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Movie Review

Thr3e a.k.a. “Three”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and terror

Reviewed by: Michael Karounos

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 5, 2007 (wide)
DVD: April 24, 2007
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox
Relevant Issues
Featuring: Marc Blucas, Justine Waddell, Sherman Augustus, Laura Jordan, Max Ryan, Bill Moseley, Jeff Hollis, Josh Skjold, Priscilla Barnes, T.G. Boleyn, Bruno Jasienski, Jack Ryan
Director: Alan B. McElroy
Producer: Namesake Entertainment
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox

The movie “Thr3e” is based on the bestseller of the same name by Ted Dekker. It is a thriller marketed as a horror movie and it is getting terrible reviews from all the secular outlets. I will explain what I think is the reason for those poor reviews later in this review.

The basic plot of “Thr3e” involves Kevin Parson, a seminary student (Marc Blucas); Jennifer Peters, a police psychologist (Justine Waddell); and Samantha Shears, his childhood friend (Laura Jordan). Parson is both hunted and haunted by a voice from his past as Peters tries to solve two series of crimes which may or may not have two separate criminals.

“Thr3e” opens in a seminary classroom in which the discussion introduces the theme of the movie: man’s life-long struggle against evil. If I remember correctly, Professor Francis asks “Who said ‘Evil is the blemish of our species that will not spare any man.’” A student incorrectly answers “Freud” and the professor rejoins with a smile “Freud is not my favorite moral philosopher.” The correct answer is Kant, and it leads to subsequent discussions of being evil, doing evil, and struggling with evil.

That answer also frames the existential tension in the movie. The evil in the movie is clearly physical because a psychopath uses bombs to kill his victims. But the evil is also psychological as evidenced by the use of a psychologist and the clever plot twist. Finally, the evil is spiritual. One of the clues the stalker leaves is a direct quotation from Romans 6:23. In varying degrees, the movie references a police detective, a psychologist, and a priest to solve the riddle of the crimes.

“Thr3e” cannot be properly understood without observing these three aspects of the plot. The title of Kevin Parson’s dissertation, The Nature of Evil, is another clue for the viewer as to the theme of the movie. These are essential ingredients to the film and seem to be universally ignored by critics who are either looking for horror only or don’t know how to find a movie’s theme.

A further hint is offered in the statement by Professor Francis: “There are three natures: the good, the bad, and the poor soul struggling between them.” In other words, it isn’t just the serial killer that is the subject of “Thr3e;” it is evil as it manifests itself in the life of good, bad, and struggling individuals. Some succumb to evil entirely (the Riddle Killer); some seek to overcome evil (the psychologist); and some struggle with evil (Kevin Parson).

The movie progresses from incident to incident using the mechanism of the stalker’s phone calls to drive the action. Unfortunately, the tone and direction fail to convey the intelligence of the story line. In this regard, the film is similar to “The Da Vinci Code,” which, in spite of its multiple themes and frantic pacing, produced an emotionally flat movie. It also reminds me of “Godsend” which was likewise a good idea with flawed execution. Perhaps if director Robby Henson had Ron Howard’s budget for the “The Da Vinci Code,” he would have made a much better movie, but we’ll never know.

One can criticize many aspects of the movie. It is too claustrophobic, giving it a made-for-TV feel; it is under populated, which continually reminds viewers that they’re on a set; the acting alternates between flat and shrill, which undermines the credibility of the characters; and, for my taste, it relies too much on the conventional horror gimmicks of jump sounds, jump images, and nervous camera work.

Unfortunately, the director made a stylistic choice of emulating the look of “Saw.” This was a regrettable commercial decision. I think the subject matter would have been better served by turning it into a noir suspense drama which would focus more on characters and themes and less on special effects and the manipulation of viewers’ emotions.

Having said that, I would like to address what I consider the critics’ bias against the movie because of its Christian theme.

In keeping with the theme of three, it is appropriate to quote Goethe who once said that there are three kinds of readers: the one who enjoys without judging, the one who judges without enjoying, and the one who reading and judging enjoys both. Clearly, it is best to be in the latter category.

This is why Christians are directed to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and it is both foolish and even sinful to see movies like, for example, “Borat…,” for the mere pleasure of self-enjoyment. That type of viewer falls into the first category of reader/viewer which one may classify as childish or ignorant but not as innocent.

No adult Christian should be so foolish as to indiscriminately consume media without reflection. Such a person would not eat food indiscriminately, and movies “rich” in comedic folly are far worse for the spiritual person than are rich foods. We are not living in an innocent world and cannot claim an “innocent” pursuit of pleasure in defense of our actions.

