Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In short: Open House (1987)

Oh noes! Some crazy killer is slashing his way through the – preferably female – realtors of Los Angeles. But don’t worry, realtors of the world, the worst cop in town (Robert Miano), whose attitude is much further evolved than his competence, is on the case, doing diddly-squat but complain.

Things kinda-sorta start moving when radio psychologist David Kelley (Joseph Bottoms) gets involved in the investigation because one of his regular callers just might be the killer. Plus, Kelley’s girlfriend Lisa (Adrienne Barbeau) is a realtor, and whatever plot there is will get moving some time soon, right?

If you know Open House’s director Jag Mundhra at all, you probably know him as a purveyor of mildly up-market softcore smut (though he has some films in his filmography that aren’t), and even if I hadn’t known that before, watching this awkward attempt at mixing slasher and thriller tropes to mind-numbing effect would have suggested it. For this is very much a particularly lame softcore movie where many a scene is comparable to the pre-sex scenes of lame softcore with somewhat attractive, deeply untalented actors working their way up to a sex scene that then doesn’t arrive but is replaced by a bit of the old slasher violence. It kinda makes one miss breasts, particularly since the slashing and the stalking might be somewhat mean-spirited but are most definitely pretty damn boring. Turns out you need somewhat different talents for filming sex than for staging a thriller. My working theory is that Mundhra was initially planning to make a sex romp about realtors but had to change tacks half way through the production and just shoved half of a slasher script he found in a trashcan in.

Being a series of generally terrible scenes that end with the wrong kind of pay-off isn’t quite enough for Open House’s particular brand of dullness though. So, Mundhra fills the spaces between the sexless sex scenes with random scenes of Shapiro metaphorically scratching his ass (scenes of cops doing nothing while the audience has to watch being a special favourite of shitty horror films, as we all well know), various business about the Bottoms/Barbeau romance that is neither of import nor interesting to watch, a dire red herring plotline about Lisa’s evil low class (because of course this thing also has a nice line in being classist) competitor, and a lot of the usual stuff films include to avoid getting to their plot when they don’t have enough of it to fill a ninety minute slot. Some of this stuff may or may not be meant to be comical, but given the quality of the writing and the hackjob of the direction (what’s a transition?), it’s rather difficult to tell these things apart in this particular case.

It’s just as riveting as it sounds – not at all. While he’s at it, Mundhra also manages to get bad performances out of perfectly decent thespians like Barbeau and Bottoms, leaving this writer feeling rather shell-shocked by a film that combines all the issues of bad softcore and bad horror films without including any of their upsides; it’s not even bad in a way I could find myself amused by.

No comments: