Be careful who you trust.
I think that we can all agree that, as a teen, one of the worst things that could happen to you (aside of zits on prom night and getting pregnant in the back of an '87 Volvo) would be both of your parents getting killed in a horrid car crash on a rainy night. Now, combine that devastating incident with the "teen thriller" genre and you've got the Leelee Sobieski thriller The Glass House. A general disappoint upon its initial release in September of 2001, The Glass House comes to DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment to scare the pants off of discerning viewers.
Facts of the Case
Ruby Baker (Sobieski) and her eleven year old brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan, Jurassic Park III) seem to have an ideal suburban existence—they have two loving parents and a comfortable living. One stormy night that ideal existence is shattered when Ruby and Rhett's parents are killed in a car accident late at night. Lucky for them Terry (Stellan Skarsgård, Good Will Hunting) and Erin Glass (Diane Lane, The Perfect Storm) are there to take the kids in as their "legal" guardians.
At first the Glasses seem like the perfect parental substitutes; they live in a huge mansion, supply the kids with many necessities, and cook fine dinners (complete with calamari). However, as the days wear on Ruby notices dangerous inconsistencies that tell her things may not be what they seem with the Glasses. It also doesn't help that Ruby and her brother have come into about $4 million dollars in inheritance after their parents' death.
As Ruby digs deeper into the Glass' private life she learns a secret that may connect the Glasses with her parent's death…and if she's not careful, possibly her own!
Being the sometimes closed minded fool that I am, I just expected not to like The Glass House. Peering at the cover I was struck by the fact that this looked like some cheesy Artisan title that was made for around $345.59, possibly starring Shannon Tweed or Andrew Stevens. I assumed that the only difference between those types of titles and The Glass House was the fact that The Glass House had a glossier cast and bigger backing.
After watching The Glass House, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I genuinely enjoyed this little thriller. True, there's not a ton going on that's overly original, and the tension/scares are relatively thin. The thing that makes The Glass House rise above the muck and mire is the fact that the cast does an excellent job with the roles their given. After watching The Glass House I can say that I'm now a Stellan Skarsgård fan. You know who I'm talking about—he played Robin Williams snotty co-worker teacher in Good Will Hunting and was the guy who got his arm chomped off by an intelligent great white in Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea. Skarsgård has a chilling way of delivering his dialogue in a fresh and creative manner. Another actor that I was happy to see again was Bruce Dern. Dern is one of those great character actors who shows up once in a while and always does something interesting in the film no matter what role he's given. The Baker children, Sobieski and Morgan, are apt if not bland in their roles. Sobieski has been touted as one of the best actresses in recent years, though from the films I've seen her in (like Here On Earth) I can't say that the title is warranted. Maybe down the line she'll prove me wrong. Diane Lane is also good in the film, though her character seems to come secondary to Skarsgård's and doesn't display much motivation or depth.
Is this film plausible? Maybe. I don't know much about trust funds and lawyers, but I suppose that there are people out there willing to do some devious things to get money out of kids with deceased parents. While there are times where The Glasses are played as a bit over-the-top (this is, after all, a Hollywood production), I still think that The Glass House resides somewhere in the realm of realism.
It's rare that a teen thriller (which is what I would consider this, seeing as it's PG-13) is effective and engrossing at the same time. This is by no means a perfect film. There are some minor and major flaws that sometimes detract from the viewing. However, taken as a whole I found The Glass House to be above par for the course of cheeseball movies. The production values are high, the story entertaining, and the actors all ready to play ball.
The Glass House is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Other than a few minor imperfections, The Glass House's transfer looked excellent and well done by Columbia. The color patterns are very full with the predominant blues and grays showing their tones beautifully. Black levels are equally even and solid while digital artifacting and halo are non-present. There is a slight amount of edge enhancement in a few scenes, but nothing that should detract from the viewing. Overall, a very nice job by the people over at Columbia.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 in English and French. The 5.1 soundtrack is also very good, utilizing surround sounds in many instances (especially during scenes filled with rain, thunder, or zooming cars). Christopher Young's plodding score is pumped through almost all the speakers, and the effect is very full and pounding. All aspects of the dialogue, effects and music are free and clear of any distortion. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English and French.
The Glass House has a medium sized amount of extra features, which isn't bad due to the dismal response this film received at the box office. The first feature to start off the disc is a commentary track by director Daniel Sackheim and writer Wesley Strick. Both men seem to remember a lot from the production, and often times questions are asked from one man to the other, then subsequently answered. There's much discussion about the Glass home and its production design (they actually sent a helicopter to scout out houses for the film), and a lot of sugary doting on most of the actors (he's great, she's great…blah blah blah). This is an informative if somewhat bland commentary track.
Next up is a single deleted scene with optional commentary. This sequence was cut from the opening of the film, and I didn't feel that it would have added much to the production if it had been left in. The scene is presented in rough non-anamorphic widescreen and can be viewed with commentary.
Finally there are some brief interviews with the cast members that are available in the filmographies section, a few scant production notes, and theatrical trailers for The Glass House and the abysmal Jennifer Love Hewitt boob vehicle I Know What You Did Last Summer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One of the biggest problems with The Glass House is the trailer—it suffers from the fatal "gives the whole damn plot away" syndrome. Much like the trailer for Cast Away and What Lies Beneath, The Glass House is a movie that, if you've seen the trailer, you only need to see the last half hour of to understand what's going on.
Otherwise, the movie is hindered by a few story inconsistencies and some instances of typical audience eye-rolling. Someone tell he how it is that Ruby is able to overhear key information from whispering adults at just the right time over and over…and over again? And did anyone else think that Christopher Young's ominous score was a little repetitive and overplayed?
An engaging potboiler of sorts, The Glass House is really much better than it ought to be. I think that it can be categorized as a few notches above a Sunday night "women in peril" made-for-TV movie. I feel that The Glass House is worth seeing just to watch Stellan Skarsgård's eerie performance. Lightly recommended.
The Glass House is found guilty of a few plot flubs, though otherwise it's free to go.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Daniel Sackheim and Writer Wesley Strick
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