Reviewing The Open House feels wrong because, frankly, it barely even qualifies as a film. What writer/director pair Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote have done is take a handful of random scenes, place them in chronological order, and then play them for an audience with background music and shocking sound effects. This fails even by bad horror movie standards, as it never makes narrative sense, or presents itself as remotely entertaining.
One could summarize the entire synopsis in a single sentence.
In The Open House, a widowed mother (Piercey Dalton) and her mourning son (Dylan Minnette) crash at a family member’s empty home, which is currently up for sale, and begin to notice something strange and sinister going on. That’s it. While this may be considered a spoiler, it must be made clear that the viewer is given no insight into what is actually going on in the family’s home. We simply watch as unsettling and, eventually, downright disturbing things happen to this mother and son, with a final shot that attempts to provide clarity, but only makes things more perplexing. What could this screenplay even look like? The final cut suggests that Angel and Coote simply made a bulletted list of scenes they’d like to see, and then called it a day.
This bare-bones “plot” is made even worse by the film’s final third, which becomes a particularly gruesome exercise in torture porn. When done poorly, torture porn can be the most excruciating subgenre of horror, and while The Open House never reaches a Hostel-esque level of gore, it is unquestionably disturbing and entirely unearned.
While it doesn’t exactly succeed in being a suspenseful film, it spends its first hour creeping the viewers out and making them uncomfortable, without any blood or gore. This makes the film’s brutal final third all the more out-of-place. And, frankly, there is nothing fun about a mother and her teenage son being beaten and mangled onscreen with a camera that refuses to glimpse away. This is not a fun horror film, and it’s not a horror film that offers any food-for-thought. It is, simply, an exercise in torture, both for its characters and audience.
It also doesn’t help that this is a boring film, acted without any enthusiasm from its principle cast. In a sense, Dylan Minntte’s performance is brilliant, as he plays the role like the personality-deprived vessel that the screenplay paints him as. But, even with that in mind, he’s a complete bore onscreen. Piercey Dalton is slightly better, as she carries the heavy weight of losing a loved one on her character’s shoulders. But even the best performances would be squandered under such bland direction and a script this bad. It’s hard to praise Minnette and Dalton, but it’s just as hard to fault them. No one would be able to pull this movie off.
Netflix wants to become a heavy hitter in the ever-evolving film industry, and there are more than one-thousand think pieces that could be written about if they can, or even should. But one thing is for certain: the won’t be making any sort of impression on the film industry with titles like this. The Open House is an embarrassment, and a film that no self-respecting, traditional film studio would have ever release. Netflix should have followed their lead.
Overall rating: 1 out of 10