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Christina's House

review by Anthony D.


Running Time: 97 minutes

Starring: Brendan Feher, Brad Rowe, Allison Lange and John Savage

Written by: Stuart Allison

Directed by: Gavin Wilding


Studio: MGM

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Standard, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Search (16 Chapters)

Released: October 23rd, 2001



Three people inhabit "Christina's House:" 17 year old Christina, her video-game obssessed 14 year old brother, Bobby and their rarely at home father. It's a lovely old house, set apart from the surrounding Washington community, complete with a running stream to add to its picturesque quality. The house surely is a realtor's dream come true: spacious living room, dining room and kitchen, basement and attic, as well as a Victorian bathtub in the extra large bathroom. Just big enough for the three members of the Tarling family. One Christina begins to hear suspicious sounds in the attic, dear old dad (who works two jobs to keep him family fed) asks Howie the handyman to investigate. According to her Christina's best friend, Howie is a hottie, one that Christina should dump her boyfriend for. But Christina has enough troubles in her life: she must take care of her brother after school, she has to have supper on the table for when dad comes home from work and she's trying to remain a virgin, even though her boyfriend is ready to go all the way; not to mention the fact that Christina's mother is institutionalized. Off her rocker, if you will; having made claims that Christina's dad hurt her (and Christina).

Thus the stage is set for one of the biggest yawners in movie history. The fact that this film escaped - it couldn't have been released - after sitting on the shelf for two years is mind-boggling. Even its advertising campaign is confusing: it places the faces of the three leads above the title in a way more than reminiscent of "Kalifornia," which shouldn't come as that much of a shock since Brad Rowe and Brendan Fehr bear uncanny resemblances to Brad Pitt and David Duchovny! Rowe plays Howie, the unhinged handyman, with all the charm that Pitt brought to "Thelma and Louise," and a face that looks like a hybrid of Brad Pitt and Greg Kinear; while Fehr (who turned in an able supporting characterization in "Final Destination) looks like a bulimic Duchovny. Christina, as played by newcomer Allison Lange, however has none of the smarmy charm which Juliette Lewis manages to bring to a role. In what is surely a gratuitous piece of business guaranteed to get the male hormones flowing, Lange bathes luxuriously, a piece of action with no real reason for being there, except to garner an "R" rating.

The mystery of the film itself is that its writer managed to throw in every red herring they could come up with to tell this tale of ultimately fatal attractions. It seems that girls around Christina's age are disappearing near to the Tarling house. The film actually begins with a Girl Scout of some kind entering the Tarling house to sell cookies, only never to be heard of alive again. The three major suspects, when taken logically, would have no apparent reason for killing WOMEN. Dad is of course a suspect, since as played by John Savage (boy, this is a long way from "The Deer Hunter" and "Night Moves"), who takes every opportunity to leer at his daughter, yet wants to protect her from the amiable charms of her boyfriend Eddie - even if it means spoiling dinner with a succession of sexual double entendres. Eddie, also would have no reason to murder women: he left one girlfriend to date Christina, and has been patient without sex for the six months he has been with Christina. Now would handyman Howie have any reason to hurt women, unless he is being controlled by an outside force: he's too child-like in his behavior, a capable worker, always taking care of the house, and its many chores. And then there's that fourth suspect, little brother, Bobby. Her may be only fourteen, but, even Michael Myers started young.

The writer managed to squeeze very little character out of so much information, it's a wonder that any director even bothered to read further than the opening scene of the script, but Gavin Wilding must have seen something in the script which he failed to bring to the screen. With no regard for the characters, or his audience, he creates something unique: a mystery/suspense tale with no tension whatsoever. It's all very blah, with the exception of John Savage's surprising performance. When the denouement approaches, and we see the objects of torture which the killer has conceived, all remnants of hope have long vanished, and we're left with a killer ending, which is topped off by the most inane of inanities since Tim Burton re-imagined the finale of "Planet of the Apes:" a twist ending which has absolutely no basis in fact on what has transpired in the ninety minutes preceding it. Oh, okay, there is a single bit which I will freely admit to have struck me with its originality: when the killer slays an assailant with a ball-pien hammer to the brain, killer promptly licks the blood from the weapon. It's a standout moment, and probably the only thing that I will remember from "Christina's House."


As expected for a recent film, "Christina's House" possesses a delightful picture transfer. Everything is properly reproduced, right down to accurate fleshtones. Many of "Christina's House" takes place in the great outdoors, an unusual move to be sure, but the evocative shots of the house sitting in solitary against the Canadian exterior have a haunting quality. Gore is kept to a minimal level, and once the blood does flow, it looks like blood rather than ketchup or tomato puree. Late in the film, in Chapter 10, dirt appears one several frames, most noticeably on a close-up of Allison Lange. The film appears in an anamorphic widescreen transfer on Side A, with a standard panned and scanned transfer on Side B.


Once you get past the far-too-loud MGM logo screen, and into "Christina's House" itself, you'll find a very nicely produced soundtrack, albeit with little or no 5.1 activity. The surrounds are in nearly constant use for ambience, and at several moments which are guaranteed to shock. Bass activity is very minimal, though the thundering rock song drifting from a parked car in one scene provides the most low-end bass the movie has to offer. The nifty sounds of the house "settling," as old houses will, are realistically produced; and offer up a suspenseful mood. Dialogue is also realistically produced and always intelligible.


I was very tempted to give MGM a .5 rating for the miraculous inclusion of a one-page inlay sheet; with that being the only feature which separates this title from the budgetary titles on MGM's slate. Without even a theatrical trailer, however, I'm rating the Extra Features with a big, fat ZERO. (And this is a moderately priced title).


"Christina's House" is being promoted as a ghostly tale, playing up the eeriness of its subject matter. However, don't let the "Kalifornia"-induced cover art fool you into thinking that it's an action film, either. What "Christina's House" is, is a misguided suspense tale aimed obviously at the teen market who are tired of slasher flicks. There is a hardly any more substance here than in the run-of-the-mill assembly-lined teen horror films out there, and not really enough of anything but mood to justify the DVD's list price. Rent it for a smart change of pace: soporific suspense rather than sophomoric.