The Open House, 2018.
Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote.
Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Sharif Atkins, and Patricia Bethune.
A teenager and his mother find themselves besieged by threatening forces when they move into a new house.
Proving that January isn’t merely a dumping ground for Hollywood’s most rancid theatrical releases, Netflix’s generically-monikered The Open House – which wasn’t screened for press – delivers a thoroughly tedious, uninspired feature debut for filmmaking duo Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, abjectly wasting the efforts of talented leads Dylan Minnette and Piercey Dalton in the process.
After her husband is killed in a freak car accident, Naomi Wallace (Dalton) and her teenage son Logan (Minnette) temporarily move into her sister’s remote home in the mountains, which is currently for sale. Inevitably enough, a series of spooky supernatural incidents start taking place, and the pair come to wonder whether they might have an unwanted house guest in their midst.
From the outset, this film doesn’t exactly boast a unique or especially intriguing concept, but with two game leads and a tantalising, scenic locale, there was sure potential for The Open House to translate into well-executed schlock. After all, Netflix has proven a snug home for unassuming, shrewdly-conceived genre fare in the past – McG’s The Babysitter being perhaps the best recent example – yet it’s abundantly clear from the clumsily-directed opening sequence, in which Logan’s father is killed, that this isn’t the case at all here.
Juxtaposing familial discord with supernatural malevolence has been a long-time go-to for the horror genre, and to the film’s mild credit, the unease between mother and son is unquestionably its strongest element. The angry heartbreak percolating between the pair doesn’t translate to anything especially unique or involving, but it’s basically fine, largely thanks to solid work from Dalton and Minette.
Their heated confrontations are among the film’s few palpable moments and ultimately far more interesting than any other way the movie tries to raise the pulse. Unfortunately, though, as the familial gassing isn’t propped up by anything remotely scary or intriguing, even the film’s more tolerable dramatic moments ultimately become patience-testing. At just 94 minutes in length, this is a fundamentally naff supernatural horror that’s also an utter slog to get through. Many movies can survive being bad, but being both bad and boring? Not a chance.
In terms of what qualifies for horror here, there are numerous “suspense” sequences peppered throughout the film, but most of these protracted set-pieces mistake airless quiet for actual tension. It’s a project clearly constrained by a small budget, but does little creative with its not-terrible resources; two impressive actors, a big house, and a creepy mountainous locale.
The scenes that are supposed to be creepy and intense largely fail to produce anything remotely unsettling; there’s zero tension because it all feels so generic, almost to the point of parody. What pass for jump scares here are typically more comical than scary, for one.
This is all trundling towards an ending that’s at once unintentionally hilarious and enormously unsatisfying, with one particular action beat aiming for tragically horrific but landing on accidentally silly instead. The final moments in particular, which grind things to a halt out of nowhere, feel like an angry, misplaced middle-finger to the audience, a disappointingly subdued and vague payoff to a movie that could’ve mildly redeemed itself by violently ramping things up in the home stretch.
Squandering most of its satirical potential about the angst of selling a house while also failing to fully exploit its eerie setting and skilled actors or deliver a remotely compelling antagonist, The Open House is an aggressively boring snooze-fest of a horror flick, and certainly no better than the genre tripe you’ll find dumped in cinemas this time every year.
Without question one of the weaker non-Adam Sandler Netflix Original offerings to date, this virtually tension-free, depressingly bland horror flick is tough to recommend to anyone but the most undemanding horror fans looking for something gentle to stream on a hungover Sunday afternoon.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.