The Glass House

on September 14, 2001 by Bridget Byrne
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   The victim in this movie is first seen munching theatre snacks with her teen friends as they watch a standard slasher flick in which a cutie in a prom dress is menaced every which way she turns. It doesn't excite them much. They are weary of the clichés, disappointed that they didn't get much of a thrill ride scare out of watching the rubbish on the screen. But "The Glass House" is also nothing more than unpleasant rubbish--another example of the low moral standards, paucity of imagination and sheer nastiness which Hollywood throws up on the screen week after week with little thought of its impact on those who watch it.

   Sure, this movie employs some fine actors, is directed with a steady hand, handles its stunts skillfully, etc. But to what purpose? Despite the script's plodding efforts to unfold as a serious dramatic thriller rather than just a collection of artificial surprise happenings, it completely lacks suspense. So all you are left with is the nastiness. It's a sad and sorry story told in a manner in which it is simply not possible to feel fear for the terrorized, interest in the baddies, or any empathy with anyone.

   The titular glass house, lived in by a couple named Glass, provides the backdrop for the story which is heavily pinned on some faint philosophy mouthed by the victim's mother before a car crash killed the kids' parents. It has something to do with seeing what's really happening rather than what you think or want to believe might be happening. The filmmakers probably enjoyed setting up all the camera angles that reflect, distort, obscure, partition and generally convolute the action, but the house really never manages to be spooky in a good old-fashioned, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night way.

   Leelee Sobieski's Ruby is tall and strong and apparently sensible enough to make it seem that this trust-fund orphan and her video-game-crazed younger brother would have got the hell out of that house at the first hint of trouble. But, of course, we have to sit through all the usual scenes of adults not listening to Ruby's suspicions about the Glasses goings-on as the situation gets more and more dire.

   Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgard play the Glasses--two characters you can see straight through from the start. How upsetting to see the actors struggle to find any shred of meaning in this ugly material. It's best to let one's mind wander and remember them giving wonderful performances in good movies--Skarsgard in "Breaking the Waves," perhaps, and Lane in "A Walk on the Moon." Other adult members of the cast include Bruce Dern, Kathy Baker and, for a few brief seconds, Chris Noth, all of whom know their craft but can't overcome this script. It is also worth noting that director Daniel Sackheim, making his feature film debut here, won an Emmy for his excellent work on the tough, suspenseful and intelligent television series "NYPD Blue." Is this all Hollywood could offer to enable him to show his skill on the bigscreen?

   Surely audiences are not just jaded and bored by this genre of flick, but also deeply offended. All one leaves the theatre with is the urge to beg Hollywood to stop this endless cycle of mindless horror flicks. Starring Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgard. Directed by Daniel Sackeim. Written by Wesley Strick. Produced by Neal H. Moritz. A Columbia release. Horror. Rated PG-13 for sinister thematic elements, violence, drug content and language. Running time: 111 mi

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