In 2010, Jennifer Lawrence burst onto the acting scene with her starring role as Ree Dolly in the indie surprise hit “Winter’s Bone,” and has since seen ups and downs in her acting career — as most celebrities do.
Lawrence and the film itself were deservedly nominated for numerous awards — most prominently with “Best Picture,” “Best Adapted Screenplay,” “Best Actress” (for Lawrence), and “Best Supporting Actor” (for John Hawkes, who played her uncle, Teardrop) at the Academy Awards. They also won “Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film” at the Sundance Film Festival.
Lately, the term “indie” seems to have become a genre, rather than something simply designating that the movie was made outside of big Hollywood Studios. This genre is characterized by ephemeral characters and a tendency to meander around a story instead of diving straight into it.
“Winter’s Bone” was the antithesis of a typical indie film, with its look at the methamphetamine underworld of the poverty-stricken Ozarks, and the seventeen-year-old who has to find her disappeared father.
So too, is Lawrence the antithesis of your typical Hollywood starlet. She is more than a bit socially awkward, obviously uncomfortable and disbelieving of fame and shockingly, a very talented actress.
Perhaps that is why it was so surprising to see the one of the most promising young actors of today in such a run-of-the-mill horror film as “House at the End of the Street.”
Only a few weeks ago, Lawrence starred in this movie as Elissa — the daughter of Elisabeth Shue’s character Sarah — who moves to a new town after her mother’s divorce. Ryan (Max Thieriot) is their mysterious next-door neighbor whose parents were murdered by his sister, and Weaver (Gil Bellows) is a local police officer who has his eye on Sarah.
Elissa and Ryan become close, despite her mother’s orders not to, and events predictably spiral out of control when it becomes clear that Ryan, and the situation surrounding his parents’ murder, is not at all what it seems. This is an unoriginal premise, but that does not mean it had to be a bad film.
The script, by Jonathan Mostow, director of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” — which should have been a tip-off — and David Loucka, is particularly dull.
Director Mark Tonderai does not help matters with his unimaginative camera-work and truly awful pacing.
All in all, “House at the End of the Street” — or “HATES,” as the marketing people love to throw around on posters and trailers — comes off as little more than this year’s latest attempt by a novice director to re-create Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho.” There’s even a cross-dressing plot twist at the end.
Lawrence’s acting is certainly enough to stand with Hitchcock, but even she cannot rise above the contrived and poorly conceived mess of gimmicks and cheap scares that is “House.”
From a malfunctioning flashlight to something scary peering out from the woods, there is little in “House” that has not been seen countless times before and been done infinitely better.
“House at the End of the Street” was filmed in 2010, before “Winter’s Bone” gained much recognition.
Since then, Lawrence’s choice of roles has been much better, with her parts as Mystique in “X-Men: First Class” and Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” Both are big-budget blockbuster franchises that still maintained a fairly high level of critical support.
Hopefully “House” will serve as a lesson to Lawrence about which scripts to stay away from.
As for audiences, that lesson is not worth price of a movie ticket.