Whether fans are praising Jennifer Lawrence’s incredible performance as clever and cynical Kate in Don’t Look Up, or feeling nostalgic about her time as Katniss in The Hunger Games, the actress has a great reputation. It feels impossible to think of a bad Jennifer Lawrence movie as Lawrence is so talented and amazes audiences, whether she’s appearing in a dark comedy or drama. But back in 2012, Jennifer Lawrence starred in a thriller that wasn’t popular, and that stands out among the rest of her credits.
The House at the End of the Street seems like quite the departure from what Lawrence had done up until that point. It would seem like an odd pivot for Lawrence to star in this dull thriller after the gripping Winter’s Bone, The Hunger Games, and The Silver Linings Playbook. However, that is due to the film’s delayed release, as it was initially shot in 2010, but didn’t see release until two years later.
The House At The End Of The Street wasn’t a hit with audiences or critics, and it’s far from one of Jennifer Lawrence’s best movies. The movie has a 13% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer and the general feeling is that it isn’t scary and doesn’t pull people in. It’s too bad because the premise of the movie does sound intriguing: Elissa (Lawrence) and her mom Sarah (Elizabeth Shue), who has gotten divorced, move to a new town and a typically creepy house.
This is often the start of many horror movies so it all feels familiar, but the film could still redeem itself and become more interesting. Elissa meets Ryan (Max Thieriot) who is at the heart of a family tragedy: his sister Carrie-Anne Jacobson murdered their mom and dad and then disappeared. The love story that develops between Elissa and Ryan never makes sense, as he is clearly hiding something and there is no way that a smart teenage girl like Elissa, who seems uninterested in parties and the trappings of high school, would really ignore that and forge ahead with a relationship.
House at the End of the Street suffers from too many supposedly exciting reveals, one on top of another. If audiences peel back the layers, they will see that the movie doesn’t really have a strong premise or any meaning behind it. When the first reveal happens, it isn’t that exciting as it’s too obvious from the start that Ryan is bad news. It turns out that he has been taking care of Carrie-Anne and keeping her a secret from the world. When Ryan murders her, he doesn’t mean to, but the plot is already so strange, confusing, and messy that this doesn’t really matter. There are no timeless plot twists here.
The main issue is the lack of character development with Ryan. Instead of being a brooding, intelligent, artistic type who Elissa would be drawn to, he’s unnerving and not in a good way. The House At The End of the Street goes totally off the rails when Ryan wants people to think that he didn’t kill Carrie-Anne and pretends that a waitress named Peggy (Jordan Hayes) is Carrie-Ann. This doesn’t add up as he didn’t even want people to think that Carrie-Anne was still around in the first place, so why go to all of his trouble? When there is yet another twist, it turns out that Ryan kept taking women and keeping them in his basement, acting like they were Carrie-Anne, but he knew that she was dead. This is just too much to think about this point.
Elissa also fails as a kind of strong final girl female movie character. She spends too much time swooning over Ryan, and it’s her mom Sarah who finally fights back against Ryan, which feels like a shame because audiences would like to see Elissa be stronger. While there are some great dark teen thrillers, this isn’t one of them, and while Jennifer Lawrence is always a strong actress, she doesn’t have much to do in this movie. It feels like anyone could have played this role and there isn’t anything special about the character.
The ending of House at the End of the Street will make audiences stop and rewind, wondering if that’s really where the movie went. When Ryan is in a mental hospital (which is already a problematic horror movie trope), audiences see an image of Ryan’s mom referring to him as Carrie-Ann and Ryan dressed in female clothes. His mom hurt him when she said that he was Ryan. The movie ends as Ryan thinks that the ghosts of his mom and dad are calling him Carrie-Anne. This suggests that Ryan’s mom said that he had to pretend to be Carrie-Anne and that’s why he had such a hard time for so many years. It’s impossible for audiences to watch this without shaking their heads and wishing for a different outcome.
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