The Open House, from the writing-directing pair of Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, features Dylan Minnette as Logan Wallace, a young man with a bright future ripped away from him in much the same manner as a speeding van ripped his father in half when it ran him over in the alleyway behind a liquor store. For some reason. And then Logan and his mother move into a haunted house or something. I’m not sure. Because the movie spent ten minutes showing us the part of the movie that other movies exactly like this one usually glance over.
Ya know, movies skip the shit this one starts with for a good reason: it’s boring.
There’s some merit to starting a story where it begins. But there’s also merit in starting the movie where it’s about to get interesting. Because I don’t need to waste ten minutes of my life being given a lazy, abridged version of a family’s non-relationship with each other in a prologue to the actual movie. Fill in the gaps later. Just get to the actual goddamn movie.
The Karate Kid starts with Daniel-san and his mom already on the move to Reseda. Because the movie isn’t about why they move there, it’s about what happens once they’re already there. It’s not “Why This Particular Kid Moves to Reseda, and Then Maybe Later He Eventually Learns Some Karate.”
Honestly, this sort of opening can work in a book. Maybe. Because a book has all the time in the world to develop a bond with this family. There’s time to get to know them, their struggles and their relationships before you kill one of them off and send the rest to a haunted house. A movie can only give us a quick snapshot of all that, at best. It’s not interesting. It doesn’t really give us anyone to care about. Because there’s no time to make us care. It’s just a series of introductions to characters and problems that won’t matter soon because Dad gets hit by a fuckin’ van and dies, and now we have to get to the haunted house stuff.
Can you imagine if Jaws had been about the Brody family for, like, 20-30 minutes before we even knew a shark was going to be in the movie? Just them bitching about bills and how their kids are doing in school.
The sad part of it all is that, aside from the material, the movie seems like it could be pretty good. Cast is pretty good. Mood and tone and feel of it all is pretty good. Looks and sounds good. But you can tell they were all working from nothing here. It’s all such a generic set up for a generic movie that’s been done a hundred times before. If you’re gonna be so unoriginal with the basic concept, you can at least spice things up from the start. Have fun with it. Or if you have to be so gloomy and serious, make it count. But don’t half-ass it.
The Open House starts boring. That’s all I know. And if it can’t make something interesting from ten minutes and a kid’s dad getting brutally killed right in front of him, I doubt it can do much with another 80 and maybe some ghosts. Skip it.