The Open House

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I have a confession to make. Often before watching a new movie I will look it up on IMDB, read a review or two (particularly from audience members) and that usually gives me a small heads up about the quality of product I am about to watch.

Generally it doesn’t dissuade me from watching something (unless they mention graphic things I don’t want to ever see such as the baby rape scene in ‘A Serbian Film’ or the real life animal killings in ‘Cannibal Holocaust’) but sometimes I may choose to defer viewing something that’s maybe not as well liked until a time when it is not the only film I will watch that night, when I can perhaps have time for a ‘palate cleanser’ as it were.

When it came to this film, which was recommended by the lovely RJ, I found it on Netflix, was happy with the look of the film and the synopsis, encouraged by the actors in it and so headed on over to IMDB to check its score – 4.4/10.

Now that really was discouraging.

Nevertheless, my friends opinions are worth more to me than that and I have noticed that a lot of IMDB ratings seem to be heavily influenced by political agendas and assumptions, so it seemed best to just give it try and form my own opinion.

I’m glad to say that IMDB was wrong, because this movie was a solid horror.

What follows will likely be my most divisive and disliked review but like all my reviews, I stand by it.

Written and Directed by Suzanne Coote and Matt Angel, this film charts the story of Logan (the impressive Dylan Minnette) and his mother Naomi (tough but vulnerable Piercey Dalton) as they are forced to downsize after the tragic death of his beloved father. With bills and pressure mounting, Naomi accepts her sister’s offer to relocate to her holiday house in the scenic countryside of Big Bear Mountain. The catch is that sis is in the process of selling it and therefore they must vacate it every Sunday to allow for an open house to take place, attracting possible buyers. Resentfully and with seemingly no other choice, Logan packs up his life and future plans and moves to the mountains to grieve and move on with his mother.

The tension between mother and son is certainly played well here, you can see how each is in their own bubble of pain and communication is strained or unpleasant, though she tries to ‘brave face’ through it.

The house is large and country-fied, the surrounds an icy wilderness for him to continue his track training – a solo activity now that his father has gone.

The closest neighbor, Martha (a convincing Patricia Bethune) is oddly prying and intrusive – all long looks and confusing questions. What does she know?

The local shopkeeper (a refreshing Sharif Atkins) is over-friendly and interested in Naomi.

Within the house strange things start happening – a boiler shuts itself off mid-shower, phones go missing, things move about the house, and it seems there is something supernatural going on. They cant get enough sleep and things just feel wrong, not to mention the weeks punctuated by the persistent and rude real estate agents insisting on that open house every weekend, making the whole thing feel even more unsettled and temporary.

Mother and son struggle within their own grief, occasionally lashing out at each other but never quite mining that deep well of anger just below the surface until one giant blow out occurs and its as hurtful and scathing on either side as any real fight within family usually is. It’s totally believable and in some ways hard to watch as they tear strips off each other.

The police are called after it seems maybe someone in the town is messing with Logan and Naomi, but they aren’t much help and kind Chris the shopkeeper agrees to spend the night and keep them safe. During the night Logan hears something and gets up to investigate, and this is where things turn nasty and scary and riveting. So I’ll leave this review here.

Suffice to say I didn’t expect any of the things that happened to happen. I didn’t expect such a cruel and bleak dénouement. I didn’t expect to not know how it was going to end. And I certainly didn’t expect it to push as far away from audience expectations as it did.

After the viewing I went back to IMDB and checked those reviews; it seems it is this ending that people hated so much. All the one star reviews baying for their money back because they didn’t get the answers they felt they were owed, because this film dared to buck the conventions and give something that is a lot more frightening then knowing all the whys – telling the audience that there ARE no whys.

This is what’s actually scary – nameless, faceless, emotionless, random death. And I believe that’s why people railed against this movie, because not only is it a character study in which the action is subdued and not as hectic as the modern horror fan has come to expect, but mainly because no one really wants to think about reality; they want a thrill ride, and this movie refuses to offer that.

 

It’s currently sitting on 3.3/10 on IMDB.

I give it 8/10.

 

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