’s success. Jodie Foster was more than a decade away from her two Oscar wins and was just about to land her first nomination for 1976’s “Taxi Driver” when she starred in “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” (also released in 1976). Jennifer Lawrence has received two nominations, one for “Winter’s Bone” (2010), which was released mere months before filming on “House at the End of the Street” began, and the other for “Silver Linings Playbook” (for which she won) released after “House at the End of the Street.” Her role in 2013’s “American Hustle” has already won her Golden Globe honors and all but assures her of a third Oscar nod… and she’s still in her early 20’s.
Like Foster, Jennifer Lawrence can make a good film great, help turn an already great film into an instant classic, and her presence can also make a bad or otherwise unremarkable film worth saying you’ve seen it once. “House at the End of the Street” is that otherwise bad movie made slightly better by Lawrence’s natural acting ability. Even as everyone else in the movie is either proving that they should seek another line of work, or seem as though they are searching for the nearest “EXIT” sign, Jennifer Lawrence is still putting forth a considerable effort, carrying “House at the End of the Street” on her shoulders. I own a copy for that reason, and that reason alone.