For her first post-Hunger Games outing, Jennifer Lawrence chose to star in the muddled teen thriller known as House at the End of the Street (the Twitter hashtag was officially deemed #HATES, for anyone who’s counting and has an ironic sense of humor). Indeed, this by-the-numbers shocker combines Fatal Attraction with Psycho, but forgets to steam up the screen or even bother to explain its convoluted plot. The flick might entertain girls yearning for loner love stories gone wrong, but studied viewers will be yawning at the empty thrills and a villain who’s less scary than the price of concessions at the theater. By the time the film inelegantly pulls the rug out from under the audience, people will be scratching their heads as they try to figure out just what the heck is going on. Only in its final moments does #HATES play its most interesting card, yet the ending scene simply raises more questions than answers.
Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mom Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) are new to town, and have moved into a secluded rental house next to a home with a horrific history. It turns out that the couple next door were recently killed by their daughter, who conveniently went missing afterward, leaving only a college-aged son named Ryan (Max Thieriot) to take care of the property. When Sarah finds out that Elissa is making waves with the young man, she puts her foot down, thereby pushing the two lovebirds closer together. Yet things aren’t quite what they seem, as Ryan is housing his lost sister in the basement and drugging her up so she can’t hurt anyone else. Before you know it, secrets are revealed and everything you think you know turns out to be…not that different from what you’d expect, except without the epilogue that connects all the dots.
Director Mark Tonderai, who impressed with his last outing (the efficient little thriller Hush), graduates into silly studio territory with this picture. While the visuals are competent (although they’re unnecessarily shaky during quiet moments, and seizure-inducing in the opening scenes), it seems that screenwriter David Loucka (the man also behind the similarly plotted suburban mind-game thriller Dream House) is to blame for not fleshing out the tale enough. No matter whose fault it is, #HATES has a bad case of blandness that no up-and-coming Oscar nominee can save. Lawrence herself is fine -- it’s just that the film is stereotypical one second and then obtuse the next. With plot twists that will haunt anyone who dares think through them enough, House at the End of the Street reveals itself to be merely another forgettable PG-13 thriller banking on the brain-dead mall crowd to tweet their unending love for a crummy feast such as this -- just don’t forget the hashtag, ladies.
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