(Spoilers.) The best thing to be said about this film is that the trailer, which includes almost every decent scene in the whole movie, is pretty good. Thus, as is often in such as case, the film itself sucks. Amazingly enough, director Daniel Sackheim had over ten years of experience as a producer and director of television movies and series — including such hits as The X-Files, ER and NYPD Blue — by the time he finally got around to filming this movie, his first cinema release. But much like a not-so-youthful virgin incapable of finding the clitoris despite ten years of willy-wanking over Hustler or Penthouse, Sackheim obviously hadn't learned all that much from his past activities.
Supposedly the original version of this celluloid Quaalude ran three hours in length, but even at 106 minutes The Glass House induces a deep state of REM, but without erections. Scriptwriter Wesley Strick, no stranger to ridiculously improbable scripts — as proven by those he supplied for the nonetheless entertaining Arachnophobia (1990 / trailer), the dreadfully derivative Final Analysis (1992 / trailer) and universally reviled feature version of The Saint (1997 / trailer) — but he definitely surpassed himself this time around. A shame that Martin Scorsese wasn't around to improve things, as he was for Strick's script to Cape Fear (1991 / trailer).
Oddly enough, none of the actors seemingly realized that they were in the midst of making such a turkey, for they all seem to be doing their best — with the possible exception of the Leelee Sobiesky's rather one-note performance as the movie's youthful heroine Ruby Baker. But then, the names involved are hardly those of power who have a large choice of projects. In the case of Diane Lane (daughter of Playboy's October 1957 Playmate Colleen Farrington, seen here to the left), she has never been known for her ability to chose good scripts, acting ability aside. Stellan Skarsgård's involvement can be explained simply by the fact that as a character actor and foreigner — decent American accent or not — he seldom has a chance to headline Hollywood product and was probably more than overjoyed to finally get a big role with which to chew the scenery, lousy script or not. As for the various supporting actors — such as the rather unrecognizable and old Bruce Dern — in their rather minor, plot-pushing rolls, well, they too have rent to pay. Ruby Baker is the ever so typically sullen 16-year old with a chip on her shoulder and an annoying younger brother named Rhet Clark (played by Trevor Morgan, a named destined to be forgotten). Their perfect parents go out to celebrate their wedding anniversary and, instead of coming home on time, drive off the side of a road and die. At that point, one-time neighbors Terry and Dr. Erin Madre-Glass (Skarsgård and Lane) reappear as the parent-appointed guardians. Off go the kids to the Glasses' house, a huge, luxurious glass house in Malibu. But the house is less a home than a prison, the guardians less Good Samaritans than either a drug-addict or wanna-be sexual abuser. Or is Ruby simply having a hard time adjusting to everything?
Well, the last concept flies out the window quickly enough, and somewhere along the way we even learn that not only was Terry responsible for the death of Ruby and Rhet's parents, but that the two-faced guardians from hell are actually after the kids' multi-million dollar inheritance. All Ruby's attempts to get help or escape come to naught and eventually she ends up lying sedated in bed, but when Erin dies from a perfectly timed overdose, Ruby and her brother make a last-ditch attempt to get away. Alas, they fail again! But then, after parking his Ferrari outside of the garage, Terry suddenly drinks himself unconscious — or does he? Ruby and Rhet break out from their cellar prison, but before they can conduct their great escape, some nasty mobsters to whom Terry owes money suddenly show up. All this leads up to a long expected and overlong scene featuring two Ferrari's — one of which has no breaks — zooming downhill…
As might be expected in a turkey like this one, neither the scriptwriter nor the director obviously knows when a film should finally end. 'Cause, believe it or not, the film ain't over yet! Wake up and you get to see yet another totally pointless and over the top scene in which a battered but still kicking Terry, now looking like some indestructible zombie from a George Romero flick, tries yet again to off his youthful charges…
Despite all the menace, perversity and oppressiveness found in the film, The Glass House never achieves any real tension or suspense, and its meanderingly slow pace is nothing more than monotonously boring. Even the last ten minutes of over-the-top excess does little to excite the now long-sedated viewer. Ironically enough, the spoof of some imaginary cheap and sleazy slasher film that opens the movie is far more engrossing than The Glass House itself, for Sackheim's flick is little more than a third rate B-film potboiler undeserving of the A-treatment it is given. (Hell, were the movie a lot more cheap and sleazy, it probably would have much better.)
Unbelievably enough, The Glass House was given a direct to DVD "sequel" in 2006. Entitled The Glass House: The Good Mother (trailer), the film is less a traditional sequel than a third-rate remake and, as such, manages to be even worse than the original version.