The Glass House

The Glass House opens with an unfortunately prophetic shot. Watching a slasher movie with her friends, star Leelee Sobieski stares impassively at the screen as those around her moan and cringe; she's seen it all before. Chances are, most viewers will experience the same reaction to the film itself. Of course, it doesn't take long for House to wipe the unresponsive look off its heroine's face. First, Sobieski's parents appear just long enough to die. The orphaned girl and her younger brother are then packed off to live with their conspicuously affluent former next-door neighbors, the Glasses (Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgård), whose house is made largely of glass. A creepy, un-American meal of calamari is but the first sign of problems to come. Soon, the siblings discover that Lane and Skarsgård plan to make them share a room, and Sobieski catches Skarsgård leering at her whenever she strips down to skimpy clothing (which the film graciously allows her to do several times). And could Lane's eerie detachment have something to do with a medicine cabinet filled with powerful pharmaceuticals? Following a path well-worn by the countless early-'90s thrillers that followed The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (from The Crush to The Temp and onward), The Glass House tracks Sobieski's attempts to determine whether the people who take every opportunity to act crazy and malevolent are actually crazy and malevolent. Given that her new guardians leave plenty of clues in plain sight, and that Skarsgård barely stops short of licking his chops whenever she walks in the room, the answer isn't especially surprising. As if working from a manual, veteran television director Daniel Sackheim delivers a string of calculated shocks. His film is only notable in that it feels sleazy and sadistic even by genre standards, as it places its modern-day gothic heroine in one perilous situation after another. Cape Fear scribe Wesley Strick does include one innovation in his script: He attributes the couple's terrible actions to financial distress rather than insanity, making The Glass House the first thriller of the new new economy.

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