2018 | unrated (R equivalent for language and some violence) | starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton | written and directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote | 1hr 34mins |
Studio Pitch: Another movie where a large house may or may not be haunted and at the end of the day who cares if it is or not because by the time these suckers find out we’ve had them for an hour and 20 minutes.
The Open House is a reasonably well made, well shot, well scored exercise in completely empty storytelling that specializes in teasing us to stick with it because it is a movie after all and something has to happen. Movies don’t get made unless something happens, right? Except that happens all the time, just usually not backed by a big studio. Joining the likes of Shut In and The Boy while making those movies look like thrill rides, The Open House is entirely built around horror movie cliches without a story to wrap it all together. It’s nothing more than a demo reel of horror mechanics and how directors Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote can execute them.
After the death of a loved one, grieving mom (Piercey Dalton) and her son (Dylan Minnette, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) retreat to the proverbial house in the woods miles away from everything with the convoluted premise that they are staying there for her sister while she is selling it. The catch: they have to leave during the day when the house is being shown. You’d think that all of these specific details would figure into the mystery as things start going odd in the house and the neighbor lady starts wandering over and contradicting herself. How foolish of us. Also, just saying things go odd in the house isn’t even correct, because again that would imply something is happening. The camera just slowly pulls in on a door way or a wall in the basement and we’re left to assume that it has some significance.
Because so much of Open House is dedicated to home selling, I started to think about how much of horror movies, particularly haunted house movies, establish the house itself a character. In the absence of anything happening our characters walk down hallways, wander into dark rooms and nice, large kitchens and the movie becomes architecture porn. Look at that open kitchen. Those cabinets. The winding staircase and basement design. Look at the lovely skylight someone will probably fall through later. The house at the center of Open House is nice, so it serves that purpose.
Where this movie goes is insulting and the final sting is downright funny. There is nothing to get here. No thrills, scares, subverting genre spins, acting, comments on grief and loss, nothing and more nothing. The Open House is a movie worth seeing to really appreciate other haunted house horror films that get this material right.