DVD Release Date:  April 7, 2009
Theatricl Release Date:  November 7, 2008
Rating:  R (for some violence and terror)
Genre:  Thriller, Horror, Adaptation
Run Time:  101 min.
Director:  Robby Henson
Actors:  Michael Madsen, Reynaldo Rosales, Heidi Dippold, Julie Ann Emery, J.P.  Davis, Lew Temple, Leslie Easterbrook and Bill Moseley

Haunted houses hold a strange allure, which is why they’re a staple of the horror genre.  Like typical onscreen haunts, the House created by screenwriters Rob Green and Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness) is creepy.  Terrifying, in fact.  (I’m still hiding under my covers.)  But, unlike most C-genre blood flicks being churned out by Hollywood, this one has a much deeper meaning.  Buried within its not-so-hallowed walls are symbols and a message, if you care to seek them.  Assuming you can stand the chills, that is.

Jack (Reynaldo Rosales, TV’s Inconceivable) and Stephanie Singleton (Heidi Dippold, TV’s The Sopranos) aren’t the happiest marrieds on the block.  Traveling through rural Alabama they bicker incessantly before encountering a strange police officer (Michael MadsenReservoir Dogs).  Then they wreck their car.  Way to go, Jack!

Jolted but uninjured, the pair sets off to find help.  They end up at the Wayside Inn, a seemingly deserted old mansion, where another couple named Leslie and Randy (Julie Ann Emery and J.P.  Davis) come gliding down the staircase.  They’ve had a wreck as well, under the same circumstances.  Before anyone can question the coincidence, however, innkeeper Betty (Leslie Easterbrook) arrives with her sinister son Pete (Lew Temple).  They insist their guests freshen up for dinner and spend the night.  Since the phone lines are down and no one has cell reception, they must.

The couples are disconcerted about the way Betty and Pete are acting, but when someone storms the entrance and starts firing, it’s clear they’re in grave danger.  Betty barricades the door and warns them that if “The Tinman” gets inside, he’ll kill them all.  So they huddle around the fireplace, where a tin can containing the “rules of the house” drops.  Basically, the Tinman says, he will kill them all—if they don’t produce one dead body before sunset. 

The stakes are set, and the game is on.  Will they play?  Or are they the ones being played?

Based on the book by Ted Dekker and Peretti, House is produced by Ralph Winter (X-Men, Fantastic Four) and directed by Robby Hensen (Thr3e), and their top-notch production values are evident throughout.  The actors are experienced and, with the exception of Emery, do a credible job.  Hensen’s direction is also strong, and the cinematography, which is filled with bright colors, was beautiful.  Good editing keeps the film moving at a rapid clip.

It’s not a gore-fest by any stretch– something that’s being lamented online by some, who apparently believe that without throat-slittings, sex and disembowelments, it’s not “true” horror.  Maybe so, but this grown-up was terrified.  I don’t like the idea of being stalked by a crazed psychotic, and this was more than credible.   What was most frightening, however—albeit in a different way—is the film’s message, which was about sin’s stronghold and its long-term effect on our hearts and lives.

Unlike most Christian movies, the message here is subtle.  Believers will get it, and connect to the biblical symbols, but they’re not heavy-handed.  No one reads any four spiritual laws or explains in painstaking detail how to get saved.  Basically, House is a parable, and just as it was in Jesus’ day, if you see the meaning, you see it.  Even if you don’t, you can still enjoy the story and ponder the meaning.  Finally!  Someone who gets the importance of this story-telling technique.

House also looks and feels like a movie you would want to see in the cineplex—another rarity among Christian films.  You can, too.  It opens today in 450 theaters nationwide.  If you like horror movies and psychological thrillers, you’ll want to be there. 

And now, I need to go and hide under my blankets.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Several scenes with drinking.
  • Language/Profanity:  A few strong obscenities.
  • Sex/Nudity:  No nudity; no sex.  In one extended scene, various illusions to pedophilia.
  • Violence:  Strong psychological violence, including characters who hunted down, stalked, shot at and attacked with various weapons, including an ax.  Some blood, but very little gore.  Most violence is implied and/or offscreen. There are several murders, but the killing is usually out of frame.  In one scene, a child kills an adult with a shotgun.