Today’s Prayer Focus

The Glass House

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for sinister thematic elements, violence, drug content, and language

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
1 hr. 46 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 14, 2001
Relevant Issues
Leelee Sobieski in “The Glass House”
Featuring Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane, Stellan Skarsgård, Trevor Morgan, Bruce Dern
Director Daniel Sackheim
Producer Neal H Moritz
Distributor Columbia Pictures

There is nothing like a good thriller or movie of high-wire suspense. It will help you find the bottom of the popcorn bag every time. I enjoy some of the classic Hitchcock thrillers—like “Vertigo,” “Notorious”, or “North by Northwest.” Even though I now know the endings, I enjoy the incredible feeling of uneasiness. I even delight in films with suspense when you already know the ending (like “Apollo 13” and “The Dish”).

Leelee Sobieski and Stellan Skarsgard in “The Glass House”

“The Glass House” is nothing like those movies at all. TV veteran Daniel Sackheim (“ER,” “The X Files”, and “Law and Order”) directs a basic made-for-TV style drama. The only difference is that you get to watch it on the big screen at the theater (big deal!). This flick is so transparent (yes, pun intended) that you could stop the action every ten minutes and even the weakest link could tell you what was going to happen next. It is not that predictability is not always bad, but these films are about as much fun as playing hide and seek in an empty room. In fairness though, I know that most of the scenes intended to create some anxiety (you know… maybe turn your knuckles a little bit white) were spoiled by the move trailer (thanks a lot guys).

“The Glass House” opens with your stereotypical suburban Hollywood family scenes. Two apparently successful parents engaged in having empty and meaningless dialog with their two children. Their sixteen year old daughter, Ruby (Leelee Sobieski), is always out with her friends. The director lets us watch her act bored through a slasher movie (“Prom Nightmare”—now that’s an original title!). We are supposed to get the idea that this is one tough heroine. These scenes glamorize rebellion and teenage smoking (Is the tobacco industry paying for all this free advertisement lately?).

The parents, Dave (Michael O'Keefe) and Grace (Rita Wilson) Baker are out celebrating their 10th anniversary. We watch them laugh and drink a lot of alcohol (Oh no! they’re going to get drunk and wreck). Ruby comes home, after sneaking out again, and finds the police at her home (thinking she’s really in trouble this time). The officers instead give her and her younger brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan) the tragic news of death. Uncle Jack (Chris North), who they haven’t seen for years, shows up and gives the “If you ever need anything… just call me” speech.

The orphaned children soon find out that their former neighbors, Terry (Stellan Skarsgård) and Erin (Diane Lane) Glass, are now their new guardians. The Glass’s sweep the kids off their feet with a limo ride to their Malibu Glass House (complete with N64 and Playstation). The suspense builds right away when we learn that this brother and sister must share the same room (a teenager’s worst nightmare). We painfully watch Mr. Glass lust after Ruby (skimpy bikini and voyeurism included). We observe Mrs. Glass try to hide a drug habit. We listen in on Mr. Glass’s financial problems (without even knowing why he is in debt). We find out that the kids are worth $4 Mil. (Not bad). Not even the kindly lawyer (Bruce Dern) and a social worker can help them out of this predictable predicament. Now… can you guess where all of this is going?

I must tell you that Ms. Sobieski does turn in an outstanding performance. Trevor Morgan (“The Patriot” and “Jurassic Park III”) has his talents wasted in this film as the annoying younger brother. Wesley Strick (“The Saint”) writes another bomb (now that has to be paneful). I did like the cinematography of Alar Kivilo (“Frequency”). He certainly earned his paycheck in making creepy visuals. The film overall is a real yawner (caffeine free). However, here are some notes for the parents in the audience. First, observe the PG-13 rating. The film contains some vigilante violence, blood, and gore. Secondly, the film does not contain sex, but it has its share of sexual content (revealing and tight fitting clothes included). The language is mild, but that is not always a good reason to endorse a movie. My recommendation for families is to plan a destination unknown and treat your kids to a little homemade suspense or for the adults go rent your favorite Hitchcock film (not that I endorse them all, but I have listed my favorites).

Yes, I already know that some will send in comments that they liked this movie. I guess thrillers with a much better plot spoil me. If you go—that’s OK—just remember, Windex is not included.

Viewer Comments
Neutral—“The Glass House”, a modern thriller suffers from the same problem that all recent thrillers seem to have—the evil bad guy that just won’t die. The “teenager with new stepparents that are evil but no one seems to notice except the teenager” was done much better 10 years ago in “The Stepfather”. I didn’t really enjoy seeing Diane Lane mainlining morphine either. Overall, it was entertaining and I can imagine that teens who haven’t seen movies in this genre would enjoy it. Also—a word to the wise—if the brakes go out in your car while going down a steep hill, just turn off the ignition!!
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
Tim Mosbarger, age 40
Positive—A thriller that actually thrills can be found within “The Glass House.” Finally a teen action flick that doesn’t contain bloody bodies stacking up every second, and “F” words used at a rate of 10 per minute—no, “The Glass House” delivers. While there are a few phony scenes meant solely for the quick scream, you have to keep in mind that the makers are using that sort of scene instead of the gory ones to get you jumping—and that’s why you’d go to see this in the first place, for the scares isn’t it! A parent who takes their kids into a movie like this has to be aware of what it is. I read review after review of someone being angered that a PG-13 comedy has sexual material, but it is THEY who need to realize that now-a-days, a PG-13 comedy will contain such junk. In the same way, parents need to be expected that when walking into “The Glass House”, there are going to be some violent (90% gore-free though) scenes. I found the cast to be convincing, and the story to be fun, creepy, and clever. There are a few characters you’d like to see in it more, but no movie has everything. If you are someone who feels like just having a good time, see “The Glass House.” There are only about 10 swears in the entire movie, and half of those are just muttered. There is one scene in which the lead is in a revealing bathing suit, but the scene only lasts a couple of minutes. This film is close to being rated PG, and is good for everyone 10 on up.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
John W, age 18
Neutral—This was a pretty clean movie. There was one comment made about how a girl had sex with a student board to get off probation but otherwise it’s pretty good. The end was kind of lame though. It just left you sitting there. It wasn’t very scary either.
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
KE, age teen
Positive—This movie is a really good movie! Full of suspense (if you like lifetime movies maybe). I was really disappointed in this movie. The trailer was deceitful! Really it was! The movie was very long and drawn out, but like I said before if you dig lifetime movies then I bet you will love this one. Lelee did a great job portraying her role like she did but other than that BOOOOOHHHHHOOO KERSPLAT! I’m shocked this movie did as well as it did. It had so much potential just didn’t live up to it. And yes there is some language but all in all its a pretty clean movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Matt, age 21
Positive—Although, the story was a bit choppy at times, I thought it was very well written. There are some unneeded obscenities and reference to some sexual content. It was okay, but it wouldn’t be for anyone under the age of 16.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
Brook, age 17
Movie Critics
…largely devoid of major objectionable content, [but this film uses] God’s name in vain and some unneeded obscenities …
Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…9 scatological terms, 12 mild obscenities, 2 religious profanities, 1 religious exclamation…
…quickly topples into bad camp…