The second type of reader Goethe identifies reminds me of the critics that one may peruse at Rotten Tomatoes. Some object to the aesthetics, some object to the story, and others object to the Christian ideology. All have valid points. My objection is that they don’t apply the same standards to secular films. They judge without enjoying because their politics get in the way.

For instance, a grossly political movie like “The Children of Men” gets an over 90% rating. The reason the critics like this movie so much is because they agree with its propagandistic aim which the director, Alfonso Cuaron, in the special “Children of Men: Visions of Men,” admits is about “ideology.” The movie cites “Homeland Security,” anti-immigration policies, and portrays a society oppressed by a fascist, racist police state. Sound familiar? The same territory was covered by “V for Vendetta” last year and both are obviously attacking the United States from a Leftist perspective.

Such reviews and such reviewers are deeply dishonest and are practicing what is called in literary and film studies “reception theory”:

“It is likely that the less shared heritage a reader has with the artist, the less she will be able to recognize the artist’s intended meaning, and it follows that if two readers have vastly different cultural and personal experiences, their reading of a text will vary greatly.”

In other words, the critics are showing their ideological affiliation by judging movies based on their own “cultural experiences.” They prove themselves to be dishonest viewers who approve or disapprove of a movie based upon ideology but express in their writing a supposed objective standard of judgment. The critics of “Thr3e” who object because it is “aimed at a Christian audience” or because it is “for that good Christian family who’s aching to see a neutered, unoriginal crime thriller” are clearly offended by its Christian content. That is a perfectly valid reason, but they should be professional enough to treat it as another element of the movie or to say that the ideology is their major complaint.

When I review a movie that I object to on Christian grounds I state so specifically. That is, I don’t hide my ideology behind a dishonest attempt at objectivity. The very purpose of a Christian Web site is to provide a Christian perspective. As such, it is openly ideological. But secular media outlets, by definition, are also ideological and Christians should not be naïve about recognizing the fact. Secular critics objected to “The Passion…” because it was Christian, not because it had too much blood and violence.

It would be refreshingly honest and even commendable in such a fractious time as ours if a critic would simply say “It is a bad horror film, and I don’t like Christian movies” and could do so dispassionately.

Lastly, there is the type of person who enjoys both viewing and judging. Christians are repeatedly called upon to enjoy the things of the world as well as to discriminate in their usage (Romans 14:1-3). In that regard, one may judge “Thr3e” on both the grounds of taste and judgment. As to taste, if you like the look and feel of horror films, then you may like “Thr3e.” As to judgment, if you like a movie that deals with profound issues such as good and evil, then you may likewise like “Thr3e.” Like “Godsend,” “Thr3e” is a drama dealing with issues of faith and morality that went astray by trying to appeal to the horror market.

Nonetheless, the central question of the movie is one that is relevant to everyone because in each of us is a soul that is engaged in a life-long struggle between good and evil (Romans 7:14-21). I recommend this movie in spite of its cinematic flaws, because that is the crucible that Kevin Parson finds himself in and which secular reviewers, too, caught up with formal criticisms, are unable to see.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—This has got to be the best Christian made film I’ve ever seen. There is very little in the way of “Christian” content, but it’s an exciting, edge of your seat thriller that keeps you guessing until the final moments. People who enjoy this genre, but are turned off by the problematic content, have finally found the film they’ve been waiting for. If you’re a fan of thrillers and/or the novel the film is based on, check it out. It’s definitely worth your time.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Dustin, age 19
Positive—I just returned from the theater after watching the movie “Thr3e.” Before I went to the movie, I had read some very negative reviews of the and was concerned that I was going to be very disappointed. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the movie.
Does the movie have million dollar special effects? No.
Does the movie have the greatest acting? No.
What it does have going for it is a great story.
It is a movie that is suspenseful and has an ending that is hard to see coming. It is also a movie that leaves you with many philosophical issues to discuss. The movie deals with the exsistence of Evil and its presence inside mankind. The movie deals with the fact that many of us have something in our past we are either running from or want to keep hidden from others. The movie does not necessarily answer all of these issues in a clear Christian way, but it opens the doors for some very important discussions.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Trevor Hammack, age 38
Positive—“Thr3e” is one of my favorite novels. I took my wife on the opening Saturday night and then my two nephews the next night. My wife (who started to read the book, but in spite of being a book worm couldn’t get into it) loved the film and did not appreciate me calling into question the quality of the film. I have to say that this is one of the best quality Christian productions I’ve seen. Luther is probably tops and To End All Wars, second best. I read the book Thr3e and was totally impressed with the film adaptation. The story line is fairly original and suspenseful from start to finish, with a completely unexpected ending full of twists and turns. The spiritual setting is the good and evil nature of man. The conclusion resolves that hope in God is the only foundation to stand upon.

