Friday favorites: The Open House

Hey Fab Bats! Happy to see you join in on another Friday Favorites. Today I’ll be taking a brief look at the Netflix original horror film, “The Open House”.

After the death of his father, a son and his mother decide to temporarily stay in his aunt’s cabin, which she is selling. They must leave during the day before open house to let potential buyers in. The main point of tension comes from the son, who asks the foreboding question, “What if one of them stays?”. While the concept of the film is interesting in and of itself, critics appeared to dislike the execution with a whopping 1,1/5 score on Allo Ciné, a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 3,3/10 on IMDB.

Despite negative reviews, I actually enjoyed the film. There was an equal balance between elements of suspense and terror, the storyline was fairly captivating and the writing was decent. The only issue appeared to be in the last act. The stranger “who stayed” in the house, an unidentified killer, could have stood more buildup. I felt like it fell more under the category of thriller rather than horror. Aside from flashbacks and a brief vision of the son’s dead father, there wasn’t much to give you the chills.

After the appearance of the killer, it seemed as though the last act was rushed. One scene that particularly struck me was when the mother and son arrived back home at the end of an open house only to find a table in the main room draped with a white cloth. It was neatly set for three people with candles lit as a centerpiece. We can see that the perpetrator was fully aware of the tension between the two caused by the father’s death in setting the third set. Other tricks were played such as when the mother oddly finds a family photo crumpled in the trash. Blaming her son, the tension escalates as the fear intensifies. These strange occurrences are influenced by the family dynamic. The characters enter the house vulnerable, as newcomers to this small town isolated in the woods.

Some scenes were only mildly developed, which is unfortunate for the film as they did carry an almost supernatural element to them. The neighbors, one woman in particular, intensified the voyeuristic vibe “The Open House” attempts to establish. Some of the setups did work well in provoking confusion and anger among the family, such as misplaced phones or glasses (a point which is crucial to the last act).

Though I did enjoy watching it, I do wish that it would have pushed itself further. The torture porn in the last act felt unnecessary and took away some of the film’s original mystique. Additionally, the idea of “what if one of them stays”, a scary one indeed, could have been played with by omitting the “villain’s” overt homicidal motives at the very end. The unearthly tone set earlier in the film could have been intensified and therefore made what is crucial to horror: unsettlement.

I would certainly recommend giving it a try, but coming in with more of a thriller mindset than a horror one. Tip: watch it alone in the dark.

Available on Netflix.

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