Dylan Minnette became a break-out star after his acclaimed performance in ’13 Reasons Why’. The YA TV adaptation was a huge success, propelling many of its cast into stardom from relative obscurity. However, like many of his ‘classmates’ Minnette disappeared from the limelight when the buzz died down. This is no doubt due to the fact that a second season is in the works.
Minnette must have taken time away from the filming schedule at some point though because his latest project has just been released as a Netflix original. It is a shame that ‘The Open House’ had very little marketing as it features a popular rising star and it is actually rather good.
There is a thick atmosphere to ‘The Open House’ that makes it hard to break. People regularly describe horror movies as ‘claustrophobic’, this is the opposite, its exposed. The camera regularly reminds you that the characters are out in the open and out of aid’s reach, vulnerable.
There are superb shots in which the camera is locked off in the corner of a room. We can see everything that is going on, we can see things that the characters don’t notice. It is very eerie. The director also utilised ‘loud silences’, this is a feature of many effective horror movies. This was even referenced by a character in the begging of the film: “The quiet out here can get real loud”.
In terms of storytelling, it was very impressive. The writers wasted no time, introducing themes that gave the story a through-line. There is a strong theme in the movie of not being able to trust what you see. This is why they put the audience on edge right away. They do this with uncomfortable detail on Logan’s eyes as he takes out his contact lenses.
It was clever piece of directing to have the actors leave the door open when they leave the house. It adds to the feeling that it is an unsafe place for them to live. It was masterfully structured from start to finish, although somewhat cliche at times.
The writers made me invest in the father/son relationship very quickly. However, they foreshadowed that it was about to be shattered when a carton of eggs smashed on the floor. They built to the father’s death in a very interesting way. You could feel that something bad was about to happen but you couldn’t tell why. With that said, it may just be that you expect something terrible to happen when you see a perfect family in a horror movie.
The story clearly takes a lot of ques from ‘The Shining’. A family moving to a new home in the mountains after a new home in the mountains after a terrible accident, sounds rather familiar doesn’t it? But more than that, it even emulated shots from Kubrick’s adaptation of the King novel. The shots of the car weaving through the mountainous roads is lifted straight from it.
I really liked the character of Logan and he was played well by Dylan Minnette. He was a little apathetic at times but this may be a deliberate choice to illustrate the numbness of grief. Martha was also an effectively creepy character. She had a sinister and unnerving way about her. Martha was clearly mentally ill but she had a slick style of speaking. Her behaviour seemed to be explained by Alzheimer’s but there was something more going on. This was never resolved.
Another character that seemed to have a larger role was Chris, the store clerk. However, like Martha, his story arc was set up as something sinister but not paid off. When he stayed at the house to guard them he made a creepy comment that was not picked up by Logan. He said: “Took me a while to get used to it too”. This would have been a great technique if it evolved into something, chillingly subtle. This never developed into anything.
The ending was brutal and unexpected. I found the final chase, pretty nerve shredding. Ultimately, ‘The Open House’ was a great little horror film although it failed to tie-up some loose ends.