Open House

By Adam Lippe

open-house1There’s a famous poem by Robert Frost that says, and I paraphrase, “two roads diverged, both selling out in their own way, one to Hollywood, and one to direct-to-video erotic thrillers.” Frost wrote this poem after watching Open House, a low-budget slasher movie taking place amongst real estate agents, written by David Mickey Evans, who followed up this script with the fantasy/child abuse uplifting drama, Radio Flyer and the nostalgia for racial mixing amongst young baseball players with The Sandlot, while director Jag Mundhra followed Open House with titles like Sexual Malice, Tropical Heat, and most recently, Kama Sutra 3.

Open House is like a perfect synthesis of these two styles, featuring both badly staged murders and gratuitous nudity, as well as a too good for this project Hollywood star, Adrienne Barbeau as the lead, who is involved in a horribly unconvincing romantic relationship with a doctor with a radio call-in show, who may or may not have the key to discovering who the serial killer is. The killer’s likes including growling off-screen, collecting severed fingers, and terrifying bimbos trying to sell overpriced property. A subplot that was a precursor to Glengarry Glen Ross with scheming, sleazy battles between salespeople, gives us such winning dialogue as “your leads are for the birds!” There’s even a rather original explanation for the motive of the killer, suggesting that there might have been a much smarter movie just underneath the layers of inept, cheap sleaze. But to add brains to a movie like this would be a mistake, its very lack of self-awareness is what gives it its charm. If Open House were a better movie, what would we make of the scene where a woman is electrocuted, because the killer poured champagne on her naked breasts? Or that 90% of the dialogue required ADR? Or when a woman discovers the first dead body, she screams so long, that it veers off into humor, and keeps going after that, for probably another 30 seconds.

open-house2Barbeau takes the movie rather seriously, which is the only explanation for her nude scene, because her performance is so bad, she had a hard time convincing me she was going for her morning jog, let alone engaging in a relationship with the radio doctor. It’s also pretty difficult to hate a movie where a character drives the strangest looking hybrid imaginable, with what appears to be a Rolls Royce convertible sports car. Tackiness that extreme can’t help but be endearing.

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.