Don't Answer The Phone!
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 02/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"S.F. Brownrigg (Don't Look In The Basement) strikes again with DON'T OPEN THE DOOR. This time we join Amanda Post (Susan Bracken) as she returns to her ailing grandmother's house after 13 years. In 1962 Amanda's mother was stabbed to death by an unknown (to us anyway) stalker. Upon her return, Amanda finds granny near death and two characters from her past hanging around the house. Mr. Kern is the town historian / museum curator, who has most of Amanda's mother and grandmother's possessions in his museum. He also wants the house for his collection. The second man, known as "the judge" (Gene Ross), used to be the family attorney. He's a mean old booger with a hidden agenda of his own. There appears to be a conspiracy between these two and granny's doctor. Amanda argues with them and they leave. Alone in the house (except for the near-comatose grandmother) Amanda receives a series of obscene / disturbing phone calls. It is obvious who the sick caller is, but Amanda is clueless. This guy is calling from inside the house (ala "Black Christmas" and "When A Stranger Calls") and watching her through cracks and holes in the walls. Amanda calls her boyfriend Nick (Hugh Feagin), who just happens to be a doctor, and has grandma admitted to a hospital. Now it's just Amanda and the phone-freak. Murder abounds as we uncover his identity and his motives. DOTD is fun to watch, especially to see the same group of actors from other Brownrigg features. While not the best horror film ever made, I found it quite enjoyable, and there's a nice twist at the end that isn't your typical finale..."
Whisper dirty to me
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 02/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In terms of low budget, regional (Texas) horror films, Don't Open the Door (1974) does have its' charms, but after watching it last night, I couldn't help feel a little bit cheated. Which door in the film were we not supposed to open? There were a number of doors, but it seemed there were none that hid any little dirty, gruesome secrets...given the relatively inexpensive nature of the film, I wouldn't have thought they could have afforded to get all figurative with the title, but I guess I was wrong...directed by S.F. Brownrigg (he began his career in film working in the sound department for fellow Texan Larry Buchanan in his Azalea Production company, an offshoot of American International Television, which was a subsidiary of American International Pictures), the film stars Susan Bracken (her only film credit), Larry O'Dwyer (his only film credit), and Gene Ross, who has many films to his credit including The Legend of Boggy Creek (1973), Scum of the Earth (1974), and Angel (1984), to name a few...also appearing is James N. Harrell (Urban Cowboy, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and Hugh Feagin (In the Year 2889, Scum of the Earth).
The story begins with Amanda Post (Bracken) receiving a mysterious phone message (on the biggest answering machine I've ever seen...seriously, this thing used reel to reel tape) with regards to her very ill grandmother. This induces a flashback of Amanda as a young girl, and the gruesome murder of her mother, some 13 years prior, in the very house her sickly grandmother now occupies. Upon returning to the murder house, Amanda finds a few of the local residents milling about in Dr. Crawther (Harrell), Judge Stemple (Ross), and Claude Kearn (O'Dwyer). The doctor is there supposedly caring for ailin' granny, but what business do Judge and Claude have? Well, apparently Judge is grandma's lawyer (wouldn't Lawyer Stemple be a more apt name?), and creepy Claude runs a nearby historic museum...um, okay...well, it turns out both men have an interest in the large, old house (the vultures are circling) and are not entirely pleased with Amanda's recent return. As Amanda settles, she begins getting a series of lurid phone calls from a raspy voiced admirer, a person who seems to know not only a lot about Amanda, but also her mother's murder (which was a crime, apparently, no one was ever convicted, much less charged for)...what's even creepier is the caller seems to be aware of Amanda's movements within the house, indicating what? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, I don't know...maybe that HE"S IN THE HOUSE?! Either that, or he's got some well placed webcams...but since personal computers hadn't even been invented at the time of this film, I'll opt for the former over the latter...anyway, it soon becomes a game of cat and mouse as Amanda finds herself in a death struggle (well, sort of) with a demon (figuratively speaking, just like the title) from her past.
Don't Open the Door, taken in the context of what it is (that being a regionally made, cheaply pounded out, exploitation thriller), it's actually pretty good. The movie did have a number flaws including Ms. Post's tendency to overact, musical cues that never quite hit the mark, extremely repetitive musical scoring, but there a number of good elements, also...including a very creepy house (which the crew actually thought was haunted), a decent performance by Ross, capable and well thought out direction (except for the fact that the identity of obscene phone caller was blown much too soon, in my opinion), and an interesting storyline. As I said, the large, gothic house, where most of the film takes place, was beautiful in a rustic sort of way, but I wish they had utilized more than just a few of the interiors...perhaps the budget didn't allow for more shooting time, I don't know, but I felt that was a missed opportunity. I liked Gene Ross, who played Judge Stemple, as he gave a suitable performance, very much `living' his role. One thing that really annoyed me about him, though, was he was a balding man, with no hair on top (only on the sides), except for one stringy tuft right on top of his forehead, probably the remnants of a once majestic comb-over...I liked how his character inhabited a an old train car (I'm assuming he lived there, as that's where he was when he wasn't badgering Amanda about the house)...I especially loved the fact he could answer his door without having to get out of his chair...he'd just reach to his right, open the door, lean over and greet whoever came knocking. I found the direction by Brownrigg to be very capable as he was able to create a level of tension (the scenes involving the caller were excruciating), but the plot tends to plod along at a snail's pace much of the time, and may lead to serious bouts of boredom in the casual viewer. Influences of Hitchcock are apparent in not only the lack of on screen violence (there was actually only one scene where we see someone `getting it'), but also in Psycho-like cross dressing killer aspect. I thought it interesting how so much was left unanswered at the end of the film, but I think this was done on purpose rather than being an outcome of lame storytelling, leaving the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions, if any.
The letterbox picture (16 X 9) looks decent, along with passable audio, on this VCI DVD release, but there are a few flaws. Beside the effects of age on the negative, there's a strange `polarization' factor that shows up a few times in the darker scenes. It didn't happen often, but it was noticeable when it did. There are some special features including a biography of the director, a trailer for the film, and trailers for two other VCI releases including Kiss of the Tarantula (1976) and Ruby (1977).
Wooden acting leads to a lackluster horror movie.
HorrorMan | The Marsten House | 05/21/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
""Don't Open the Door" is a movie about a young woman, Amanda Post, who returns to her grandmother's house to care for her while she's ill. Ms. Post has a dark past in that her mother was mysteriously murdered when she was 13 years old. In the beginning, there are no lack of suspects, but it becomes very easy to determine who the killer is about half-way through the movie. In "Don't Open the Door", the killer is constantly calling Ms. Post driving her mad and scaring the hell out of her...these scenes aren't very convincing because the acting is wooden and generic in quality, and you know who the killer is and he just doesn't elicit horror in a sophisticated horror movie viewer...quite frankly, I simply found the killer to be unconvincing insofaras his prowess as a horror movie villain is concerned. You don't have to be an indestructible force like Michael Myers to be an effective horror movie villain, but you do have to inspire horror or fear in the audience "a la" Norman Bates and a Kurt Duncan (while Bates and Duncan are not physically powerful, they are terrifying because they are mad, dark-natured and very dangerous). The plot is sufficient, but the underlying motives driving the action fail to provide the necessary support for a horror movie. In other words, the movie is lacking in suspense, scares and mystery that is necessary to a horror movie's effectiveness. Sometimes, low budget horror movies can be good, but the acting has to be half-way decent or the horror is never brought home to the audience...such is the case with "Don't Open the Door". While the title sounds good, "Don't Open the Door" is of a categorically poor quality and the result is a weak viewing experience."