Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Michael Madsen, Reynaldo Rosales, Heidi Dippold, Julie Ann Emory, Lew Temple, Leslie Easterbrook, Bill Moseley
Directed by Robby Henson
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
House is what I can only describe as a Christian grindhouse movie. I mean that in the sense that it's a Christian allegory horror movie involving a house and it's an absolute grind to sit through.
No relation to a much better horror film of the same name starring William Katt, this House is based on a popular book by contemporary Christian novelists Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. The movie version is directed by Robby Henson, who also directed last year's Christian serial killer thriller Thr3e (review); it too was based on a Ted Dekker novel. Like Thr3e, House is also meant to tell a spiritually fulfilling tale of redemption and forgiveness in the guise of a horror movie. Also like Thr3e, the spirituality is soulless, the horror is spineless, the plot is pointless, and the movie is lifeless.
I'm not familiar with the book so I cannot say how much got lost in the translation to the screen. I'm going to assume quite a bit since what I watched was a steamroller of clichés told in such a muddled and boring fashion that it failed to accomplish what it set out to, though I'm not entirely sure what it set out to accomplish. Nothing works. Not an ounce of fear. Whatever spiritual message is amiss. All of it brought to us by a technically competent director with very bad instincts trying way too hard to be stylish. Ditto the editor. Add to it actors overplaying the creepy idiosyncrasies of their characters to the point of bordering on parody. Any hope for House ends once the film starts dealing with these flimsy characters and their great sins using flashback scenes, ghostly hallucinations, and surreal Nightmare on Elm Street-type reenactments with characters living out their own childhood trauma - all of it badly overwrought, over-edited, and sleep-inducing. Not even the moments of unintended cheese offer much by way of salvation.
After a run-in with a creepy cop, a married couple experience a traffic accident on a back road shortcut in rural Alabama (actually filmed on location in Poland). An out-of-nowhere rain storm sends them scampering to a creaky old house they mistakenly believe to be a bed & breakfast where a brutal murder once occurred. There they meet up with a grad student and her boyfriend. Cue the lights going out, spooky voices, and constant over-the-top ominous music. If it wasn't bad enough that it turns out this house is lorded over by a family of gothic Southern satanists, then a masked man breaks in and pursues them as they're forced to deal with all manner of face-your-inner-demons mind games. Toss in a good deal of running water, people who bleed black smoke, a huge pentagram painted on a wall, and a ghostly little girl who constantly screeches about their pursuer not playing by the rules. Topping it all off is a special appearance by Michael Madsen as Sheriff Lucifer P. Coltrane.
Ah, yes, the satanic Southern family that occupies this house. There's an old lady who looks like a sinister version of Miss Hathaway from "Beverly Hillbillies", Bill Moseley displaying hammy intensity as the menacing patriarch of the household, and their son who's like an inbred cross between Norman Bates and Renfield - but hornier. They're just a Leatherface away from being the Texas Chainsaw Mama's Family.
A Leatherface sort-of arrives in the form of The Tin Man, a masked slasher (more a masked stalker who never actually kills anyone - there's simply no justifying the film's R-rating since the content barely warrants a PG-13 if you ask me) wanting into the house to punish the guilty for their sins. These four stranded motorists all happen to have deep, dark secrets that continue to haunt them. Like a Saw movie, the Tin Man informs them that there are rules they must follow. These rules are delivered to them written on the side of a tin can - because he's the Tin Man, get it?
Rule #1 - God came into my house and I killed him.
That’s really more a statement than a rule.
Rule #2 - I will kill anyone who comes into my house like I killed God.
That’s really more a threat than a rule.
Rule #3 - Give me one dead body before sunrise and I'll let rule #2 slide.
An actual rule!
It’s all meant to try and turn the four interlopers against one another while forcing them to face their checkered pasts by way of supernatural manipulation. Rule #3 ultimately proves to be a moot point given how it all plays out and this Tin Man proves to be no Jigsaw. If he only had a brain.
Now let’s enjoy some choice samples of actual dialogue.
"You brought trouble like how a dog brings fleas."
"Sorriest bunch of sinners I've ever seen."
"Ah, god, it’s black magic."
The whopper, though, comes near the end when Michael Madsen reveals his obvious demonic nature and informs us all, "I'm pure evil... 100%." Which he says in a tone of voice typically reserved for a drowsy drunk in a bar wanting to bum a cigarette.
Somehow this whole laborious mess was meant to culminate in a spiritually redeeming climax. That falls flat because the script forgot to include anything resembling genuine spirituality outside of the frequent use of generic quasi-religious talk. Only spiritual enlightenment I achieved was thinking "Thank God that's over" when the closing credits began to roll.
Still, any movie that features a jump scare in its opening minutes involving a chicken terrifying an unsuspecting woman by jumping into her lap through an open car window deserves at least one knife.
1 out of 5
0 out of 5
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