Maybe it's because we're explicitly shown too much, too fast. Ryan (Max Thieriot) is a mysterious dude living in a house where his parents were murdered by his sister, and everyone in town hates him because of this. Even Sarah (Elisabeth Shue), Elissa's (played by Lawrence) mother, doesn't trust him, even though she just met the guy a couple days ago and has no reason to dislike him. But Elissa falls for his boyish charms and easy-going nature, and she feels as though he's getting a bad rap by the town. But while the film mostly follows Elissa, there are some scenes where the camera strangely turns to Ryan's own problems inside his mostly empty house. It turns out he keeps his sister chained in the basement, and she constantly tries to break out.
The idea is already placed in our heads that Ryan is dangerous, but it's overkill to show him specifically handling a woman as though she's an animal who needs to be put down. It's a dangerous thing to show the viewer all of this right off the bat, without letting them at least see Ryan's personality; once the film shows Ryan's force with the woman, the audience will immediately jump to seeing Ryan as cute but possibly dangerous, and it plants the idea too quickly that Ryan may not be the kind of guy that Elissa thinks he is.
It's not a problem that immediately kills the film, but over time, once we've had a good long while to soak in Ryan's niceness and naivete, he actually becomes rather likable - to a point. Of course, now that we've seen him chaining up a woman in his basement, it's hard to overcome that in our heads and accept him outright; yeah, he might get beat up in school, but does he actually keep slaves in his basement? We're already suspicious, and when the twist appears, we're not shocked by it but simply eased in to something we've already suspected.
Lawrence is a sight to behold here, though, and she's a damn fine protagonist to watch. She's got a spunk other final girls do not have, and director Mark Tonderai never misses a moment to show off her assets in a white tank top. Thieriot is also good as Ryan - likable, downplayed, and also jacking my style just a little bit.
The acting is all pretty on par, and even the writing isn't terrible in a "this-is-a-teen-drama" kind of way, nor does it suffer from a lot of genre cliches like a girl who can't escape the clutches of a strong man. I praise those things, because House at the End of the Street works - it just feels overdone, and it tries too hard to get its premise across.
One could do much worse with House at the End of the Street, but the thing I came away with while watching was that while the film is stable and not too terrible, it will never be memorable. There's nothing about it that stands out, and even now, a couple days after watching the film, some parts of the movie have faded from my mind. It's because there's nothing to it - it's generic, on-the-surface horror, and the inoffensive quality about it means that one will be left wondering whether House at the End of the Street actually made a dent in your memory at all. It's good for teens, and I know for a fact that they all love it - and maybe it will be their gateway to better horror films. But as a movie itself, House at the End of the Street remains a forgettable time-waster with a forced twist.