Although I've read and enjoyed a few of Frank Peretti's books, I've never read any of Ted Dekker's all the way through and did not read the novel "House" before seeing this movie based on it.
I went into the theater knowing the track record of "Christian" movies, and despite wanting this film to succeed I made every effort to treat it like any other movie of the horror genre (as it was marketed to be) without being too easy or too hard on it.
In short, while this movie had some good points to make, its potential message is overwhelmed by poor film-making.
First, the good. Despite having "Christian" origins, the costumes, make-up and coloring have a dark quality to them that fits the horror genre. The special effects do not attempt to set any records, but serve their purpose well and don't take anything away from the film. Rather, they add to the production value.
Unfortunately, we are already set to move on to the bad. I never became invested in the fate of these characters for a number of reasons. First, the script. Plot points and back story were presented, but the film did not allow these characters to develop. It informed us of who they were but didn't give time to help us feel what the characters were supposed to be feeling. I say "supposed to be feeling" because the acting fell short as well. One example: Although effort was made in the make-up department to make it look as if a female character had been crying (running make-up), the actress did not have the glistening yet bloodshot eyes needed to convince me of her emotional state. Throughout the film I watched a group of actors acting, but did not find myself drawn into their characters.
This film also follows the pattern in Christian fiction to take something successful in the mainstream and repackage it as "Christian" without presenting any new material of substance or creativity. I felt like I'd seen this movie a few times before. It pulls the little long-haired girl and color tinting from "The Ring", the family, sheriff, Leatherface and primary plot hook from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and the trapped environment, character-condemning flashbacks and more color tinting from "Saw".
In fact, I'm willing to bet that the reason for its "R" rating is only because it contained the hallmarks of so many horror films. The MPAA must have thought, "Boy this feels like so many R movies we've seen before. It should probably be given an R for SOME reason." But by today's standards, this movie is really a PG-13. It contained a few creepy images, but nothing worse than "The Ring". The swearing was mild enough to be on evening network tv and very sparse on top of that. And although there were violent moments, the violence was always obscured by sets, props or cutaways. There is virtually no blood in this "horror film". While this makes it more "family friendly", I kinda doubt that's a key selling point for fans of the genre.
It has an interesting Christ metaphor near the end of the film that people may pick up on to various degrees. However, it results in a moment way too similar to the end of the first Matrix movie and feels much too heroic for this genre. The bad guy is "de-clawed" in a way that no villain in this genre should be.
Speaking of metaphors, this film scores higher in Veracity than it does in quality. In addition to a strong Christ/Salvation metaphor, we also see a comment on modern spiritism. At one point in the film an imposter of one of the characters attempts to deceive the others and uses knowledge of private personal information to try and convince them of his identity. Today, mediums may validate their perception of the afterlife by displaying knowledge of personal details conveyed to them by a "ghost" of a deceased friend or relative. This brief "imposter" moment in this film points out that intimate knowledge of our lives may also be possessed by spirits that wish to deceive us, and cannot be used as objective proof that the mediums perception of the afterlife is accurate.
In the end, these metaphors will likely only be appreciated by the few "play it safe" Christians that fool themselves into thinking this movie is good simply because it was developed by Christian thinkers and has no objectionable material in their opinion.
A friend of mine once said that he told someone "The Omega Code" was a terrible movie. This person responded, "Well maybe, but at least it's glorying God." To which my friend replied, "Ma'am, there is nothing glorifying to God in bad art."
Although I can't recommend this movie to fans of the horror genre, I do hope that the "family friendly/bubble-world/play it safe" Christians will give this movie a try. It will give them a "safe" entrance to the genre and will hopefully open their minds to the horror/thriller/sci-fi genres and their potential use to do and say things of value. This movie has little or nothing to offer fans of horror or good films in general. But I hope it may at least open the minds of a few Christians to enjoy other movies in this and other genres like it.
Rated R for some violence and terror