While perusing the bookstore the other day, I happened to pick up a copy of House – a novel collaboratively written by best-selling Christian authors Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. I was intrigued by the description on the back cover, which dubbed the book a “mind-bending supernatural thriller”. I had read and enjoyed other “thrillers” before. So, why not check this one out? After all, I’ve always been one for complex stories that mess with your head.
Needless to say, I took the book home with me and started reading eagerly. It was my first headlong dive into the world of Peretti and Dekker. And it will probably be my last. House is dark and dismal – and it’s authors do poorly what others have done well.
The premise, in a nutshell, is this: Seven people – four men, three women – end up trapped inside an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere. No lights. No phones. No way to get out. And to make things worse, the entire set-up has been engineered by a criminal – a demonic psychopath who wants them to play a little game: he wants one dead body… or everybody dies. One game. Seven players. Time’s up at dawn.
First off, let me say that this book is better classified in the horror genre than in that of suspense. Indeed, the Peretti/Dekker team appears to derive an uncanny pleasure in creating a consistently sadistic atmosphere that virtually never lets up. And with that said, what do we have on our hands? A “Christian horror” novel? Does anybody else smell an oxymoron?
There is a fine – a very fine – line between the genres of suspense and horror. I’m all for
suspense. Don’t get me wrong. It can add incredible new dimensions to a story. But horror is a different matter altogether. Horror is nightmares on steroids. Evil and darkness and sin are held up, and we gape at them in a sort of depraved awe and wonder, egged on by a sense of perverted curiosity. Instead of exalting God as the sole object of our fear and awe and wonder, we exalt darkness and tremble at the deeds of darkness.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
I am all for claiming every area of life for Christ. But the genre of horror is – by very definition – evil. It is anti-Christian. And it should be left alone.
I’m sure there are those who’d argue that the Salvation message at the end of House is what ultimately redeems it. I would contend otherwise. To be sure, the book manages to score a few points about the depravity of man and the need for redemption: but to get to these points, one must wade through a lot of filth. Is it really worth it?
No. Not when there’s a plethora of other fiction that explores these same themes in a much fuller, deeper, better way. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a prime example. Or C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Or Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Why mess with House when you can delve into treasures like these?