In the new film, House, a group of inn-dwellers are terrorized by a maniacal killer. In the midst of the horror and suspense, though, are deep themes of faith. RELEVANT talked to the film’s producer, Ralph Winter, and author Ted Dekker (who co-wrote (with Frank Peretti) the novel on which the film is based) about the presence of faith in the story of good and evil.
This film is based on a book with Christian themes, but resides in the horror/thriller genre. Do you think this is a genre that could alienate some Christians? Why?
Ralph Winter: Of course this could alienate some Christians, but it could also attract those who enjoy scary movies, to consider a story with some depth and a different world view.
Ted Dekker: Christians are alienated by all sorts of things, including large portions of the Bible. Much of the struggle between good and evil resides in the horror/thriller genre, assuming you believe evil is horrific. The problem with most depictions of evil coming from Hollywood is that they offer no thread of spiritual hope. House is very different in that respect. Still, there are many Christians who have no interest in Christianity beyond its ability to offer distraction from reality. House isn’t necessarily for them.
How do you bring your faith into a film with so many dark themes?
Ralph Winter: The world is full of darkness, and many stories from the Bible are dark. Life is not PG. These themes are heightened in movies, but not so far from reality at times
Ted Dekker: I see faith as believing in a means of rescue, so I would ask how one could bring faith into a film without dark themes? Unless you first characterize the pit from which we, through faith, are rescued, how can you adequately depict the means of our rescue from it?
What will non-Christians take away from the film?
Ted Dekker: The theme is very simple: We are trapped in pit of darkness, but into that darkness comes a light to deliver us from the darkness. Unfortunately, many don’t recognize the light and seek to destroy the very means of their rescue. It’s an inescapable theme.
An R-rating is seen as taboo by many Christians. How would you respond to people who will choose not to see a film based upon its rating?
Ralph Winter: Much of the Bible is also rated R, be careful what you read. If discerning movie goers don’t want to see the movie based on its rating, please don’t go. Follow your conscience. The movie is probably not for you.
Ted Dekker: I would say that’s perfectly understandable. Many choose not to go to the dark jungles of Indonesia as my parents did to bring a message of hope to a lost tribe. That’s their choice and I’m fine with it.
What are the particular struggles for people of faith working in the film industry?
Ralph Winter: Same as any other industry. How do I treat people with respect and dignity? How do I create excellent work? How do I maintain some integrity as a person of faith in a world that will do almost anything to get ahead? Those questions and struggles are relevant whether you work in Hollywood or in the Church.
How much does a filmmaker’s faith influence their choice of what projects they take on?
Ralph Winter: Beyond the normal film making criteria, I tend to choose material that will point to the Kingdom in some way. I like stories that show redemption in some way.
In filming House, how did the actors and crew respond to the faith-based elements of the film?
Ted Dekker: For the most part, they totally embraced it. This simple theme is one that seems to reside in all of us. Only our choices vary, which is the point of the movie.
The filmmakers originally fought the MPAA R rating for this film. Why do you think the MPAA stuck to that rating?
Ted Dekker: It’s an intense film, but no more intense than much of what you see on television these days. Honestly, the MPAA seems less offended by sexuality and language than in depictions of spiritual darkness. Beyond that, we are all scratching our heads.
How did the rating change the way the film was marketed?
Ralph Winter: We didn’t start out to make an R-rated movie, so we backed into that marketing campaign a little late. Hindsight says we should have anticipated this and made a better plan. That is my fault. I should have known better, having more experience in this business.
Ted Dekker: LionsGate and Roadside are taking the movie directly to the R-rated horror market rather than trying any significant grass roots marketing among the Christian community. It’s amazing how many Christian’s are cheering on the sidelines. We expected a lot more controversy, but there doesn’t seem to be any real opposition to the film, only silence. What we now have is a movie about redemption that Christian media won’t touch for fear of rocking the proverbial boat. Kind of sums up the challenge the Church has with reaching our culture. In some ways this small movie represents a bit of a watershed for the Church.
Do you think the MPAA’s rating had anything to do with a bias against faith content?
Ted Dekker: Nothing else makes sense, but I really don’t know.