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Book Versus Movie

April 9, 2009 - Amy Phelps
Obviously I'm a bookworm. And anytime I hear that a book I love is being turned into a movie or a television series, I am equal parts thrilled and dismayed. What will be changed? Will it live up to the book? It seems like I usually like the book more, except in cases when I've seen the movie before reading the book. If I've read the book first, I usually favor it. When I read Frank Peretti and Tek Dekker's supernatural thriller, "House," I was immediately blown away and thought, "This would make a great movie!" And apparently movie makers agreed with me, because they made one. It finally came out on DVD this month, and on the day of its release, I was at the local video store to rent a copy.

Watching a movie when you've already read the book is going to be a bit anti-climatic, as you have a general idea what's coming. But since it had been a while since I read the book, while I could still yell at the characters, "Run! It's the Tin Man!" (I was at home, bothering no one but myself) there were several moments when I wasn't entirely sure what would happen next, and more than a few moments of thinking, "I don't think that happened in the book."

"House" follows the story of a struggling couple, Jack and Stephanie, a writer and a country-music singer respectively, who are on their way to a marriage counseling session when they take a detour and end up not only getting lost, but also getting involved in an accident and shredding their tires. They go to seek refuge from the sudden rain storm at the strange Wayside Inn that is nearby. There they meet another couple, Leslie and Randy, who also got their tires shredded. The four explore the seemingly empty house and run across its equally strange inhabitants, Betty and Stewart and their grown son, Pete. The actor playing Pete looks NOTHING like the description of the character in the book, which bugged me every time he was on screen. They have a very weird dinner with the family and when Stephanie has had enough strangeness for one night and tries to leave, they run into a man wearing a tin mask and carrying a gun who takes a shot at them. As the family barricades the house, bemoaning the fact that the four travelers have brought "him," a tin can is shoved down the chimney with a warning that everyone will die unless they give the madman one dead body by dawn. Almost immediately the travelers are attacked by the family, and in the chaos, are all separated from each other. Then the house begins to psychologically break them down, bringing up past "evil" from their lives and trying to turn them into killers like the Tin Man wants. No one is sure who to trust, especially after the appearance of a strange little girl, Susan, who is suddenly added to the mix. By the time the dawn comes, who will still be alive is up for grabs.

The movie is a good, creepy haunted house movie of good versus evil. There were lots of little changes throughout from book to movie, but I could see they were probably done for a more visual impact, as looking back on the book, there is a lot of the characters being introspective, which is good on paper and hard to show on screen. One of the more visual scenes from the book, though, was inexplicably cut down that I wish would have been left to play out. The ending is different from the book, but still works, and actually probably gives more of a concrete reason for the events happening. That said, I wonder how easy the movie is to follow without having read the book. From the moment the four get to the house, all sorts of weirdness starts happening, and the movie doesn't stop to explain it. Even with the new ending, I think a lot of the explanation behind it all is still inferred. My husband who didn't read the book seemed to follow it well, though.

One final thing - the movie is rated R for no good reason that I can see. Considering the source material, I actually had to stop and read the back of the box again to make sure I read that correctly. It says it is for "terror and some violence" but I've seen worse in PG-13 movies. I see no reason why a 13- to 16-year-old wouldn't be able to handle watching this movie. Maybe it was given an "R" rating because most horror movies are so-rated, but considering I don't remember seeing any blood in the movie and think I can count about all of the acts of violence on one hand, putting this movie in the same rating as the remakes of "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Halloween" (in which three members of the cast also appeared in,) both movies that I had to leave the room because the violence and gore were getting to me, is misjudged in my opinion.

Overall, I think the movie is a good companion to the book. But I still like the book better.


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