Minor spoilers ahead (first fifteen minutes) – won’t ruin the film
Alice (Rachel Blanchard) is away one afternoon while a realtor shows off her pad. It’s during this open house that somebody slips in unnoticed, and takes cover in the basement. Realtor locks up, Alice comes home, has a dinner party, and fades to black with her friend Jenny on the couch (Anna Paquin) via ample good food and fine wine.
She awakens later that night to find herself alone, with Jenny’s car still in the driveway. Searching the house, Alice ends up in the basement, where she finds her friend sprawled on the floor – dead – her throat slit. Before Alice can escape the house, she is subdued by our mysterious invader, and locked away in a cubbyhole within the cellar.
The invader is David (Brian Geraghty), a beady eyed, quiet minded yet violent murderer – and he has cleared the way for his partner in crime, Lila (Tricia Helfer), to join him in some pleasant, domestic living. After a finely chopped organic vegetable omelet, sautéed delicately with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a sprig of parsley, Lila ensnares an ex-boyfriend of Alice’s who insists on dropping over the house and letting himself in via some keys. Not before long you get the impression that Lila is actually the blood thirstier of the two – filming her sickness – killing for the thrill of it all, and the sex she’ll have later while watching the videotape.
When Lila goes to work during the day, like the normal people they are trying to portray would, David goes down to the basement and takes his prisoner Alice out of the wall. She is chained and gagged. From listening from beneath the stairs, Alice has been able to determine that Lila does not know about her presence, and that David is keeping her a secret.
David explains in short conversation that Lila will kill her if she finds out she is alive, and that keeps Alice quiet and subdued at night. But as the film progresses, and the intricacies of David and Lila’s relationship are divulged, it seems that perhaps Lila is the corrupt driving force, and he more of an influenced victim. She calls him weak on more than one occasion, and Alice tunes into this, attempting to win David over on the idea that they can run away from all of it together. By no simple means, as she is playing with two murderous killers, Alice must try to survive this invasion by avoiding Lila and playing David to her advantage.
The formula created by first time director Andrew Paquin is a fair one, and provides a firm backbone for a horror/prisoner/home invasion tale, but on the downside, something about it seems scattered and unfixed. At some points OPEN HOUSE seems to want to be a gore/slasher movie, racking up several kills along the course of their stay, but it’s there that the special effects fall flat or seem TV quality, failing to truly disturb anyone. And where OPEN HOUSE becomes a decent tightrope, psychological thriller, it lets up too much, leaving the emotional tones of the film too 2-dimensional to be called anything more than OK. And the victims – who cares? You’ll barely know who they are.
David looks like a psycho with his narrow beady eyes, and his long emotionless stares, and he manages to progress over the course of the film from a purposive killing machine to having perhaps a fragment of human self sense to stop the vicious cycle, but even this progression is too shallow and unrevealing to make you care about the characters at hand – Alice, Loni, or David – filling this house with shallow characters and flattening the story (which hinged upon them and their interactions, as they ARE stuck inside of a home throughout the film).
Final analysis: The gore isn’t over the top, comprising of arterial sprays, blood pools, and slit throats that look like cheap makeup FX – perhaps hitting its meat zenith toward the end when Lila looks through the coolers full of dismembered body parts, but otherwise, the story relies on the domestic tensions of David and Lila, and the need for Alice to survive and her attempts to twist David’s weak mind to her favor. But to no spectacular avail. Characters come in the front door and exit via plastic bags, but you won’t know them any better than passerbyers. Dinner guests, realtors, cleaning people – all emotionless sacs of victimry that get off’d like products being boxed on an assembly line. However OPEN HOUSE is driven by a decent plot, and some solid acting on Brian Geraghty’s part. His Arian-like, seemingly emotionless, pin eyed stares just personalizes the essence of a dim-witted psycho. Where OPEN HOUSE could have gone over the top, it comes back down to earth and kept things on the ground floor. All in all an interesting watch, but beware an ending that may leave everything you cared about unresolved.