I recently went ahead and watched Netflix’s The Open House. Despite all the chatter to the contrary, I wanted to give it a try. I’m a big fan of Dylan Minnette in Don’t Breathe, and to be perfectly honest, I am a contrary person. When someone tells me one thing, I instantly go for the opposite.
Twitter: “Trust me! Don’t do it! It’s only going to make you mad!”
Me: “I will do it, and I will love it!”
In general, this odd little tick in my brain usually pays off. I feel like I get a lot more enjoyment out of life in general by ignoring these types of warnings before I jump in. It allows me to form my own opinions without overanalyzing why I liked something if the masses didn’t.
In the case of The Open House, I should have listened.
The Open House was disappointing in that it was a film full of potential just outside of its reach. Much of the movie is enjoyable. It builds great suspense, and there are some genuinely creepy moments as the story builds and you know that this family is being watched. The acting is engaging, and for much of the movie, you are trying to piece together all the little pieces that the movie is dangling in front of you. It does a great job of suggesting, never showing too much that would ruin the suspense.
And then the last act happens, and all of that goodness is wiped out in the last fifteen minutes. I won’t reveal the “twist” here because this is a relatively new movie, and should you decide to see it, you should experience the anger firsthand.
Basically, none of the movie matters. The ending has nothing to do with anything that actually happens in the movie. I put “twist” in air quotes here because I don’t even think that this warrants being labelled as a twist. It just felt like we were watching a prequel to some unknown generic horror franchise and no one told us.
So the question is, is this genius marketing or lazy storytelling? I’m going for the latter. Going for a reaction shouldn’t mean that story, plot and characters become side elements in a movie. Also, deliberately trying to anger your audience only works when you have something to say. Making a political, social, racial, or environmental statement should get a rise out of people; never wanting to touch Netflix horror with a ten-foot pole ever again should not be the reaction that you should be wanting to elicit from a marketing standpoint.
To me, this type of sloppiness represents the end of the “crazy twist at the end” era. We’re tired of it. Ever since M. Night Shyamalan blindsided audiences with one of the greatest twists in horror history in The Sixth Sense, filmmakers have been trying their hardest to replicate the feeling of pulling the rug out from the audience while making them so excited to find themselves lying on the floor. Even M. Night himself hasn’t been able to pull that off. A twist is so much more than doing what is unexpected; it needs to make sense, do a service to the character, and not treat movie goers like they are idiots. Having a twist that doesn’t make sense in the larger context of the movie is writing a twist for the sake of having one. If it doesn’t come naturally, please don’t do it.