The House of Yes

on October 10, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
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   It would be hard to imagine a more nefarious tale involving family secrets and closet skeletons than "The House of Yes." Sometimes blisteringly funny, other times horrifyingly tragic, "The House of Yes" (based on the play by Wendy MacLeod) is a shocking, original film that invites a variety of interpretations. When Marty ("Kicking and Screaming's" Josh Hamilton) and his fiancee Lesly (Tori Spelling of TV's "Beverly Hills, 90210") decide to spend a holiday weekend with Marty's family, they're unprepared for the trouble that awaits them.
   And neither are moviegoers: Though Marty's mother (Genevieve Bujold), twin sister Jackie-O (Parker Posey, also in "Clockwatchers") and younger brother Anthony (Freddie Prinze Jr.) appear to comprise a normal, well-to-do family, writer/director Mark Waters soon strips away layers of deception that veil a history of madness, violence and incest.
   No sooner have the young lovers arrived at the family mansion than Jackie-O is making suggestive invitations to her brother and Anthony is coming on to Marty's girlfriend. Meanwhile, the mother seemingly condones this bizarre behavior. More perplexing and eerie still are the family anecdotes, such as: The Kennedy-obsessed Jackie once shot her brother when he threatened to leave her.
   Waters takes pains never to caricature the family members. Even Jackie-O, who could have easily become the stuff of high camp, is reigned in by Posey's performance, which is one of her best; she manages to be arch, touching and acerbic all at once. Hamilton plays Marty as an ambivalent participant in the family game; he wants to resist the madness, but he seems aware that he cannot. And Spelling, as the slightly dizzy Lesly, is astonishingly good, blending incredulousness with giddy earnestness. For a debut feature, "The House of Yes" is a remarkable achievement. Ably supported by production designer Patrick Sherman's fully envisioned sets--the decaying Pascal mansion is a haunting metaphor for the corroding family it houses--Waters shows that he is a director to watch.    Starring Parker Posey, Josh Hamilton, Tori Spelling and Genevieve Bujold. Directed and written by Mark Waters. Produced by Beau Flynn and Stefan Simchowitz. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated R for language, perverse sex-related situations, and an image of violence. Running time: 90 min. Winner, special recognition award for Parker Posey.
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