This 2000 straight-to-video film opens with a shocking and effectively violent scene in which an innocent girl scout is yanked into a dilapidated house and bludgeoned to death. There’s even a slow-motion shot of crushed cookies falling to the floor. It’s excessive, tasteless, and so ludicrous that it actually makes you think that Christina’s House could actually be, if nothing else, an enjoyably self-aware exploitation film.
Unfortunately, everything pretty much goes downhill after that scene. The rest of the film deals with Christina (Allison Lange), a teenage girl with an annoying father named James (John Savage), an annoying brother named Bobby (Lorne Stewart), an annoying boyfriend named Eddy (Brendan Fehr), and an annoying admirer named Howie (Brad Rowe). That may sound like a lot of annoying people for one person to deal with but Christina actually manages to be even more annoying than all of them. Absolutely no one in this film comes across as being someone with whom you would want to be trapped in a murder house.
Anyway, Christina’s mom has been institutionalized in a Washington mental hospital so James, has rented out a nearby house. (Naturally, it’s the same house where that girl scout was previously killed.) James appears to be almost absurdly overprotective of and strict with Christina but it’s also possible that he might just be an asshole in general. He’s certainly not happy that she’s dating Eddy, who is the local bad boy and who does stuff like hang out on the roof at night. James would probably be happier if Christina was dating Howie, who has been hired to help fix up the house. Howie’s so respectful and such a hard worker. He’s a man who really knows how to handle a hammer.
Christina, however, has other things on her mind. For one thing, young women are being murdered and the creepy sheriff (Jerry Wasserman) keeps coming by the house and asking strange questions. Add to that, Christina sometimes thinks that she can hear someone or something in the attic. Of course, every time that she tries to investigate, her father comes out of his bedroom and yells at her.
(It could just be that James doesn’t want his daughter spending her nights wandering around in her underwear and searching for a vicious killer, in which case James probably has a point. Still, he’s kind of a jerk about it.)
Who is the murderer? Is it Eddie, Bobby, or Howie? Or could it maybe be James? What if the sheriff’s somehow involved? Well, don’t worry! The identity of the murderer is revealed about an hour into this 90-minute film and it’s exactly who you think it’s going to be.
If not for the extremely odd performance of John Savage, this film would be totally forgettable. Savage was the film’s “prestige” actor, a performer who previously appeared in films like The Deer Hunter, the third Godfather, Do The Right Thing, and The Thin Red Line before finding himself in Christina’s House. John Savage attacks the role of James with all of the ferocity of an actor who has gone from co-starring with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken to playing second fiddle to Allison Lange and Brendan Fehr. Savage yells every line and glares at his co-stars with the fury of a man on a mission of vengeance. As a result, both the actor and the character that he’s playing come across as if they’re always just one annoyance away from putting his fist through a wall. James may be written as an overprotective father but Savage plays him as being a borderline sociopath. It’s such a totally inappropriate and misjudged performance that it becomes oddly fascinating to watch. It takes a great actor to give as entertainingly bad a performance as the one given by John Savage in Christina’s House.
With the exception of Savage’s over-the-top theatrics and Jerry Wasserman’s memorably creepy turn, the rest of the cast is largely forgettable. The problem is that, as written, most of the characters are fairly unlikable and you really don’t care whether they die or not. When the killer eventually trapped Christina and Bobby in their new home, I found myself more worried about the house than either of them.
Christina’s House is available on YouTube and sometimes, it shows up on late night television. (I saw it on This TV.) It’s pretty dumb but if you’re fan of good actors bellowing in rage, you might want to watch it.