Movie review: House -- 1 out of 5 stars

House is a thriller that ponders that age-old question: Can you still make a "Christian" themed horror movie? Horror movies often play around with the big themes of guilt, sin and redemption, and are often set in a sort of purgatory of morality, free will and moral choices. What would the Saw franchise be without the guilt and punishment ethos at the heart of it?

So House isn't a stretch. Take away its absurd R rating (House barely warrants a PG-13) and this adaptation of a Ted Dekker novel would seem right at home at any B-movie horror convention.

It's just not very good. A simple allegory about two guilt-ridden couples trapped in the Wayside Inn with the murderous proprietors inside and the masked, shotgun-wielding Tin Man outside trying to break in, it's one of those indie cheapies helped by the addition of a "name" to the cast, but thrown utterly out of balance by putting that "name" into a bit part.

Michael Madsen (Kill Bill) is the rural Alabama sheriff who sends writer Jack and would-be country singer Stephanie, played by Reynoldo Rosales and Heidi Dippold, on a "short cut to the Interstate." The couple is on edge, arguing, and Jack is speeding. They get a flat tire, it starts to rain, and before you can say "It was a dark and stormy night," they've hiked up to the Wayside, met another couple (Julie Ann Emery, J.P. Davis) and begun to face not just the freakshow cliches who run the inn, but their own deepest fears and regrets.

Like director Robby Henson's adaptation of Dekker's Christian-friendly serial killer thriller Thr3e, House is a luridly photographed exercise in dull horror conventions -- apparitions, axes, Satan worship, shotguns and dripping, dripping tunnels underneath the remote haunted house. The cast is rather lukewarm on the material, perhaps reflecting the amount of thought that went into the title.

And Madsen's presence in the opening makes you certain that he has some role to play other than misdirecting lawman. Hint: He does.