Postponing "House at the End of the Street" from April to September guaranteed a bigger audience - to match actress Jennifer Lawrence's burgeoning fame - but not a better movie.
She emerges with her dignity intact but the horror movie (it fancies itself a psychological thriller) looks low budget and underpopulated, springs a couple of surprises that should be spine-tingling but are not, and drops hints about characters' actions and backgrounds without following through. It resorts to some clumsy filmmaking, as when the camera cuts to an electrical box and then away and then back before an attempt to kill the lights.
2 stars = Mediocre
- Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue.
- Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material.
"House at the End of the Street" is where the outcast Ryan (Max Thieriot) lives, four years after his sister apparently killed their parents.
When a divorced woman (Elisabeth Shue) and her 17-year-old daughter, Elissa (Ms. Lawrence), move from Chicago and rent the house next door, they hear stories about the girl and how she drowned but her body was never found. And how the urban legend is that she lives in the nearby woods.
Elissa befriends college student Ryan, even as her mother cautions her about spending time alone with him. "Just because you were some wasted slut in high school doesn't mean I'm going to be," the teen tells her mother. She works nights at a nearby hospital and befriends a police officer (Gil Bellows) who seems to be the only cop in town.
But the house at the end of the street harbors more than its share of secrets, as the newcomers and others soon discover.
"House," directed by Mark Tonderai and written by David Loucka who wrote "Dream House" starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, lucked out with Ms. Lawrence. She had starred in "Winter's Bone," a movie that earned her an Oscar nomination, but had yet to be cast in "The Hunger Games" when hired for "House."
The movie was shot in 28 days in Ottawa, which cheated for an unnamed suburb of Pennsylvania. None of that would matter if the story weren't so dependent on cheap tricks or outlandish twists and the mom's misplaced prediction: "I think this place is going to be really good for us."
You know what that means for them. And us.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.