Film Review – The Open House (2018)
In its continued attempt to flesh out its library of films and entertain subscribers, Netflix has released another original thriller, The Open House. With a low-budget and a recognizable lead, Netflix hopes that it has a sleeper hit on its hands that adds to the home invasion sub-genre. The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote
Written By: Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote
Starring: Dylan Minnette, Piercy Dalton, Sharif Atkins, Patricia Bethune, and Aaron Abrams
Following the tragic death of his father, Logan (Minnette) and his mother Naomi (Dalton) are in serious financial trouble. Naomi is unable to pay the rent for their home, forcing the two to look elsewhere for living arrangements. Thankfully, Naomi’s sister steps in to help the two, offering to let them stay in her mountain home that is currently on the market until the realtor finds a buyer.
As part of the deal, Logan and Naomi must leave the house on Sundays to allow for the open house to run without a hitch. However, after the first open house occurs, the two begin to feel unnerved by strange noises and occurrences in the house — leaving them to believe that someone involved with the open house never left.
The Open House follows the same trend that has been used time and time again for low-budget horror and thriller films.
In order to market a film with such a low-budget, you need one recognizable face to get audiences intrigued. In this case, that individual would be Dylan Minnette who is fresh off his starring role in 13 Reasons Why (Check!). However, with funds lacking, the rest of the movie must be composed of no-name actors that can work cheaply. Minnette’s co-star, Piercey Dalton, has few acting credits — all of which are in smaller roles and projects (Check!).
The film’s plot also needs to center around a confined location — enter a remote mountain home (again, Check!).
After a quick tally, The Open House checks off all the required elements of a low-budget horror film. Naturally, with such a workmanlike attitude to its framework, The Open House requires the highest level of craftiness in its execution. Films like Don’t Breathe (which also stars Dylan Minnette oddly enough) have the same particulars but move pieces around to keep an element of surprise and auteurmanship. In a bizarre way, great low-budget films become more inventive due to their constraints. Smaller movies that play it straight (i.e. try to make a standard film) become lost over time.
Our Characters are Literally and Figuratively Stranded
Although some other characters come into the picture from time to time, the story predominantly circles around Dylan Minnette and Piercey Dalton as they become increasingly spooked by some unknown force. This setup is not inherently an issue, but the execution of the setup is a major problem.
In limited isolation, it’s up to these two characters to make the film intriguing and intense. However, they’re written so blandly you never feel an attachment. Both Minnette and Dalton are very one-note. Dalton walks around in a haze, doing nothing to get her and her son in a better financial situation. Meanwhile, Minnette is constantly aloof. Even worse, you never feel the connection between these two — furthering the feeling of complete and utter apathy. In all seriousness, a piece of white bread has more personality than these two put together.
That’s not to say that these two aren’t qualified actors. In fact, we’ve seen Minnette perform admirably many times before. But, whether it was the direction, the writing, or a chemistry issue, nothing about these performances envelops you in this world. The Open House mixes sorrow and loss with a steady state of disinterest and attempts to pass it off as layered storytelling.
The Plot is Not Worth its 94-Minute Runtime
What makes those characters even more unbearable is the fact that they are forced to merely roam aimlessly around the mountain house until the plot kicks in with 15 minutes left in the film.
The Open House fails to wring out ingenuity from its enclosed location. In a sense of fear, characters are relegated to checking the same areas of the house with zero consequence. The story construction attempts to appear Hitchcockian in that makes the audience aware of an impending doom without the characters becoming privy to that knowledge until later in the film. However, it becomes clear that the plot is merely delaying the disclosure of information to keep the film from finishing in under an hour.
The Open House tries to create tension out of these moments by using a score that drones in the background as characters inch towards some object or opening. But, these moments often build to nothing or end in a fake-out jump scare. You get the sense that the movie is almost toying with you — subjecting you to nothingness as it meanders through lazy attempts at horror. The Open House borders on annoying as it consistently subjects its viewers to the same routine over and over again. Like the inherent elements of the film, The Open House works like a bare-bones thriller. It follows the same pattern, leaving zero impact.
The Open House Does Not Care About Logic
The Open House leaps from frustrating to infuriating as its rationale is destroyed in order for its boring plot to occur. Not only are our characters boring, they’re really dumb. For the plot to work, characters change from being completely skeptical of the situation to accepting it in an instant. Seriously.
There’s a reason most horror/thriller films take place in the past: it’s so that the film doesn’t have to make excuses for why characters’ phones don’t work (or why any other piece of technology doesn’t work for that matter). News flash, The Open House — you can still call 911 if a phone doesn’t have a sim card in it. Issues such as this one are all over this movie. Unlike bigger movies where viewers can be distracted from similar problems, The Open House has nothing to divert your attention, leaving you to pick out everything wrong with each scene like you’re a member of CinemaSins.
Even worse, the integrity of the entire situation falls apart when you think of one simple question: why don’t they just leave the house? A spoiler heavy discussion is a better place to explain specifics for this point. However, as you watch The Open House, you quickly realize that nothing ties the two main characters to their location, meaning that the entire endeavor is avoidable.
Your anger continues to build and build with The Open House. But, it’s the ending that puts the movie over the top, sending your blood pressure into an all-out frenzy. In an attempt to tie-in with the idea that anyone can walk into your home during an open house, the film merely slaps you in the face with absurd symbolism that never gets close to its desired amount of resonance.
A bottom-of-the-barrel thriller, The Open House is never tense as it fails to conjure a single scare or anxious moment. Dylan Minnette and Piercey Dalton are trying their best to provide solid performances. But, the script forces them to appear dull and unlikable — keeping you from ever attaching to them. The movie wastes time to make it to feature-length, extending scenes that have no payoff.
Ultimately, The Open House is an unbelievably bland movie that culminates to one of the most shameless endings in recent memory. If you’re looking for Netflix programming with Dylan Minnette as the star, check out 13 Reasons Why instead.
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