A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this horror movie -- which was adapted from a best-selling novel by Christian authors Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti -- has adult themes like repentance, sin, and suffering. The violence isn't as over-the-top as in many other horror movies (much of the worst of it occurs off screen or against people viewers later find out aren't even human), but the film's tone can become fairly intense. The movie's moral message is strongly present -- the lead couple renew their marriage while being pursued by a psychopath -- and it's clear that their reconnection and intrinsic goodness are what save them. While there's not much in the way of inappropriate sex, language, or drug/alcohol content, there is some fairly stereotypical depiction of Southerners; the villains are all depicted as creepy, cackling hillbillies.
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What's the story?
In HOUSE, struggling spouses Jack (Reynaldo Rosales) and Stephanie (Heidi Dippold) are late for a marriage counseling appointment when they take a back route to get around an accident. After their car's tires are blown out by trash in the road, they stumble across the Wayside Inn, a family-owned hotel in the middle of nowhere -- where they meet another couple, Randy (J.P.Davis) and Leslie (Julie Ann Emery) ,in the same circumstances. Things take a turn for the worse when the four realize that the hotel is sealed up so they can't escape and that the hotel's owners are Satan-worshipping supernatural creatures intent on playing deadly games of cat-and-mouse with them under the direction of a psycopath known as The Tin Man (Michael Madsen).
Is it any good?
House is a great demonstration of the fact that good intentions don't always make for good moviemaking. Character actor Madsen is the biggest name in the cast, and he seems to be sleepwalking through his scenes. Robby Henson's direction is fairly pedestrian -- at one point, he scares viewers by having a chicken flap into the frame -- and the film's final twist is both unexciting and an obvious, weary, dreary set-up for a possible sequel. If your kids are mature enough for horror films, they can watch far, far better ones than House.
Based on a novel by best-selling Christian authors Fred Dekker and Frank Peretti, House is an astonishingly derivative horror film -- borrowing images, ideas, plot points, and scares from movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Shining, Don't Look Now, and the Saw series. The acting's fairly wooden, and the film's themes of redemption, sin, and salvation are buried under just enough grisly violence that they're more than a little difficult to make out -- or to take seriously. And the contrast between the nice-but-struggling couple (Jack and Stephanie) and the seemingly perfect-but-secretly troubled couple (Randy and Leslie) is entirely overdone. House also feels cheap -- made with bargain-basement effects (with Poland standing in for Alabama) and featuring cardboard characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this movie is similar to and different from other horror movies. How do its Christian origins/themes affect the movie's content and storytelling? Do you have to be religious to enjoy a movie (or other media) with a basis in a specific set of beliefs? Families can also discuss the movie's use of stereotypes. Does the fact that the "victims" of the stereotyping are supernatural villians make it OK? Why or why not?
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