STREAMING SATURDAY: The Open House Needs to be Closed

The Open House, Netflix’s newest horror film, is a but of a disappointment. Despite its confusing and lackluster ending, Netflix original programming is the king among the streaming service providers.

A popular Netflix star, a terrifying premise, and a compelling trailer make The Open House look compelling. At least it did to Mrs. Buckler and I. We recognized the movie’s star, Dylan Minnette, from the Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why. With a little bit of time to kill, we decided to stream this movie. To be honest, The Open House was a good movie, overall. It’s only problem was its lack of a proper beginning, which led to a confusing and unsatisfying ending. Since horror films live or die by their conclusions, this was a huge problem for Netflix’s The Open House.

Warning, Spoilers Ahead!

I’m going to deconstruct The Open House in this week’s Streaming Saturday. In doing so, I’m going to tell you who the killer is, which is a big mystery in the film as well as the cause for its poor ending. I don’t like when friends ruin a movie for me, and you probably don’t like it, either. Well, by now, there’s no way you can say that you weren’t warned that I’m going to spill the beans. Proceed forth at your own risk, especially if you plan to stream The Open House on Netflix.

The Open House Movie Synopsis

So, what is The Open House about? Well, young Logan Wallace (Dylan Minnette) is a teenage track star who might be destined for the Olympics. Unfortunately, his mother, Naomi (Piercey Dalton), and father, Brian (Aaron Abrams), are in severe debt, a fact they shelter Logan from. After a horrible accident claims Brian’s life, Logan and Naomi decide to stay in Naomi’s sister’s mountain home. The catch: Naomi’s sister is selling the house, so Logan and his mom will have to leave every Sunday so realtors can host an open house.

Not long after moving in, Logan begins to experience strange occurrences. In the beginning, he hears bumps and noises in the house. As time progresses, Logan’s cell phone mysteriously disappears, only to be found days later by a repairman. Naomi also experiences odd goings on. For example, the pilot light in the water heater going out every time she takes a shower, and she receives strange and disturbing phone calls. It doesn’t take long before this disturbances to intensify, convincing Logan that someone else is in the house. Ultimately, his suspicions are correct, though this knowledge isn’t enough to save him or his mother.

The Open House Ending

For many people, the movie’s ending is a complete letdown. Roughly 75 percent of this movie is spent building up to the killings that take place at the end. Since the murderer’s face is deliberately kept out of focus, many viewers were unsure about his identity. This strange ending lacked the closure most viewers need, which has led to these theories about the killer’s identity:

  • It’s really Logan who murders his mother and Chris before he goes into shock and dies of hypothermia.
  • It’s the repairman (Paul Rae) who fixed the water heater.
  • The presumed dead husband of local crazy lady Martha (Patricia Bethune) is the murderer.
  • The realtor (Leigh Parker) who helped host the open house events kills Logan, Naomi, and Chris.

While these theories are good, they’re all wrong. If you saw the movie and believed in one of these theories, don’t take it too hard. I thought that Logan was the murderer… until I saw the film’s final scene, which shows a black SUV driving toward another open house as ominous music plays. This ending is one of the keys to deciphering the villain’s identity, sort of.

Who is The Killer in The Open House?

I had a hunch as to who the murderer was supposed to be. To see how I stacked up against other film critics, I did a quick Google search to see what they were saying. Their consensus and mine is the same: the murderer is a random serial killer who targets people hosting open houses. Apparently, the filmmakers wanted to play off the fear many people have of strangers coming into their homes. What better way to do so than to set the film in an open house, where multiple strangers come into the home?

Here are the reasons I believe the villain in The Open House is a random serial killer who targets open houses:

  1. The movie’s title is The Open House.  (Duh!)
  2. Naomi’s sister makes a point of telling her that she and Logan will have to leave the home on Sundays to accommodate the open houses.
  3. The two realtors who host the open house events are in a hurry to leave, as if they knew about the “Open House Killer.”
  4. During one open house event, a close up is shown of a man wearing black combat boots. (The killer is seen wearing these same boots when he is “revealed” at the end of the movie.)
  5. The noises and strange things in the house turn menacing after the scene with the close up of the boots.
  6. The character of Chris was already living in the house unbeknownst to Logan and Naomi. (At one point in the movie, Chris disappears down the basement and isn’t seen again until days later. At another point, when Chris is spending the night as a guest, he tells Logan that he had to get used to the noises in the house the first time he stayed there.)
  7. During the final murder scenes, the killer is always kept out of focus to indicate that he’s a complete stranger to Logan and Naomi.
  8. The last scene shows an unknown man driving to another open house as ominous music plays in the background. (It might even be the same music that plays during the boots close up and/or the murder scenes. If not, it should be.)

What The Open House Needed…

The Open House had a unique plot, good performances, and plenty of jump scares. It only lacked a prologue, aka a teaser, which is a common and effective plot device in horror movies. This is the part of the movie played at the beginning, typically before the opening credits roll. The teaser gives viewers a sneak peek at the film’s theme, or gets the audience acquainted with how the killer chooses its victims. The most famous teaser is the first scene in Jaws, where a random woman gets eaten by the shark. Drew Barrymore’s opening scene in Scream is another well-known prologue.

I know how I would’ve written The Open House’s teaser had I worked on this film. It would’ve had some random person coming home at the end of an open house at his/her residence. After settling in, this person would go to investigate a strange noise. During this investigation, he/she would cast a flashlight beam upon a pair of black combat boots attached to a person hiding in the shadows. The homeowner would scream, drop the flashlight, and run for his/her life. Sadly, the homeowner would get tracked down and murdered by the killer. Cue the opening credits.

These extra 15-20 minutes is all The Open House needed to be a great movie. It would clear up the confusion about who the killer is, and add more context to the ending. By the time Naomi’s sister offers her “mountain home” to Naomi and Logan – and mentions the open houses held each Sunday – the viewers have a foreshadowing of what awaits these protagonists. Without this prologue, which establishes the killer and his motives, audiences will be left guessing and confused.

Netflix Original Movies

I know I write about a lot of series, but Netflix movies are also a favorite of mine. Sometimes, you just want to see a story in two hours or less. And Netflix has some great original movies. The Open House isn’t one of them, though it’s a good movie. It offers a compelling plot, plenty of suspense, and a relateable subplot of a mother and son trying to rebuild their relationship amidst tragedy. Only its ending, and the lack of a teaser/prologue, keep it from being great. This is a small detail compared to the bigger picture, which shows that Netflix leads the streaming service providers in quality original content.