By Jessica Delfanti | September 21, 2012
Director: Mark Tonderai
Writer: David Loucka, Jonatahan Mostow
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue
Earlier this year, viewers were treated to a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth in the vastly appreciated Cabin in the Woods. It is not uncommon for smaller scale niche films to hitch a ride with their rising stars on the promotional track, but it is essential that the film be able to back up the star’s brightness. Mark Tonderai’s House at the End of the Street relies heavily on its star, Jennifer Lawrence, to deliver an entertaining if not enthralling horror. House follows Elissa (Lawrence) and her mother (Elisabeth Shue) who move into a beautiful, rustic home tucked into the woods. Their new start is quickly complicated when Elissa gets involved with the town pariah, Ryan (Max Thieriot), the sole survivor of a brutal domestic murder.
While House follows most of the usual horror-genre rules, it contains two unique and powerful elements. Most important of the two is Lawrence. The up and coming actress carries the film with a signature feminine grace and powerful intensity that makes her a fantastic Katniss in The Hunger Games. Tonderai shoots her up close, so you can see her freckles, her shoulders, little parts of her body that are touched with a real-woman beauty and strength. Lawrence’s horror heroine may make many of the same mistakes as the squealing waifs we are familiar with from the genre, but she plays it all with a feline energy that adds a particular tension. This is not a woman to let herself be taken, hurt, or ruined.
The second element that sets the film apart is a unique and very successful twist. Viewers that have previously seen the extended trailer for House will assume that they have already guessed the twist, but such confidence is misplaced. Indeed, the misleading trailer is a clever trick to catch an audience unexpecting, but the plot’s effect should stand up even for those that walk into the theater with no previous knowledge. Unfortunately, these two aspects are not enough to give the film the kick it needs to stick with us after the credits roll. While there are a finite amount of “scares,” these come on wings of horror cliches that are laughably obvious. Viewers with the humor to appreciate the bad with the good will find House to be a fun film, and definitely worth a watch. Even if it is just to see a pre-Hunger Games Katniss.