by Angela Walker
Jack and Stephanie are on their way to marriage counseling. Their arguments distract them so much that they get lost, wind up on a deserted road, and are forced to abandon their car when they run over some scrap metal. When they go for help, they find an old hotel offering shelter for the night. They meet another couple, also stranded, and the weirdness begins. The strange family that run the hotel reminds them constantly that they are sinners with wicked hearts. When a killer called the Tin Man shows up, he tells them they have until dawn to give him one dead body or they all die.
Director Robby Henson and Namesake Entertainment joined forces again to produce their third horror film House. First was The Visitation based on a Frank Peretti novel, then Thr3e based on a Ted Dekker book, and now House. It is also based on a novel, written this time by Peretti and Dekker together.
While The Visitation and Thr3e revolve around people associated with the church (an ex-minister in one, a seminary student in the other), the characters in House are more subtly defined. There are definitely forces of good and evil at odds here, but Jack and Stephanie are just ordinary people facing horrifying evil. They don't have any special seminary training to guide them in this battle - they have to find their own way out.
And that's the main struggle of the film. How do they get out? Will they find a way out before dawn, or will they choose someone else to die? If you are a Christian, the spiritual references will be obvious. Do we try to wiggle out of the consequences of our own sin, or do we accept them? When the Tin Man demands that one be chosen as a sacrifice, he is employing a Biblical theme - pointing to Christ's substitutionary death.
But this film is not made solely for Christians. In a recent interview, producer Ralph Winter said they do want to reach readers of Dekker's and Peretti's books, but they also want to broaden their audience to include more secular viewers - to reach those who are fans of horror.
The film's production values are definitely an improvement over The Visitation and Thr3e. There are some scenes that are pretty frightening and required some complexity to pull off. There are some scenes that appear multiple times, and I don't know if it was an editing choice because they needed the footage or an artistic choice to show that when we try to escape sin on our own, we keep coming back to the same places, repeating the same behavior.
Henson succeeds in continually increasing the intensity level of the film, which he must do if he wants to attract horror fans. They usually receive a strong measure of sex, blood and gore that are missing from this film. The story is strong enough to draw them in and there are several surprises you don't see coming, but in the end the film isn't quite what it could be.
When a director pauses the action to explain a point, it breaks the viewer's concentration, taking them out of the film and back into reality. The final scene is not in the book, and for my taste, could have been left out entirely and I would have been happier with the film.
However, I'm glad to see Henson and Namesake working in this genre, and can't wait to see what they do next.