A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Death House is "the Expendables of horror," with a large cast of icons from legendary horror movies. But it's more unsettling than scary, albeit with incredible amounts of violence and gore, including violence against women and a child. There's fighting, shooting, stabbing (with knives, hooks, and other objects), disemboweling, severed heads, slicing with a chainsaw, face-ripping, and more. Bloody monsters eat one another and perform depraved sexual acts. Women are shown topless, and the main character showers next to her male counterpart (her breasts are shown). Language includes many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. LSD is mentioned. Older horror fans with a knowledge of the cast's cult stars may be interested, but casual fans should beware.
What's the story?
In DEATH HOUSE, agents Toria Boon (Cortney Palm) and Jae Novak (Cody Longo) get an exclusive tour of the "Death House," a kind of psychiatric hospital/prison designed to recondition society's most dangerous, vile villains. Unfortunately, someone smuggles an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) inside the facility, which is used to knock out the power. The agents, accompanied by Dr. Eileen Fletcher (Dee Wallace), find themselves in a fight for their lives as the inmates escape and run rampant, led by the vicious Sieg (Kane Hodder). Their only hope is to descend to the ninth level of the facility, toward the realm of "The Five Evils," the most insidious of all the inmates. Can agents Boon and Novak find the help they need? And what's the mysterious reason they were chosen in the first place?
Is it any good?
This strange, ambitious genre movie is notable for its huge cast of horror icons from the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, but it's more horrifying than scary and not always good, though certainly interesting. Death House was originally written by Gunnar Hansen -- who played Leatherface in the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and passed away in 2015 -- and then taken up by lesser-known filmmaker B. Harrison Smith. Smith gives the movie a smeary, smudgy-grayish video look, perhaps as a tribute to the experience of watching horror classics on VHS, but perhaps also as a way of making things disconcerting.
The storytelling is so strange that it's almost nightmarish, which appears to be on purpose, as Smith incorporates sequences of virtual reality that set up a sense of "all bets are off." Yet Smith relies more on shock and gore than he does on creepiness or suspense, which isn't always fun. The two younger leads are appealing, and, of the horror legends, Wallace (E.T., Cujo, The House of the Devil) and Hodder (Jason Voorhees in four of the Friday the 13th movies) get the most screen time. Tony Todd (Candyman), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), and many more also appear. Fans who already know these names will probably be on board with Death House, but casual horror fans should beware.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?
What's the appeal of this kind of movie, with an all-star cast of cult actors? Have you heard of all of them? Any of them?
- In theaters: March 2, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: December 11, 2018
- Cast: Cortney Palm, Cody Longo, Dee Wallace
- Director: B. Harrison Smith
- Studio: Hannover House
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong horror violence and gore throughout, language, sexual references and nudity
- Last updated: May 21, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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