Open House Review

The byline of the film is “A teenager and his mother find themselves besieged by threatening forces when they move into a new house.” which in itself is misleading. The tagline makes it seem as though the film has preternatural maybe supernatural forces and the early part of the film lends itself to the possibility of that being at the source of the characters experiences.

The film itself is essentially two films, disjointed by a complete change in tone and pace by the end of the film. The filmmakers couldn’t decide what they wanted to make, a supernatural drama with a grieving mother and son or a slasher horror film with a torture porn element.

The ghosts of many films are felt in this film, which feels as though the filmmakers watched many films in the attempt to copy them without trusting the audience with new material.  The faceless boogeyman, stalking its prey unnaturally strong able to subdue anyone it comes across from films like Halloween, Friday the 13th and Frankenstein. The unsuspecting family stalked by a killer, like When a Stranger Calls, The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and The Others. Which by itself is unoriginal, but then you add the elements of a thriller, the intruder, the mysterious neighbor, the stalking, the family grief… This movie really adds nothing to either genre.

The first third of the film is a smart crawling drama about the relationship between a mother and son, who are suffering under the weight of guilt. The second third of the film takes the care and nuance that was built by the characters and throws it all away, turning the movie into supernatural horror. The last third of the movie is a complete departure in tone the slow pace of the beginning turns to a frantic pace of a thriller. It’s almost as if the filmmakers wanted to make three movies and instead settled on this.

 

You spend the film getting to know the family, caring for the grief of the mother that is literally wearing her down and the son who is spiraling further and further into anger. But the care and attention paid to the characters at the beginning of the film are thrown away by the end. By the end, they are slaughtered mercilessly and you are sitting there watching the masochistic murder of a family that the filmmakers built you up to care about. The filmmakers meant to make the audience invested in the characters so that by the end of the film you were invested in their survival, but that thread wasn’t felt all the way through the film. Too much time was spent building up the emotional stakes of the film instead of introducing the fact that they are being stalked by a flesh and blood man. By the time you realize that it is a serial killer and not the paranormal element that you were hoping for the characters are killed.

It reminds me of torture porn that was so popular in the early 2000s, where you watch people have their lives torn apart for… entertainment sake. But I don’t remember feeling connected to these characters, feeling their humanity and ultimately wanting their happiness. But I never enjoyed that genre anyway.

The most offensive part of the movie and there are several, was the character of Chris. It is a very common trope that the black man in a horror movie dies first, so much so that it is openly mocked and labeled as a lazy cliche. Chris is a handsome black man, the only in town except for another very handsome black male officer in a small PNW town, which itself is a little hard to believe. But let’s go with it. Chris is portrayed, inaccurately as a predator and stalker. He comes onto the mom from the very beginning, very strong and pops up often despite having no reason to. The other well-known trope in our society is how black men are looked at as sexual aggressors. In America, there is a long history of black men being painted as rapists, would-be rapists, or aggressors so much so that many black men are sitting in the judicial system today because of the fear white Americans have. Chris is painted as being threatening, which the filmmakers use through his blackness. It is either implied that Chris is threatened because he is a black man, sniffing around a white woman or the filmmakers in 2018, are so largely ignorant of racial issues in America that they placed a harmful racist stereotype in a film without thought. It would be better for the filmmakers to give them the benefit of the doubt and just believe that they are ignorant, and completely underinformed about their own bias because it would be incredibly sickening to think that they placed a black man in this film as a tool of ratcheting up audience anxiety and cinematic tension.

The film is a lazy copy of films before, using each of the tried and true tropes of the genre to try and pass as one of them. There is nothing original or purposeful in this film above others and I’m left with the single, haunting question: Why was this made?

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