Horror films often provide temporary escapist entertainment from the world around us. Other times they can reflect the horror in real life. Brad Holloway’s short film, Open House 1-4, does the latter.
The narrative concerns a realtor (Tanya Christiansen, I Still Believe) trying to sell a house in an upscale neighborhood. On full display are her prejudices toward potential homebuyers. Got sandals, dreads, or tattoos? Nope. Do you look Latino? Try elsewhere. Are you black? Wrong neighborhood. White and wealthy? Welcome, come on in!
Over the course of the afternoon, we see her set up the perfect inviting atmosphere: brochures nicely organized, appetizers laid on the table, the open house sign set up on the lawn. She also turns to drinking wine In many ways, Christiansen’s performance recalls the sequence where Annette Bening’s character Carolyn Burnham repeats in American Beauty, “I will sell this house today.”
While showing the house to a pair of white senior citizens, she begins to suspect a newly arrived Cuban couple has plans to rob the place. Shortly after a couple who chanced by earlier returns to view the property. The realtor’s subsequent actions lead to a tense confrontation.
Holloway aptly navigates the racial prejudice on display. The reveal of the true culprits not only challenges the realtor’s assumptions, but also those of the viewers. By balancing the conflict with shades of humor, Holloway makes it easier to swallow the blatant racial discrimination displayed by the realtor onscreen.
While the film challenges our notion of perception, the script probably could have gone even further in addressing its main themes. Questions about race, income inequality, white privilege, and prejudice are raised, but never fully explored. Then again, offering clear cut answers would be a disservice to the audience’s intelligence and ability to draw their own conclusions. Overall, Open House 1-4 provides a space to reflect on these systemic issues that currently plague society.
8 out of 10 stars