(Movie Review by Anthony Casella) On their way to counseling, young, pretty couple Jack (Reynaldo Rosales) and Stephanie (Heidi Dippold) take a few wrong turns and end up getting lost on a desolate, country road. After some petty bickering and painful exposition on the duo and their problems, the couple eventually gets directions from a menacing sheriff (Michael Madsen) and stumbles onto an eerie uninhabited inn (the kind that solely exist in crappy horror films).
The establishment, all shadowy passageways and terrible customer service, is run by a baleful woman (Leslie Easterbrook) and her horny, homicidal son (Bill Moseley). Soon, Jack and Stephanie, along with another stranded, vacant-eyed couple, find themselves haunted by past sins and a masked psycho who demands one dead victim by sunrise. Considering Jack is a writer and Stephanie is a moderately successful local musician, it’s a surprise these creative minds couldn’t write themselves into a better thriller.
“House,” adapted by Rob Green from best-selling authors Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti’s supernatural novel, mashes together too many aspects of other successful horror movies to establish its own identifiable tone. The first half of the film plays like the relatively quiet, atmospheric beginning of ” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” while the last half seems to be a less violent cousin to the “Saw” franchise with a little “Flatliners” thrown in for good measure. There’s also a creepy little girl, with her pale skin and long, curly, black hair that brings to mind the misunderstood villain of “The Ring.” But mimicry is only the beginning of the movie’s problems.
Poor acting, bad dialogue and a story thinner than paper are the real ghouls here and they make the short 88-minute running time feel like a marathon no one’s going to win. At the very least, we expect “House” to deliver a few good jolts to our cynical movie-loving systems. But while the movie earns a few genuine scares early on, it ultimately settles for cheap thrills and loud noises, trying desperately to convince the audience that what it’s watching is scary, instead of, you know, actually trying to be. While it may only be a direct to DVD release, the product never fully lives up to the source material’s promise and potential.
The film, barely able to subtly hide its symbolism, is clearly meant to be an allegory for good versus evil, and overcoming the darkness within ourselves. The inn represents some sort of personal limbo, where the characters either atone for their sins and live or allow themselves to be overcome with fear and hate. To get to this conclusion, the characters spend time in wet basements, satanic chambers and their own minds, meant to be purgatory. But for the audience, the journey feels like nothing but hell.
Robby Henson (director) / Ted Dekker, Rob Green, Frank Peretti (screenplay)
CAST: Michael Madsen … Tin Man / Officer Lawdale
Reynaldo Rosales … Jack Singleton
Heidi Dippold … Stephanie Singleton
Julie Ann Emery … Leslie Taylor
J.P. Davis … Randy Messarue
Lew Temple … Pete
Leslie Easterbrook … Betty
Bill Moseley … Stewart