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House

Reviewed by Thomas Phillips

"While the old saying still holds true, the book is always better than the movie, I did enjoy the translation of House onto the big screen."

The only way out … is in.

This is the tag line for the just-released horror movie, House. Years back I read the novel, written by best selling authors Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. The intensity of the story kept me turning pages from the first time I sat down until six hours later when I finished reading the entire thing. And even after I’d finished reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The novel, House, may just be one of my all time favorite horror novels.

With a copy of the movie in hand, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. It was late last night. Cold out. Wind blowing. Fresh popcorn in a bowl on the table beside my leather recliner. The dilemma: keep the lights on (so I can take notes, of course), or shut them for full effect? Decided, I shut the light. Writing in the dark would not be a problem. I started the movie.

Headed to Montgomery for counseling, a last-ditch effort at saving a failing marriage, Jack Singleton (portrayed by Reynaldo Rosales, who has appeared in numerous TV shows such as The Mentalist, Medium and The Closer), is a horror novelist, and doesn’t want to admit he’s lost. Trying to remain calm, although confident her husband got lost on purpose as a means to avoid counseling, Stephanie (portrayed by Heidi Dippold of hit TV shows such as NYPD Blue, The Sopranos and Navy NCIS), is a hit country singer and just wants to listen to music and relax.

At the scene of an accident on the road, the couple has the opportunity to ask the local backwoods sheriff for directions to the interstate. The suggested shortcut would have them on 82 in no time at all.

Headed down a debris strewn unpaved road, Jack blows out two tires. His car is stranded along side another vehicle – one with its lights still on. Driven to find sanctuary, Jack and Stephanie trot back toward the main road, only to find The Wayside Inn—Rest for the Weary Soul. Though they don’t remember seeing the inn on their way down the road, they feel somewhat relieved. At least now they can use a phone and call for a tow.

Although the inn appears deserted, Jack and Stephanie meet up with fellow-stranded drivers, Leslie Taylor (portrayed by Julie Ann Emery, of TV shows like ER, CSI Miami and critically acclaimed Army Wives), who is a psychology grad student, and Randy Massarue (portrayed by J.P. Davis, of Blue and Fighting Tommy Riley), who makes his living buying up mom-and-pop inns.

The Wayside Inn is far from deserted. Betty and her boys, Pete and Stewart, run the place. If you’ve seen the originalTexas Chainsaw Massacre, the inn family is almost as equally creepy. Pete makes his attraction for Leslie known, despite Randy’s presence, while Stewart does not hold back harsh judgments about the unmarried couple’s lifestyle.

When the The Tin Man arrives, Betty doesn’t hide her feelings, and blames the guests: “You brought trouble like a dog carrying fleas…” Now, all of them are in mortal danger. To confirm this, a tin can drops down the fireplace with three house rules written on it: First rule, God came into my house and I killed him, second rule, I will kill anyone who comes into my house like I killed God, third rule, Give me one dead body before sunrise and I’ll let rule number two slide…

The guests and innkeepers battle as the Tin Man fights to gain entrance into the inn. The Tin Man only “goes after the guilty.”

Someone has to die – if the rest are to live. There has to be a sacrifice, or they all will die.

The Tin Man is more than a man. And the Wayside Inn is more than an inn. The house knows things about its guests, tapping into their minds and it plays back some of their most horrific memories of dark, guilt ridden and angry nights—as if projected on the screen behind their eye sockets. The death of a little girl, the death of a father, the death of an uncle, abuse, blame … rushes out from the walls of the house, like sweat from the pours of its trapped victims.

Hiding in the bowels of the maze-of-a-basement, Susan—a young girl, one who has been inside the house for longer than she can remember—knows the Tin Man better than anyone. With Jack acting as her protector, they attempt to find a way out of the darkness, knowing that light destroys darkness...

The sand sifts quickly in the hourglass. Dawn quickly approaches. Rule three is so specific. Someone needs to die Houseif the rest are going to be allowed to live … The tension and suspense build constantly as the sun gets set to rise. Who has the shotgun? The kitchen knife? Who can be trusted? Basic survival instinct – kill or be killed … Or will the House and the Tin Man claim them all, taking their souls and locking them away in Hell forever?

I love horror movies. Rent at least one a week. No kidding. And House is definitely a horror film worth seeing. There is no bad language, other than one off comment made by Stewart to Randy. There is no bloody gore. There is no nudity. What House contains is wonderful cinematography that captures and applies the essence of sinister smoothly. The taut tale is intense, compelling, and delivers a white-knuckle blow of horror scene, after scene.

If you are, like me, a horror-movie connoisseur, then House is in the vein of Saw (I-V), Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other slasher-films, (but as I mentioned, without the blood and guts—which, you will see, does not detract but actually adds to the overall effect of chilling and spooky).

The acting is, on average, good. The overall casting seems right on. I loved Michael Madsen, as the tin man. Madsen is the award winning actor of some of my favorite films like Reservoir Dogs, Donny Brosco, and Thelma and Louise.

As a Christian film—I just didn’t get it. The classic story of Good vs. Evil is at hand. Nothing new. Nothing in the film sets it apart from other works in the same genre—other than the fact that it is “clean.” The Tin Man, purely evil, punishes those who are “guilty as sin.” And while we get a taste of the sins committed, it is bare-bones, and not nearly as in depth a revelation as could be found in the novel. And while Susan (portrayed by Allana Bale, of the Dekker film Thr3e) is “good.” That’s about it. No one looks to God for help. No one calls on Jesus. No one really repents for anything. Although some metaphors like “light destroys darkness” are used, and a sacrifice for salvation is made, nothing in the film will lead viewers to give God credit for anything. If I did not know this was a “Christian” film, I would still not know this fact after watching the movie.

While the old saying still holds true, the book is always better than the movie, I did enjoy the translation of House onto the big screen. It’s just that in the book the characters needed to defeat the demons inside them in order to defeat the evil hunting them. That’s why the saying, “The only way out, is in”, made more sense in the novel. But the movie, I loved it. Don’t get me wrong. I just can’t make the connection to Christianity, and therefore find the “R” rating not upsetting in the least. It is a horror film. One that viewers will most certainly like, but one that may leave Christians wondering if edited parts contained more message than what was shown in the final cut.

Genre: Drama/Thriller/Horror
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and terror
Based on the novel by best selling authors Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Director: Robby Henson Nominated Sundance Film Festival Award winning director (Trouble Behind, 1991), Dekker’s Thr3ee, Peretti’s, The Visitation and The Badge (with Billy Bob Thornton and Patricia Arquette)
Writers: Rob Green (screenplay), Frank Peretti (co-writer)
Cinematography: Marcin Koszalka
101 minutes
Produced: More Entertainment

EDITOR'S NOTE: While we don't normally advocate R rated films on this site, we felt it was important to cover this piece due to the Dekker & Peretti book connection.

Watch the trailer:

 

Phillip Tomasso IIIThomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability. He did everything possible not to read. It wasn’t until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, Phillips uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Phillips has worked as a freelance journalist and currently works full time as an employment law paralegal. When he isn’t writing, Phillips plays guitar, is active at his church, coaches his children’s Little League teams, co-leads Ink Spots and Coffee Grounds—a creative writing group, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his first published Christian novel. Visit him online at his Shoutlife page & Myspace page.