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Review: Open House (1987)

Reviewer: Thomas Ellison


The cut-throat real estate market gets bloodier when a deranged homeless man declares open season on all female realtors. Radio host Dr. David (Joseph Bottoms) Kelly receives calls from the killer after each murder and tries to help the police solve the Open House murders. Kelly is too busy playing radio hero to notice his girlfriend Lisa (Adrienne Barbeau) has become the killer's latest target.

Open House blends the exciting world of talk radio with the thrilling adventures of real estate agents into one over the top slasher. Not only is the viewer treated to multiple scenes involving bit players staring off into space as they listen to the radio but we also get to see nameless realtors cheer on a printer as it spits out paper. These action packed scenes had me reaching for the nitro tablets to sooth my palpitating heart. The terror really starts to build when the viewer realizes most of the murders occur off screen and the only gore consists of a couple of finger tips and a less than realistic severed head.

Adrienne Barbeau gives the best performance in the film mainly because her character is the most developed. She comes across as a strong, independent woman so it's surprising that her character is so easily terrorized by the killer in the final moments. Barbeau's class and charm is a good counter balance to Bottom's bland performance. Robert Miano, a very good character actor, struggles through the role of Det. Shapiro possibly due to the weak dialogue his character is forced to spout. Shapiro doesn't rise above the level of cliché which is a shame considering Miano's talent. Several other familiar faces appear in the film, former models and soap actors, but the biggest surprise is Tiffany (Kingdom of the Spiders) Bolling in a blink-and-she's-gone cameo. Bolling is only one screen for a few seconds but she plays the best corpse in the entire film.

Director Jag Mundhra tries very hard to make the killer menacing by only showing quick glimpses and shadows on a wall but his efforts backfire when the killer is revealed during the conclusion. The viewer is expecting a Brion James or Nicholas Worth type actor instead of the truck driver, Darwyn Swalve, hired to play the part. Swalve doesn't carry enough weight as an actor to play a lunatic and too much weight to play a homeless man. Kane Hodder's name pops up during the closing credits under Trailer Narration. If only the producers had hired that guy to play the Open House Killer . . .

Adrienne Barbeau's nude scenes helped Open House gain late night time slots on cable for years and gave the film a longer life than the average late 80's slasher. Open House has a few good actors in the cast and some nice direction from Jag Mundhra but is brought down by David Mickey Evan's weak script. Too much time is devoted to subplots and fringe characters that never really go anywhere and ruin the story's momentum. The fragments of a good slasher can be seen here and there but the script really needed to be tightened up.



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