Talk about a tiny resume. Andrew Paquin's credits on IMDb can be summed up as the following: the brother of Anna Paquin ('True Blood'), who has had five producing jobs in eight years, and has written and directed one film. This film, 'Open House.' Naturally, my expectations were immediately rock bottom, as direct-to-video horror fare, with a no-name director/writer, whose film features his sister and her beau isn't exactly something that screams "I'm good! Buy me!"
I can say, looking back, that my pessimism helped me enjoy the film for what it was, as it certainly was better than I was fearing. Please don't mistake that for praise, as I was literally expecting something so contrived and ill-conceived that damn near anything would have appeased me.
House for sale! Alice (Rachel Blanchard) wants to move on with her life, getting rid of the house she shared with her now-ex-husband (Stephen Moyer). The real estate agency is showing off the fancy digs somewhat regularly, but one particular group of visitors like the house enough to call it their home. The only problem is, they aren't looking to buy. They're looking to kill. As David (Brian Geraghty) and Lila (Tricia Helfer) slice and stab their way through anyone unfortunate enough to stop by for a visit, Alice must find a way to survive her somewhat secret captivity, and turn the tables on the murderous, soulless creatures now calling her house their home.
'Open House' deserves some kudos, despite all its shortcomings. I truly enjoyed the fact that knives were the only weapon employed throughout the film, so we could see shit coming when a character would reach for a blade. There's no hidden gun, no poison, or any other random ass kill method. There's no real motivation revealed. We don't get some drawn out, boring backstory that makes us try to sympathize with those committing extreme brutality. The entire film is so very sexual in its murders and dark intentions, it's hard to not just be thankful that it didn't devolve into jump scares or dream sequences.
But the praise stops there. As important as vagueness may be in motivation in a killer (the more ominous, the better, in my book!), when a character steps out of character, the reason really needs to be explained, and we don't get that. David could have sliced and diced Alice into neat little squares, and served her to dinner guests, any time he wanted. He could have stabbed her, and played around in her blood, as though he were Patrick Bateman. Instead, he keeps her alive, as though she may be some kind of savior to his lost soul. If Lila were to find her, she'd be dead in a second. This is where we're supposed to get tension for the film, but it just never happens, no matter how many times Alice is almost caught.
We don't learn too much about the history of the murderous duo, how many times they've done this, why, or even how they choose their victims, aside from finding a house they like. The contrast between the introvert and extrovert in their ranks makes for some interesting scenes, but the lack of chemistry (and the poor performance by Helfer that is literally all over the place) negates that point instantly. As the pair rack up more and more bodies, there doesn't ever seem to be anyone wondering where their friends or family have gone off to. You'd think after three or four murders, considering modern technology, someone would notice that their loved one disappeared right after visiting a certain house for sale. Sure, this may be a village of idiots, but I find that answer to be a bit too cheap to be workable.
The film is set inside the house (or in the backyard) for the entirety of the film, giving a feeling of claustrophobia to viewers after a point, but the real reason the walls are closing in are due to the fact that first-timer Paquin is still a bit green behind the ears at his new craft. 'Open House' could never have been an amazing, genre-redefining film, but with a better eye and ear for mood and performance, along with some rewriting to make scenes actually tense, possibly even a bit scary, beyond just maniacal for no reason, and this would have been passable.
The Disc: Vital Stats
The Blu-ray for 'Open House' comes in a standard (eco) keepcase, housed on a Region A locked BD25. The only item of note on this one is how damn many pre-menu trailers there are: 'Kick-Ass,' 'Beatdown' (red band) (threatened as coming to Blu-ray and dvd), 'The Descent,' 'Caught in the Crossfire' (red band), and a spot for the Epix channel.
Andrew Paquin may be new to the game, but Lionsgate isn't. The job that they do on this release is quite commendable, as the AVC MPEG-4 (2.35:1, 1080p) encode instantly turns this one from a title to avoid to one to at least check out. And, of course, that may be due to the oh-so awesome RED One Camera, which was employed for this film.
The devil's in the detail, and 'Open House' is absolutely full of it. Close up shots are beyond amazing, with so much character and detail on display that it's hard to not love the appearance of the film. Distance shots retain good clarity, as well. Hell, the superb definition is one of the reasons the horror aspect of the film falls flat, due to how very sharp all the "blood" looks.
The best part about the high levels of detail? This is a very intimate, up close, and personal film, so there are often sequences with nothing but extremely clear point blank views. The lighting to the film is very moody, making skin tones wear their lighting constantly, going from normal, to sickly yellow, and, on one occasion, a strawberry light red. Not all is perfect, as blacks crush like crazy, and there are some very minor banding issues.
There's much less to talk about in the audio department of 'Open House,' as this one really doesn't have all that much going for it, sound-wise. Dialogue is clear, but occasionally is so close to the camera that it feels like it's blaring...just unnaturally loud. Rear ambience can pop in and out at some weird moments, particularly in the opening, and is too loud to be believable. Directionality is appropriate. Bass levels are pretty solid, amazingly, and can get a nice roar going when they want to.
This is an inexpensive, in your face kind of film, and the audio clearly shows that fact.
'Open House' doesn't reinvent the wheel. It doesn't spread its wings and fly. That said, it does fairly well. Director Andrew Paquin has plenty of maturing to do as a filmmaker, but his debut could have been much worse. The Blu-ray release of the film has good video, fairly good audio, but some pretty bad extras. Horror fans may want to check this out, but 'True Blood' fanatics, don't mistake the inclusion of Moyer and the female Paquin as anything but cameos. A wise bet would be to rent before buying.