15 – 94mins – 2018
DEATH MOVES IN
13 Reasons Why must be the sole reason why Netflix bought up this lacklustre home invasion thriller. Their acquisition team must be hoping that the presence of lead actor Dylan Don’t Breathe Minnette will persuade fans of the headline-making, smash-hit teen mystery drama series to give something else with him in a watch. Any viewers that do will no doubt be as disappointed as I was by this poor excuse of a horror from unseasoned all-rounders Matt Angel (an actor by trade) and Suzanne Coote, who wrote, produced and directed.
Minnette plays Logan, an understandably sullen and shaken young adult, who moves with his mourning mother Naomi (Piercey Dalton) into her sister’s mountain mansion following the tragic death of Logan’s father (Aaron Abrams) in a convenience store car park hit and run. The catch is that the secluded property is on the market, so Logan and his mother have to sporadically vacate their temporary new abode to make way for open house events, returning in the evenings to endure an escalating series of inexplicable occurrences.
“The quiet out here can get real loud.”
Mobile phones go missing, bowls are moved when left unattended, the pilot light continually blows out in the basement, the phone rings but no-one is on the other end, car horns honk in the middle of the night and neighbours seem either too eager – such as flirty nice guy Chris (Sharif Atkins) – or too weird – such as confoundingly contradictory Martha (Patricia Bethune). Angel and Cootes get carried away piling on unearned jump scares and red herrings so Logan and Naomi are left frayed and convinced they are not alone.
The tension crescendos in a raging blow-out between mother and son which is so caustic it should shatter their resolve and indubitably rupture their relationship (“I fucking wish it was you [who died]!” Logan snaps at his blame-heavy mum), however the pair are never anything but solemn throughout so not a huge amount changes – they continue to grieve and compile conspiracy theories while a tense soundtrack implies danger at every turn and unwarranted shocks scatter the screenplay.
Is it ghosts? Is it the hit and run driver back to silence the rest of the family? Is it smooth talking Chris or Alzheimer’s suffered Martha…? Disgruntled locals? Pranking kids? Is it all in Logan and Naomi’s unsettled, paranoid minds?! The sheer volume of teased and hinted at resolutions meant that whatever the conclusion, The Open House was bound to fail to live up to its credentials. The fact that it drops the ball so spectacularly is astounding.
Following 80 minutes of sombre, slow-burn build up, we see ten minutes of truly unpleasant torture sequences (necks, heads and fingers all suffer), and our persistence is rewarded with… zero pay-off. The film ends with the violent intruder’s identity never revealed, his motives never established, a multitude of unanswered questions (why?? mainly) and an unsatisfying feeling of anti-climax; no survivors offer no hope of a resolution in the future. Maybe Angel and Cootes were blindly optimistic for a sequel? I wouldn’t bank on it.
CR@B’s Claw Score: