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Arts in Review

The Open House probably won’t find any buyers anytime soon

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The following review contains spoilers

2018 looks like it has the potential to be a great year for scary movies. As a huge horror buff, I’ve been checking out whatever trailers I can find, and quite a few have looked promising. (Although these days, I never get my hopes up too high.) One of these was for a Netflix film released on January 19: The Open House.

The main gist of the plot is as follows: after his father is killed in an accident, our protagonist, Logan (Dylan Minnette) and his mother, Naomi (Piercey Dalton) are left in a bad financial situation, so they move to her rich sister’s old place, which is currently for sale. The only catch is that they must not be there whenever an open house is held to show potential buyers the place.

The house happens to be in a secluded mountain town (because of course it is), and as expected, there are some potentially suspicious characters: a weird old lady who lives in the next house through the woods, the pushy realtors, a man named Chris at the grocery store who seems like a kind, well-intentioned guy, but is he really? You never know, the whole neighbourhood might turn out to be really nice.

The first half of the movie isn’t bad. Although it definitely feels like a B-rate film, the acting is actually decent, and the soundtrack is pretty well done, doing a great job creating atmosphere and building tension — albeit this built-up tension rarely leads to anything more than someone innocuously walking by for an attempted jump scare, or absolutely nothing at all.

The scenery is beautiful, and some of the shots are quite captivating. As for the story, I found myself genuinely intrigued in the beginning. Weird things keep happening in the house, but no one can determine the cause. However, the mother notes that it doesn’t feel random, but “personal.” The old lady, it turns out, suffers from Alzheimer’s, thus seeming strange, and a possible red herring. But she had also recently lost her husband, and was always making insidious comments about how death never leaves you, it follows you around. Was this perhaps a supernatural problem? It would explain the antagonist’s ability to get around and do whatever they pleased while never being seen or heard (unless it suits them).

Following horror tropes, all the instances in the movie’s first half led to a reveal, and a final 20 minutes that left me wishing I’d looked up a little bit more about this movie before watching.

After trusting Chris despite not really having any reason to do so yet, turns out he was nice. So Logan finds him dead outside. A man then knocks Logan out, covers him in something — possibly gasoline — and then just leaves him there. He ties up Naomi, and breaks all of her fingers on one hand, possibly both, then leaves again for some reason I never quite caught (if one exists). She screams for Logan until he wakes up and comes to the rescue, only to quickly leave her again. He then manages to accidentally stab her later on while attempting to save her. She tells him to run, falling down to presumably die. He runs and, after resting a few moments, he hears a noise behind him. He screams for his life, and the mystery murderer kills him. Logan lies on the ground dead. Another shot of the house. The end.

It’s like the writers got bored towards the end, so they just inserted some random, big, scary-looking figure in black, and never let the audience see their face, or hear a name, or discover any kind of clue as to their motives. Psychopaths, can’t understand ‘em, oh well.

All of The Open House felt like nothing but a bunch of empty promises. Everything made to seem to matter was meaningless, no real answers for anything were given, and chances for some actual originality were sadly ignored. The audience isn’t left with any kind of closure, just a hollow feeling of disappointment over an opportunity wasted for this to have been anything more than just a waste of time.

A lot of B-rate horror flicks manage to be entertaining, despite being known as “bad” films. But, in large part because it had the potential to not be but blew it, this one is just plain bad. Hopefully Netflix learns to differentiate between the two.

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