Del reviews ‘The Open House’
“The Open House” Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton and Sharif Atkins. Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote. 94 minutes. Rating not listed.
“The Open House” was pitched as a horror movie and I watched it because Netflix has been streaming decent non-theatrical programming lately (“Mindhunter” for instance).
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. While “The Open House” initially holds promise as a lite version of “The Shining,” it undergoes a slow collapse as it slides toward its dire conclusion, leaving the viewer to wonder what the point of all that was.
It’s hard to discuss the movie without spoiling it, so beware.
Suffice it to say young Logan Wallace (Minnette) is a promising track star living in what I presume to be the foothills of the Rocky Mountains – Colorado perhaps? – with his mom (Dalton) and dad (Aaron Abrams). All is not well in the Wallace household. Dad’s unemployment has stretched the family budget to the limit, and mom has tried, without success, to find a job herself. The rent is due and there’s no money to pay the bills. Meanwhile, Logan hopes to make the Olympics in track and field, something that may become possible if he continues to improve his times.
Logan and his dad venture to a convenience store for a carton of eggs and quart of milk. While Logan waits in the van, dad is mowed down in the parking lot by a driver suffering a medical event. It is all very sudden and heartbreaking, as Logan’s relationship with his father is one of the movie’s sparse warm spots. With the death, a bad situation has been rendered into a horrible situation.
After the funeral, Logan’s aunt offers to let them stay at her and her husband’s remote mountain house while they figure out what to do with their lives. Logan’s mother, aware of their dire financial straits, accepts the offer, much to Logan’s predictably selfish despair. In fact, he spends the rest of the movie pouting and blaming his mother for their sad turn of fortune.
The house is a McMansion with a spooky old basement that seems impervious to illumination. In fact, not once do Logan or his mother attempt to locate and replace a burned-out light bulb, meaning several trips into the crypt-like basement with a flashlight (and you know who temperamental flashlights are in horror movies) will be necessary after scary things start happening.
The townfolk comprise the usual suspects – the crazy, nosy neighbor; and the noble store clerk who might just have an interest in Logan’s mother (much to Logan’s irritation) and otherwise manages to show up at any number of weird, beyond-coincidental occasions, conjuring visions of stalkers.
Meanwhile, weirdness escalates. The water heater keeps getting turned off. Logan’s glasses disappear, then reappear. Loud noises interrupt everybody’s sleep. Strange vehicles pull into the driveway, their headlights blinding, then abruptly leave. And nobody is looking for a job.
The house is for sale. Every Sunday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., Logan and his mother must leave for open house. The movie suggests that somebody, or something, arrived for one of these open houses and decided to stay.
Which is a shame, because the movie’s other tensions provide much more interesting potential – Logan having to set aside his dreams of the Olympics, the resentment he feels for his mother, and his mother’s resentment of her husband’s failure to provide for them. These are barely explored in favor of, well, dead-ends, red herrings, and an antagonist who seems to arrive from somewhere beyond the movie’s logical reach.
“The Open House” wraps with an absurd and pointlessly nihilistic series of events that remind me of films I saw in the 1970s, movies that sought to achieve emotional resonance by clubbing the viewer with cruelty and shock. That didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.
Minnette is wooden and unsympathetic in his role as Logan, while Dalton manages to imbue her saddened wife and mother character with moments of real pathos. Both are saddled with a screenplay that, in the end, doesn’t make much sense.
It’s a nice-looking movie but I can’t recommend “The Open House.” If you subscribe to Netflix streaming and want to watch it, by all means do so. It will cost you only 94 minutes of your life.
I would grade this movie a generous C-, maybe a D+.
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.