Sunday, June 12, 2011

Open House and Answering Difficult Questions: An Analysis

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*here be some minor spoilers.

Director/writer: Andrew Paquin.

A lot can be said for the psychological thriller. This genre uses mind games to keep the viewer off balance, while often asking more questions than it answers. One of several questions that first time director Andrew Paquin's film Open House asks is: why are two serial killers laying waste to a quiet neighbourhood? As well, why are a brother and sister killing team sleeping together? Finally, how come so many victims in horror and thrillers ask the question: "why are you doing this?" This reviewer will answer the first question, while tip-toeing around the second and then delve into the third.

As a little more background, Andrew Paquin is the brother of Anna Paquin ("True Blood") and Andrew used his house as the primary set, for this film. All of the action within Open House occurs at this location. Much of that action is bloody and intense, as David (Brian Geraghty) and Lila (Tricia Helfer) make short work of one of the homeowners (Stephen Moyer). Their relationship has a very obvious hierarchy, with Lila at the top. Her dominance of the more passive David, becomes much like a mother - son relationship, with the matriarch barking orders to her obedient pet and sibling. However, David finds some autonomy, when he rescues Alice (Rachel Blanchard), another homeowner, from Lila's murderous designs.

The evidence for incest between Lila and David occurs at the halfway mark of the film. By this time several housekeepers, a realtor, and several party-goers have been sliced and diced. If you look closely at the narrative of Lila, in reference to David's "children's book" (Open), then you will begin to see the similarity in physicality between these two characters. The children's book is also about a brother and sister, who are in love, "but cannot be together" (Open). David's responses to Lila's seduction sequence, during the dancing scene shows David's disgust at the sexual relationship between the two. Finally, one of the last scenes in the film shows Lila and David nude and in bed together. So visually viewers can see that their is a sexual interplay between these two, which is based in incest. Check please!

As a diversion, this film fan would like to look at a certain specific formula in horror and thriller films. There is often a point in these films when the victim will scream something along the lines of "why are you doing this," or "why are you doing this to me?" This plea usually comes after a particular instance of violence, of which there are many examples of in Open House. In this film, Alice asks these questions and in this genre, the killers, or villains rarely respond. However, this reviewer would state that there are three reasons for perpetrating violence on others, in life, but particularly in film.

First, many psychopaths seem to enjoy violent behaviour. Just look at leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. See how much fun he is having with that chainsaw? Secondly, many antagonists in film are simply damaged. There is a reason why so many horror films are set in psychiatric hospitals. Is there a doctor in the house? Thirdly, some killers perform their sadistic acts for the shear malevolence of the action; they act with evil intent and evil is the enactment of violence against another for the benefit to the individual, or without reward. Michael Myers in the Halloween films is the embodiment of evil and his actions are simply malicious, without offering personal gain. Myers is a good example of a character who simply acts upon evil designs. These are the main reasons villains "are doing this," in the horror and thriller films that this fan has seen.

Finishing off, Open House is an above average film and Andrew Paquin's calling card to Hollywood is sure to get noticed. Full of gory sequences and interesting interplay between the villains and between the malefactors and their prey, Open House is a thrilling, but short time spent enjoying a genre which often uses formula. However, this is also a genre that excites the viewer to ask interesting questions.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10 (this is a small film, great acting by Brian Geragthy, surprising action).

Have a look for yourself:

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