Day 23: Female-Helmed Horror Movies For October
The Open House
Written, Directed and Co-Produced by Suzanne Coote and Matt Angel
1 hour, 34 minutes
I watched it on Netflix.
“The Open House” is a waste of time. This thing is so full of MacGuffins and then it ends up being exactly what you thought it’d be from the beginning. This is the first feature for directors, Suzanne Coote and Matt Angel. Coote has at least one short film under her belt, a solo writing/directing effort, and Angel is typically an actor. Sadly, their inexperience shows. It only translates to a badly made flick and none of that terrific urgency, that having something to say or explore, that new voice that can come with a first movie.
Instead it’s yet another horror movie that thinks because it has a unique, big house and a calculating killer, that makes a worthwhile scary flick. But it is devoid of tension. There are moments that probably seemed scary if you’d read them on the page but the pace and overall execution just suck out the scares. The movie is very light on plot.
Teenager Logan (Dylan Minnette, who also starred in the much better “Don’t Breathe”) and his mother Naomi (Piercey Dalton, doing her best) are left destitute when Logan’s father (Aaron Abrams) dies suddenly in a car accident. Naomi’s sister invites her to live in her empty mansion in a small mountain town. She tells them the only caveat is that they need to clear out of the house each Sunday, when they have an Open House to try to sell it.
Directors Coote and Angel seem to think they’ve crafted some supremely creepy slow burn movie but this is exactly the kind of flick that gives slow burns a bad name. There is absolutely no reason to have taken soooo long (a good hour) to get to the fighting, especially since there is no rewarding payoff for everything set up along the way. Almost none of the character weaknesses or strengths that Coote and Angel take pains to establish come up as a strategy or flaw in the fight. Why on Earth do they take all that time to set up that Logan is an excellent runner and then never use that?! None of the are-they-friendly-neighbors-or-creeps lead to anything.
There are some promising aspects. The cast is just fine and I imagine they would’ve been better with a more primo script. We’re given the impression that the killer is quite smart and ruthless but we really only see a few good examples. (That contact lens bit is fucked up.) Although certainly next to Naomi and Logan’s almost complete lack of effort, anyone would seem smart. Their financial problems almost add up to something moving. Naomi is seriously, truly, can’t pay for a cheap diner meal broke. The movie lets that be stressful and awkward and hard for both of them but only on a surface level. When their neighbor comes by and brings them banana bread, why can’t Naomi be way too excited or maybe even disappointed that it isn’t something more useful, like a casserole? Why can’t Naomi invite her to stay for dinner, and then be embarrassed that it’s mac and cheese and hot dogs, the making-it-work staple? I love horror movies that spend a considerable amount of their time as character dramas but Coote and Angel never dig deep enough. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.
SPOILER LAND BELOW! It’s a waste of time to watch this cold but in case you’d like to watch this with friends and yell at the screen together, here’s my list of frustrations/wasted opportunities.
The killer taking out his contact lenses to make the fight more interesting was fucked up, especially that he’s so gentle while he does it. But then it doesn’t matter at all. I’m sure it made it harder for Logan to go through that forest but we didn’t see that. Where was the fun POV shot of everything blurry and scary?
The realtor being fully creeped out when he leaves that last open house was awesome. But then what was that all about?
They let Logan and Naomi spout off the worst things they could think of to say to each other but it’s way too contrived, as though the writers sat down and thought, “What’s the meanest thing they could say?” It isn’t organic and there is no fall out from it, apart from a few attempts at bristling from Dalton. There’s no sign that either one is really trying to be cruel or that they instantly regret it or that any of this is something that can’t be unsaid.
Why is the basement walled up in one corner but we never see anything about that? He never even reports that insanity to his mom.
Why doesn’t the neighbors Alzheimer’s pay off in some way? Him mistaking her for the killer was sad but why doesn’t he attempt to find her house in some way? Why don’t we see any of his strategizing or losing it?
Why don’t they all three sleep in a room together at the end with the dresser in front of the door? Why don’t they go sleep at Chris’? Why didn’t the filmmakers mine the sadness of having nowhere else to go, even when they’re scared? Why didn’t they ask the police to just stay outside for the night? This is a small mountain town. Does anyone really think that would be some impossible imposition? Why wasn’t Naomi more scared? Why wasn’t Logan more frustrated with his mom for being so ineffectual? Why didn’t they try anything? Why, why, why? Why didn’t I pick a different movie?