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News Article

Be Kind, Rewind — 'Open House'

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VHS collectors seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately. What many thought was a dead format seems to be making a major resurgence, similar to the way vinyl did. We wouldn’t dream of telling you that the quality of a VHS cassette provides superior picture, sound, or anything. But it is certainly a lot of nostalgic fun to revisit some of the more obscure titles by way of your VCR. 

 
Be Kind, Rewind is your one stop destination for all the information you could ever want about horror films exclusively available on VHS. We will give you the low-down on the title we are re-visiting, including where to find it, the going rate, a review of the film, and we will even provide an expert recommendation as to whether the title is worth the money. If this segment is successful, we will be examining more titles in the upcoming weeks, so tell your friends and fellow lovers of antiquated technology. 
 
Open_House
 
Title:
Open House
 
Year of Release:
1987
 
Distributor:
Prism Entertainment (I suspect that Prism thought they were extremely high-tech in 1987. The presentation at the beginning of the videotape has the Prism logo displayed with ‘ultra fancy’ laser beams shooting off it. We are talking cutting edge stuff, here). 
 
The Talent:
Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog)
Joseph Bottoms (The Black Hole)
Rudy Ramos (Helter Skelter)
Mary Stavin (House, 1986)
 
Synopsis:
Adrienne Barbeau stars as real estate agent Lisa Grant. Her boyfriend, a well-known radio psychologist begins receiving calls from a killer intent upon bringing the lives of pretty young real estate agents to an untimely and grisly end… Oh, no. Can Lisa and her advice-dispensing beau stop the crazed killer, or will Lisa’s next listing be her last? 
 
Review:
 
Open House is not a classic, but it’s not quite awful, either. It lives somewhere below the realm of mediocrity. The film’s pacing is not awful. It follows the formula of a kill every 15 minutes pretty well. On most levels, that manages to keep the audience from getting too bored. 
 
I have never seen Adrienne Barbeau in a film where I didn’t like her character, and this is no exception. But, save for Barbeau’s character, all of the others are, at best, a little drab.
 
For me, there are a couple of saving graces, including: the bitchin’ wardrobe choices, the '80s dialogue, the sometimes radical soundtrack, and the big '80s hair. However, while the aforementioned attributes make the film more fun to watch – in a nostalgic sense - please do not interpret that to mean that Open House is a good movie. I still maintain my previous assessment that it is below mediocre. But the over-the-top '80s shenanigans provide an element of nostalgia that makes the film a little more enjoyable.
 
Open House racks up a respectable body count, punching in at 9 total. Given that the film is a little-known, low-budget '80s slasher film, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the deaths are not as tame as I was expecting. Some of the murder weapons are somewhat inventive, and there is a generous amount of stage blood used for some of the deaths. Though, we don’t see every murder play out on camera, we typically get a pretty brutal picture of the aftermath:
 
 
I don’t feel that I am owed a great deal of backstory or motive as it pertains to the killer. However, I do require something with some level of plausibility. In Open House, there is a lengthy explanation as to why the killer does what he does, but thanks to the killer’s delivery of the poorly written dialogue, there is almost no chance any viewer is going to buy in to anything about the killer’s agenda. At all. Period. 
 
Also working against Open House is an at times chauvinistic vibe. Though, the chauvinism did play in to a subplot, I felt that the subplot could have played out in a multitude of different ways that did not pay disrespect to or objectify women.
 
Ultimately, what the film has working in its favor is a reasonable performance from Adrienne Barbeau, a respectable body count, decent effects, the nostalgia factor... and that’s about it. 
 
Transfer Quality:
In terms of the quality of the tape, I am happy to say that the picture is a lot brighter and a lot crisper than some of the other low budget releases of this era. The tape that I received played back quite well and did not cause me any unforeseen ballyhoo. 
 
Going Rate:
$147 (New)
$16 (Used Very Good with Original Box) 
$9 (Used Good with Original Box)
 
Where to Get It:
As of this writing, EBay and Amazon both have copies available. The prices listed are for Amazon, as they currently have the best rates on this title. Open House is out of stock on Half.com, but a used copy can potentially be had for as low as $4.99 when a copy goes up for sale there. 
 
Is It Worth the Price?
Though Open House is fairly formulaic, doesn’t really bring anything new to the game, and is a touch silly, it isn’t so bad that it can’t be watched strictly for mindless entertainment and a nostalgic walk down memory lane. By my assessment, that makes it worth your $9-$16 to pick up a used copy. The film will likely increase in price over time and there is no indication that Open House will ever receive a DVD or Blu-ray release. So, I suggest picking up a copy while it can still be had for a very reasonable amount. 
 
Tip(s) for VHS Enthusiasts:
If you hook your VCR up through a component cable, rather than by way of a coaxial cable, you will eliminate about 90% of your tracking problems and get a much crisper picture from all of your tapes. 
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