Open House – Blu-ray Review

Open House is the home invasion genre equivalent of the fat kid in class who is willing to make a fool out of himself if it means a few laughs from his peers. Writer/director Andrew Paquin works hard to establish a tone and atmosphere in his movie but seems to wind up rolling around in taboo and shock as if he were a contestant on Supermarket Sweep!: The Horror Movie Edition – trying to fill his shopping cart with as much clichés and chestnuts as humanly possible in a race against time and the buzzer’s ring. Where other horror movie directors are effortlessly able to unsettle the audience Paquin flips, flops and flails all over the floor in order to get a scare out of those watching his movie.

That said, I was the fat kid in school who would do anything for a laugh so I appreciated Paquin’s efforts and, despite myself, mostly enjoyed his debut film.

Open House stars Brian Geraghtry and Tricia Helfer as David and Lila, a twisted couple with an even more twisted relationship. Together, the two break into the home of Alice (played by Rachel Blanchard) and claim it as their own.

Unbeknownst to Lila, though, David does not kill Alice. Smitten by her good looks, he stashes her away in a crawlspace until he can figure out what to do with her. And so when Lila leaves during the day (to do God knows what) David brings Alice out, unwittingly torturing her with tastes of freedom.

Looking at cover art for the film, potential audiences might suspects that Open House starred True Blood actors Anna Paquin (sister to the director) and Stephen Moyer. Despite being front and center on the DVD and Blu-ray’s box art, though, the two are little more than cameos in the film. Moyer has a bit more of a presence than his real-life sweetheart and True Blood co-star.

While fans of the HBO vampire series may be disappointed to learn the two don’t have larger roles, Geaghty and Helfer both do an impressive job as the film’s resident psychopaths. Quick to slice and dice any unlucky schmuck who wonders in to investigate the missing Alice, David and Lila ooze with repressed danger like a coiled rattlesnake. At once both sexy and extremely creepy, the two are a loosely defined couple — their true relationship never established. The hints the film provides, though, are enough to unnerve.

As the damsel in distress, Rachel Blanchard works well with what she is given. Essentially little more than the stereotypical “final girl” in slasher films, Alice is defined solely by her attempts to escape from the clutches of her captors. Chained to the wall and quickly becoming the obsession of David, Alice finds her hopes of escape quickly diminishing.

At times seeming like the less charismatic brother of Dexter Morgan, Geraghty’s David is a stone-faced, emotionless pretty boy. Torn between his loyalty to Lila, and his growing attraction to Alice, David is the film’s loose cannon. His allegiance changes at the drop of a hat, it seems.

The biggest problems with Open House have to do with the weak script. Instead of building strong characters to inflict fear and danger onto, Paquin throws one-note paper dolls against an intriguing scenario and hopes they stick. The script focuses too much on the sexual chemistry seeping from Battlestar Galactica star Tricia Helfer as she seduces and then promptly murders man after man.

While Helfner is able to channel the right combinations of sexy and deadly, her role does not have much depth to it. The movie is filled with characters with as much dimension as M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender in 3D. We don’t need to see an elaborate backstory behind the characters but if Paquin had given the actors a little more meat to work with Open House could have been a real winner.

I will give Paquin credit for his film’s concept. The idea of a stranger entering a home during a real estate open house and then sticking around after everybody leaves only to pop out with a knife when you least expect it is a pretty scary notion. The cat-and-mouse game that Paquin constructs following the initial home invasion doesn’t drop the ball either. The storyline is taut and engaging enough to keep audiences entertained.

The film is presented in 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a six-chanel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Shot on a RED digital camera, the film looks stunning on Blu-ray. Crisp colors and a clear image (even throughout the film’s numerous nighttime scenes) make for an amazing image. This really is one of the better looking small-budget films I’ve seen on Blu-ray. Top notch stuff.

Audio Commentary — Writer/director Andrew Paquin and star Brian Geraghty chat about shooting on a small budget and even offer the definitive answer as two David and Lila’s relationship.

Deleted Scenes — Ten minutes of high-definition scenes — none of which are essential to the film. It’s not surprising why any of the three scenes were cut.

Theatrical Trailer —  The film’s trailer is presented in standard definition.

While a bit more work on the script (specifically developing the characters) would have been appreciated, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Open House. It will definitely make me think twice before joining Tricia Helfer in a hot tub. I’m not too sure the film has much replay value but fans of the home invasion genre should definitely check it out as a rental.

Lionsgate presents Open House. Directed by: Andrew Paquin. Starring: Stephen Moyer, Anna Paquin, Rachel Blanchard, Brian Geraghty and Tricia Helfer. Written by: Andrew Paquin. Running time: 88 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-Ray: August 3, 2010.

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