This is the first of two slasher movies released in the late eighties by director Jag Mundhra. HACK-O-LATERN was a little disappointing to say the least, so I hoped that maybe this effort could redeem some of the respect that I'd lost for the slash happy independent moviemaker! Boasting a surprisingly authentic storyline and a cover complete with a cardboard door stuck to the front - which, when opened cheesily reveals the silhouette of a deranged looking guy holding an axe (!) OPEN HOUSE looked set to be a diverting' 91 minutes of pure and unadulterated schlock
just the way I love it!!!
In the preface we see a young lady trying her best to look distraught in a dimly lit phone box as she pours out her heart to - what we later find out is - a smooth talking radio psychotherapist over the line. She (and somewhat leisurely may I add!) insists that she has given up hope; because abuse that she suffered as a child has made her feel ugly and unable to go anywhere without feeling paranoid. She tells the doc that she wants to kill herself
and to make matters worse she wants to do it tonight, live on air! The Samaritan-like listener does his best to calm things down, but his determination to save the situation is unsuccessful, the depressive woman pulls out a handgun and shoots herself dead
Now we discover that the airwave psychiatrist is Dr. David Kelly, a rich, intelligent, soft voiced nice-guy' who is also the host of an ever-popular open forum program named The survival show'. Cut to a chirpy estate agent who's showing a rather unenthusiastic couple a beautiful mansion, which is surrounded by some attractive woodland. After a lot of unnecessary fussing the husband of the couple agrees to buy the luxury home, which cheers up the bouncy sales rep no end! She tells the buyer that she's just going to wash her hands (!) and then they'll close the deal. As she enters the bathroom in the otherwise spotless abode, she is shocked to hear what sounds like a swarm of flies pestering about in the shower cubicle. Her curiosities get the better of her and she opens the door. She reveals a decomposed corpse splashed in gore with the words sold' written above her head in dried blood! After her screams have died down and the cops have arrived, we find out that this was the fourth victim of the Open house killer', a serial murderer who is terrorizing real estate agents and their clients in vacant homes. The police have no clue as to the assassin's identity and there seems to be no end to his vicious attitude towards sales people! One night on David's chat show he receives a call concerning the recent slayings from a cranky guy who calls himself Harry.' He states that all the victims deserved to die and convinces the pleasant practitioner that he is the killer. Dave becomes worried, because his fun loving girlfriend - Lisa, is one of the biggest home sellers in Beverly Hills. As more bodies turn up deceased, the host realises that his sweetheart is next on the list to be slaughtered. With the help of a grumpy copper, the two set out to stop the bloodthirsty psycho in his tracks
I must confess that when I first heard that this attempt featured a psycho going around murdering estate agents, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But, the original aspects help keep things interesting and it makes a difference from the usual killer on a campsite' or assassin in a hi-school' stories. This copy that I found was the UK print, which has unfortunately had a staggering 78 seconds cut from it's runtime, so as you can imagine the chances of seeing any really graphic gore are pretty meagre. But that doesn't stop Mundhra from adding every other banality in the book, from a heavy breathed nut-nut who enjoys killing fornicating couples to a loveable heroine who judging by most of these movies is bound to end up battling the certifiable loony in the end, somehow! The direction from Jag is bog standard, as in there's nothing really to praise or recommend, but for the best part things plod along at an acceptable pace and it doesn't get too boring, although we would've liked a few more murders thrown in just for good measure! The dramatics are above average, which is always refreshing as it's not often that you get to see a capable cast in one of these sorts of flicks. Adrienne Barbeau from THE FOG headed as the loveable Lisa, whilst Joseph Bottoms and Robert Miano were also good as Kelly and Shapiro respectively. Although the production is hardly upscale, it manages not to look too shoddy and the sound and all the bear necessities are satisfactory.
Fans of a fair few unintentional laughs will be amused by the corny killer, who dresses in a shabby old yellow raincoat and blue jeans, cackles like a Witch every time he's about to murder someone and to top it all off he eats dog food!? Yes you read that right, at one point we see him rip open a tin of the K9's delight and ram it into his mouth! But for a really hysterical moment check out the end where he's finally confronted by the chat show host. He blames his motives for the attacks on the fact that property prices are so high!!! I mean, what next? A killer who goes on a rampage because taxes are too high? Mind you, in this day and age of rocketing inflation, I'm not so sure that that's such an impossibility! Also watch out for the end, when Shapiro attempts to tackle the assassin. He guns him down, sending him crashing through a window, ala Michael Myers. When he realises shooting the guy 4 times hasn't really worked, he chooses to drop his firearm and go toe to toe' with the maniacal madman. But does this stop him? Well that would be telling
A devoted movie buff probably wouldn't look twice at this. To those who know no better, this is just another cheaply made slasher movie from an ever so fruitful period of inane madness. But I found that I quite enjoyed it, in a cheaper than a stale loaf of bread' kind of way. It's not scary or intelligent and it doesn't really have anything that's worth recommending. Nevertheless, if you like far-fetched plots, cheesy situations and typically inept characters, then this could be the one for you. At least it's better than HACK-O-LATERN!
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