Halloween Scene: Open House (1988)

‘m left with three thoughts after watching today’s Halloween Scene entry: it’s strange that “real estate horror” is a fairly huge sub-genre, the editing in this movie is generally pretty terrible and this flick has a lot of relevant subject matter for the times we’re living in.

The plot revolves around a mysterious killer who’s going after people either looking at or showing houses for sale. The killer also calls into a local radio shrink without identifying himself as such to explain why he thinks the people deserved to die (they had big houses, they deserved it!). Of course, this skirts actual logic considering the people in the house didn’t own it, but I guess that’s part of being nuts. Anyway, as these things go, the shrink is dating Adrienne Barbeau who happens to be a realtor. We’re thrown a SPOILER red herring in the form of the fat, obnoxious rival realtor, but he’s never really much of a threat or possibility.

On the subject of editing, I think I could have done a better job cutting this movie together and I’ve never done anything of the sort. There’s a scene early on where the killer is in the house with a female realtor and a potential male customer. It looks like they’re towards one end of a hallway, then we cut to the huge killer at the other end, but they didn’t look scared in the previous shot, cut back to them and they’re freaking out. They’re supposed to run in to the bathroom and my brain told me they made it in, but the killer somehow chopped off the guy’s fingers with his makeshift axe (razor blades stuck into the handle of  a plunger) which raises it’s own set of problems. In another scene, the killer is stalking a woman in the pool. It’s big but not gigantic by any means. We see the killer stand right on the edge of the pool and then the girl turning, but she doesn’t see anything. Huh? How’d she miss him?

And it’s not just the kind of bad cutting you see in slasher movies where people should have obviously seen the killer. There’s also odd time cuts. At one point the shrink is making breakfast, Barbeau goes to take a show, cut to the food he’s cooking, then it immediately cuts back to her walking in in a towel. It didn’t feel like a cut for time, but more like an actress walking off set, changing and coming right back. Odd stuff.

But, like I said above, I think there’s actually some poignant stuff in this 23 year old movie to what’s going on today. I don’t know my recent history very well, but was there a financial downturn around this time? It seems like there’s a lot of big houses out on the market and they’re not exactly being sold like hot cakes. At the same time, the killer’s rants sound a lot like some of the crazier, right wing people out there. He blames rich people for everything and has decided to take matters into his own hands (he’s also pissed because he was squatting in the house at the beginning of the movie). I don’t want to trivialize anyone’s political views especially because I don’t follow politics, but I think you could make a few changes to the script and have yourself a pretty solid little horror movie remake. For that reason, I’d suggest checking it out. The surface of the movie is pretty tried and true, but I think it’s interesting how these themes keep coming back around every few years.

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