Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Elizabeth Shue are shown in a scene from "House at the End of the Street."
"House at the End of the Street" borrows heavily from one of the all-time classics—revealing which classic film would be a big spoiler—and does so in a way that is both good and bad.
The good: It's disguised well enough that you might not see it coming.
The bad: I'm not sure if it makes sense. It feels like the filmmakers were so enamored of their twist on the well-known story that, along the way, they got a little lost in the details of the plot.
The setup is typical of a horror movie. Sarah Cassidy (Elizabeth Shue) and her 17-year-old daughter, Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), move from Chicago to a small, rural town. Elissa appears to have been closer to her father, and we never learn why she lives with her mother now.
Four years earlier, in the house next door to the Cassidys' new home, a young girl named Carrie-Ann murdered her parents and ran off into the woods, where, presumably, she died, though her body was never found. Now, her brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), the only remaining member of the family, lives in the house alone, shunned by a community that believes his family history and continued presence are driving property values down.
Against her mother's wishes, Elissa befriends Ryan, a nice, albeit traumatized young man who is deeply misunderstood by the other neighbors. Of course, that is not all there is to it, and I'll stop before entering spoiler territory.
This is, for the most part, a well-made, well-acted film, directed by Mark Tonderai and written by David Loucka ("Dream House," 2011; "The Dream Team," 1989) from a story by Jonathan Mostow (director of such films as "Breakdown," 1997; and "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," 2003).
An air of dread and mystery runs throughout the action, though, typical of modern horror movies, jump-scares (which are startling, not scary—there is a difference) sprinkled throughout deflate the suspense before it builds much.
And then, of course, there is the ending. Maybe it does make some kind of sense if you add it all up. It's also somehow clever and derivative at the same time and, ultimately, unsatisfying.
Greg’s Grade: C+
(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, thematic elements, language, some teen partying and brief drug material. 101 minutes.)