Sarah Salter 

Sarah Salter is a graduate of Methodist College with a BA in English. An employee of the NC Church Education Ministries of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), her work has appeared in Methodist College’s Tapestry magazine and Evangel, the monthly magazine of the IPHC. She is a member of ACFW and is currently working on her first novel. Sarah travels regularly with short term medical mission teams, but makes her home in Central NC with her dog, Sadie. Visit her website at

House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker

The light came into the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it.
–John 1:5 (NIV, paraphrase)

Before I knew the difference between Christian fiction and mainstream fiction, before I knew anything about genre or fiction craft, my brother came home with Frank Peretti’s novel This Present Darkness. I had never read anything that vivid or dynamic before. I loved every page of it and have since devoured anything and everything with Frank Peretti’s name on it.

I’ve never been a big fan of horror movies. I’ve watched very few of them and have read even fewer thrillers. I find violence and brutality to be innately gratuitous and needless. But then a new Frank Peretti novel was released, a thriller called House. He had cowritten it with Ted Dekker. I had heard of Dekker—heard good things, in fact. There was no question about it. I had to read it.

I purchased House in hardback one evening soon after its release. I came home, headed upstairs to my bedroom, and spent about six of the most terrifying hours of my life reading it from cover to cover. It made my stomach turn, my skin crawl, my hair stand up, and my heart race. In a word, it was awesome!

Jack and Stephanie Singleton are on the road to divorce, but driving to one last counseling session they find themselves lost in the middle of nowhere in the backwoods of Alabama. They think things can’t possibly get any worse when they get pulled over by the strangest and crankiest cop ever. But when they follow his directions and end up stranded at a deserted inn because their car was sabotaged, they begin to wonder what kind of nightmare they’ve really stumbled into.

At the Wayside Inn, Jack and Stephanie meet another unfortunate pair, Leslie Taylor and her boyfriend, Randy Messarue. The four quickly learn that they aren’t guests at this house but prisoners. And the madman holding them prisoner gives them a set of chilling house rules:

1. God came to my house and I killed him.
2. I will kill anyone who comes to my house the way I killed God.
3. Give me one dead body and I might let Rule #2 slide.

The four houseguests find themselves trapped in an evil house, hunted by its demonic inhabitants, and threatened by a brilliant but ruthless mastermind who seems to know everything about them—especially their weaknesses. And they have only until dawn to find a way out of the madness.

For my first thriller, it was a scary book, but it was also good. The longer I read, the more lights I had to turn on in my apartment. But I also became more and more invested in the characters and the story. I couldn’t put the book down.

Because I’ve never been a scary movie fan (and because I was a little scared to watch it alone), I recruited my brother to watch the movie with me. As a horror/thriller/sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, he was the perfect sounding board for my opinions. He had also read the novel, though it had been a while. We turned out all the living room lights and popped in the DVD.

My first impression of the movie was that it was absolutely as suspenseful as the book. My second was that although the screenwriter made some unexpected and probably unnecessary changes to the characters’ backstories, I think they did an admirable job of developing the characters.

My brother kept quiet the whole movie, but as soon as the ending credits began to roll, his voice rang out in the darkness: “That was the best adaptation of a thriller I’ve ever seen.” I have to say that I agree, but at the same time, it’s the only adaptation of a thriller I’ve ever seen.

I was thoroughly impressed with the movie version of House, except for one thing, the most important factor: The Christian message that was central to the novel was not central to the movie. For viewers who are simply looking for a good scary movie or an enjoyable psychological thriller, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. But for a Christian movie connoisseur who is looking for a movie that’s true to the Christian message, this movie just doesn’t hold up.

In the novel, the pivotal truth is John 1:5: “The light came into the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it” (NIV, paraphrase). Throughout the book, the characters are being forced to face and deal with their sins and the subsequent consequences. However, the movie never confronts sin or truth. It refers to sin, but the examples given are questionable; it doesn’t make it clear that repentance is an option, and it doesn’t address forgiveness as possible. Also, when the movie makes the occasional vague reference to “the light,” it does not seem to be Christ to whom they are referring. To a viewer who hasn’t read the book, the ambiguous and vague references to “light” and “truth” could make the movie seem more New Age than Christian.

The greatest strength of the novel is the gospel truth that is lived out through the characters. The plot and the characters are strong and complex, thought-provoking, and at times almost confusing. But when you focus on the John 1:5 message and use it as a filter for the story, the story contains a powerful truth: The wages of sin is death, but when you step into the light of Christ, there is life.

For a recreational movie watcher just interested in a good thriller, this is a movie worth watching. However, when choosing between the novel and the movie, the novel gets my vote both for entertainment value and for successfully portraying a clear and personal gospel message.