House (2008)
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House (2008)

There are many Oxymora we can encounter in our daily lives from the silly ‘Jumbo shrimp’ to the ever popular ‘military intelligence’. It is just that some words don’t seem to belong in the same sentence no matter what the context. I’ve reviewed thousands of movies including a sizable number of independent horror flicks. One classification I never would have imagined I recently came across; ‘R’ rated Christian Horror. Those descriptions of a movie usually work fairly well when taken individually but there is just inherently wrong sounding with then strung together. The movie ‘House’ is billed as just that kind of strange hybrid. It took me awhile to get around to watching this film since I had a major stroke shortly after I received it and my DVDs went into storage. Recently I started to dig my backlog of films out of the storage unit and this one caught my eye, again and I had to check it out. What intrigued me most about this particular combination is the fact that horror films tend to be most prone to sticking to the well established formula. It seemed very unlikely that a film maker could blend such diametrically opposed genres into a workable movie. After giving the flick a fair chance the bottom line is there is an interesting premise providing a foundation for a potentially interesting flick but ultimately the divergent elements don’t properly gel. With that said I do have to note that there is an underlying sense that this was an honest effort to take what has become a rather hackney genre into a different direction. While the cast and crew were not able to successfully achieve this laudable goal they did manage return there film to a more psychologically driven type of horror flick and attempted to infuse the production with a few aspects of a gothic thriller.

Admittedly, I haven’t heard much about the creative people behind this flick but apparently they do have a list of credentials known in the Christian independent film venue. This is the case with screenwriter Rob Green and the novelist for the source novel Ted Dekker. Along with the director Robby Henson they all previously worked ‘Thr3e’, an earlier opus of the same oddly blended genre as this. This film demonstrates its Christian roots with an opening title card quoting John 1:5 "And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not". As the film begins to pick up momentum towards the middle of the movie this quote actual does make sense. One thing to consider as to why there has been a generally negative reaction to this film is its intention to openly defy the generally accepted tenants of a modern horror flick. Normally by the halfway point they should have gone through several hundred gallons of stage blood with a number of scenes depicting brutal torture not to mention a couple of shots featuring gratuitous nudity and indiscriminate sex and drug use. I have noticed lately that a sizable portion of the mainstream horror community rejects any attempt to deviate from this new genre norm. Perhaps horror fans of my ancient generation, having grown up with a different, less graphic approach to horror, are able to view such movies in a more forgiving light. I found this to be a reasonably well constructed thriller that could use some tightening in the script and a bit more enthusiasm in the acting but overall it worked providing a Saturday afternoon’s entertainment.

The story does turn to some well used plot devices so in this respect it cannot be called original but to be fair this type of film has been using the same basic premise for many years. It opens with a flashback to a police officer murdering his wife with a shotgun. Cut to the present where we see Jack (Reynaldo Rosales) and Stephanie (Heidi Dippold) Singleton are in their car doing what they do best; fighting. Ironically they are on their way to see a marriage consular when they get lost. Why the chose to go to therapy so far from home is a bit of a mystery but they had to get the young couple on that requisite deserted road. This is excusable since you have to find some semi-plausible way to isolate the potential victims. For a movie set in the current world this is getting more difficult. The couple almost gets in an accident and is sent down an even more isolated road where they eventually wind up in the titular house. Once there they meet another stranded couple, Leslie Taylor (Julie Ann Emery) and her boyfriend Randy Messsarue (J.P. Davis) who is only marginally more compatible. They should have run screaming into the night when they meet the owner, Betty (Leslie Easterbrook) and her son Pete (Lew Temple) who is a few chromosomes short of a genome, making matters worse is the creepy way he looks at Leslie saying "I want this one". I guess these people have never seen a horror flick since they seem unaware of what we all know is about to happen. Adding to the icky factor is the caretaker Stewart (Bill Moseley) who seems more at home in a graveyard than a well appointed albeit spooky house. The action gets started when the couples seem to have brought an evil presence outside the house, the Tin Man. He is supposed to be the missing lawman from the flashback that comes after those he perceives as wrong doers. Unless he gets what he demands he will kill them all. Of course what he wants is for the group to give him one of their numbers dead. When there are some shots of an ax breaking in homage to the ‘Shining’ and Betty has the tendency to bleed dark smoke but the film runs its well trod course. The movie shows a lot of promise and I really didn’t see all its roots overtly. Bottom line it is a refreshing change of pace from the over use of torture.

Posted 04/10/2010

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