The two most difficult genres of films to really succeed in are the Mockumentary and the Movie Musical. It's the rare filmmaker who can hit a home run with either of these genres and that's why few attempt it. It's a treacherous territory of film making, so it's extremely surprising that an independent film maker with no formal musical training and on a bare bones budget would attempt to make an indie musical. Film maker Dan Mirvish isn't like most film makers. Well known as one of the founders of the Slamdance Film Festival, Mirvish has built a reputation for breaking down the barriers traditionally confining independent film makers with everything from self theatrical distribution to a ballsy campaign to resurrect an Oscar category. With Open House, Mirvish shows that a ton of creativity, a lot of wit and an immense amount of enthusiasm can pave the road to success even with the most impossible genre.
Following the story of two adventurous couples, Open House is a musical romp which explores the world of "Sexy Swipers" - a term to describe couples who use open houses to have roll-play filled sex. Their story of open house adventures gets entangled with heist subplot, a no-nonsense alcoholic real estate agent (played excellently by Sally Kellerman), a pair of house-hunting cops and a super enthusiastic real estate agent (played by Anthony Rapp).
For the most part Open House plays a lot like a British Farce - each character that gets introduced has their individual story tied to the main plot, leading to a grand musical finale. Along the way there are some real notable songs. The film's key song "Fantabulous" is sung by musical vet Anthony Rapp (best known as Mark in Rent). It's an infectiously catchy song that will stay with you long after the film ends. Other notable songs include "Do You Love This House" and Sally Kellerman's "Sellin' A Dream". It's unfathomable that these songs come from someone with absolutely no musical training.
Open House is a fun and enjoyable romp. It's funny, creative and succeeds in a spot where so many films have failed. Fans of Anthony Rapp and Sally Kellerman will be delighted by the film. Don't be surprised if you find yourself humming "Fantabulous" for weeks after seeing the film.
Trailer (with Intro) - Rather than get the standard film trailer, the trailer is introduced with footage from the Slamdance film fest complete with Dan Mirvish's pitch to raise more money for the film. The intro is a lot of fun and gives a real flavor for what it's like to be at the Slamdance film fest. (The intro runs 4 minutes.) The trailer itself runs longer than your standard trailer and gives a pretty complete look at the film.
Sing-A-Long - Open House also features a sing-a-long with lyrics to many of the key songs appearing on screen. The film is a musical so there is a lot of in-between singing that isn't covered by the sing-a-long.
Alternate Scenes - Six deleted scenes from the film, including an alternate beginning with a realtor paying little kids to plant flags and signs in the neighborhood, it's a pretty dark opening and it was a good call to cut it; alternate middle - another group of people get a tour of the house including a rendition of "Fantabulous" in Japanese, Rapp is funny in the alternate middle but I'm sure it dragged down the pace and flow of the film; alternate endings - a much longer ending; alternate ending outtake with Jerry Doyle calling Sally Kellerman 'Hotlips'; deleted scene from alternate ending - between the two cops. The final Alternate Scene is introduced by Dan Mirvish who talks about product placement in the film, the scene is a lampoon on product placement and dovetails from the alternate middle.
How-to-Featurettes - a series of 6 featurettes which goes into depth about the making of Open House, it's a great guide to true indie filmmaking. Together the run about an hour.
How to Cast a No-Budget, Independent Film...and did we mention it's a musical? - Liz Jerisky, the casting director, speaks about the process of casting the film and the challenge of finding actors who could actually sing.
How to Make Finger sandwiches...and Die Young - An essential part of any open house and low budget indie musicals.
How NOT to Shoot a Film in 17 Days - A completely unglamorous look at the movie making process, all the things that could go wrong and did.
How to Make a Musical - How the musical aspects of the film were done... live on the set.
How to Win an Award - One of the very cool things Mirvish and company did to promote Open House was to mount a grass roots campaign to resurrect a not very well known Oscar category. This featurette has a nice interview with Brian Flemming who created "Batboy: The Musical".
Even More Special Features - Yep, there's even more.
Trailer Gallery - Trailers from other key Wellspring/Genius Ent DVDs including: Wild Side, Palindromes, King and Queens, The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Coming Attractions - Trailers for Reel Paradise, Dear Wendy and Unknown White Male
Final Thoughts - It's hard to imagine a more packed DVD for an indie film. Dan Mirvish has obviously poured his heart and soul into this DVD and it really shows. Open House is a light and fun musical comedy that would be easy to overlook. Indie Musicals shouldn't be this great or this fun, and the Open House is one of those rare treats we're happy to label 'Hidden Gem'.