||Calling “Extreme Makeover: HE.” Your intervention is sorely needed at this disastrous would-be horror movie in which a terrible script is matched by atrocious acting, dreadful effects and a message that gives new meaning to the word incoherent.
The picture comes from some of the same folks who gave you the awful “Thr3e”—novelists Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, director Robby Henson and producers Joe Goodman, Bobby Neutz and Ralph Winter. That should be a sufficient warning to anybody, but the title might delude the poorly informed into confusing it with Hugh Laurie’s TV series, so a further warning is in order: stay well away.
The plot has to do with two couples—Jack and Stephanie (Reynaldo Rosales and Heidi Dippold) and Randy and Leslie (J.P. Davis and Julie Ann Emery)—who find their way to a remote old inn after wrecking their cars on a rural road. There they find a weird and threatening family—Betty (Leslie Easterbrook) and Stewart (Bill Moseley) and their decidedly peculiar son Pete (Lew Temple). Even worse, they and the oddball trio are trapped in the place by a maniacal figure nicknamed Tin Man who intends to slaughter them all.
What follows is a confused and tedious orgy of chases and flashbacks as the four must revisit their “sins”—tragedies from their past that, as far as one can tell, were mostly accidents or miseries inflicted on them by others—in order, presumably, to purify themselves before being offed by TM, who claims to have killed God. (Nietzsche in disguise, maybe.) Luckily a girl named Susan (Allana Bale) shows up on one of Jack’s searches of the basement, and she turns out not only to be a source of good advice but the means by which Jack and Stephanie can find the redemption that’s expressed in a “Twilight Zone” sort of twist ending that frankly makes no sense whatever, from a religious perspective or any other.
One can be certain that Messrs. Dekker and Peretti have some Christian moral in mind, but what it might be is not clear from this film. Yes, the final reel suggests that what we’ve been watching is a metaphorical depiction of the eternal struggle between good and evil, but the nature of the characters’ sinfulness is never explained, and while the villains are apparently stand-ins for Satan and his minions, why they should be operating in such a foolish and ultimately inept fashion is beyond comprehension.
As to the production, it’s pretty much a mess. Virtually all of the cast is composed of people you’ll never have heard of, and they’ll undoubtedly remain so. Michael Madsen does show up as a glowering state policeman, but makes no apparent effort to act his way through a part that offers no surprises despite an effort to do so. Then again, he’s previously performed under the direction of Uwe Boll, so the inability of Henson to impose any sense of order on the proceedings would have come as nothing new to him. The production looks cheap, and Marcin Koszalka’s cinematography successfully keeps everything blurred and indistinct; special blame should be apportioned to Andrea Bottigliero for her editing of the nausea-inducing flashback montages.
Perhaps this “House” is supposed to represent hell or purgatory. It will certainly feel like it to anybody unfortunate enough to pay the movie a visit. But it’s hardly a cleansing experience.