MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: +1/2

Michael Madsen, Reynaldo Rosales, Julie Ann Emery, Heidi Dippold, J. P. Davis. Horror/drama/thriller. Lionsgate releases House on DVD this April 7th.

FILM SYNOSPSIS: Best-selling authors Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti wrote a scary thriller designed to woo people back to a genre that was originally used as a form of morality tale.  Now their good vs. evil allegory about punishment and redemption has been sold to the movies. The film, according to the press notes, follows Jack and Stephanie Singleton, a self-absorbed couple who get sidetracked on their way to a counseling session.  After blowing out their tires, they find their way to the Wayside Inn, a ramshackle B&B where they meet an equally self-obsessed couple, Randy and Leslie.  The two couples quickly find themselves terrorized by a household of ghoulish servants and a masked lunatic, known as the “Tin Man,” who demands a dead body by sunrise.  Their only way out, it seems, is to venture further in.  But the deeper they go, the more horrifying the killer’s game and their night becomes.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Because Frank Peretti, known in the faith-based community as one of the founding fathers of Christian fiction co-authored the book House, support for the film is expected from Christian reporters. Indeed, several of my Christian colleagues in criticism have ventured forth with quotes designed to spark interest in this R-rated horror film. This kind of puts me in a hard spot on several levels, because I want to be a backer of filmmakers who incorporate spiritual themes and avoid crudity and profanity in a story meant for grownups, and because I wish to show regard for the opinions of co-critics, and because I’d like to avoid the hostile letters from those who demand my allegiance to Christian artists no matter the quality of their latest venture. What’s more, there’s a part of me that hastens to add that maybe I didn’t get all that was meant to be had from this movie. There’s a “but” coming, you know that, right?

But I didn’t like this film. I found it more depressing than profound, more muddled than suspenseful, and certainly more dark than enlightening. The characters were colorless and unlikable. And then there is the familiarity component. Like Dr. Frankenstein did with cadavers, the builders of House stole bits and parts of countless spook fests in order to create their copycat track home.

Themes, motifs and plot elements found in The Old Dark House, The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and several episodes of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer seemed lifted as if we wouldn’t notice. They even purloined a well-used moniker (House, House II: The Second Story, House III, House IV), not to mention the legion of classic fright flicks from House of Dracula, to Frankenstein, to Wax, to Usher, etc.

While it may seem so, I take no delight in being snide. It saddens me to say, I found this production more a lab experiment than a film.

DVD Alternative: Signs Farmer Mel Gibson discovers crop circles on his land. Soon the world is crawling with hostile aliens. Like Hitchcock, director M. Night Shyamalan builds tension through restraint. It’s not what we see, but what we imagine that scares the Jujubes out of us. Besides being an arm-grabbing suspenseful thriller, Signs is an equally touching family drama. We get to know this broken family as they cope with the traumatic loss of a wife and mother. There is an intimacy in both script and presentation that causes us to care for these people. Added to the drama and suspense is the story’s subtext about a man losing, then regaining his faith. The film also has an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Do things happen by chance or do they serve to develop our nature? Shyamalan’s film is about finding our way – or finding our way back.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: A couple of minor expletives, but no harsh language.

Profanity: None

Violence: The film receives it’s for jolting sequences and several violent acts, such as people being shot to death, others being stabbed, and everybody being chased down the hallways by a mad woman with a huge meat cleaver; there is also a sudden car crash and some of the flashbacks revealing the characters either mistreating others or being mistreated themselves as children; it is implied that one of the ladies was sexual abused by a relative, while another boy killed his abusive father. Blood: Not much blood.

Sex: None, though it is implied that one of the ladies is sexually permissive.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: The owners of the house are demented souls and demonic Satan worshippers; it is even implied that they are apparitions, malicious ghosts.

Running Time: 100 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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