I want to warn people against reading too many negative comments before viewing the film. The following contains some spoilers, not just for the plot, but for the pure enjoyment of watching a film without preconceived notions. It was directed by Robby Henson (“The Visitation”) and produced by Ralph Winter (“X-Men”). The latter really excited me. One of my disappointments is the lack of African-Americans for the inner-city setting, I counted five or six. There were a few other things that were out of place. A man was standing ten feet in front of the bus looking at it before it blew up, knowing that every one else was running for their lives. Then people were running around, like they didn’t know what they were doing. This also happened twice at the police station. Evidently they did not have a bomb unit or any way to isolate a bomb blast (hard to believe since they deal with bombers). Officer Peters flippantly throws the bomb out of an upper story window, endangering all of the people that were evacuated for safety. Another problem, if my memory serves me correctly, I think that she was down stars in the basement originally. Undercover plain clothed cops are specifically dispatched and we see uniformed officers running frantically to the destination.

While investigating the scene of an old crime between two youths, two police officers wore what looked like some kind of chemical suits. Another time we see cops in full riot gear arresting what appeared to be an unsuspecting unarmed man while he was at work. I think Justine Waddell did great as Officer Jennifer Peters, but there were times when she didn’t seem to fit an officer of her supposed stature, obvious directing issues. Besides the bomb, twice she is seen running around with her gun in hand, more for camera action than for realism. The personality of a strong calculating cop was also absent at the end as she quickly warms up to Kevin Parson, without really giving their relationship the time needed to get to that point. It seemed a bit unnatural in comparison with the book having ended with more of a pre warm up. There were obvious feelings, but they seemed guarded.

Overall, I think the acting was superb. Laura Jordan portrayed Samantha beautifully. The directing, perhaps being stifled by a low budget could have been better, but nevertheless had a lot going for it. The special effects were not perfect, but got the point across. The filmography was great. Some of the sets were better than others. Slater’s hide out looked more like a cheap haunted house. Some critics blasted the movie and you may think that I am too, but in spite of its problems I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you do too. It has some disturbing images and a mature plot. Not recommended for a fifth grade Sunday school class. Recommended for older teens and adults. Good conversation opener on the nature of good and evil. One of the theme verses is Romans 6:23, The wages of sin is death. No cussing, no sex, no cheap talk, no sexually suggestive clothing
My Ratings: Good / 3½
—JP Dill, age 36
Positive—Alright some of you may be freaking out about my moral rating of this movie, granted it did not have an alter call at the end, there was no salvation message by any character and God was only talked about once. That said, it was one of the most refreshing movies put out by Christian’s in such a long time, it followed the book, which seems to be impossible for film makers to do when adapting a book to movie. I understand that some creative license needs to be taken and Thr3e does do that, but not to the detriment of the film or for the people who have read the book. I think that although at times the acting seemed wooden, and a little unbelievable for the most part they pulled it off. The choice to film in Poland was a great one, it gives a nice mood to the film, kind of Mystery! on PBS like feel.

