OPEN HOUSE (1987) – This movie falls into the bizarre sub-genre of “Theme Slashers” from the 1980’s. I have a soft spot for those flicks and have previously reviewed Horror House on Highway 5 (slasher in a Richard Nixon mask), The Newlydeads (undead transvestite slasher), Bloodbeat (female slasher using a samurai sword), Hellroller (slasher in a wheelchair) and about a dozen others.
With Open House we get a slasher who specializes in killing … Real Estate Agents. Now who could resist a movie about a killer with such an oddly specific obsession? Cult figure Adrienne Barbeau stars in the film and has outrightly admitted she only made this turkey to finance her child’s college education. I have no idea what motivated Sam Bottoms and Tiffany Bolling to appear in this “so bad it’s good” little honey.
Harry, our homeless slasher, wins the hearts of all lovers of bad movies right off the bat with the makeshift weapon he uses to kill his first two on-screen victims. The homicidal Harry stops eating from a can of dogfood long enough to tape razors to a toilet plunger handle and uses the improvised device to unleash bloody mayhem. He carves up the sexy realtor and her hunky househunter just as they were about to get their freak on in the house she was trying to sell him.
As the film rolls along Harry also inflicts death by hanging, electrocution and beheading as well as a few more run-of-the mill slashings. To me Harry is the best part of this film because he always turns the schlock factor up to eleven. In the film’s dopey climax he even gets to unleash a speech about the unfairness of the housing market in the most oddly-timed political schpiel this side of Russ Meyer’s Vixen.
Adrienne Barbeau portrays Lisa Grant, an ace realtor who is drawn into Harry’s havoc when several of her employees and colleagues start getting bumped off by the homeless avenger. Barbeau is as competent as ever and turns in a decent performance as the determined heroine fighting off a sleazy male competitor as well as the movie’s mass murderer.
Sam Bottoms plays Doctor David Kelley, Barbeau’s live-in lover and the host of a radio phone-in psychiatry show. His show, called The Survival Line, is apparently broadcast live twenty-four hours a day given that he’s on the air just about every time of day the story needs him to be. Harry has been making anonymous calls to the radio doctor (insert your own Frasier Crane joke here) the way many serial killers in real life have latched onto public figures to communicate through.
Harry takes to shadowing Dr Kelley in scenes which prove that, just like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, he can suddenly show up any place he wants to whenever he wants to. Hey, to me it’s all part of the bad movie fun and it gives Harry a gloriously absurd “Batman of the Homeless” air as our unshowered vigilante stalks the city by night.
Dr Kelley has been letting the cops tap and trace some of the lines into his call-in show to try to catch Harry but what REALLY makes our slasher angry isn’t that fact – no, it’s the fact that he feels betrayed when his stalking of the celebrity shrink clues him into the fact that he lives with “a real estate bitch” as Harry puts it. Well, that’s the last straw to our troubled killer, who naturally nabs Barbeau and challenges Dr Kelley to track him down before he kills her.
The cop handling the murders that Harry’s been committing is named Shapiro and is played by Robert Miano. Shapiro spends the whole movie aggravated beyond belief that the public and his superiors actually expect a homicide detective like him to do something about multiple murders. If you can imagine such nerve …
The finale is a blatant imitation of the ending of the first Halloween movie, complete with Harry getting shot and falling out a window. As with any slasher film worth its salt we also get the obligatory “the killer’s not really dead” moment when Harry lunges upward to continue his slay-fest. He does this despite the fact that Shapiro’s bullets knocked enough gooey brain matter out the back of Harry’s head to kill THREE homeless people.
Overall Open House plays like the script had been passed around town for years until someone dusted it off and said “Instead of treating this like a police procedural film we’ll instead emphasize blood, gore and boobs and treat it like a slasher film! Those are really popular right now!” I’m serious about that theory by the way. The scenes with just Barbeau, Bottoms and the cops play like a made-for-television “serial killer at large” movie but the scenes with Harry and his victims are sheer imitation Myers and Voorhees. And hey, wouldn’t Myers & Voorhees make a GREAT name for a real estate firm?
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