Reviewed by Debi Moore
Starring Brian Geraghty, Tricia Helfer, Rachel Blanchard, Stephen Moyer, Anna Paquin
Written and directed by Andrew Paquin
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Those who are wondering where the next generation of horror filmmakers who “get it” is coming from would do well to take a look at first-time writer/director Andrew Paquin’s Open House. Granted, he doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but he does craft a very competent and satisfactory slow burner of a home invasion tale that shows off his keen eye and, even more importantly, a real talent for handling actors and keeping them reined in when the material they’re working from verges on being over-the-top more than a few times as events play out in the film.
But first let’s discuss the storyline of Open House, which is a bit convoluted to describe. Alice (Blanchard) and Josh (Moyer) are dissolving their marriage (clearly not her choice), and as a result Josh has moved out and Alice has turned their once cozy abode over to a real estate broker for the day in order for him to host an open house. As potential buyers come and go over the course of an afternoon, one apparently decides not to leave as he skulks off into the basement, never to be seen again. Until, that is, later that night after Alice has returned home and hosted a dinner party for some friends, one of whom is Anna Paquin (Andrew’s younger sister) as Jennie, who sticks around a bit longer than everyone else to help Alice deal with her loneliness. It’s about then that David (Geraghty) makes his presence known by brutally offing Jennie by slitting her throat and taking Alice hostage, gagging her and leaving her chained up in a cubbyhole in the cellar.
Just when we’re starting to wonder why David would “keep” Alice, along comes Lila (Helfer), his apparent accomplice, and the two of them take up residence in Alice and Josh’s former love nest. It’s obvious from the get-go that Lila calls the shots in their relationship and keeps David as emasculated as possible. It’s also obvious that David would love to replace Lila with Alice, hence his keeping her a secret and only letting her out for a few hours each day while Lila is off doing god knows what to occupy her time. But David and Lila have a special bond that consists of killing just about anyone who stops by the house, including Josh, who, after trying to be a nice guy for a change by popping over to check out the malfunctioning Jacuzzi, soon follows Jennie as a victim of David and Lila’s twisted sex and murder games. Bodies, or rather coolers full of body parts, begin piling up in the garage; and it isn’t long before it’s time for David and Lila to take this show on the road. How Alice fits into David’s ultimate plans remains to be seen.
The kills come pretty fast and furious during the tight and taut 87-minute runtime of Open House via knife attacks that leave David mopping up the bloody mess while Lila oversees the clean-up and plots their next move. A few times the audience is left wondering how much longer they can keep up the charade before Alice’s and/or Josh’s friends come knocking to see where they hell they’ve been (and toward the end of the film that does occur), but everything happens within just a few days so it’s easy to overlook that minor detail. Because the major details — the acting, the cinematography, the set (I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t kill to live in that house!) — are all just about perfect, especially the three leads. Blanchard has the most thankless job, being tied up for a majority of her screen time, but when she is given something more meaty to do, she delivers the right balance of fear and finagling in her dealings with David. And Helfer is great, too. You believe the power she has over David and, once the exact nature of their connection is revealed, even feel a little sorry for them both. But just a little.
It’s Geraghty, though, who owns Open House with his performance. The ease with which he alternates from chilling and calculating to pathos-filled is impressive. His Norman Bates-ish David is the type of portrayal that can easily lead to typecasting, but considering what a chameleon the actor has already proven himself to be throughout his relatively brief, yet extensive career, that’s probably not likely to happen. Although the horror genre would be lucky to have him stick around for a while. And the same with Paquin. His next project hasn’t been announced yet, but taking into account the groundwork he’s laid with Open House, we definitely hope horror remains a viable option for his future endeavors.
Speaking of these two gentlemen, the main extra on the Open House disc is their joint commentary. Unfortunately, their otherwise notable skill set doesn’t extend to this area as it’s one of the driest commentaries I’ve heard in some time. They cover all the bases and hit all the high points of the film, including confirming what could be considered the “twist” in the story, but overall it’s quite dull and can be skipped with no ill effects on the movie as a whole. Same with the three deleted scenes, which were understandably cut for reasons of redundancy and/or pacing. Throw in a few trailers for other upcoming Lionsgate releases, and this Open House is closed. [Note: This review is based on the DVD, not the Blu-ray, which is why picture and sound quality differences between the two haven’t been mentioned, although the extras are identical.]
If you’re expecting to spend some time with real life “True Blood” couple Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, which you couldn’t be blamed for thinking is the case in Open House based on their names and faces being placed so prominently on the DVD artwork, then you’re likely to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you’re ready and willing to enter the sickly twisted world of slickly presented serial killers David and Lila, then come on in and make yourself comfortable. This Open House is one that’s worth its asking price … and the commission, too.
3 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5