By no means is it as rough as “24” or any of the “CSI”'s but it didn’t sugar coat the book which I really appreciated. I have been so tired of looking forward to my favorite books being done into movies, (aka “Left Behind” I,II,III) and then being so disappointed that I spent so much energy looking forward to them, only to see a shell of what I loved in the books be brought out. I think if you want any interesting thriller, without the sex and foul language go see Thr3e, it is one of those that we shouldn’t be scared of just because it is a movie that may not meet our criteria of what we think a Christian movie should be. If Thr3e gets one person thinking about the nature of absolutes, good and evil, I think the film makers have done a worthy job.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Ellen, age 19
Positive—I was suprised that I enjoyed this movie. Dekker is a brilliant writer and I didn’t know if they could pull off a movie based on his book. But it was very entertaining and suspenseful. The moral message is there but it doesn’t beat you in the head. Good film.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Geoff Robinson, age 37
Positive—This was a really good movie. It’s nothing like your typical Christian movies that try to somehow shove their values down people’s throats. This was a very suspenseful thriller that did the book justice. The only thing that could have used some improvement was some of the acting, but overall it was a great movie!
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Karoline, age 26
Neutral—Very disappointing. I felt like I was a low budget movie. I found the movie kind of creepy and weird. I would never have guessed it was a Christian movie, had I not known before hand. Sorry, not what I expected at all.
My Ratings: Average / 2
—Claire Guthrie, age 37
Neutral—Enjoyed the movie with one exception. How could Sam and Jennifer talk on the phone a couple times based on how the plot turned out? If you saw the movie, you know what I mean.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Don, age 39
Neutral—I loved the book, but I thought the movie didn’t do it justice. The movie seemed like a cheap thrill that was meant to scare, while the book dealt more with the ideas of good and evil and God than the movie ever did. I suggest reading the book. It’ll be more worth your time in the end.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Carolyn, age 19
Neutral—I just finished watching the movie “Thr3e.” I had just finished reading the book before I watched the movie. My main criticism is that the movie is SO different from the book. The book is much better. The character development is better and story is much better. The movie goes down some different paths that I just didn’t find necessary. As far as this being a Christian film, I can only repeat what others say that there is no strong Christian message at all. I didn’t find it offensive. As in most cases, read the book and skip the movie. Your time is better spent reading than watching a movie anyway!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Susan, age 48 (USA)
Negative—I must warn you not to waste your money on this movie. Having read the book first, I was expecting a rollercoaster ride movie. I didn’t get it. The book was more than brilliant, exciting, and very entertaining until the very end. The movie however was dull, draggy, and boring. The acting was the worst I have seen in a long time. Did anyone else notice the female FBI agents mouth when she would talk? The words and voice were coming, but the mouth wasn’t really moving. There was no suspense and no fast-paced action scenes. They left out several important details from the book, and they added other things that made no sense. One has to wonder if the people that made this movie watched before they approved its release. I sure hope Ted Dekker wasn’t on the set. If he was, I can’t believe he would approve the people making this movie. I just hope House is better than this. The only good thing about the movie was its length. It didn’t last much more than 90 minutes or so. At least it was short. Save your money for the offering plate.
My Ratings: Good / 1
—Christopher Thorman, age 24
Negative—I took 6 young adults with me who had never read the book. They found it deadly dull and predictable. The special effects were cheesy. One man commented that there was rubble at the warehouse from the explosion BEFORE the explosion ever happened! We all agreed it was a waste of money, which must have agreed with those in the audience who chose to walk out. I loved the book which was a captivating, page turner with an ending that took me by surprise. The movie was plodding and boring. We all wanted to ask for a refund.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 1½
—Karen, age 48
Negative—By far the worst movie I have ever seen…
My Ratings: Average / 1
—Nick, age 21
Negative—I went to this movie with my mom mostly because we had come across a bible study booklet for the movie. It was not what I felt was a Christian movie. We both felt the movie was very dark, depressing and disturbing. There was no happy ending and just left you feeling awful. I actually had to watch some TV and read my bible yet that day to get that movie out of my head. I would not recommend it to anyone. I don’t understand how the movie could have any positive effect on anyone. Waste of time and money!
My Ratings: Good / 1
—Lee, age 49
Negative—Okay, let me first say that “Thr3e” by Ted Dekker is my FAVORITE book! I’ve read it multiple times, and still enjoy it, despite knowing how it ends. I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, which ended up being good, because I wasn’t disappointed. This movie is truly awful. The acting is poor, and like another reviewer mentioned, there are actors in the movie that don’t even have their dialouge matching up to their mouths moving, which is one thing I just can’t stand. Ted Dekker does an amazing job of creating a creepy, but engaging, feeling in his books, and really makes you get into the characters, which is something they completely failed to do in this movie. The plot is something that is hard to portray in a movie, but I think they could’ve done a way better job. Don’t waste your time with the movie, READ THE BOOK!
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Ashley, age 21
Negative—The movie is bad because the script is terrible, the acting is extremely poor (the director’s fault), and the editing is haphazard. It is a shame that Christian filmmakers cannot seem to get it “right.” View “The Hiding Place.” Here is a film with an outstanding Christian theme and executed brilliantly. It would have been nominated and possibly won Oscars had World Wide Pictures marketed properly. God Bless Fox Faith Films—but come on—demand the same superior quality in “Christian” films as Fox does is secular films.
My Ratings: Good / 1½
—Jonathan Smith, age 54
Comments from non-viewers
I wonder why religious leaders like Jerry Rose chose to be part of such an awful movie. The movie is primarily about evil and sin. Don’t we get enough evil portrayals from Hollywood? I emailed Jerry Rose to ask if this movie was made with donation money. No answer. Could this be the beginning of the end for TLN? The clips we saw on TLN were shocking to me and my wife. It’s like a nightmare. The clips were enough to see. I wouldn’t see this entire movie or recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 1½
—Alan, age 66
Comments from young people
Positive—I read the book and then saw the film and I liked the way that they put that long of a book into that short of a movie. There was a couple cheesy effects, but for the most part they where good. I think it put the biblical view in the background to try and draw more people in, but I saw it well in the end of the film. It may not have been the same rollercoaster ride as the book, but I thought it was still very well done.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Philip, age 16
Positive—Okay, this didn’t seem low budget to me at all! You know that feel you get from most Christian films, like… the acting is terrible, or the directing was just weird, or the sets are small and secluded? Yeah, well this wasn’t like that at all! It was incredible! Acting was fantastic, the sets were very good and out in an open city, making it feel less suffocated, and the general way it was filmed made it feel very professional. It was a lot like the book and I LOVE that! Because the book was incredible! And I can say the same about the movie! You MUST see it.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Jennifer, age 14
Positive—I read the book and loved it. The movie was good, but not great. The movie considering the budget was great. It wasn’t the best, but they have to start somewhere.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Apps McNorton, age 14
Positive—I’ve gotta say, I loved the book. I was hoping this would at least do it justice. And, for the most part, it did. Some of the effects were a wee bit cheesy, and some of the acting wasn’t great, but it was a good movie. They pretty much kept the plot intact and the surprise ending is still there.

