After finishing American Psycho and The Girl Next Door I said that I was ready to return to the paranormal world and so I picked up a copy of Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker’s House from the library. The brief synopsis that Buzzfeed gave this book was that its twists will have me obsessively turning pages and keep me on my toes. The previous two books I had read were each amazing but neither particularly scared me so I was ready to sleep with the lights on and begin having nightmares. Instead I slept comfortably with the lights off, had pleasant dreams and was only left with resentment towards the Buzzfeed article which had encouraged me to read this book. Here’s why:
The Main Characters
The book had four main narrators, Jack, Stephanie, Randy and Leslie. You quickly realize that you like none of them. Each one has a somewhat interesting back story but these back stories are executed poorly and briefly touched upon. It’s as if they decided what the back stories were supposed to be (dead child, abused as a child, anger management etc.) but never actually bothered to write them. Like when they were in the writing process they said “Um Jack has a dead daughter” “okay sounds good” and that’s all they bothered to do with it. It left the character’s motivation and personalities flat, forced and you never really sympathized with any of them. The reason the characters never really became likeable is the same reason the story suffered (which I’ll get into in the next section). The authors just tried to do too much with too many characters in a short time span that it was rushed and no idea was fully developed. Had they stuck with one or even two perspectives they could’ve built them up nicely and really touched on their back story. Instead you were left with chapters where you sometimes forgot who you were hearing because they spoke with such a generic voice and perspective.
This was just a tangled mess of too many narratives, themes and ideas. It starts off as a classic slasher story, their car breaks down on an isolated road with only the house in view. They hear that a serial killer is on the loose and that he’s been seen in the area. It was very The Hills Have Eyes/Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So I thought to myself “oh okay, I thought this was a ghost story but sure this works”. It THEN turns into a ghost story as the house itself is alive and filled with ghosts that hunt and trap the characters so the villain – Mr. White – can finish them off. Then when they finally face off against White – wait for it – it turns out he’s a demon and a little girl they find in the house is an angel and it’s a battle between good and evil. Wait what? It’s a slasher, ghost, biblical horror book? As I was saying with the main character, they tried too much and in the end it was all a jumbled mess. It touched on each genre but never really committed to being any single one of them and thus you’re left with nothing but unfinished ideas. It was hard to be scared when reading this book because you’re left asking “wait what’s the scary part?” You’re too confused by the end that it isn’t scary just unsatisfying.
Again, it was hard being scared of a character that didn’t really kill anyone. From the beginning of the book he promises to spare them all so long as they kill one of their party members. The rest of the book is them running, escaping and trying to figure out how to beat him. Throughout the book they escape him with ease, thwart his ghost minions and beat him in the final confrontation. It didn’t follow the typical horror formula where he kills them all but one. They decided to challenge this formula by having him kill none of them? He says that if they don’t kill someone by Dawn he’ll kill them all, and dawn comes and then he starts coming after them but they’re still able to escape him which makes his deadline and thus the horror completely pointless! I just don’t think there was any point in having him as the villain if they were battling a haunted house, and if they really wanted him as a villain they didn’t need the haunted house in the picture. The only horror villain less scary than him was Emma Roberts in Scream 4.
This shouldn’t come as a huge shock as the last few books I’ve read I stated I haven’t seen their film versions. This one is no exception and now normally I say I’ll go back and watch it and see how it was done. But in this case I realistically won’t bother finding the movie – of which I could only find ONE poorly visible trailer on youtube – as the book was a bad experience and I wouldn’t care to revisit it again. Maybe the movie is better than the book, but with an obscure cast (other than Michael Madsen) a limited release and the fact that it’s difficult to find I’m going to assume it wasn’t that much better.
I must admit, It’s possible I disliked this book as much as I did because I was coming off of The Girl Next Door which I loooooooooved. But at the same time I think this book was just kind of empty and no matter what book I was coming off of I wasn’t going to like it. That being said my suggestion is skip it. If you like horror then skip it, if you’re not a horror fan then skip it, if you’re in the mood to be scared then skip it.
With only a few books left I’m going with one of the scariest stories in the past century. The Exorcist, which I’m excited about even though I’ve seen it 167 times! And it keeps getting funnier! Every single time I see it! (get it?). Anyways wish me luck, hopefully I don’t get too many nightmares!