Funfact: The film was shot in the 2-perf Techniscope format to provide a grainy image reminiscent of older horror films and to save money on film stock and processing.
Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, X-Men Days of Future Past) Stars as Elissa who moves with her mom, played by Elizabeth Shue (CSI) to a new house, the house next door was the scene of a brutal double homicide. In the opening scenes we see a stumbling teenage girl come home in a lightning storm. She knocks over a lamp and her mother goes to see what the trouble is. The mother is bludgeoned and shortly after, so is the father. Elissa and her mother reflect on the fact that the house is empty, but late at night she sees a light turned on.
They find that the son, Ryan Jacobson, is still living in the house. Everyone thinks this is the appalling. There are rumors that teenaged girl is still living in the woods. Elissa asks her mother, “do you think someone could still be living there?” (ironically at a time when she’s playing Katniss, and… living in the woods) …creepy camera angles reveal that someone may be watching from the brush.
She quickly befriends rich dude Tyler (Nolan Gerard Funk, Riddick) and gets invited to a party. He gets fresh with her and she bails. She starts the 10 mile trek home in the rain, when Ryan (Max Thieriot, Bates Motel) spots her and offers to drive her back. She awkwardly blurts out that his “parents got killed” and “why do you still live in that house?” Which he minds less than everyone saying behind his back. He reveals that he’s just fixing up the house and he’ll sell it, but he doesn’t have much to remember his parents by.
In all practicality: where would he live? He’s a teenager. How many places would he have to go?
But there’s a bigger reason. Carrie Ann, Ryan’s sister, played by up-and-comer Eva Link (Best Laid Plans) isn’t in the woods. She’s in the house. And subject to violent fits. Ryan drugs her and asks her to leave Elissa alone.
Elissa and Jillian make friends over hating on Tyler. Yeahhh, unite don’t fight. J Lawr flawlessly delivers, “He’s worse than a dick, he’s a dick hole.” Jillian: “Dick hole is the new asshole.” and Elissa also goes to visit Ryan, who tells her that his sister had brain damage and we see in the flashback that his parents were crackheads. Carrie Ann fell off swings and hit her head, Ryan should have been watching her (he was, like, 6). Elissa’s mom is not amused. Ryan gets caught up thinking about Elissa and forgets to lock up Carrie Ann, who makes a break for Elissa’s house.
The camera angles and effects from Carrie Ann’s POV are blurry and hazy, adds texture and atmosphere. There are some jump out of your seat moments. There’s also a lot of angst, teenage drama and questionable parenting (your teenage daughter is literally always going to do what you told her not to do) and even more questionable romantic choices (you bring someone to hook up at your house with your murderous sister? How is this your life?)
Good acting. Good directing. It captured the essence of teenage angst, hook ups gone wrong and strange behavior. Elizabeth Shue does a great job as a mom in over her head, Jennifer Lawrence is snappy and capable as per usual. Townie teenage mob mentality kicks up the drama. Nail biter “J Lawr, don’t be so damn curious” moments. Moments where you want to scream “Why would you ever go in there?!” But I cannot stand for this disabled/mentally ill people as mindless murderous villains. But it gets even weirder than that.
Bizarre plot twists. Upon bizarre plot twists show that there’s more going on than an inexplicably murderous brain damaged girl.
Other things I liked: no neglect of technology. Everybody has cell phones, wi-fi and common sense. The characters attire, resources and behavior were reasonable. And J Lawr kills it. Perfect bra-less final girl swagger.
But was it scary? Yes. Unpredictable nail biting thriller. Psycho-esque but creative enough and ballsy enough to make up for some tropes. Kind of scares that make me glad that I have roommates and more than one damn neighbor.
4.25 out of 5