Netflix starts off the year with a bland horror flick, “The Open House.”
After his father dies in a car accident, teenage Logan (Dylan Minnette) and his mother Naomi (Piercey Dalton), receive an offer to move in to his aunt’s isolated, on-the-market mountain mansion. With financial shortcomings and no more double-income, the bereaved family agrees. When the two arrive at an unnamed and thinly populated town, they immediately sense the unsettling atmosphere. Little do they know, their instincts are right on. On the Sunday of their temporary home’s open house, they allow potential buyers to inspect the residence and leave the place unattended. Upon returning, they start to experience strange incidents and finally suspect that they are not alone.
This film attempts to make the real estate business a bone-chilling subject when, in reality, it is anything but. The plot relies on the concept that open houses constitute an odd exception to the societal norm by permitting outsiders to invade our personal space and possessions. However, the movie makes all the wrong creative decisions in an effort to elicit suspense and fear about this “bizarre” practice. Nothing remotely disturbing happens. There are excessively lengthy shots of characters roaming the house with eerie background music. There are predictable thudding noises coming from the basement. And there is an unnecessary neighbor who spews nearly laughable lines in overly obvious attempts to convey tension.
The villain is also unidentifiable and faceless throughout the film. He’s merely some guy who has a propensity for visiting open houses and killing their owners. So, really, he’s ruining the realtors, who are trying desperately to make a sale. This elusive character has minimal impact on the film’s scare factor and no significance in the story. Even supporting characters like the off-putting neighbor Martha (Patricia Bethune), the unusually humble store clerk Chris (Sharif Atkins), and the realtors themselves are better psycho-villain candidates with potential to add some solidarity to the film.
What really drags the film down is that no scene has intention; every detailed shot or inserted side story ends up being entirely arbitrary and irrelevant. The writers miss their mark of weaving world-building elements, leaving the audience dissatisfied by the end. One underused trait is Logan’s need for contacts and glasses. Every elongated shot of him wearing contacts suggest to the audience that perhaps his myopic sight will foreshadow his weakness in the near, troubling future. In other scenes, we also see that Logan is a swift, Olympic-worthy runner, so maybe this will be the strength to counteract his flawed vision. Instead, all these perfectly laid-out attributes are dismissed. They don’t tie up loose ends and instead become purposeless, making the film conclude with no efficacious character development or wholesome closure.
Even his father’s death is an impassive and hackeyened plot point, only serving to corner the two protagonists in an empty nowhere. Logan’s father becomes a wasted character with an unmeaningful place in the story. The narrative could have climaxed to an optimal thriller with implicit messages like coping with death and grief or regaining familial harmony. Instead, it turns into a tepid horror cliche of disappearing objects and phones without signal.
“The Open House” won’t change someone’s perspective of an actual open house, and it definitely won’t make someone anxiously question the perils of one. Instead, it’ll make them realize that they’ve just wasted 90 minutes on a dull film when they could have been re-binging another series.
Directors: Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote
Starring: Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Sharif Atkins, Patricia Bethune
Release Date: January 19, 2018
Image Courtesy of Netflix