The Open House (2018)
Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton and Patricia Bethune.
Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote.
I can tell you right now, do not waste your time on this film. Granted, I’m wasting my time writing this review but, it’s all for your benefit!
If like me you are were a fan of 13 Reasons Why, you probably follow Dylan Minnette on some form of social media channel. He has the leading role in this film, and posted a few updates and trailers ahead of its Netflix release. They looked wicked! It looked like a really good thriller/horror, and given Minnette’s track record in the horror genre (Don’t Breathe was epic), I thought this would be well worth a watch.
Turns out, this film is a potentially fatal nosedive for Minnette’s career. Lets hope casting directors miss the memo and it doesn’t jeopardise his future opportunities. The film tells the story of Logan (Minnette) and his mother Naomi (Dalton) deciding to temporarily move out to her sister’s home in the mountains after losing their husband/dad in a car accident. Naomi’s sister assures them they can stay as long as they wish rent-free while the house is up for sale, but need to vacate every Sunday due to a scheduled ‘open house’ for potential buyers.
The film actually got off to a good start. There was substance and a few stories that to me would become relevant later on. Logan is a track runner training for the Olympics – hmmm; he’s going to be able to run away from danger then. The car-crash was a little odd, as it didn’t explain anything but again I thought this explanation would come up later on. The pair arrive at the mountain house – yep, classic horror, away from everyone and everything. Before arriving, they meet a random creepy neighbour in the shop who knows their names and seems a little dazed. Basically, classic horror conventions were cropping up everywhere and I’m getting excited. Is this neighbour going to be a weird stalker murderer? Let’s stick with it.
It’s not long before Logan and his mum are leaving for the day so the open house can commence. He asks his mum if she’s ever really thought about how weird open houses are which again, wets your appetite for what’s to come. I’m thinking, crazy person is going to stay behind and stalk them. The pair then OF COURSE start to hear weird noises and things are going missing or being moved once they return in the evening.
This is where the film plummets. Absolutely nothing is explained. Angel and Coote start different sub-narratives and never finish them, like they couldn’t be bothered. We meet the neighbour again who turns out to have Alzheimer’s, the boiler keeps getting turned off, Logan is a track runner who also suffers flashbacks from witnessing his dad’s death and we meet neighbour Chris who offers a protective eye over them. NONE of it means anything! None of these plotlines hold any relevance to the film – they are just ‘there’ if that makes sense.
You guessed it; someone is in the house and does start to torture/terrorise them both. Granted, the scene in which this person is slowly breaking Naomi’s fingers is horrific to watch – I’m cringing even now. But other than that, all in all it’s very unimaginative, if inoffensive with an astonishingly bad ending. We never find out who this person is and why they are doing it, both characters die with not an inch of self-defence or fight and the house just continues to be an open house every Sunday. No I’m genuinely serious, that is literally it. Logan’s running played no part, nor did the neighbour with Alzheimer’s or the flashbacks and neighbour Chris. He died by the way, very quickly. It’s like Angel and Coote just threw that in there just to ramp up the suspense? So odd.
As hard as it may be, I like to try and find some positives. Matt Angel hasn’t done a bad job in terms of cinematography. He’s clearly internalised the cinematic lessons of the recent horror movie past. He smartly relies on the stunning mountain landscapes to set the mood and also realises that any visual artist’s best friend is the setting sun.
Beyond some minor technical accomplishments however, The Open House is truly awful. Furthermore, those minor technical accomplishments are mostly dashed away by the fact that the movie is in widescreen for some reason. I respect that straight-to-streaming may not have been the production’s first choice but watching something attempt to be overtly cinematic on a streaming platform is a somewhat painful experience.
Everyone has different opinions, but as filmmakers (and writers on this project!) I can’t believe Angel and Coote watched this back and felt it was a decent horror, ready for release. Visuals are key in horror yes, but so is the narrative. Netflix too! What were they watching? Rotten Tomatoes have only 13% of their audiences wanting to watch it, with most reviews giving it a generous 1.5 stars.
You might actually be intrigued after reading my thoughts and want to see for yourself how bad it is. Be my guest; don’t say I didn’t warn you! No doubt one lonely star from me.