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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Open House (2010) review


Rachel Blanchard (Alice), Brian Geraghty (David), Tricia Helfer (Lila), Stephen Moyer (Josh), Anna Paquin (Jennie)

Directed by Andrew Paquin

"I can't wait to meet the neighbors."

The Short Version: This twisted slasher suspenser is a 'Home Invasion' horror that isn't quite as sadistic, nor as gory as some similar movies, but does have its own unique nasty streak and enough blood to make viewers squirm a bit. The brutality of this serial killer couple is offset by some eye catching photography and carefully set up moments of tension. The generic DVD cover hides a better horror movie than it promotes.

Josh and Alice decide to call it quits with their marriage and sell their home. During an open house for potential buyers, David, one of the interested parties, decides to stick around and hide in the basement. Once everyone has gone, the stowaway takes Alice captive and kills her friend, Jennie. Not long after, another unwanted guest arrives named Lila. Both David and Lila travel around murdering those selling their homes and killing anyone who is unlucky enough to stop by before they pack up and move on to their next set of victims. But David has grown fond of his captive, Alice, whom Lila doesn't know is still alive.

This decent psycho slasher thriller from Andrew Paquin appears to be an unacknowledged modern version of Nico Mastorakis's disgusting exploitation film ISLAND OF DEATH from 1975. That film featured a murderous couple on a Greek retreat butchering those deemed punishable for their sins. Taking a series of photographs of their victims, the deadly duo are hiding a secret which is revealed at the end. OPEN HOUSE is essentially the same movie (minus the envelope pushing violence) only it moves its cold blooded killers to the unsuspecting suburban surroundings. Like the butchers in ISLAND OF DEATH, David and Lila also film themselves murdering their quarry with a hidden video camera.

David and Lila are a special "couple", though. David is more of a "Yes" man. He pretty much does whatever Lila says to do. Lila enjoys toying with her victims before killing them letting the audience know when she's about to strike by stating "Can I ask you a personal question?" Lila is akin to a ruthless black widow spider while David is more like a mindless robot staring off into space barely registering even the slightest emotion. He let's it be known that he has some kind of twisted affection for the captive Alice and has grown tired of Lila and her bossy, flamboyantly violent nature.

David shows just how brutal he can be when lied to during one of the films more harrowing sequences. The house cleaners stop by and become a mess they'll never be able to clean up. David then "punishes" Alice by savagely beating her with his belt. It's one of the most intense scenes in the movie. A later sequence is also well mounted wherein Lila decides to have a "party" by inviting new friends over for a dinner get-together. Two couples show up and it's up to the audience to decide when, how and if both couples are going to end up as slaughtered lambs. The dinner scene reaches an uncomfortable level when Lila begins answering questions meant for David. Stating his profession is a writer of children's books, Lila begins making up details about David's latest book that acts as an analogy for who they are and how they became ruthless killers.

Like some other things in the film, the origin of this gruesome twosome is never fully explained. That's not so much troubling as the unexplained reasoning why David has kept Alice alive the entire time. One possible reason is hinted at, but a full explanation is never given. Also, Alice is allowed to roam "freely" about the house while Lila is out during the day. Several scenes show Alice playing on David's more "sympathetic" nature. He's privy to her intentions in the beginning, but later on, he comes to dislike Lila a great deal.

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer of TRUE BLOOD have minor roles in the movie and the DVD cover they are prominently featured on would have you believe you're in for some kind of suspense thriller. What you get is an occasionally stimulating slasher film cum 'Home Invasion' movie akin to similar horrors like FUNNY GAMES and THE STRANGERS (to name two). Interestingly, there's also a more blatant slasher movie from 1987 also called OPEN HOUSE about a killer murdering real estate agents. The gore in the 2010 namesake is striking when you see it, but director Paquin doesn't necessarily dwell on these moments. One killing in particular we never see, we only hear the stabbing and the screaming. The suspense/stalk & kill sequences work the best when other things don't and for a film like this, that's all one really needs. Working two different crowds, both Slasher fans and suspense lovers may enjoy this OPEN HOUSE.

This review is representative of the Lionsgate DVD


Seth said...

Anna Paquin and her husband Stephen Moyer took small roles in the movie knowing their presence would help get exposure for her brother's directing debut. They were trying to get True Blood fans to watch it which is why they were marketed as the starts despite being minor characters.

It didn't seem to work.

venoms5 said...

Yeah, every other review site mentions that so I didn't feel the need to reiterate it. Watched TRUE BLOOD once on my DVR. A bit of a couple episodes and didn't care much for it. Sick of vampires. Maybe OPEN HOUSE will do well for Andrew Paquin on DVD? Hopefully he'll get more directing gigs as this one didn't look like the work of an amateur. If I hadn't read a couple reviews of it before renting, I would never have bothered with it strictly by its DVD cover alone.

Maynard Morrissey said...

thought it was pretty mediocre. Great actors, terrific kills, cool camera work but sadly an extremely weak script and a lame direction

venoms5 said...

I think it's a little better than mediocre. Possibly the unanswered questions were intended for a sequel? After all, you never do actually see a particular character die at the end.

Carl Manes said...

I'm all for home invasion, so I'll be sure to check it out. V, did you like ILS over THE STRANGERS when they came out?

venoms5 said...

ILS or THEM I most definitely preferred over THE STRANGERS. I didn't really finish the latter. I started doing other things while it was on, but I saw most of it.

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