I tend to forget why I add movies to my Netflix queue. I’d say that half of them are from reading reviews, a quarter are from jumping around the Netflix website, and the last quarter are word of mouth. So, when Open House (2010) showed up in the mail, I had no memory of selecting it. I figured it was my love of serial killer duos and watched the movie. The first clue that the movie wasn’t that good was that the trailers were all for shitty revenge movies starring UFC fighters. I really wanted to like the movie and I’m seriously disappointed that I just didn’t enjoy it.
Rachel Blanchard stars as Alice, a woman going through a nasty divorce with her husband, Josh (Stephen Moyer.) She throws a dinner party for all of her woodenly-dialogued friends–including Anna Paquin (The director’s sister) as her ragged-looking friend, Jennie. I hate spelling “Jennie” that way. I bet she dots the “i” with a heart.
Alice wakes up from her wine-coma to find her house empty. But she feels like she’s being watched. Her suspicions are confirmed when she finds Jennie dead on the basement floor. It turns out that her open house attracted a pair of serial killers, Lila (Tricia Helfer) and David (Brian Geraghty), who go to open houses, kill the owners, live in the houses for a while, and then move on. That seems insanely convoluted and like it would leave a trail a mile long.
Lila is definitely in charge, although it’s strongly implied that David isn’t happy with her. Unbeknownst to Lila, he keeps Alice alive in a crawl-space where she’s a witness to their crazy love.
I could deal with the plot-holes that you could drive a truck through if this movie were in any way compelling. But I couldn’t find myself caring about the characters and was confounded by their utter lack of motivation.
My first problem was the house itself. If you’re going to call your movie Open House then the house had better be a character in the movie. The Changeling, The Haunting, and The Shining all have different stories but are united by the fact that the physical location is as important as the actors. This house is boring, forgettable, and stocked with art that you could get at the starving artist sale at the Marriott.
This young couple supposedly put their hopes and dreams in this house but it barely looks like it’s been lived in. Aside from that, the crawl-space that Alice is kept in doesn’t even look like it’s part of the house. It’s a glaringly old-fashioned anachronism in a super-modern Hollywood home.
The second problem is our duo of killers. Lila seems to be the driving force of the pair, but why?
I don’t want to hear about her bad childhood but it would be nice to have an idea of what made her tick. There aren’t even any similarities between her victims.
David, meanwhile, is mostly silent.
I don’t think we hear his voice until about thirty minutes into the film and he’s surprisingly quiet. Honestly, I think that Brian Geraghty’s performance is the best and kind of wish that they’d cut Lila entirely. He’s often shot from below and I think that’s to increase his physical presence. They show him lifting weights a few times and it’s very Patrick Bateman-lite.
But, like Lila, I have no clue what makes him tick. With his buttoned-down, white shirts and Freddy-from-Scooby-Doo-hair, I feel like they’re going for a tightly wound, John List type but The Stepfather did it better. He claims to dislike Lila, wants to be away from her, and talks to Alice about running away with him. He says he’s not like Lila but he can be more brutal than her.
Mostly, though, I felt nothing for our final girl, Alice. She’s poorly characterized before she’s even taken hostage and she just fades away as her ordeal continues. I was left with no one to root for.
I was mostly left wondering what universe would these serial killers succeed in? They call Alice’s job and say they’re her doctor and that she has laryngitis. But then they kill Jennie, and Josh, and Alice’s housekeepers, and Alice’s realtor. How long would it really take for people to notice that everyone connected with Alice is dying? And how many people have seen Lila and David around town? Don’t Alice’s neighbors notice that she’s not around, doesn’t seem to have moved out, but this new couple are all over her house?
The worst part for me is that this movie had decent parts. There were parts that didn’t suck and that made the parts that did suck stand out in even brighter contrast. I particularly liked the part when David attacks a group of people at a dinner party that Lila holds (Don’t even ask, I can’t with her.) You don’t see anything, you just hear screams and thumps. It was very effective, especially in a genre that can show too much. I honestly wish that the ending were different. (SPOILER ALERT) I wish that Alice killed Lila and then she moved on with David as his new partner in crime. That feels perverse enough that it could maybe save the movie. The music was quite beautiful, although I’m a bit of a sucker for a cello. I could listen to the movie’s music as long as I never have to watch this movie again.
- Scarina was born in 1823 in the Hudson River Valley. She likes these magic-lantern shows you call "movies" very much. As weird as some of these movies are, she still thinks history can be much more strange--try looking up the Calico Indians, a history of feral children, or the Hartford circus fire of 1944. Some of her non-horror related favorite things include; scratching kitties on their chins, the Civil War, actually make that war history in general, especially World War Two and Vietnam eras, burlesque shows, Guinness beer, and funny cartoons like Archer.
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