Tribeca 2010 Film Festival Reviews: Open House

So you love complex psychological horror ala American Psycho? Or maybe campy slashers like Nightmare on Elm Street? Then you’re going to hate Andrew Paquin’s Open House, a film that tries its hardest to conjure the spectre of Patrick Bateman and Michael Myers, but ends up feeling like one of Full Moon’s lesser B-grade releases. Open House tells the story of fraternal twins Lila (Tricia Helfer) and David (Brian Geraghty), a pair who hide in the basement of real-estate put on open visitation, murder the owners, then squat in the house for a few months, systematically executing any and every member of the neighborhood they come in contact with. Dave is socially awkward on a ridiculous level—staring into the distance for long periods of time, seemingly unable to articulate himself beyond “Yes,” “no” and the occassional line of melodramatic cheese; he’s entirely co-dependent on his super-hot bitchy sister, a woman who utilizes this weakness to con him into assisting her serial killer spree. But when Dave meets Jennie (Anna Paquin), an unfortunate house-seller whom he clubs over the head and leaves locked in a basement cubbyhole, he begins questioning his sister’s love and murderous motivations. With utterly unimpressive gore, 2-dimensional characters ranging from “co-dependent murderer” to “succubus murderer” to “victim”, and a story arc where absolutely nothing is accomplished, one wonders how this film isn’t already sitting on Wal-Mart’s $2 dollar DVD rack, next to the candy bars and spare batteries.

There are murders, but they’re all pretty lousy. Lila stabs a guy in the neck, stabs another in the stomach, stabs another across the neck—none really shock. The film’s highlight isn’t a death at all, but rather a stab wound to the eye which happens late and serves no end whatsoever. As for David, he wastes most of his screentime lurching around confused, his performance varying from disinterested to utterly disdainful of the audience; he’s what Michael Myers would be if you dressed him in Patrick Bateman’s suits, then gave him far too much exposure to be creepy. It’s an awful mix of bland and awkward that’s more annoying than scary, and since his identity crisis as an assistant to homicide is the film’s focus, it unhinges what little plot Open House had going for it.

My audience laughed through the film’s finale, which is filled with hammy lines like “Killing her is the only way we’ll ever be…together!”; it’s poorly written, anti-climactic mess that’s only saving is the knowledge that the film is over. This film isn’t particularly bad, which paradoxically can be good in the horror genre—it’s just bland. Nothing sticks out, there aren’t any deaths you’ll remember, and you’ve probably been more frightened by past papercuts than anything you’ll see here. There’s no reason for Open House to exist—it’s a by-the-numbers, rote slasher in a genre where breaking the rules is necessary to impress. Leave it to the discount DVD bins and spend your money on keychains or novelty pens—this one just isn’t worth it.

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