I was slightly disappointed with a few things, though. Dr. Francis has a very large role in the book, but he’s only in this movie about 5 minutes tops. He even helps Jennifer figure out the surprise ending and goes with her. The library bomb was never seen, and Sam was actually with the CBI in the book, not an insurance investigator, and was doing her own police work on the side.

But I will address some of the surprise ending that might have confused some people.

**MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! Turn back now so you don’t find out the twist!! If you keep reading and haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you’ve been warned!**

In the book, the split personality is handled a little better. Sam realizes that she can’t remember a lot of the facts about her life, and realizes Kevin fabricated them. It also explains why she is “at Kevin’s house” while he is in the basement with Slater. None of that was really happening, Kevin was fabricating it. He was merely calling Jennifer speaking in a higher octave while he was in the basement of the garden shed. Same with when Kevin is asleep, he was thinking he was asleep, but really wasn’t. That’s how he was Slater, too. In the book, he keeps saying how he’s tired and feels like he hasn’t slept in days, because he really hasn’t. He’s been three people at the same time for hours. In the book, Jennifer says she’s talked with Sam many times, but Dr. Francis says that when he talked with her, her voice wasn’t so high it was necessarily female. A few more things happen in the book that really explain it better, because we get into the characters thoughts and the conversation between Dr. Francis and Jennifer is longer at the end, but for those, you have to read the book. But that’s OK, because it was still handled pretty well.


I also think that God was very obvious in this movie. Sure, there wasn’t a huge altar call at the end, but it’s really supposed to be a parable. It’s something a non-believer can look at and open up their Bible for the first time and find out what God says about good and evil. All in all, while it wasn’t amazing, it was a very good movie and the book to script adaptation was done very well.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Mary, age 16
Positive—This is the best movie I have seen by far! I don’t really like horror films, but when I saw it was by Ted Dekker, I was instantly very eager to see it! I thought the acting was a little skimpy in places, but overall, it was good! I can’t wait to see Ted’s next movie, “House”!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Ricky, age 15
Neutral—I am a huge fan of Ted Dekker, and I loved his book that this movie was based on. The biggest downfall for me was not the quality (because Hollywood provides zip $ for Christian films), but how far the plot and story strayed from the book. The book followed characters, developed them and made transitions clear.

The movie fails to explain a whole lot, and really doesn’t build any suspense. Bill Moseley plays an awesome Slater, though the character in the book was a whole lot better.

It would be unfair to base all my judgment on straying from the book, because in most cases the books are better than the movies. As a Christian, I recognized the messages, though they were hard to distinguish at times. The acting was poor, except for Kevin (played amazingly by Marc Blucas) and Slater (Bill Moseley). The script failed me, too.

Besides the fact that the film isn’t enthralling, or too interesting—based on the spiritual issues, as well as, just the emotion make it worth watching. I even own the movie; I just refrain from watching too often. What I found most profound about this film was the quote recited from St. Augustine, “Evil is beyond the reach… of NO man.” A fact that is unfortunately all too true.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Ben Badger, age 17 (USA)