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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


House’ falls shy of deliverance

Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti are two of today’s most prominent and successful Christian writers. In 2006, they teamed up to author House, an exploration of hidden sin. While the novel garnered them critical acclaim, the film version fails to live up to its counterpart’s reputation.

The film opens with Jack Singleton (Reynaldo Rosales) and his wife Stephanie (Heidi Dippold) traveling down an old country road on their way to a session with a marriage counselor. They become lost, but encounter a police officer (Michael Madsen) who directs them to a shortcut, which just so happens to not appear on any map.

Suddenly, they come across some debris, which slashes two of their tires and leaves them stranded. The Singletons don’t appear to be the only victims of car trouble however, as nearby they see another abandones vehicle.

They decide to continue on down the road on foot in hope of finding assistance and eventually come to the Wayside Inn, an old Victorian house that has been converted into a hotel. There they meet Randy Messarue (J.P. Davis) and Leslie Taylor (Julie Ann Emery), a couple who find themselves in the same predicament as the Singletons.

The inn’s owners soon appear, inviting the couples to stay for dinner. They accept, but things take a turn for the worst with the arrival of the Tin Man. The owners desperately try to keep him from entering the house, but he manages to throw a tin can marked with his "rules" through a window.

The rules instruct the occupants that they have until sunrise to provide the Tin Man with one dead body, or he will kill everyone. It quickly becomes apparent that all is not as it seems as the guests are subjected to frightening supernatural imagery and forced to confront their secret pains, fears and sins they’ve kept hidden from both themselves and their significant others.

House has its heart in the right place, but ultimately fails as a film due to an incoherent story and ham-fisted message lacking any sense of subtlety. Once all the players are known, it is quite obvious what’s going on in the house, and who the Tin Man is really supposed to be.

Early in the film, Robby Henson’s direction is effective in creating an unsettling, spooky atmosphere, which gives off the vibe of a true psychological thriller. Once the supernatural comes into play, however, the film allows itself to slide into something far less interesting and engaging.

Despite a promising set-up, the film falls flat once all hell, quite literally, breaks loose. Concepts of hidden sin and unrepentant attitudes are hinted at, but never fully explored, and clocking in at a brisk 101 minutes, House would have benefited from an extra half hour or so to expand on these ideas more thoroughly.

The events leading up to the film’s conclusion fail to add up as a cohesive narrative. While the presence of the supernatural opens many storytelling opportunities, House seems to use this as a crutch to overlook many inconsistencies in the plot.

Rated R for some violence and terror, House seems undeserving of such a harsh evaluation. There is nothing in the film that would be out of place in a PG-13 movie, especially by today’s somewhat lax rating standards.

Many novels suffer in the translation from page to screen, and based on both Dekker and Peretti’s reputations as talented storytellers, one can only assume House is yet another case of a book that would have been best left that way.

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