If you're looking to get into the Halloween spirit without subjecting yourself to the gross-out style popularized by franchises like Saw, you might want to consider House at the End of the Street. In the old-school horror film, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Elissa, a curious teen with a penchant for bad boys. Naturally, when Elissa moves to a new town, the target of her affections is Ryan (Max Thieriot), who lives a stone's throw away in the house where his sister butchered their parents. The two meet and sparks fly, but Elissa's mom (Elisabeth Shue) isn't too happy about the romance. She, and virtually the whole town, suspects Ryan is hiding something. Spoiler alert: they're right! But before you write off House at the End of the Street as just another cheap thrill, read up on why I think it might deserve a second thought.
- Jennifer Lawrence is in it. The image I have of Jennifer Lawrence in my head includes a bow and arrow and some battle gear. Here, she hasn't quite made it out of the woods (literally; her house is in the middle of a forest), but she's playing a normal teenager. It's oddly refreshing to see her in jeans and a tank top.
- But . . . Her character is kind of lame. Normal teenager? Boring. Elissa essentially has the same gripes as Katniss Everdeen (teen angst, bad relationship with her mom), but instead of releasing anger by kicking ass in an arena, she just lies to her mom about where she is and sneaks around with creepy neighbor boy. Plus, her incessant need to nose around other people's property had the whole theater screaming "Don't go in there, girl!"
- The twists are great. One of the hallmarks of a memorable horror movie is that all is not what it seems. I thought I knew what was going on halfway through House at the End of the Street, but I was wrong. I like being scared, but I like being surprised even more, and this movie did that pretty well.
- But . . . It takes a while to get going. The movie opens with the intense murder scene, but then it's just character development for a while.
- It's a fun Halloween or date-night movie. If you like being on the edge of your seat or are looking for a reason to huddle next to a hot date, this is a good option.
- But . . . It's not exactly a thinker. There aren't a ton of layers here. It's a scary movie. There's no underlying big-picture message about intolerance or ignorance or anything. Don't look for the metaphor; there isn't one.